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"Getting Things Done" by Allen: theory->practice

I've been trying to be more organized over the last few years.  One great book, found through JoS, was the above by David Allen.

I'm now trying to put some of that theory into practice.  I'd like to get feedback and share suggestions with all of you.

1.  What sort of system are you using? (software, paper, etc.)

- I've got a big filling cabinet for storing stuff that has to go on paper (or comes that way).
-I'm using Ecco Pro for organizing my projects.  I just found a GTD template which has a lot of promise. I'm evaluating it right now.

2.  What are your top 3 tips for  implementing Getting Things Done (GTD) ?

The real Entrepreneur
Thursday, February 5, 2004

I got my self a palm and just created an enormous list of things I had to do, sorted by priority. Then just work through them one by one.

Matthew Lock
Thursday, February 5, 2004

I'm not sure if it's along the lines of what you were thinking, but I've found that making a decision is most important.

Maybe they're the wrong decisions, who knows, but I've found it extremely important for Getting Things Done. In my case, I found things were piling up while I delayed. It starts to nag in the back of your head, and doubt starts to creep in, and things go downhill from there.

Creeping Featuritis disappears for me. Just make the decision that no, that feature is going in the next version. Or no, that annoyance is not going to be fixed in this release.

Thursday, February 5, 2004

Check out the trial edition of the Outlook Plugin.

If you paid close attention you'll find that he doesn't promote keeping a to-do list per project, but rather a to-do list per situation. I.e. phone calls, at the computer, errands, etc.

I'm a little scared that I just said that.
Thursday, February 5, 2004

> Check out the trial edition of the Outlook Plugin.

Oh, and between the Outlook PDF and training materials for the plugin, you should be able to piece together a workable solution in whatever PIM you choose.
Thursday, February 5, 2004

ok.. here it goes, hope this helps...

sorry for the long post

I started on his system a couple of years ago. I was very stressed and needed anything at all to help my mind stop buzzing with ideas.

I bought myself a second hand Palm III which I wanted anyway.

Starting out is hard... trying to capture every little thing you have around the home or office, and in your head. But even if you don't adopt the system its worth the effort - I found all sorts of interesting documents in the filing cabinets :-)

Every now and again I start slipping from the system (read: I start getting stressed and feel out of control!)... but usually all that needs to be done is a "brain dump" so I can sleep better at night.

I don't have that much physical "stuff" in my system - one filing cabinet drawer at work, one at home. Lots of stuff is stored electronically and again they are organised on the hard disks.

On the Palm I just use:

Address book: everything goes into one category, except restaurants for some reason I can't remember.

To Do: categories are "home", "office", "web", "errands" etc. One category for "Projects" which in the notes field captures all the bits I think I have to do to get the project happening.

Memo: first line of memo is the title of the list/notes/whatever, eg 'Might wanna watch - DVDs', subsequent lines are whatever I want. I don't use categories.

My biggest problem was getting it to work with tasks at the office. I manage a software project and don't really want all those tasks sitting in my palm (last thing I want to see when I'm at home on Friday night is what Mary is supposed to be programming next week). So I built my own task manager for programming stuff at work, but still keep general office jobs in the Palm (such as "write reference for Mr Jones").

Although I don't use the system as far as David Allen suggests, it is very useful if you keep at it. Every 6-12 months its worth rereading parts of the book to fix up processes you have forgotten about.

Top tips:
1. Storing things electronically and using a PDA or email to syncrhonise between work and home PCs really cuts down on the physical stuff you have to drag around.
2. Read the book - twice - then start with the brain dump. After a couple of weeks skim through the book again to remind yourself why you are doing this :-)
3. Don't ever, EVER rely on your mind to remember something. Write it down on a scrap piece of paper and process it later. You should always have pen/paper in the car and next to your bed at home for this purpose.

Oh and #4 - adapt the system to your own needs. Not everyone is a consultant who spends his life travelling the US giving lectures!

Good luck!

Friday, February 6, 2004

Thanks PDF!  Good info.

Also, just found a YahooGroup on Ecco users applying Getting Things Done:
Send email t:

The real Entrepreneur
Friday, February 6, 2004

Also have a look in "Message board > Indie Life" within

There's been great comments & discussion about the subject.  That discussion got me going on the subject and I am also using the "GTD" methods -- so far so good.

I am using ActionOutline as a way to list: Next actions, Projects, etc.. -- love it....

Friday, February 6, 2004

I have recently read and started to apply GTD.

It's a good book.

I keep a flash-based MP3 player with me at all times. This is one of my inboxes - if I remember I have to do something, I immediately record the TO-DO item to my MP3 player.

I also use the TO-DO list on my mobile phone - I set alarms for some things.

I don't use a Palm.

For keeping my projects and actions list, I use a MS Word document containing a simple table. I like the fact that MS Word table cells expand while I type, unlike Excel cells.

I also like the fact that, if I'm extremely tired and my vision blurs, I can use CTRL+Mouse Wheel to zoom the document.

So this is the advantages MS Word has over other PIMs.

Before using Word, I used Quick TO-DO Pro from , but it's not as flexible as Word - especially, it does not support the Project/Next action format recommended by the Getting Things Done book.

Columns of the table I use:

1. Project
2. Next action for the project
3. Importance
4. Due date
5. Location

I don't usually fill all the columns.

For example, if I have a simple action, I don't fill column 1: project.

If I have a project, I fill column 1.

I use table sorting a lot.

In the morning, I first sort by "due date" and do the things that are emergencies.

Then, I sort by "importance", and do the things that are important.

If I decide to go outside the office, I sort the list by "location", and make a paper note with all the things I have to do outside.

