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How GTD changed my life John Winstanley

How GTD changed my life John Winstanley

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Published by: john winstanley on Mar 26, 2007
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01/01/2013

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How has GTD changed my life?
* what your state of affairs was like pre-GTD:
Working as a construction industry project manager and cost consultant for the last 19+ years I had to develop many coping strategies in order to get my job done at a level at least approaching competence.The methods I used were sufficient to raise me to a reasonable level of seniority within my various employer companies. There does come a timethough when the work load (professional and personal) reaches a point whereyou have to stand up and say ‘enough is enough – I can’t do any more’. OnceI did that and calmed down I started to wonder why I could not do more. Therewere clearly people around me who were getting more things done and hadmanaged to hold on to more of their hair than me as well!Don’t get me wrong – I had never got to the stage where I was simply failingto do what I needed to do. I was just not happy how I was doing it. Too manyhours in the office after everyone had gone home and to many missedopportunities to do things I wanted to do with my family. Things had tochange.
* how you found out about GTD:
I tried all the usual self help books on the topic of time management but ateach turn came up against a huge stumbling block: All these methodsimmediately ask you to plan out your entire life and write some kind of nebulous mission statement to act as your guiding light for the rest of your life!All I wanted to do was get all my stuff done as scheduled and with enoughtime left over for me and my loved ones.In the absence of nothing better I embarked on the Franklin Covey method of time and personal management. Skipping over the esoteric life planning I gotstraight in to the ABCD task management kick and quickly felt even moreoverwhelmed – now I still had 300 tasks but also need to sit and score theimportance / urgency of them all and then find a system to record them andremind myself about them. My work load had suddenly INCREASED, not anideal situation.Long story short: I stopped using the FC method after 3 weeks and hadactually burned up more hours trying to get the system up and running.There followed a hiatus of around 6 weeks before I felt confident enough toconsider another method. After a few minutes Googling ‘time management’ Ikept seeing references to David Allen and Getting Things Done. I seem torecall that the first sites I spend much time reading about GTD were 43Folders and DavidCo.David has the foresight to realise that by making quite a bit of his content freehe can reel in more customers – so I gathered what free stuff I could and it allseemed to make sense to me: No ‘mission statements’, no prioritising of 
 
‘tasks’, a down to earth approach to defining ‘Next Actions’ , and the realclincher for me was ‘Contexts’
*how easy/difficult was your implementation
After reading the book twice I felt ready to begin my implementation. As a longterm Palm PDA user I knew that I wanted Outlook and my PDA to form thebackbone to my Trusted System.For me the Collection stage was actually both tremendous fun and a real eye-opener. Fun because you really feel like you are doing something to tame thisbeast of your own creation. And an eye-opener because I could not believehow much stuff was occupying physical space and mental RAM that just didnot belong there and had no Next Action. So I could just throw it away! Greatfun.I found setting up my Contexts was also surprisingly easy, though I did moreor less just copy the suggested Contexts from the book. I know from thevarious discussion groups that a lot of people seem to struggle with definingtheir Contexts but for me it really was very easy – maybe I was just lucky.One mindset shift that did cause me to wonder if it was wise was the notionthat processing you stuff into Next Actions does not then contemplate the ideaof prioritising your Actions. Looking back now I think I struggled with thisnotion just because every ToDo application I have ever seen (Palm andWindows) always does stress the picking of priorities – in other words it was ahabit I had to break. The effort in un-learning the habit is paid back in spadesthanks to the flexibility it give you to choose exactly the Next Action that bestsuits your Context, time availability and constantly shifting deadlines.Reviews: Agh! Why can I not be better at these! This was (and still remains tosome extent) my Achilles Heel when it comes to implementation. I’ve triedevery which way to ensure I carry out at least the weekly review of my ProjectList and Next Actions: an appointment with myself every Friday afternoon –often too busy; ditto but on a Monday am – again often too busy; a sessionone evening in the week – struggle to find a quite place away from the family.Of course these are all just excuses to procrastinate and really there is time todo the reviews. All I can do is keep plugging away at this until it just becomespart of my GTD – I’m getting there.
*what are your current tools for your system
My box of GTD tools consist of the following:1.Outlook (work and home)2.Pocket PC Smartphone, running Pocket Informant3.A4 Daybook (work only)4.Labeller (of course!)5.Tickler file6.3 drawer filing cabinets (1 at home, 1 at work)

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