GTD- Systems for 10,000ft & Runway work in a rapidly changing environment
Would be very interested in anyone’s experience: I have tried a number of online task management applications (actually, I think I’ve tried them all) to help with my GTD setup. Some (Todoist comes to mind) are really good for getting perspective, whilst others (Nozbe) are very good at organising at the 10,000ft/runway level. That is, they are when I sit down to do a review in a quiet moment, and I do find it really useful to have my big picture in a system.
As soon as I hit the office no system can really keep pace with the velocity and flux of work. Even with the best and easiest systems it’s slow to get info into/out of “the machine”, and in the heat of the moment, decisions about the most appropriate next action need to be immediate.
I would be really interested to find out how any of you who may have similar roles work your systems. I have a number of areas of responsibility:
As a father- all the obvious family/church commitments
As an operations director of a business services company: Part of my work is planned and foreseeable (ISO audits, preparation/execution of management proposals, business planning, company admin) and part is rapid and impossible to foresee- tasking resource to the ever-changing needs of the sales teams (who in turn are responsive to their clients); trouble-shooting and so on- (Coveyesque “urgent” work).
As a reserve army officer: Creating and administering training plans, integrity and administration tasks. Not at all as frantic as my day job, but must be performed with professionalism!
…plus the various personal projects I’m sure everyone has.
Thanks for reading so far, and would be great to know how anyone else might keep pace… Has anyone successfully mixed paper and online and if so how?
I use a hybrid system - best of both worlds
I use Lotus Notes at work, so I set my system up based on the GTD white paper from a few years ago. It works great, but I really resisted taking the time to review and update next actions on the computer, even though I type quite quickly. Being a person who prefers the look and feel of paper, I created a hybrid system that has worked really well for me for 5 years now.
At the end of each weekly review, I copy all my next actions from Lotus Notes into Excel and print one sheet of paper (both sides) which is my list for the week. I keep my list with my collection notebook so it's always with me. Instead of updating next actions on the computer, I cross items off and scribble "bookmarks" of next actions directly on my paper list. It's much faster, and I don't have to be at my desk to do it, so I can use tiny time windows to catch things up.
When I'm processing my inbox in the morning, I jot down new actions on the list as I process my email, and if a new project pops up, I'll put that on there, too. When the list gets really messy, it's time for a weekly review. I enter all the stuff from the list in Lotus Notes as one of the first steps in the weekly review, then I go back and review all my projects to make sure I've captured everything, even on projects that didn't really make any progress during the week. Once that's all done, I create the list for the next week and put it in my collection notebook.
One bonus is that my list is printed front and back in small font, so my managers can see just how much stuff is on my plate at any one time. It never hurts to remind them...
I use the tool that's right there
In my case, that's Outlook. Since most of my work (especially that quick turn-around always changing last minute stuff) comes in via email, I find it easiest to be using the same program for managing my lists.
In the hustle and bustle of the day I process my inbox many times down to zero. I will drag emails into an @Action_Support folder in my inbox (means I have to do something about it) or to an @WaitingFor_Support folder in my inbox (means someone else has to do something or something has to happen before I need to do anything). I also have @Read for non-important things I want to look at and @SomedayMaybe for stuff I know I can't get to for a while.
Now the important part is that at least once a week during my review I go through those folders and make sure that my NA lists are up to date and include everything in those folders. I use Outlook Tasks so I can copy and paste files and emails right into the task.
This allows me to keep my inbox empty but not waste time entering an action or a waiting for that is going to be done within the day or the hour. Only those that stick around until the next review will deserve the time to put them on my lists.
I also process my paper inbox, voice mail and my own thoughts directly into my lists in Outlook Tasks.
When I started a couple of years back, I used paper lists and did the same thing. So you should be able to use whatever tool you like, but you need to find a balance between tracking everything or just getting it done.
I hear you... here's how I manage that
About three or four years ago, my "flat" lists of projects and actions couldn't keep me as much on top of my world as I needed. So I wound up creating a map (in my case, using a MindManager mindmap on my computer) of "DA World" that gave me a thumbnail sketch of everything I should be considering, as soon as I had any discretionary time. They include significant events coming toward me, key strategic projects, emerging interest areas, and links to maps of my different horizons. In a way it's double-entering (because they're all in some form on other lists), but it's a more meta- and weighted-look at key stuff. There have been days I've needed to refer to it several times; and days I didn't need to look at it at all. The driver should be: what's nagging at you? and what do you need to be reviewing to relieve that pressure?