What is Wrong in Talking about Tools?

Being an active GTD subscriber, I follow relevant discussions (e.g. the GTD LinkedIn group).

A significant percentage of these discussions and articles relate to tools around GTD. Or they relate to specific practices around a tool. How to use Evernote for GTD? How to organize your ticker files? What is the best online service for managing GTD workflow? What are the specific folders you create? Are you happy with a particular tool?

cartbeforethehorse

These are all useful discussions. I even gave out my toolkit for GTD.

But I also wrote about that using GTD is not about adopting a particular set of tools or practices. It is about a personal transformation. It requires a change of heart.

It is not that tools are not important. They are. They ensure that you really get the stuff done. But they come after you understand what you are really trying to do. They are means to the end, not the end themselves. Talking about tools before you understand the end-goal is like putting your first step on the third leg of the ladder. It’s putting the cart before the horse.

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My Weekly GTD Review

Earlier I argued why GTD is valuable for knowledge workers and what my GTD system is. Here is how I do my Weekly Review – a critical piece of the GTD system.

All processes in life run forward. Good processes also have intermediary checkpoints where progress is analyzed and adjustments are made. (e.g. A Scrum project team does retrospectives at the end of every work iteration – where the good, the bad and the potential pitfalls ahead are reviewed and course corrected).

Weekly Review is just that. It is an explicit weekly checkpoint in our GTD life where we deliberately stop doing the regular stuff, rise up from the life’s battlefield, take a stock of all the stuff around us, analyze the previous week and look ahead the next. We adjust, tweak and re-prioritize and take away or add stuff in our lives. It’s an ‘inspect and adapt’ activity – and is immensely powerful.

As important as the review, is the fact that it is weekly. A week is the optimal work and planning unit. Give someone two weeks for a task and it will be most likely addressed in the second week. Hence, most planning and reporting is done on a weekly basis.

My Weekly Reviews are on Friday afternoons. It’s scheduled for 30 minutes on my calendar. Friday is a good time with work traffic slowing down and I have better visibility into the weekend and next week.

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How I manage my GTD Stuff

Last time I talked about GTD and why it helps a knowledge worker. Today, I’ll describe how I personally manage the GTD system – the tools, habits and the quirks.

Disclaimer: How I manage is what works for me. It may not be the same for you. The intent is to give you example of an implementation. The process is more important than the content. Had there been a one-size-fits-all implementation, GTD probably would have prescribed it.  

I use electronic tools and external (cloud) storage of data (tasks, emails, documents etc.) for efficient access. My system has the following pieces:

– My Capture Lists
– Calendars
Evernote

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Why I use GTD?

Once asked for his telephone number, Einstein looked it up in the directory. He replied to the curious requester that why should he waste his brain in storing something when he can easily retrieve it when required. 

This is the essence of Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology – which I and million others use to organize our lives.

GTD is not a productivity tool. It is a methodology to manage stuff entering in our lives and how we manage it.  

Most of what we call organizing consists of creating to-do lists and reminders. We are typically creating these artifacts with no process to manage and use them. The result is often “we forgot”, “it fell through the cracks” or “I never got around to doing it”. There is stress, inefficiency and lost opportunities.  

Our brain is for processing, not storing stuff. We cannot depend on our memory to generate reminders or organize large information. At best, we can hold a few items in our brain at anytime. Enter a new input and an existing item may drop off. Our psyche cannot be our system.  

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