I lied about the next post in my last post. This post is not a comparison of GTD implementations, but a lamentation of the end of my 12 week hiatus from the working world. Some have referred to it as “semi-retirement”. It has been woefully short, yet I am still extremely grateful for the break. I have no idea how the time flew by so quickly, but it has flown indeed.
Tomorrow morning, I start my new commute. My trusty iPod will help make the drive fun.
Now, I go to bed. See you on the flip side.
Yes, like everyone else 25-45 years old, I have been reading Getting Things Done by David Allen. It lays out a very straight-forward, even — dare I say it — trivial system of dealing with the things/tasks that come into your life. The thing I’ve found about every new learning experience is that honestly, the best lesson are straight-forward and trivial. It just takes having been exposed to the idea and trying it out to see how “obvious” it seems. For example, the two main things I’ve learned about personal finance are:
- Spend less than you earn – duh!
- Do something smart with the difference – duh!
But honestly? Those two perfectly obvious things are great lessons to implement. I was already doing 1, but not enough of it. And I wasn’t being very smart with 2. So I learned to be better at both.
So being straight-forward and trivial is not a diss on GTD; it’s a bonus. 🙂
The other thing I’ve learned about life is this: Things happen when you do them.
Ok, now I sound like a jerk. 🙂 But here it is again:
Things happen when you do them.
That is probably the most profound thing I learned in the last ten years. That makes me sound like an idiot. Or an asshat. Or something. But I guess what I’m saying is that I really internalized it and have seen it to be true in my own life, as opposed to have thought about how obvious it is.
It’s the single biggest thing that NaNoWriMo has done for me: to make me understand that writing doesn’t happen in bursts of inspiration and that waiting until I felt like it is not the right thing for me, but that writing happens when you sit your butt down and write.
Getting Things Done is fundamentally about sitting your butt down (or getting up and about, as the case may be) and getting things done, off your checklist, out of your life, off your mind. The big tools the GTD system provides appears to me to be the following:
- Giving you a concrete idea of where to physically (or electronically) file your stuff.
- Making you dump out every single thing on your mind (from big work projects to watering the plants) into a single location, so that you know it’s written down somewhere so you don’t have to remember it yourself.
- Forcing you to define the very next physical action you have to take in order to accomplish something.
The first thing is nice because you need to know where to put “stuff”, whether it’s pending emails responses or a list of phone calls you need to make or reading material that you need to get through. I never know where to put stuff, which is why my life is so cluttered. Having someone say concretely that these are the things you need makes it easier, but this hasn’t been the best thing about GTD.
The second thing, however, has been absolutely awesome for me. I dumped out everything that is even slightly, remotely on my mind as a thing to get done, either now or in the next year or in the vague “someday” timeframe. I don’t have to remember anything, so I’ve been feeling really relaxed in the last three days as far as feeling that vague poking in the back of the mind. When something comes to mind, I just write it down. I don’t have to worry I won’t remember it.
Even sorting through the mess is nice.
The third thing is really great too. “Get house fixed up” is a good thing to think about, but it seems like an unapproachably large project. Well, what’s the very next physical action I need to take? It might be “Search through Berkeley Parents Network to read about locals who have recently renovated.” The next item might be “Call 3 of the contractors they recommended.” At any given moment, thinking about the house in general can be really stressful. However, thinking about doing some Googling and reading is really easy. Just one step at a time.
Things get done when you do them, and doing them becomes much, much easier when you can list all the things you want done, and having a system where you can sit down at any given moment and know what “next actions” you can take. When I’m sitting at a desk, I might have 5 different phone calls I need to make. If you took the time to “process” your list correctly according to the GTD system, then you don’t have to waste any time figuring out who you need to call and for what. There should be one single clean list in front of you, even if they are for 5 different areas or projects in your life.
My next post will review four different GTD Mac implementations that I am looking into.
What I’ve learned
I call it “self-brainwashing” but it’s really just something I do to put myself in the mindset I want to be. These last few years, I have surrounded myself with reading (and listening, via podcasts) materials related to personal finance. This action has allowed me to accomplish two main things I really wanted to do:
- Learn enough about personal finance to actually take action (then take action, obviously)
- Program my mindset to be finance-conscious in my everyday actions/habits
Because I had strategically placed this information where I couldn’t get away from it, I succeeded in these two goals. How had I accomplished this “strategic placement”?
- By having podcasts automatically download and load into a “smart playlist” on my iPod. All I had to do was plug in my iPod every couple of days and I had something new to listen to everyday. Since I had to charge up my iPod anyway, this was zero work after I first decided which podcasts to listen to. Admittedly, finding the right podcasts took some time at the beginning.
- By subscribing to feeds from personal finance bloggers that I enjoyed reading. Again, as with the iPod, I had to first decide which bloggers were worth my time, but after that, I was able to keep the idea of personal financial responsibility at the forefront of my consciousness.
Where I need work
This year, I really want to get serious about fitness and healthy eating as a priority. The biggest obstacle in the past has been in keeping it in the forefront of my mind. I slip up, not because of hunger or tiredness or an intense craving, but because I stop thinking about it. Health just slips my mind and fails to seem very important. I know, that sounds like sacrilege to some people, but to me, that’s just how I roll.
Given 1) information immersion works for me and 2) I see an area in my life where I fail because I stop thinking about my goals, I have decided to take the same approach for health that I did for personal finance.
Where you can help me
Please suggest health podcasts and blogs (with a preference for podcasts, since I will be doing a lot of commuting again soon) that you enjoy. Thanks!
Do any of you guys do this type of conscious immersion?
It’s raining a crazy amount out here. Seppo is at the optometrist, and I’m waiting for the slightest lull to take Mobi out. Granted, I just spent the last twenty minutes digging out our and our neighbors’ clogged sidewalk gutters, so I’m soaked, which means the rain will make little difference to me. Mobi, however, being the fancy-pants that he is, does mind the rain, so I suppose I’ll wait a little longer.
Can you see the rain in my hair and on my glasses?
Seppo and I started a new blog to track our fitness/health/weight loss goals: Get Fit, Nerds!.
It is pretty empty right now, but it’ll get filled up with our goals, observations, trials & tribulations soon. It feels weird to go so public with weight data, but there it is. I can’t achieve the goal without stating a hard goal, so I put it out there. My main goal is to decrese my body fat percentage from the overweight-to-obese range down to normal. I’ve been hiding a bunch of fat where most people can’t see it (behind my right elbow). Details at the blog.
Friends of the Seppo & Ei-Nyung Multinational MegaCorp (R), please be kind when I try to say no to seconds/cookies/dessert, should you have us over for dinner. 😉