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How do you Get Things Done?

In Joel's interview tips he mentions that you want to hire someone Who Gets Things Done. Obviously, the trait of Getting Things Done is a desirable one, and most people who post here see themselves as someone Who Gets Things Done. So how do people Who Get Things Done become that way?

I think that while there is a large Nietzschen “Will to Power” aspect to being a person Who Gets Things Done, it is not the only requirement.

There is a basic Kaizen (look it up on the web or see my previous post) concept that, in order to achieve a desired result, one must look at the process used to arrive at the current result. Or in other words, in order to change the effect, one must look at the cause and make changes to that, not try to change the effect directly.

So my question is this. What are the daily processes or habits that make someone a person who Gets Things Done?

Jon Kenoyer
Friday, October 17, 2003

Step 1:

Add these lines to your hosts file:

Friday, October 17, 2003

I recommend you two audio books by Edwin Bliss: "Getting Things Done" and "Doing It Now". The books are quite old (I think they may be 15 years old), but the material is simply excellent.

They are "no-hype", practical books.

Friday, October 17, 2003

I believe we are talking about habits.  Processes may help you get done _faster_, but habits make people feel you are a "get it done" person.

-- You rarely, if ever, say no.  I see people miss opportunities because someone comes by at 4:00pm.  Rather than even looking at it, they do the old "I am about to leave, maybe I can look at it next week..."  If they had looked at it, they would see a 15 minute project they could have whipped out before going.  Saying no too often makes people stop asking. When that happens you will lose for a long time.
-- If you say you will have something on Monday, you have it on Monday. If that means working through the weekend because it is a 15 hour task, you thought would take four hours...sorry. 
  --  "Getting it done" means more than the average developer's work.  It is the above and beyond, skunk works, and often thankless tasks a manager needs done right away to make a customer (internal or external) happy. Because this is usually "extra" work, you cannot let your normal work suffer. 
  -- No bitching and moaning.  People who get the job done, do not complain about the hardship of doing it.  If agree to do something I don't complain about how hard it is, that is is impacting my personal life or that everyone was leaving while I was working.  My first manager told me: "Better to say you are not available than to complain about it after agreeing to do it."
  -- You engage the necessary people, and if necessary bring up any roadblocks or issues that may impact success.  This is where I see people think they are get it done people, when no one else does.  The "hey, you never came back so I just let it go." or "Bob never got back to me..." attitude will do you in. 
  -- You are successful.  Sorry but good intentions are not going to do it.  You need to be successful.  It also means you need to know more about the systems than average so you can make a change "X" and know that this may impact "Y" later in the process and follow up with that too.
  -- If you thought you could do it but find you cannot, figure that out quick.  "Jane, I was looking at this and it is a network change, not an application change.  I can follow up with them if you like."  That last sentence being the important one.  You are not dumping or reverse delegating.

I hope this helps.  It is not as easy as "do this" and you will be the "go to" person.  It is an attitude that give people get.  They "Give it to Bill and it gets done."

Friday, October 17, 2003

You always develop a method to do it.

Take walking for instance. Assuming you are able to walk good now, you must have developed a method how to do it. in your childhood.  The knwoledge of oneself is must in order to do the same.  That may or may not require active thinking on your part, the but the development of method is essential for anything to get done by yourself.

The best way to answer your question for yourself is to figure out the practical methods that you have developed over the period and ponder over it.  Find the basic elements and ingredients that you use to develope those methods.
Any new methods, using those ingredients will be developed quicly.

That's how you get things done!

Friday, October 17, 2003

Robert Kelley wrote an article for IEEE's Spectrum magazine back in 1999, called "How to be a Star Engineer" (see for a copy), later expanded into the book "How to be a Star at Work."

His research (at Bell Labs, 3M, etc) pointed at the distinction between star and average performers being due to differences in habits or approaches to work rather than traits or skills. In other words, among a set of people with more or less the same native ability and training, it is habits and work strategies that make some into people who "get things done."

Jody Woodland
Friday, October 17, 2003

Another more recent "Getting Things Done" by David Allen

I have tried lots of things to get orgainized and his way is the best so far.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Organization helps.  One system is to record each item you need to get done on a 3x5" card.  Keep these cards in a public, easy-to-reach place, and attack them one-by-one.

