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The Title Isn't Important, Just Get It Done

2/14/2014

Background:

Several years ago, I was an intern. My boss shared his copy of David Allen's Getting Things Done with me, thinking I would enjoy it. I put it in a desk drawer and never got around to reading it.

Fast forward to a few months ago. I took a new job as IT director for a nonprofit of ~25 people. This was a big step up in responsibility, and I knew I wanted to be on my game.The organization's IT setup was OK, but just OK. I had lots of ideas (many of them in process now) to greatly improve it. I also immediately fell in love with the way the organization worked, so I wanted to do right by them. It was time to get real.

At my previous job, I found it too easy to let some things slide because the job wasn't very fulfilling and I used that as an excuse. But I didn't want to get into the habit of just doing the bare minimum and not accomplishing my goals. I also wasn't doing a good job of completing personal goals, and I knew I had to organize myself to make time for that.

So I started managing my goals, tasks, and time on my own, building a framework from scratch. I've mostly used Evernote and Gmail in combination. This originally started as a list of things I did everyday in Onenote, mostly to document my work. This was OK for a little while, but had limited utility. Right around January 1st, I started using Evernote instead and built a more robust structure for tracking goals, tasks, projects and documentation. The structure of my Evernote (I keep a personal and business acount with identical structures) looks like this:

  • Logs
  • --Daily goals (one note for each day)
  • ----Primary Goal
  • ----Secondar Goal
  • ----Any other goals of lesser importance
  • --Weekly goals (one note for each week)
  • ----Primary, Secondary, one Tertiary
  • ----A few sentences about what I want to accomplish
  • ----A few sentences summarizing how I did that week once finished
  • --6-month Goals (one note every 6 months)
  • ----Primary, Secondary, Tertiary Goal
  • ----Review of performance
  • Projects
  • --Active Projects (one note for each project)
  • --Project Ideas
  • --Completed Projects
  • --Killed Projects
  • Reference
  • --External Resources
  • --Handbooks(I write these for complex tasks I expect to do again, one note for each)

Because that system was working, I was hesitant to sign up for this class. I've looked at it several times, not sure if it would be worth it.

But my system, though functional, has it's limits. Some things still fall through the cracks. Goals not met in a given day can easily be forgotten if I don't go back to them. I had to go back to each day within a week to tally what I did or didn't do each week for review. Some projects still weren't happening like I wanted, instead just sitting there as a lonely, untouched note. I knew I needed to keep refining my processes, so I decided to take the plunge and try this class.

Class Begins:

I'm working through Phase 1 now, recording open loops in Todoist (Evernote didn't work as well for tracking/scheduling various todos within projects, I'm enjoying this new program) and preparing to organize this information. I don't own a Mac, so I won't be using Things or other platform-specific tools. I also value web apps for stuff like this, since I frequently switch computers and need constant access.

I really need a way to process physical documents. I am very bad about keeping and attending to mail, and it's very easy for me to lose papers. (I'm an IT guy--if it's not digital, it might as well not exist!) Thankfully, I live a couple of blocks from a Container Store which should have some nice options. I value simple, compact solutions. I'm also going to get into the habit of scanning everything I get in the mail. We've got a Fujitsu ScanSnap at the office I'll be using for this--they really are awesome scanners, but a retail price of $500 is a bit steep for personal use.

I actually thought I'd breeze through a lesson or two when I started, but I see now that this is a bigger commitment and will take time. Makes sense. I know it's going to be lots of work, but I'm excited to see how much more progress I can make toward all of my goals by improving my workflow and habits!

2/15/2014

I've been using Todoist for a couple of days now, and I like it so far. I sprang for premium to get some extra features that have been rather useful. I've turned most open loops into next physical actions, tagged them under areas of responsibility, and added them to specific projects. I also have a "project" where I'm putting recurring tasks, such as "pay the rent". I like having the recurring tasks popping up in the same place as my other next physical actions each day--it helps me not neglect them in favor of other tasks, but to remember all of my responsibilities.

It will take a while to redo my Evernote notebooks to compliment this new GTD system, but I'm looking forward to it. I think I'll replace my daily goals with lists of next physical actions in Todoist, but keep my weekly (and greater) goal reviews so I don't forget the big picture.

2/18/2014

I'm not even that far along in the class, but just using a todo list as simple and robust as Todoist has already helped immensely. I've been using it to manage both Next Physical Actions and the recurring chores I have to do. In the process of completing lots of actions, I've found so many things I meant to do in the past but totally forgot about. Now that I'm adding things straight to my list as soon as I think of it, I know those things can't get lost anymore.

Since starting this, I've never felt more organized. As an awesome side-benefit, my apartment has also never been cleaner!

2/27/2014

I'm currently in the process of (re)organizing my Todoist lists and Evernote. Since I had a kinda-sorta GTD system before the class, I've got remnants of that in addition to general disorganization. Also, since I'm a Windows user, my GTD software isn't exactly like what's showcased in the lessons. It's going to take a lot of review and creativity to organize things properly.

I've got the next physical action to begin the processes set for Saturday.

What I've done so far is still working well. It feels good to quickly add an item to my todo list to attend to later, and to check it off when I finally do. And I like Todoist's metrics features. I can see what days I've been working hard, and when I've been slacking off. And by color-coding projects, I can even tell at a glance what proportion of things I'm doing belong to what activities. Very cool stuff.

4/29/2014

It's been about two months since I last updated this project. I've implemented a lot of the suggestions from this course into my workflow, slighly modified. Most recently, I finally added specific checklists for daily, weekly, and monthly reviews. I was reviewing things haphazardly, not always looking at data I tracked or even skipping weekly reviews. Now that I've got a list of specific actions to complete for each review, it's a lot easier. I don't forget parts of it. I've also been able to better use review times to tweak my system and improve where possible.

I still think my Evernote system could be better, but it's more useful than it was. I'm also trying to think of a way to compare RescueTime stats with Todoist karma scores to get a better idea of my actual productivity. I don't want it to look like I was very productive one day when I finished lots of small tasks, and unproductive another where I spent hours programming one piece of software.

On the whole though, I've become much more focused and intentional about what I'm doing. I don't waste time looking for information I used to have, since everything is recorded and organized as I work with it. I'm very pleased to have taken this course.

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