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Opportunity for a fresh start with GTD

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  • Opportunity for a fresh start with GTD

    I'm starting a new job in a couple of weeks. It's in a new field for me and will involve some on-the-job training. Even so, I believe I will have a considerable amount of flexibility in how I go about my work, as well as freedom to set up and run my office more or less to my liking.

    As I see it, this is a terrific clean-slate opportunity to implement GTD from the start. I read GTD over a year ago (thanks to the Fallows article), and I believe I have a general sense of the philosophy. I found some success, though not as much as I would like, in using it in my nearing-completion dissertation work. GTD in an academic setting is another topic and one I would like to pursue further.

    But my main concern here is getting it right from the beginning in my new job. Any thoughts, comments, experiences, or suggestions in that regard? All input is welcome.
    Last edited by jrdew; 10-05-2005, 02:14 PM.

  • #2
    The problem with "getting it right from the beginning" is that "right" changes over time. The things that seem important your first week on the job might seem completely trivial after six months. As you take on more responsibilities, your system will need to evolve to help you manage them.

    So my advice would be to keep your system as flexible as possible, especially at first. Don't invest huge amounts of money or effort in software, filing tools, paper planners, or other organizational aids until you have some idea of what you actually need.

    One approach might be to import whatever system you already use to the office. Another might be to start with a legal pad, a pen, and an inbox, and add additional tools as you need them.

    Good luck!

    Katherine

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    • #3
      I think Katherine has it right. If you're not doing it already, then this is a great opportunity to approach every conversation, email, phone call, and piece of paper with the key questions:

      What is it?

      Is it actionable?

      What's the successful outcome?

      What's the next action?

      Comment


      • #4
        I implemented GTD when starting new job. . .

        When I started my last new job (as a controller in a very complex industry I knew nothing about), I decided to implement GTD at the same time. Basically, I knew I would be completely overwhelmed trying to learn a lot of new stuff, so I figured adding a new method of being "organized" wouldn't be too much more trouble. For me, that was a good decision. And I agree with kewms, start simple!

        I showed up at work on my first day with my labeler and my old Franklin planner with only the calendar pages and ruled paper in it. I figured they would have inboxes around, and I was right. I was the only one who ever used mine. Even though the job was a pretty high pressure job with lots of deadlines and a boss who couldn't find his personal phone bills under the foot deep layer of paper on his desk (and credenza and extra table in his office), I kept track of my stuff and didn't get too stressed about things.

        As a matter of fact, my boss quit walking in and interrupting me when he realized that every time he came in to ask me something, I had a list of questions ready for him (the @Mike list was usually pretty long). Even though it was my least favorite job, it was also my least stressful one, because I had learned how to keep track of everything in that environment.

        After I really got into the routine of things (after about 6 months), I determined that a Palm would work well for me, so I transitioned from paper and have been using that for the past three years quite effectively.

        One other benefit: Once I got all my NA's on a list and took a long look at them during my weekly reviews, I realized that, although they were things I was good at, they weren't things I enjoyed doing. So, I added a new project to my 30,000 foot level list: Get a masters degree in Biostatistics. And two years later, I'm in grad school and loving it.

        Margaret

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        • #5
          Thank you all for the comments. I start on Monday, and I'm going to walk in with an open mind and an eye for how GTD will work for me. Feel free to continue this thread with further comments.

          Comment


          • #6
            Just a followup after the first week on the job. GTD was a lifesaver. The first day, as one would expect, had lots of things coming at me from different directions. I did have a moment or two of feeling overwhelmed, but then I remembered the brilliance of the inbox and the tickler file and leaned on them heavily, despite the odd looks by a few coworkers. I'm still working to get my loose-leaf binder (as in http://davidco.com/pdfs/tt_paper_organizer.pdf ) set up to accurately reflect projects, next actions, etc., but I can definitely report that I'm off to a much better start than I would be GTD-less.

            Any more feedback to share? Things to watch out for that might sneak up on me, etc.?

