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December 30, 2004

A year of Getting Things Done Part One and Part Two: Merlin Mann, of the 43 Folders blog reviews a year of living with the new geek religion, the Getting Things Done methodology. I'm right there with him: GTD has made such a difference to my own work. But do you, my monkey chums, have any other productivity tips? Is there something we should all be doing in 2005 that will help us be both Monkeys of Action, as well as Monkeys of Letters? Share your secrets within...

Tell me Dangerismymiddlename, what this GTD is? I mean, if you can sum it up easily.

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Just a little preview of what the first link showed me.

I echo squidranch's sentiment.

Far and away, my best takeaway has been the idea of the next action. Leaning to identify the absolute next physical action that will keep a project moving has been a godsend to the way I think about, plan, and execute my work. When things get hectic, it’s affirming to know that all I need to do is one, single thing—the next thing—to get closer to completion. It also helps beat back one of my worst work habits: letting planning and fiddling with “my systems” become a backdoor procrastination (but more on that tomorrow).

Having read a couple of paragraphs on the linked blog, it looks as if this "methodology" (a word which, as ever, is incorrectly used) is simply a form of project analysis.

Break up a project into bite-sized pieces, and you will be able to complete the project.

Kind of a "one day at a time" thing I guess.

Please don't get a self-help addict started on another fix. I'm still trying to "Put First Things First" and find the true Zen approach to creative career design.

Get things done indeed.

I'm kind of kidding, kind of serious. Whatever works for you, go for it.

It also seems to stress simple organization, from what I can see. Put all your to-dos in one place, and learn how to prioritize and rank them.

I'll have a look at those links tomorrow.

Tell me Dangerismymiddlename, what this GTD is? I mean, if you can sum it up easily.

The essential bit is, as other people have said, breaking things up into individual chunks - and right down to the next physical action. But It's a more complicated than this, and not about ranking or prioritizing. Anyway, not wanting to steer a discussion or anything, but my question was more about what other people here might do to, er get things done, rather than Get Things Done (tm).

I have this thing where I don't care whether I do anything or not, and subsequently am more productive than when I try to organise or set goals.

You Disorganized Fuck.

I haven't read it, but Allen's book seems fairly kooky to me. Do people really need that much help with basic time-management? Do they actually find their days full of furious, chaotic activity? I guess I've unconciously learned the opposite of Getting Things Done, which is to Do As Few Things As Possible. If I ever wake up in the morning with more than two or three things to do, I consider it poor planning or overindulgence. A productive life does not need process-flow optimization; it might even suffer from it.

fuyugare, What do you consider a thing, and how do you keep it that low? Relatively, I could have upwards of 200 things daily to your two or three.

Getting things done --
Step one: baby yowls.
Step two: check nappy. Replace if needed.
Step three: add more food and fluids.

Repeat.

seems a lot of this type of thing all around right now, and i'm not sure if it's people's compulsion to redo their lives according to the culturally mandated new year's resolution kick or a widespread confusion about priorities.

I think the most useful productivity secret I could pass on would be: Dont Be Me.

Seriously, I'm a hopeless case. I was inspired to try one or two of the more widely applicable Life Hacks after Danny O'Brien's "Overprolific Alpha Geeks" talk at Notcon this year. My attempts at keeping a simple todo.txt file - surely the most basic, primordial stage of even approaching organisation - lasted a grand total of two days. I still have it lying around somehwere. Loads of telephone numbers with no context, extensive notes written in a cryptic private language that I couldn't decipher an hour later, detailed explanations of how I should do something without ever bothering to remind myself what the thing is I'm supposed to do, or indeed why I would want to do it... It's like stage directions for some incredibly avant-garde theatre production, but without the actual script. A sort of inverse 4.48 Psychosis.

The only way I'm still alive (which, frankly, amazes me) is through the cunning techniques of making sure I have a job in which organisation isn't required, and forming vaguely symbiotic relationships with people far more organised than I am, who tell when to do stuff. I'm still slightly unsure what these people are getting out of the relationship, but they seem reasonably contented.

I'd read the articles, but I'm much too busy alphabetizing my socks and sewing identification labels on the canned goods in my pantry.

Allen's VERY good, I follow his ideas, and have his second book on my nightstand awaiting perusal (I'm in the middle of Shockwave Rider, the damnable Da Vinci Code, and a collection of Stanley Bing essays just now). I've read a LOT of shitty business books (fucking cheesemovers!), but Allen's GTD is one of the very few books that actually helped me - in this case, improve my organizational skills. I was pretty organized, but suffered from the malaise that strikes people whose projects are both large and have no discernable end, which would cause me to lapse into a combiantion of makebusywork (little things that I could accomplish that would give me a sense of having done *something*) and lethargy. But GTD got me over the hump. Best thing I took from it? The idea of the two-minute job. Anything that comes down the pipe that you can finish in two minutes? You do it right then. I'm continually amazed at how easy it becomes to clear a lot of deck by just handling the little stuff right when it happens.

I also took to heart the man's comments on listmakers. I was the worst listmaker. Now I make calendars. Lots better.

Best non-Allen-related productivity tip? Learn how to effecticely use Windows onboard search engine. I cannot tell you how many hours of time I have saved myself from having to paw through folder after folder, directory after directory, trying to find whatever (usually an enigmatically-named whatever with the wrong date on it). Being able to search and sort files effectively has been a godsend for me.

learning how to spell never hurts, either.

I use a notebook for information, with a post-it note on the inside cover for my daily to-do list.
I also use the two-minute rule. If you have a list of things to do, and any task will take less than 2minutes to accomplish, said task will be carried out immediately. Amazingly good for personal productivity.

Learning how to make posts to monkeyfilter without pissing people off. It has taught me a new level of respect for you all, and for, most of all, my self.

I praise thee!

At a friend's house the other day, we noticed he was organized right down to pigeon-holes for each pair of socks.
"You know, there's medication for that," one guy observed.
"Yeah, but I don't want it," he said. "The place would go to hell."

> What do you consider a thing, and how do you keep it that low?

Well, any task that needs doing is a 'thing' I suppose, but I was implicitly discounting things like 'scratch bum' or 'brush teeth'. Put it this way— when I get to my work desk, I usually have only one or two things to work on, and many days I end the work day doing the same thing I started the day with.

I'm almost certainly not in the intended audience of Allen's book. I can see how a manager or someone can have a billion things to do every day. I'd go mad if forced to do that.

I agree with Fes, Allen is very good. One think he touches on and that I've always found to be very helpful is for everything to have a place.

fuyugare: does your updated profile indicate that you're giving us up for the new year?

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