Thursday, July 27, 2006


Getting Things Done

This week I'm re-reading Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen. OK, I'm fibbing. I'm attempting to read it for the 11th time. Not that it's boring or poorly written; there are paragraphs in there I want to etch on the inside of my eyelids! Everything he writes makes perfect sense. But I seem to lose steam around the middle when I realize what a freaking lot of work it's going to be, and I go right back to my slothful ways.

In a nutshell, to become more productive, you have to get a handle on all the "open loops" running through your head. All these random bits of information and nagging worries zap the energy you need to be fully productive. You need a black-belt in productivity, to paraphrase what he preaches in GTD. You do this by collecting, in one place, everything that needs your attention in your life: projects, ideas, to-do lists, forms, crumpled up sticky notes, assignments, etc. Then you sort through them and decide how you're going to act next: do you toss? File? Act now? Or in the future? Then you take action, either by tossing, filing, doing, or scheduling. The key is to get everything in your life into a system so that you can focus on your work at hand without being distracted by worries or wondering, "Did I forget to call Mom on her birthday?" When you work the system properly, you won't forget to call Mom, and you'll do a better job staying focused on what's important to you at that moment. (Wikipedia has a "Getting Things Done" entry, which gives even more detail. Also, check out 43folders,, and Allen's company website.)

I'm fired up to give this a go ... for the 12th time. I'm curious: are any of you GTD fans? How has it helped you with your writing career? Did you fully embrace the system or just take what you need? (I'll probably fall into the later category, but Allen seems okay with that. I hate it when authors say, You have to do things MY way or the highway.)

I hope to report back in a few weeks about my improved productivity! :-)

Diana, I love this! At any given time I have about 12,000 thoughts, ideas, and worries flying around in my head. (Gets crowded in there.) On the one hand, it makes me a great multitasker -- I can work on lots of things at once (like, say, the 10+ articles I have due in the next four weeks!). On the other hand, it's hard to concentrate on one project for more than five minutes, which is not so good.

This sounds a bit like what a great life coach once told me about "tolerations." These are all the things that are bugging you that you never seem to do anything about: The cat wakes me up too early, my nails are a mess, the coffeemaker doesn't work right, etc. These little annoyances drain your energy and stress you out.

She suggests makig a list of 100 of your tolerations (easier than you might think) and going through the list deciding which ones you can tackle right away, and making plans to handle the rest. I actually made such a list last week and have been crossing things off. What a relief!
Linda and Diana,
I have this book at home, have paged through it and thought it mostly applied to the little cubicles inside the business world where we are forced to spend 8 hours of our life. Now that you brought up the topic I will take a close look and see how it can be applied to my writing life. Thanks for the books you've written, love them all. You girls are an inspiration to all beginning writers. B
Thanks for the kind words, Becky! :-) As for GTD, yeah, I thought it was for cube jockeys, too, but it's really quite useful for entrepreneurs (i.e. freelancers).

That said, I've stalled on my reading. It's just too damn hot for self-improvement! ;-)
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