Friday 25 February 2011

Getting Things Done

Things is back

Since starting my Masters Degree, I keep a reflective journal* that I use to identify issues in my practice and to help integrate action research into my practice. One the of the issues that I identified early on was with focus. Anyone who works from home will tell you that maintaining focus is easy when you’re in the zone, but very difficult when you’re not. As part of my action research I’ve been looking into productivity methodologies and I had to start with Getting Things Done (GTD).

I’ve experienced a shift in perspective after reading Getting Things Done. Previous to this post I considered The Hit List to be better for me when compared to Things. The main reason was sub-tasks. In my defence they were important to me, but as soon as I came to understand that a project in a GTD sense, wasn’t the same as my definintion of a project I had a moment of clarity and I understood why subtasks were no longer needed to me.

I’m not suggesting that using subtasks is wrong, because there are plenty of productivity cases where they make sense and I myself used them for a long time. But one of the things I’ve taken from GTD is that a project is simple an outcome that requires one or more actions.

With that in mind my task lists have evolved from a copy of the timeline.

The Hit List Tasks

To an actual list of the outcomes being it’s own project.

Things Projects

With each physical step required to achieve the outcome clearly defined.

List of action steps required to complete project

You’ll notice that in the above list isn’t every single step need to complete the project, because at this point, I don’t know what they are yet. I will know what they are by the time I’ve got to the end of the ones in there. This idea is new to me, but not surprising. How many times have you planned something, done the first few items, went off target and then felt guilt at the fact you didn’t stick to the plan?

GTD isn’t a book I’ll read once, I’ll be reading it over and over and over again. But one thing that has stuck is that I’ve moved back to Things because it’s structured in a way that is more aligned with GTD. There’s a lot more I want to write about GTD, but I’ll come onto that later, if you don’t own a copy of it you should. Taking one hour out of your day to read it at the start of the month will pay dividends towards the end.

* The reflective journal is actually kept using an internal webapp we’re developing over at c&c design. If it sounds like something you’d be interested in getting involved with get in touch with me on twitter