Recently on the GTD blog a video was posted about getting coached by David Allen. It reminded me that when you make the decision to get your life organised and to start following GTD (or any other productivity system for that matter) there is a huge, short-term time sacrifice to be made, and it is a sacrifice you have to make if you want to get everything out of your head and into a trusted system that works for you. Nothing worthwhile in life is ever easy after all.
My GTD story…
I was introduced to the importance of keeping myself organised at a very early stage of my working life. But I have had moments when I let things slip and found myself feeling overwhelmed by the number of things I had to do. I began my ‘organised life’ with a Franklin Planner in the early 1990s and made the change to the GTD system in 2009. When I made the change, I allowed two full weekends to get everything sorted out and into a trusted system. The only systemic change I have made over the years was to change the way I captured things from a paper based method to a digital method. Apart from that, the basics of my system have remained the same as it was back in 2009.
What you have to realise is that once you have made the decision to get yourself organised, you have to go into it 100%. If you try to cherry pick the ‘best’ bits of GTD, the whole system will fall apart. I know many ‘newbies’ for example think the weekly review is not necessary and for a few weeks do not do any kind of review. Those people very quickly learn that not doing a weekly review results in missed commitments, dropped deadlines and a system they do not entirely trust, and one thing I have learnt is, if you do not trust your system completely, you will soon go back to being a disorganised mess.
Going back to my story, when I set up my GTD system it took me five full days (one of the weekends was a holiday weekend) — and I considered myself pretty organised, even back then. But I had files all over the place that were not properly labelled. My notes were in my Franklin Planner, but I had no system for knowing where a particular note was, and I remembered that early in a new year was a nightmare because most of my notes were in the previous years planner. Watching the video and seeing Linda’s reaction when she finally realised what the whole GTD system took to set up, brought back a flood of memories for me. Although I did not shed any tears, I do remember that by the end of the first weekend and I saw the pile of stuff in my temporary inbox, I did wonder whether this whole project was going to be worth it.
“It does take an investment to set this system up and put yourself through this process. But once you do that, you never have to do it again” David Allen
Is it worth it?
Yes! Yes, it took five whole days just to get my stuff sorted out, and that was five, whole, undisturbed days. Yes, it took a further three months to really begin to trust my new system and yes, I made quite a few mistakes and missed a few crucial deadlines and commitments along the way. But, once I did trust my system and got very quick at making decisions about what something was, it was a transformation the changed my life for the better. That is because for the last six years I have felt completely in control of my life. I am so much more positive about outcomes and I have become an expert at making a quick decision on what something is. But most of all, and it is something David Allen says in the video, I am completely relaxed about what I am not doing. That is because I trust my system, it never lets me down, and I am pretty much running on automatic pilot each day.
So, as 2015 draws to an end, and the excitement and optimism of 2016 begins to grow, take some time out to think about going full GTD. If you do make that decision, read the book, get the equipment and spend some time over the next few weeks getting all your stuff together and in to a trusted system. You will never regret it and being stress free, in control and relaxed about everything is a state of mind you too can enjoy.