Jay, a college student, wrote in to GTD Times to ask about how to get things done in a largely volunteer-based organization. Can you still do GTD if other people around you don’t?
Dear GTD Times,
First off, let me say thanks for providing such a wonderful free GTD resource. It really means a lot to a student like me. I have a question that I was wondering if someone would answer for me or even write up a little article on. I’m not sure if GTD Times usually has a reader submitted question section or anything like that, but I figured I’d give this a whirl.
I am a full-time undergraduate college student and I dedicate a lot of my time to a handful of student activist organizations and one in particular. The organization’s mission is one that is very important to me and fits in with my visioning for myself, so I do not have any question about the time I dedicate to the group. However, I have run into a problem with managing workflow involving this organization. Because there is no formal hierarchy in the organization, the process of delegating tasks doesn’t seem to work as easily for this situation as it would in a corporate environment. However, I am moreorless one of a few “informal” leaders of the group, meaning that I’ve been consistently dedicated for an extended period of time, so people respect my opinions and tend to listen to what I say – I have a lot of pull within the organization. When the group undertakes a large project, I find that I usually take on the role of project coordinator: envisioning what needs to be done, thinking about the goals of the project, and assigning tasks to other people within the group. I would like to not necessarily assert myself in this manner because I would like other students in the group to develop the sorts of skills that I have. But when I see things not getting done on a given project, it causes me stress and I end up dedicating a lot of time to “plugging in the holes.” So my question is, should I consider the organization’s project my own project and treat it like a project with next actions for myself and “waiting” on lists for tasks other people have taken on. Or should I take a step back and only allow myself to focus on the things that I have specifically taken on for myself, at the risk that the project might collapse or not be accomplished in what I see to be the best final outcome. (I think a big sub-question of this problem is also how to work with people who are not themselves GTDers.)
Thank you very much for your time. Keep up the great work, Jay
One of our senior coaches, Wayne Pepper, offer Jay some suggestions:
I wish the people around you would pull their own weight so that you wouldn’t have to either do their work, or track their progress, but alas, the world is the world, and people will do what they do. I find it very difficult to force GTD on anyone around me, so if I suspect that certain individuals won’t complete their work in a timely fashion, then I will definitely track them on my Waiting For list. If they also have a track record of allowing things to fall through the cracks, I will also check in with them on regular intervals, in advance of their “due date” to track their progress. This allows them to know that I am paying attention, and it also provides a reminder for them if they aren’t generating reminders for themselves. Again, ideally you wouldn’t have to do this, but that’s the way it seems to go.
So to answer your question succinctly, yes, treat these outcomes as your Projects, put them on your Projects list, or maybe even create a list called “Projects Delegated”, with the understanding that if the people responsible who you are tracking on Waiting For, don’t follow through, you may still need to jump in and do the work required.
Of course you could always allow things to fall apart, but I suspect these initiatives are far too important for you to allow that to happen…..
P.S. I think if you poll “business” people, they will tell you that much the same dynamic exists in the business world
So, GTD’ers, what’s your experience with this issue? Do you find that workflow is different in any of the organizations you are involved with that are not in the business world? Should the same GTD rules apply? Anybody have success getting others to do GTD?