One and a half years with GTD

Stefan Imhoff

Since exactly one and a half years I use now the principles of GTD (Getting Things Done®), from the book by David Allen to organize my daily tasks.

My desk before
This is what the inbox looked like before I sorted all loose ends

In his book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, David Allen introduces an interesting system that allows you to do your daily tasks effectively and efficiently.

In any case, I am of the opinion that one really gets the everyday madness governed by Allen’s system.

The GTD Basics

GTD uses so-called contexts, which are certain situations / places to which a task is assigned (telephone, home, care or similar). In addition, there can be an allocation to a project.

Tasks are done within your context, which means you do several calls at once, if you’re already on the phone.

In GTD everything that comes as stuff on the table, is moved to an Inbox. This stuff can be varied and consist of e-mails, mail, voice memos, notes, scribbles, etc. The Inbox will be emptied at some point in time (for example, Friday afternoon) with each task being processed, leaving nothing unprocessed in the Inbox.

Depending on the estimated effort, the tasks are either completed immediately (if the duration is of about 2 minutes), or moved to another location. If the task is part of a multi-part process, a project is created to which the task is assigned.

Stuff can also be removed as reference material for later (like a brochure).

If a task is not done for the time being, because you have no time or no active interest in it - but you think it is so interesting that you do not want to destroy it right away, you move it to a list of things to do Someday / Maybe. This list can be reviewed every now and then. Thus, the ideas are not lost, but also do not burden the head.

Tasks can also be delegated or assigned to certain times. If you have to wait for someone else to do a task, you assign it to the context of Waiting for.

GTD in Everyday Life

My desk afterwards
This is what the inbox looked like after sorting all loose ends

At first glance, GTD may look complicated or awkward, but it helps immensely to keep the head off pondering.

After a short time of adjustment, I got used to this way of working and quickly took over the property to write down every thought immediately and according to the GTD principle somewhere to classify. So I never forget important things again and even small ideas do not immediately disappear from the head.

Ideally, you have certain work tools that can vary depending on the person and circumstances. I myself use a combination of web application, text files, Moleskine® notebook and post-its® in different places (on the bedside table).

Especially for computer professionals, there are numerous systems and programs that allow GTD digital. Thus, the right work tool should probably be found for everyone. Whole sites and weblogs only deal with GTD (for example lifehack.org, lifehacker or 43 Folders).

The Right GTD Solution?

Since I met GTD for the first time, I’m looking for and testing alternative solutions for Allen’s system (albeit less frequently).

Right away: The perfect system in the daily implementation doesn’t exist for me, with all solutions you have to compromise. Only when a neural interface has been developed, in which one can feed his thoughts immediately in text form and can retrieve directly and anywhere on the retina, I am probably satisfied.

Most of the solutions I’ve seen so far have been either too simple or too complex for me.

Too simple systems did not work for me - such as: pure text. Certain things always remained outside. I’ve been testing an interesting candidate with TaskPaper over the last few weeks, which unfortunately did not allow me to schedule appointments and therefore was not sufficient in the long-term test. Let's see how the software evolves.

To complex systems, which allowed various lists, keywords, various data and mappings, were too time-consuming in my daily use.

Key features for me are:

  1. Location independence, - since I am an employee, I want to capture my thoughts from different places.
  2. System independence - Not so important anymore, but I do not want to depend on certain operating systems.
  3. Assign Appointments - For me a separation in diary and Next Actions is out of the question.
  4. Fast and easy - It has to be easy, ideally without a mouse or just a few clicks.

At the same time, I've occasionally gone double-tracked to test a new system, but I still use my primary tool.

Update

After it’s release in 2009 I started using Things by Cultured Code. After using it for a few years updates became scarce and the next version was late for a few years. I tried in the meantime a few different solutions but a few month after the release of Things 3 I switched back, because of it’s easy to use interface and instant synchronization speed.