Friday, September 26, 2008

Getting Things Done

I borrowed a book from the library a few weeks ago, called Getting Things Done. I’ve been poking at a few of these marketing / business / management / organisation books lately, because I’m pretty certain my use of time hasn’t been what it could be.

This book has blown me away. It’s got some very simple principles, no corporate gibberish, no affirmations, and completely dodges the “prioritising” bullet in favour of context.

The basic idea is that people have difficulty getting things done because they have too much in their heads. You sit down to answer an email, and find you need to research something, which means you have to ask someone, which means you have to send them an email, and then you see another email reminding you of a meeting, and all the while you’re aware of another project that you’ve done nothing on, and the need to buy milk on the way home.

The simple solution is to get everything out of your head and onto a very simple system of tracking things that need attention. This centres around making a great whacking list of projects, working out what the next action is on any given project, doing it if it’s short and easy, or putting it on a contextual list otherwise. The contextual lists could include things like “Near phone”, “Near computer”, “Things to buy”, and so on.

The idea is that once you have everything you need to attend to in some sort of trusted system, where you’ll be reminded of it at the right time, you can get down to what you’re doing in the moment without wasting RAM, as it were, on irrelevant things. If something does come to mind, you put it in the appropriate place in the system and go back to your current task.

The effect is rather stunning. I don’t have a huge amount of stuff to manage with this in work; we have an excellent project manager who makes sure we don’t have to bother with anything other than the task in hand, but I have a good-sized pile of projects at home. 78, actually, at the moment. The difference it has made to have these out of my head is absolutely huge, and I’m getting things done at a rate of about three times as many per day as I was before, with more time to kick back at the end of it.
So yeah. Huge recommendation for Getting Things Done.

(Wikipedia, Author’s Site)

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