            Comment


            • #7
              Congratulations! I love to hear success stories.
              I am, however, a bit concerned by Ms. Warton's comment that her boss no longer wants to come into her office for fear of being assaulted with her @Mike list. As a boss myself, I'm not quite sure how I would respond to that. Do you really want your boss to avoid you? And is it not a little bit presumptuous to think that you have a right to commandeer his time with questions he may seem trivial compared to everything else he has to deal with and which we likely know nothing about? I would counsel a lighter touch. Learn to be a loyal lieutenant, and you will go far.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by smithdoug
                Do you really want your boss to avoid you?
                When I'm trying to get work done, yes! IMO, one of the worst habits a boss can have is to expect his employees to drop what they're doing every time an idea or question pops into his head.

                Hmmm... Maybe this is why I'm self-employed?

                Katherine

                Comment


                • #9
                  Can we not assume that your boss is aware of what you are working on? Otherwise, you're in a pretty disfunctional workplace. So can we not then infer that your boss has made a value judgment that getting an answer to his question is worth interrupting your work? You may disagree that he made the right judgment, and perhaps he didn't. But he knows what work you are supposed to be doing. You, on the other hand, likely don't know everything he is dealing with.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Actually, if I'm a reasonably senior, self-directed employee, my boss probably doesn't know exactly what I'm working on at any given moment.

                    Originally posted by smithdoug
                    So can we not then infer that your boss has made a value judgment that getting an answer to his question is worth interrupting your work? You may disagree that he made the right judgment, and perhaps he didn't.
                    See, that's exactly the problem. Whether he made the right judgment or not, whether he consciously thought about the interruption or not, I'm the one responsible and accountable for getting the work done. I can do that more effectively if my boss batches his interruptions. Not only that, but he can be more effective if he batches his conversations with me, too. Handling five short items in one meeting is always going to be more effective for both of us than five short meetings.

                    So encouraging my boss to not interrupt me, and in turn trying to avoid interrupting him, helps us both do our jobs more effectively. Seems to me that's something my boss should applaud and encourage.

                    Yes, of course I should drop everything if my boss decides that a task is important enough to warrant my immediate attention. I just want him to take ten seconds to actually think about the task's importance first. Too many bosses don't.

                    Katherine
                    Last edited by kewms; 10-23-2005, 10:06 PM.

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                    • #11
                      Here's a suggestion that might help in some situations.
                      I have a co-worker who doesn't necessarily work through his inbox on a regular basis. I normally get into the office before him, so I've made his chair his inbox - usually works. At least when he's sitting at his workspace I can be sure he has looked at the new input.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by spectecGTD
                        Here's a suggestion that might help in some situations.
                        I have a co-worker who doesn't necessarily work through his inbox on a regular basis. I normally get into the office before him, so I've made his chair his inbox - usually works. At least when he's sitting at his workspace I can be sure he has looked at the new input.
                        My parents own a business and using someone's chair as their inbox has been a technique that they've used for years. It's especially effective when trying to bring something to the attention of my father.

                        Basically, if you're at your desk and you're not sitting on the item in question, you can't say you didn't see it...

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by smithdoug
                          Can we not assume that your boss is aware of what you are working on? Otherwise, you're in a pretty disfunctional workplace. So can we not then infer that your boss has made a value judgment that getting an answer to his question is worth interrupting your work? You may disagree that he made the right judgment, and perhaps he didn't. But he knows what work you are supposed to be doing. You, on the other hand, likely don't know everything he is dealing with.
                          Does getting an answer to a question even require interrupting someone's work? If workplaces weren't pretty dysfunctional, there would be little need for GTD. Bosses occupy their positions for any number of reasons, including very legitimate ones, that have nothing to do with their mastery of workflow.

                          Most people, whatever their station, make no judgement about the impact of their interruptions. They feel the need to ask a question the moment it occurs to them because they're holding it in psychic RAM and try to offload the question before they forget it. That's a reflex, a habit at best, not a value judgement.

                          My rule for cultivating a low-impedance workflow is to keep nonsocial verbal interactions to an absolute minimum. If I have a question or deliverable for my boss, and if it isn't particularly intricate and doesn't require an immediate response, I always write it out on a note and place it in her de facto in-basket: a single clearing on the otherwise cluttered ledge of her desk. More often than not the note is a Post-It on a document requiring information or authorization. I suspect that most people think it's faster to verbalize a question rather than write it, which is true if they don't mind getting ensnared in the inevitable smalltalk that follows.

