A Writer’s GTD Journey

Date: Thursday, January 26, 2012 by GTD Times Staff

GTD Times reader Jenna contributed her ideas on how to adapt GTD to writing.

A Writer’s GTD Journey

About a year ago I was beginning to feel overwhelmed with my list of unfinished projects. I’m a writer and had about a dozen scripts, stories, and article ideas backlogged on my computer. Not only I was not completing any of the projects, I was adding new ideas every day. Each new idea, rather than filling me with excitement at the prospect of undertaking a new creative project, instead filled me with dread and anxiety because I felt like I was looking at corpses—great concepts that would never be brought to fruition. It was obvious I was falling apart. I needed structure, an actionable plan for organizing my projects. I stumbled across Getting Things Done and this is what I embarked upon:

Collect. Address the items that are concerning you. I made a list of all my unfinished projects. It was like an endless scroll.

Process. Make decisions about the value of these items and what you will add or subtract to them. I looked at each project and decided whether or not this was something I actually had a desire to work on or whether it was something that at some point I had decided would just look good in a portfolio. I trimmed a list of about 20 projects down to five.

Organize. Put your value decisions in places you are likely to return to repeatedly. I made printouts of my notes on the ‘chosen’ projects and pinned them up in sequential order in my office. The ‘dismissed’ projects were filed in a binder that would be taken up in the future, but would not be thought of until then. These projects were essentially on hold. New project ideas were added to this binder, but not elaborated upon in any fashion.

Review. Reevaluate the judgments you’ve made from a new perspective. Now that my to-do list was manageable I was able to look at each project in a new light. Instead of each project anxiously reminding me of an unfinished aspect of another project, I looked at each one as its own island of productivity.

Do. Now get to work! What I used to consider the hard part—actually writing the stories and articles—turned into an enjoyable luxury because I no longer felt weighed down by scattered notions. Each new completed project made room for a dismissed project from the binder to join the wall. It was still an endless cycle, but it had a sustainable structure now.

GTD seems to me a very intuitive way of managing your psychology so that it does not disrupt workflow. In fact, the GTD system seems to help one minimize the emotional and psychological distractions that arise from the stress of living.

11 Responses to “A Writer’s GTD Journey”

  1. SolarKitty says:

    Congratulations Jenna!

    I really like the prioritization via the value. Sometimes there are things that are just to far gone but we hold on to them like they are gold bars but are really just lead weights.

  2. Rajiv Kumar Luv says:

    I think I arrived at the right time on this page. I have a lot to do, lots of unfinished projects. This article has give me good tips, which will help to not get overwhelmed.

  3. Joe says:

    The David Allen training is a total joke. What a waste of time. Do yourself a favor and maybe buy the cd’s but definitely DO NOT go to the training. Now THAT is a waste of time and money. Better yet, go to the 43 Folders site and since they pretty much STOLE all of that system and claimed it as their own, you can get it for FREE there. And if you are unfortunate enough to get duped into one of their $750 training, DO NOT buy any of their crap they are selling! First of all, their trainers were not very good, boring, and if I heard “Turn to your neighbor next to you” one more time as an “Activity” I was going to get up and leave. Within one hour of this garbage, ALL of the people around me were mocking “the system” and the boring trainer who was trying hard to sell it as something worthwile. What a joke. Then they tried to sell a bunch of David Allen crap to us that was just as much over priced garbage as their training. I am NOT KIDDING when I tell you that I saw the EXACT SAME bag at BIG LOTS for ONE DOLLAR as they were trying to schlep on us for $19.95. REALLY? By the time the long day was over, I was so mad about spending the money and getting nothing for it as well as seeing a big advertisement for me to buy more of their crap. David Allen, you should be ashamed of yourself trying to sell yourself as as real “system” that won’t work for 95% of the working population, and then try selling YOUR NAME on crap. Anyone who has had the misfortune of sitting through your horrible training should not only get their money back, but also get paid for their time they wasted sitting in front of your horrible trainers. The best I would suspect from the small crappy company you have is to receive a gift certificate for a FREE bag to put MORE of my worthless David Allen crap into. Thanks for nothing.

  4. John says:

    HI Joe,

    I’m really sorry to hear that you didn’t enjoy the seminar. Please write to customerservice@davidco.com, or call 805-646-8432 so we can arrange a refund.


  5. Cathy says:

    I went to a GTD seminar last year and it was great. It was nothing like what this guy says. I’m still using stuff I learned.

  6. Trent says:

    Original post is good. Thanks for that. I’m not a professional writer, but this way of using GTD seems useful. Too bad the long comment is an off-topic rant.

  7. Barbara Bailey says:

    I recently attended “Projects and Priorities” and I couldn’t disagree more with Joe.

    First let me say that I have been practicing GTD about 10-years, I have every one of their CD sets, and I’ve been a Connect member for about 5 years. On top of that, I have experience in training and development. I would consider myself to be a tough audience for any and all of these reasons.

    AND I LOVED THE TIME I SPENT WITH THE GROUP. It was worth every penny, AND I learned some things because I heard them in new ways and had the benefit of interacting with like-minded people. For me, it was time very well spent.

    My overall assessment:

    Instructor: Top notch
    Materials: First Class
    Information Covered: Just Right
    Time to interact with others: Right on target

    And Joe? Giving constructive feedback is useful…blasting away in the manner that you did simply is not. Please keep in mind that these are good people, doing their best to satisfy a wide audience of people. Do people blog about how you perform YOUR job?

  8. Caspar says:

    Beside Joes comment it would interest me how Jenna is structuring the “Writing tasks” for each project. I always have problems in that.

  9. Kelly Forrister says:

    Thanks to all who hopped in to reply to “Joe.” We discovered this is a fake profile and not this person’s real name. We were able to trace it back to the source. So sorry Jenna’s wonderful story got hijacked this way!

  10. Kate says:

    Thanks for your article Jenna, very helpful ideas! I know what you mean about the ‘endless scroll’ of possible projects — so true! 🙂

  11. Ivana says:

    Update to this. Over a week later and it’s still neat as a pin (no I haven’t been let go). I’m really intyrg to keep on top of it. Simple stuff, y’know.. setting aside the last 10min of every day to just put crap away again. Seems to be working so far. But a week is only a week. I need some time to fail at things.

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