This week I've started re-reading David Allen's Getting Things Done this week. I'm only about 1/3 of the way through the book, yet I've found it very satisfying. I'm happy to report that for the first time in my memory, I had a completely empty work and personal email inbox on Friday after work.
Actually, I this is my first real 'reading' of GTD — in reality I'd only scanned the book the first time. After my initial scan, I took a few ideas and sort-of made use of them, but not fully. Last weekend I finally got to the point of feeling the need for something to help me better manage all that I had to get done. I saw GTD on my bookshelf and resolved to really read it this time. So I started reading again...
While I've not fully sorted out the whole 43 folders idea just yet, nor have I completely integrated the principles David suggests. But rather than wait to complete the book, I decided to take one overarching idea away from my 2nd reading — to turn as many inputs as I could, into 'next action' tasks, then file those inputs for later reference (if needed).
I decided on Monday to first focus on email. I resolved to go through any open email in both my work and personal email clients and do one of 3 things:
1) Reply to the email. David Allen suggest that anything which takes 2 minutes or less can be dispatched immediately, so I followed this advice. I even dealt with some emails that took longer, just to trim down the list of unanswered emails.
2) Turn relevant info into next action tasks. I've recently switched from Palm Desktop to Apple iCal and really like the simplicity if offers. I created several new contextual categories suggested in GTD, and created many, many next actions. It really felt good to put those things into a solid place like iCal (synced to my Palm).
3) File processed emails. Finally I filed away emails I processed, and deleted or filed emails which really shouldn't have been there in the first place. It felt so good to see my email inbox shrink as the week progressed!
By the end of the day Friday, I had successfully emptied out both of my email inboxes. What a great feeling it is having an empty inbox! Even better was knowing that all of the latent tasks embedded in my emails had been turned into tasks in iCal.
Actually, using the GTD approach at work was very smooth, even though I know I've not yet got my head fully around all of the GTD principles. I felt productive and active without the nagging feeling that I was 'missing' something.
I'm looking forward to finishing the remaining 2/3 of GTD in the next few weeks, taking notes in my Moleskine notebook for books I've started as a result of Bren Connelly's How to Read a Business Book postings. I'm finding that taking notes with books really helps me crystalize the concepts and better ingest them.
So, if you've considered the Getting Things Done approach but haven't taken steps to give it a full try, I recommend it. Even taking some of the principles to heart could positively impact your stress levels and work style.
For an interesting interview with David Allen on the concepts behind Getting Things Done, check out Richard Giles' Gadgets Show Podcast (39 min @ 13.6 MB).
Have a great weekend!