Tuesday, March 29, 2011

GTD chapter 2

David Allen teaches a 5 stage system for managing workflow:

1. We collect things that command our attention
2. We process what they mean and what to do about them
3. We organise the results, which
4. We review as options for what we do
5. We do the work.

Chapter 2 explains each of these phases in pain staking detail.

The focus of the collect stage is that we get everything in hole-proof buckets out of our heads. Processing is the emptying the collection buckets: chucking stuff, filing information for later, doing short (<2minute) tasks immediately, and delegating or deferring longer tasks. In the organising stage we set up lists of renewable reminders, 'incubating projects' blah blah blah. Lists. Next-action categories. Calenders. Appointments. And my favourite - 'Tickler' files. Then we review everything. Daily, weekly, monthly, annually... Then #5. We do stuff.

I read this chapter a week ago. The thing that stuck in my mind that I have put into practice is the 2 minute rule. If a task takes less than 2 minutes, do it now. I can put up with most forms of torture for 2 minutes. So I won't put this task off. I'll get it out of the way. I'll fill in that school permission form.

The rest of the chapter contained some good ideas (which I'm unlikely to use), but too much is made of the whole process of getting ready for work. People who spend so much time collecting and processing and organising and reviewing stuff sometimes convince themselves they've actually achieved something when they haven't really. In my particular job, I think we'd achieve much more if #5 was focussed on rather than #1-4.



  1. Enjoying your work, Simone.

    I agree in general with your last paragraph, although you need to allow for the fact that he is dealing with the *start* of setting this system up, and so is really stressing the importance there.

    Also, 'preparing to work', whether by cleaning your desk, or preparing a cup of tea, is an important a time-consuming part of work. It is not itself the work, but it's good to recognise and value its importance.

    Looking forward to your next installment.

  2. Dear Simone, This GTD stuff is so boring, I think I might puke. :) x

  3. I wrote a comment, and Blogger ate it. Pfft.

    I'm still reading along, at least.

  4. I'm with Mikey - yes, it's not good to focus so much on setting up a system to manage work if we neglect work by doing so. But I do think there are benefits.

    I'm in the process of trying to set up a GTD system to manage all my bits and pieces. It is a process for me - it takes some time to set up and also to get into the habits of collecting, processing, organising and reviewing. In the long run, though, I do think it will ease my general anxiety levels to have everything (or as much as possible) contained in a system I trust outside my head. Otherwise I tend to go over and over things inside my head, and that stops me from working and sleeping! Might be a personality type thing, though.

  5. I haven't read the book but this sounds from your description like a planning stage. So if 15 mins of extra planning means the difference between an average RE lesson and a good one, doesn't a little planning of your work / work flow mean potentially more efficient work?

  6. Laetitia - Yeah, but preparing an RE lesson is actually doing work. It would come in #5 above. Realising that I needed to write the lesson, calculating how much time it would take, planning when I was going to, scheduling that in my diary etc would be the other stages.

    Mikey - yes, a clear desk etc is good prep for work. Just need to remember that no one's life is going to be changed by it.

    Lara - yes, there certainly are benefits. If things are making you anxious, most definitely use a system like this. (For me it's the opposite. Reading that I should use a system makes me anxious!)

    Anthony - schedule a time to re-write the comment. Don't keep it inside your head. If you want a mind-like-water state, it needs to be on paper somewhere.

  7. Well, the joke about the <2 minute puke was in the lost comment, so you've saved me that particular task. Or else I psychically delegated it to you, or something.

    Oops. Time's up.

  8. Mr Allen sounds like a strongly left-brain sequential systems person. You seem like a right brain holistic creative person. Hence very little he says is likely to apply to you :)

  9. @Jon - I don't think everyone has to like, let alone adopt GTD. I'm enjoying Simone's critical analysis a great deal.

    And I know that different ppl think in different ways.

    But 'Very little he says is likely to apply to you'...?

    Best practices are best practices. And right brain people will be better off learning the best of left-brain thinking and vice-versa.

  10. Mikey and Jon - leads us very nicely into the next GTD post!