Every week I re-read and revise the list.

In addition to Getting Things Done by David Allen, I recommend two other books:

A. First Things First by Stephen Covey

B. Getting Things Done by Ed Bliss

Both books are about how to decide what your real, long-term priorities are, and about doing the important things instead of some of the urgent things.

Book A contains some fluff and BS, but it really stimulated me to think about what my true priorities and goals should be.

Book B is a more "technical" book, containing a more practical approach to putting first things first.

I am currently reading "How to delegate work and ensure it's done right" by Dick Lohr.

It's a good book for people who want to get into management, but don't have the training.

I also discovered that it helped me deal with my co-workers and even closed ones, especially in situations where they try to "pass the buck" to me, in matters where I really shouldn't be doing the work.

All of these books are also available as audio books.

Friday, February 6, 2004

I have noticed that Outlook 2003 has an interesting feature: with only one click, you can flag a message (a flag appears next to the message).

It has a special folder where you see only the flagged messages.

This can be used for those e-mails that require follow-up.

This is why I am looking into switching from The Bat! to Outlook 2003.

Friday, February 6, 2004

I have just tried it, and I found that the Getting Things Done Outlook plug-in is NOT compatible with Outlook 2003.

Friday, February 6, 2004

That's too bad. It works with Outlook 2000.

You can watch it in action here:

Click on the toolbar to launch the tour.

I never read the full Outlook PDF, just the online sample version, I installed the trial software, which works for a month. I'm on day 4. So far so good, but I think I'm going to use Thunderbird for my email, I can't quite get Outlook to do what I want it to, and I figure I'm more susceptible to viruses in Outlook anyway.

I really believe you can implement these things without buying the Outlook PDF or software by looking at the tour for the software, looking at the sample PDF, and corroborating this with what he says in the book.

Someone needs to write a Thunderbird extention that does this. :)
Friday, February 6, 2004

Oh, but Thunderbird doesn't handle tasks and the mozilla calender doesn't have good support for multiple task lists. Oh well. I still prefer paper for my to-do lists.
Friday, February 6, 2004

"Find purpose. The means will follow" -  Mahatma Gandhi

Indian Developer in India
Friday, February 6, 2004

Get Ecco, still the best PIM software ever, even though development stopped in 1997. People especially like its outlining capacity, along with keeping notes + calendar + contacts neatly in one application.

As for PDA's, I'm like some people on this list : after a while, I got tired of buying new batteries and remembering to synchronize between the PDA and my 'puters at work and home, so dumped it.

Next step: seeing if anyone has a PHP module to read the Faircom CTree database on which Ecco is based :-)

Friday, February 6, 2004

> "write reference for Mr Jones"

Is it too late to buy you a beer?

Friday, February 6, 2004

Personal Analog Assistant.

small pad of paper or deck of notecards.  $1 - $12
clicky pen.  $1
to-do list.  priceless

Friday, February 6, 2004

I also bought the book because of comments made here. I started the "program" as a New Years resolution.
After I collected all the bits of paper that I needed to do, wanted to do or was saving for God knows what reason, I had a pile that covered my desk. I took a whole Saturday and churned through it. I wound up with about half a drawer of files. The rest went into the shredder. Using the shredder like that is very therapeutic.
I bought a refill for my Franklin planner. I must wear the ribbon of shame for using just plain old paper. Getting new software flashed into my PDA is a project on the someday list.
Getting things up and running was not trivial. I thought the time estimates in the book for collecting and processing were very high. Actually he is being conservative, and I felt reasonably organized before I started. Be aware your wife/significant other will laugh at you when you come home with a label maker.
I have tried the Franklin-Covey, “7 habits” methods in the past. “GTD” is much more practical. You can actually get organized without knowing what you want to do with the entire rest of your life.
I recommend the book if this thread makes you curios. I really helps a person keep track of all the little details.

Doug Withau
Friday, February 6, 2004

I started reading 7 Habits based on a recommendation here, and it's such a classic. I got through habit 3 and never progressed past that. I can't even recall what the habits are. Act don't react, something along those lines. Build character by forcing yourself to take a stance on something.

While these are all fine sentiments, I just didn't get what the big deal was about. Maybe it's showing it's age & it's popularity is based on the fact that it was one of the only few books on this topic at the time, or Covey's dogged persistance.

All in all, 7 Habits seemed more "Dr. Phil" than anything else. Just put "Well, Oprah, what you see is..." in front of every paragraph.

In Ready for Anything (which I don't particularly recommend) David Allen talks about Covey and how he's been criticized for not having "Find out the purpose of your life" as the #1 item on your To Do list, and he rather politically shrugged it off by saying he didn't exclude Covey from his methodology, but gives you a toolset to do Covey if you want. Or something like that.
Friday, February 6, 2004

Nice comments everyone...

yeah the low-tech option of paper or a Word document is good if you tend to do all your work at the same place, or don't mind carrying around your Filofax or diary. I guess I like the Palm because its very easy to synchonise home and office PCs, plus I can easily change data and search for items. I hardly ever use the Palm unit itself unless I am out and about and need a phone number, or get stuck somewhere and want to play Solitaire.

Friday, February 6, 2004

GTD worked great for me. I have been using a paper based system for more than a year now. The filing system especially helped. Writing everything down really does clear your mind.

I recommend:
1. Always do the week in review.
2. If you get off-track, just get back on track. Don't beat yourself up about it.

A reader
Friday, February 6, 2004

The weekly review is priceless-you clean up just like your
going on vacation.  Also just asking yourself "what's the
next action" is excellent prod for making productive progess.

Pat Thomas
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

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