                          If a question does require more interaction or more verbiage than is practical to write on a note, it goes in the Agendas folder; then I wait for a relatively idle moment to bring up whatever's in that folder -- sometimes all of it, sometimes some of it, depending on what's intuitively appropriate.

                          I wish I could expect the same behavior back from my boss, but this really isn't about who the boss is, who has more to do, or who knows more about the other person's work. It's about being efficient rather than Type-A.

                          When I started doing this, she actually had a physical in-basket. During the day she would ask me, "What about so-and-so?", and I'd reply, "It's in your in-basket." Then an interesting thing happened. Within two weeks the wire basket disappeared! That definitely confirmed DA's theory that everyone has a certain number of open loops as a comfort zone, below which anxiety ensues: addiction to stress. Years ago, said boss solved her issue with voice mail by getting rid of it (for her), then occasionally questioning the fidelity of the written messages that employees took. Some people use "stuff" like scattered paperwork as a moat against encroaching accountability, and employers are no exception.

                          I follow the same process with everyone in the office: notes in de facto in-baskets or batched topics in agenda folders, with a bias toward written notes for better signal-to-noise. One interesting side effect of dropping notes is that it prevents a lot of knee jerk whining about why the recipient can't do this, doesn't know that, doesn't have time for this, etc. These kinds of gripes are usually just inarticulate objections to the demand for an immediate response over an appropriate repsonse. Now they can answer at their discretion, and I can relax knowing that I have their imminent reply on my Waiting For list.

                          I'm glad to see the mention in this thread of de facto in-baskets -- chairs, keyboards, etc. -- for handing things off to the unconverted. Where I work, everyone has physical in-baskets, but no one uses them systemtically. Julie Morgenstern has written about the secret system of informal organization that most "disorganized" people have, and I think the best way for GTD converts to interface with a non-GTD environment is to work with these informal systems, not against them. I gave up trying to dispatch things by email a long time ago, despite DA's insistence that it was the best way to hand off work. Since everyone in my office kept most of their mail in the In folder, more or less unprocessed, email was nowhere near as reliable.

                          By fiat, a boss' time is more valuable than an employees, but that does not make avoiding arbitrary interruptions of anyone's work less of a professional courtesy.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Regarding the original post about making a clean start with GTD, my advice would be to take advantage of this situation by dong the following:

                            Quickly set up a good general reference filing system and stay on top of your filing.

                            Stay on top of your in-box processing. This is a great opportunity to keep them empty and your system really current.

                            Make sure you keep or start a good habit of regular (weekly or daily) reviews.

                            Doing these things will keep you on top of everything and prevent having to do any catching-up, which is always less efficient.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Barry View Post
                              Regarding the original post about making a clean start with GTD, my advice would be to take advantage of this situation by dong the following:

                              Quickly set up a good general reference filing system and stay on top of your filing.

                              Stay on top of your in-box processing. This is a great opportunity to keep them empty and your system really current.

                              Make sure you keep or start a good habit of regular (weekly or daily) reviews.

                              Doing these things will keep you on top of everything and prevent having to do any catching-up, which is always less efficient.
                              Almost three years later, and here I am again in a similar situation. Just found out Friday that I'm getting a promotion to a new position (same place and field but a significantly different role). So although I already know the culture of the place and have a good sense of how things get done there, I'll be making an internal, vertical move that is essentially another opportunity for a fresh GTD start.

                              I'm optimistic. GTD has served me well since my original post. There have been times when I've let old, bad habits creep in of course. Like so many others, doing the weekly review seems to be a blind spot for me sometimes. But I have developed a reputation around the office of being "the guy who is very organized" and perhaps even "most able to roll with the punches." The 43 folders on my desk have led to many "What the hell is that?" conversations.

                              I probably won't make the move to the new job officially for a month or two, and in the meantime I'll be using GTD to help with the transition. Lots of capturing and processing of ideas and things to do with the new job, plus lots of processing and NAs for tasks in the current position that either need to be wrapped up or tidied up for a smooth transition to my successor.

                              Now that this thread his simmered for a couple of years, any new thoughts or follow-up from others in your experience with a "clean slate" GTD implementation?

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