Getting back into "Getting Things Done" (GTD) is one of my secondary goals for 2019. So far I've managed to keep up my weekly reviews and keep my system (mostly) organized.
The last time I really used GTD successfully was during university. I wrote a retrospective in July of 2006 but things have changed a lot since then. I graduated, moved to the US and started working as a freelance software engineer.
A lot of what I wrote then still holds true, but there have been major changes to my daily routine. There are no fixed class schedules, no exams to revise for and no commutes to and from campus. Thankfully GTD can adapt to changes like these.
The two minute rule
During processing, any task that will take less than two minutes should be done there and then.
This is still one of my favourite things from GTD. It stops small tasks from ending up on a list and either being done too late or not at all.
It's particularly useful during weekly reviews. I usually complete half a dozen tasks during the review process alone. These tasks can range from "Email X about Project Y" to "File away letters from the bank".
Beeminder has been my friend here. I have a goal set up to make sure I complete a review every week, and I haven't derailed since I started it. I can't pretend I look forward to weekly reviews, but I'm not putting them off the way I used to.
The weekly review tool on FacileThings has also been a huge time saver. I had my own checklist for weekly reviews, but sometimes I wouldn't give items the time they really needed. The FacileThings review shows everything I need, when I need it.
Projects (kind of)
I've been taking the GTD approach to projects - i.e. if a task requires more than one action to complete, it's a project. It takes some getting used to, but it keeps project actions fairly manageable. Even though projects can end up being quite small, it's satisfying to get them organized and completed.
At the moment I have 48 active projects and have completed 24. I'm still working on getting some external projects into my system.
Getting stuff done
The biggest success by far is that I'm actually getting stuff done. There have been a number of small small projects I've wanted to complete for ages and just haven't got around to. Having them in a system where I can see and review them has stopped them from getting lost in my daily routine.
I've completed over 250 tasks since starting with FacileThings in April, which includes a vacation in June.
What's not working
I use tags to limit my tasks by area (e.g.
free-software), but location-based contexts (e.g.
really worth it for me. The only real time I use contexts is a whiteboard on the
door for "things I need from the grocery store".
I really like how GTD simplifies projects to a "next action" level, but some things just don't fit into that kind of system.
I'm currently working on a large software project that is going to take over a year to complete. It needs to be split into milestones and tasks. Some tasks will depend on others and parts may need to be delegated as time goes on.
A pure GTD approach doesn't really cover everything that I need to manage.
Huge next actions list
Sometimes it feels like I just have an enormous list of stuff to get done and it can be a little overwhelming.
I think an additional "is this really something I want to do?" question during processing would be helpful here. It can always go on the "someday/maybe" list if I'm not 100% sure.
It's easy for some items to get stuck. There are a couple of items on my list that have been there for over a month, but they're not really important or urgent enough to work on Right Now.
I'd like to find a better way to balance getting new stuff done vs keeping the list short.
Still not 100% "in"
There are still some external tasks I'm not tracking using my system. Some work tasks aren't tracked, and I have a couple of large projects that aren't on my projects list.
So far the best solution I've found is to treat the project plan as a project in itself and use a separate methodology to create it. It can then be put into my GTD system as reference material and stored on the list of projects. Tasks can be taken from the plan and put onto my next actions list if/when appropriate.
It's still not perfect, but I think it overcomes the issue with trying to fit all projects into the GTD mold.
Work and personal tasks
My work tasks come in via email, a ticketing system, instant messages and occasionally phone calls. But some of it is still slipping through the cracks.
I think because tasks that come in need to be converted before they go into my system, and I don't really like spending time doing that when work needs doing. This is especially true of tasks that are urgent.
I need to tighten this process up, so I need to get into the habit of treating my email inbox as an actual inbox and processing it accordingly.
Daily reviews might be needed to really keep me on track. I'm not planning on anything too serious, probably just a quick process of my inbox and a check of my next actions to make sure nothing important got forgotten.
I'd like to start planning out my day in advance and schedule time to work on specific projects. I'd also like to schedule time each day to work on cleaning up smaller tasks on my next actions list.