Lately I’ve been reading a lot of Tweets and posts as well as hearing how many self proclaimed GTD gurus and ninjas are struggling as of late to keep on top of their lists and project stacks. This is nothing new for anyone who has quite a lot on their plate to begin with, and we all know how GTD enthusiasts seem to take on (or be assigned) more projects and tasks simply because they are the ones that seem to have a system that works.
How many times have you heard:
“Johnny, you seem to know what you’re doing, why don’t you take this project over from here?”
And no matter how you answer that loaded question, your life is just going to suck a little bit more than yesterday. So what do we do when we can’t seem to juggle our Superman proportion of new tasks? Most of us try a new tool. If this shovel doesn’t get rid of this pile of dirt fast enough, maybe this back-hoe will? I’m the first one to jump on board of that train on thought. In the last year, I’ve abandoned MS Project for OmniOutliner when I moved to the MacBook Pro then I flirted with Basecamp before coming back to a TextMate .txt page and then finding OmniPlan which I am still testing. For my day to day tasks, life got even more crazy. You know what I mean here don’t you: all those Things that take more than 2 minutes but are not quite a project scope yet. So to run down the list I’ve used in no particular order: Text page, OmniOutliner, RememberTheMilk, OmniFocus, Milpon, Google Tasks, our office whiteboard
and in a fit of desperation pad of paper (not even a Moleskin)
In the end, I’ve been tossing the idea of going pro on only one App and then sticking with it for at least one year. And it will probably boil down to OmniFocus and RememberTheMilk, and the deciding factor will probably be whatever I can get away with expensing. But the idea is the same: find one technique to “GETTER DONE” and just stick with it.
The issue isn’t really about getting a bigger inbox, it’s always been about restricting what get’s put into it. And redirecting some of that stuff to other resources. Delegating has become such a dirty word that nobody ever wants to use it just in case they get cut out of the loop. If you stop and think about that, is that such a bad thing? You didn’t want to look after that task in the first place, so why try and retain control of it from a distance. There is a huge part of Project Management, which is in fact managing things. It’s not always about managing to do it all, but managing that it DOES get done. This is a tough lesson for us to learn and most of the time we stumble with it because our manager simply says to us: “We don’t have any more resources. Make do.” I personally hate this answer because it implies that you are incapable of doing your job properly, when you and I know perfectly well that he’s the one who cut your budget, increased the scope and then pulled some resources away from you, whether those resources are bodies on seats or your own time. Frankly, I am not even sure what to do in these cases, usually my pragmatic brain gets taken over by my insane emotional morality: “Well I’m not doing it because it’s just not right”. A technique that has yet to work for me by the way. In the end we take it on because we are afraid of losing our control and sometimes even our job. Can anyone else see how dysfunctional a work environment can be at times? Just me?
What am I going to do to Get Things Done? Well, for one, I’m going to stop moving my inbox from one place to another every couple of weeks just for the sake of it. That is just whacked out crazy. I’m also going to start doing a little more, which usually means only checking email once every 30 minutes or every hours. Turning off badges in the dock is a good trick, but then you fear even opening the program in case in implodes into a black hole of angst from all of the unattended new stuff. You might think this goes against all the David Allen and Inbox Zero mantras you might hear. But as along as you zero out every hour you’re still in control of your inbox. You must understand that this system probably won’t work in a service related task, but if you have set the expectation that you will get back to the client/customer/boss within the hour, there should not be any issues. You wouldn’t just walk in on his phone call and interrupt him in a meeting so why should tear you away from the very task they pay you to complete. Because we are sitting at out big flat panel screens all day, this point is very hard to make. When I first started using this technique, I would book customer appointments in my calendar as busy or out of office and where only I would attend. There was some transparency in my work and it soon become acceptable that I would not reply immediately just to show that I was on top of the issue. In fact if you often read the first response to a long email thread, you will often see that the responder has only partially grasped the issue. It could very well be that the sender malformed their initial request, but often it’s a case of running head first into a pile of crap that results in being covered in someone else’s shit. And what do you do with that one person who emails you, follows it up with a phone call and then comes running into your office all within a 5 minute time span? NOTHING! That person is certified Bat-Crazy Nuts! Every office has a person like this, usually you don’t report to them directly but they like to CC your boss because THEY CAN. If that person is in fact your boss, get reassigned, quit tomorrow. Just get out now!
But in all seriousness:
The best response to “Getter Done” is to “Just Do it” because “Life is short” so “Play Hard” and “Stay Thirsty my Friends”