As I’ve mentioned previously, I retired in April of 2014, and now work full time on…whatever I want to do. Most of my time and creative energy has gone into my glasswork, so much so that I now say that I’m “self employed”, instead of retired.
When I worked for the University of Georgia I was an associate director of IT, supervising about 15 system administrators. If you’re not familiar with system administration, just think of us as the men or women behind the curtain: we ran the servers that provided most of the networked computer services on campus. In the course of a single day I would talk to dozens of people, attend 1-5 hours of meetings, and receive hundreds of emails, many of which were trivial, some of which represented major work assignments. To summarize, I had lots of information coming at me and lots of different responsibilities.
After a few years I got overwhelmed, and started looking for a way to keep up. I found David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done, and it resonated with me immediately. Although I don’t have nearly as much to keep up with now, I still find myself using the tips and tricks I learned from David Allen and other GTD practitioners.
For a lightweight review of GTD, it consists of 5 steps:
- Capture: get all the bits of info that come at you into a trusted system,
- Clarify: decide what to do about each bit of info–do you need to take action or is it just reference (or garbage)?
- Organize: put the next actions that you’ve defined into the appropriate lists, file reference items, etc
- Review: go through all your organized info, check off what’s been done, add new actions, etc
- Engage: do the work
For me the key components are capturing items in a trusted system (I use Omnifocus, but I have a friend better at it than I am who uses index cards), and the weekly review. Here’s my weekly review checklist:
- gather up loose notes, put them in your inbox,
- empty inbox (including email), process all items one at a time,
- empty your head,
- review previous 2-3 weeks of calendar entries (make any commitments, take any notes?),
- review the upcoming month of calendar entries (a great time to make hotel reservations),
- review your “waiting for” list for actions you’ve delegated or people you’re waiting on,
- review project list, check off completed actions, etc,
- review “someday/maybe” list for anything you want to add to your active projects,
- review your goals, add any actions needed,
The “process” in step 2 doesn’t mean do the work (unless it takes less than 2 minutes), it means to decide what needs to be done about the information, whether it’s something you need to do, can delegate, or just something to file for reference. When I first started the weekly review would take a couple of hours, but now that I’m experienced and have less on my plate it takes less than an hour.
At first it seemed indulgent to spend time thinking about my work instead of doing it, but it’s enormously productive, because it clarifies my thinking and makes it a lot easier to do the work itself.
If you’re overwhelmed with information, tasks and responsibilities, give GTD a try. In addition to the official GTD website, a quick web search will turn up dozens (probably hundreds) of sites devoted to GTD and related approaches.