There are plenty of other ways to get organized:  Notebooks, daily planners, PalmPilots, calendars, etc.

The Pedant, Brent P. Newhall
Friday, October 17, 2003

Make lists and check them off.

The Real PC
Friday, October 17, 2003

Don't waste time on discussion boards

Friday, October 17, 2003

I usually sit down in my office and start working.

Friday, October 17, 2003

A related question: How likely is it that someone will regress from being a Get Things Done person to being an average developer? In my younger days (okay, until a couple of years ago) I was as gung ho as you can imagine, working my ass off and generally being respected as a GTD'er. But lately, I feel like I'm treading water -- doing the work, but not in an outstanding fashion, going home at 5:30, etc. Is that metamorphosis common? Or is it me?

< Guess Joel won't be hiring me anytime soon! >

Friday, October 17, 2003

I'm a big believer in the "Take 1 hour at the end of the day" philosophy.

Every day before I go home I think about what tasks I need to accomplish tomorrow and list them, I consider who I have to contact, who I need to get back to, and what things require consideration.

I take 10 minutes to sort through my email, I clear my desktop and file my papers, clean up my Unix account and clear my desk.

Usually it takes about 10 minutes (but I've taken a full hour before, sometimes there's a lot that needs to be done).

I find that the next day I can come in and be productive for about 3 hours straight before I have to think about anything (of course I'm a morning person so maybe you night-owls should switch things around and take some time first thing in the morning).

I find that keeping myself super-organized and keeping my desk clear helps me focus on the task at hand and know that the data I need is exactly where I would think that it is.  The time invested is recouped quite easily during the course of the day, and it makes an even bigger difference as time goes by.

Friday, October 17, 2003

I'll 2nd the "Getting Things Done" by David Allen

Read the reviews on Amazon and decide for yourself whether or not to pick it up. I'm in the middle of reading it now, so I can't say unequivocally that it works for me yet, but the advice is very straightfoward and no-nonsense. Once I finish the book, I have every intention of implementing this system.

Maybe it will help Joel "Cross the Chasm" too.
Friday, October 17, 2003

Doing stuff I enjoy doing always has a remarkable, positive influence on my concentration and stamina. If I like doing it, I allways get it done.
If you cant do what youd like, like what you do.. its all in the mind.

Eric DeBois
Friday, October 17, 2003

> its all in the mind

While I agree that I drag myself out of bed if I do something I don't want to do ever day, but on the weekends if I have something I'm looking foward to, I'm awake and alert an hour early, life isn't all about doing what you want to do. There are plenty of things you don't want to do that just have to get done.
Friday, October 17, 2003

If you think that you don't get things done (or if people tell you so), you're a dead man.

If you didn't learn from your mother/teacher/anything some system how to move towards projects and tasks, you have a big problem (actually, big problems).

There's a simple solution, follow any system (I used "getthig things done" too), it's easier than any code you've learned.

Monday, October 20, 2003

On further reflection:  You have to want to Get Things Done.  If you do, then start searching for ways to get more things done.  Keep on searching.  You'll start finding habits and systems.

The Pedant, Brent P. Newhall
Monday, October 20, 2003

For me, getting things done is about disciplined thought, disciplined action and being proactive.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

No one said anything about dependecies yet.  :-) So its my turn.

If you want to get things done try to be surrounded by people who also at least want "to get this bloody damn thing finally done!!!".

Those people shouldn't always be getting things done themselves, but they have to be willing if not to help you then not to build obstacles on your way.

In the company I'm currently working for whenever I'm trying to get something done I always meet negative reaction of more senior members. They would throu at me endless "company standards" ("here we do things differently") and possible dangers of making wrong step. Most of it is very protective - to justify own idleness.

Sure, most of you seen a company where people are blaming each other in breaking company rules and standards during numerous meetings to shrag off the responsobility of having no progress with their own working tasks.

Those people become very protective once you try to put any pressure on them. They would always find an excuse to eliminate you.

So my "numero uno" is to try to spend more of your time surrounded by the people who're interested in getting the same thing done.

BTW, I'm leaving the company ASAP - waiting for my legal papers to be done.

UK resident
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

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