Newish job, new processes, new domain, new tool, new level of complexity, new way of writing,
You need the high-level raison d’être for GTD before you can consider specifics. You need real examples and hands-on practice to get a sense of what this is about. Which statement is more correct than the other? The first time I gave this talk in June, I believed in high-level to ensure comprehension. Feedback indicated more examples would have been welcome. Both are hard to do in 40 minutes, but regard it as the start of many wonderful and educational chats here at TCUK14 and beyond.
Yes, there will be takeaways, but they will be a surprise. I will reveal them as we go along.
We need to define project vs. action
A project is a set of actions, which might seem obvious, but is crucial for doing some breakdowns as we soon will see.
You can say that this is the summary of what GTD means. You do these 5 steps and you are in control. Perhaps data flow is a better term because we are talking about the data that flows in and out of your life. Of course, you work on each item so it is your workflow.
These are the tools I use. Evernote and Things 2 (for Mac only) are for my personal life. OneNote is for work only. When I discovered I could use OneNote at work – and discovered that I liked it, I was not willing to give up years spent with Evernote and Things, so I split them between work life and everything-else life.
I can start the gathering and processing before I even know what is coming my way. I use colour-coding, rules, and categories in Outlook 2013. There are similar tools in other mail programs. You must check them out. They will save your sanity.
In other words, life’s random stuff is getting shoved into your head via that little Nurnberg funnel. There is a lot of that stuff
We have moved beyond inkwells and quill pens. We have electronic devices. You can reverse the forcefeeding and maintain control of life’s random stuff through other means. Use the 5 workflow steps to manage the onslaught.
This is closing your loops. (First freebie!) Open loops are one of the major problems for the people David Allen coaches with GTD. We are also back to the project or set of actions concept. People with open loops fret about the manual due next Friday or the meeting with some important people or bills to be paid, etc. You need to be aware of the elements – the actions – in each project and know what the actual next action is. Publish? Proofread? Peer edit? No, you’re not that far yet. Incorporate reviews? No, not received yet! Create a diagram in Visio that you sketched out on paper yesterday? Bingo! Why fret about publishing when publishing consists of many steps and you haven’t even come to some of them yet? Look at what you CAN do right now or what you MUST do right now. Stop letting those big projects rotate endlessly in your mind and gain control of one step at a time.
Understanding how your close your open loops takes you straight to next actions. This is the one thing that David Allen feels could change the business world. If everyone stopped fretting or shouting about the big open loops and just concentrated on the next action that they could do, we would be so much more efficient. In fact, if I could only give you one single takeaway, it would be this item. YOU DO NOT NEED TO KNOW THE RESULTS. JUST YOUR NEXT ACTION.
Real life explanation of closing loops and next actions: my story of the backlog of legacy material and a sprint to update one manual.
It has taken me the longest time to understand this and work with this and I am still not there. David Allen claims I should be. I should have several next action lists that I can skim and act upon. I keep context lists. Work on manual A. Work on project B. Work on initiative C. This means I hop through all these lists to find what I need to do or can do. I am afraid to lose the thread for the Manual A project so I want it all in one place. This means I spend time wandering between lists until I grab something and settle down to do it. Then I am focused and I work on the one item. This illustrates the time it takes to consider modifying any habits that you have used for a long time. When I gave this talk in June, I did not get this item. I thought it was important because David Allen and others emphasise it, but I was in doubt and said so. Now I finally understand it – I can actually see in my own collection of information what it means. Now I can finally consider what steps I need to take to put this into action so to speak.
Some to-do items or next action items can go on your calendar, but only very specific types. A calendar is not a dumping ground for things to do! For years, I did dump stuff into calendars. As days went by, I was leafing through the calendar for things I needed to do and invariably things were forgotten. At the end of the year – forget it. I never transferred much stuff to the new calendar, but instead dragged the old calendar around with me. Until I dumped it in a drawer and thought at this late date no one cares…!
Let’s revisit the workflow again. You need to look out for 1. Projects, 2. Project Support Materials, 3. Calendar actions and info, 4. Next Action lists, 5. "Waiting For" list, 6. Someday list, 7. Reference Material
All those things to keep track of? You do it through reviews. Reviews are not your peer reviews of your documentations. They are reviews of what actions you have, what you are waiting for, what you hope to do someday maybe. You do them on a regular basis. This is also my weak point. I often think “let me just finish X and then I will review.” No. You need to do a daily check because if not, a loop might open and start repeating in your brain and distract you. Things can change. That project that was far off in the future was moved to this afternoon. That urgent project has now been postponed 1 month. You need to adapt. This is one part of GTD that researchers think has scientific backing.
So you are handling the stuff life keeps handing you. When you get things under control and you are not stressing about loops on permanent repeat, you have a “mind like water”. Your mind can relax and get into flow. This is where you can be creative and take yourself to new levels. I experienced this when we did our sprint with the legacy manual. It is a marvelous feeling!
GTD helps you maintain focus and keeps you from watching… squirrel!!!
Getting Things Done for Technical Communicators at TCUK14
Getting Things Done for
17 September 2014
This is a personal “case
study” for inspiration –
This is a personal “case
study” for inspiration –
Your Mileage WILL Vary!
Background for this talk
Or, how I almost lost it
Pizarros CC BY-SA 3.0 http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Administrative_burden.JPG
Warning: This talk does
not do your work for you!
It can help you
Campephilus CC BY-SA 3.0 http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sciurus-vulgaris_hernandeangelis_stockholm_2008-06-04.jpg
• Closing loops
• Next actions
So questions, much contact
• Karen Mardahl
• Allen, David (2003). Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free
Productivity. Penguin Books.
• Negrette, David (2013). Getting Things Done the David Allen Way
with Microsoft OneNote, Second Edition. CreateSpace Independent
• Wolff, Dominic (2013). Master Getting Things Done the David Allen
Way with Evernote: Your 7-Day GTD Immediate Action Plan
[August 2013] Edition. CreateSpace Independent Publishing
Additional resources to read and inspire are available at