Praveen's Blog

An Eternal Quest for Incremental Improvement

Getting (some) Things Done

Recently I found myself in a situation where I felt that I have more things to do than the time available in hand. The number of unread e-mails and pending tasks were growing in a faster rate day by day. I missed to act upon a few important e-mails. This new situation had increased my stress and caused a sense of unaccomplishment in spite of being reasonably productive. My positive sense of being in control was going down day by day. That is when I started to realize that there is something basically wrong in the way I handled things.

On the other hand, I see some of my manager's activities through his Twitter updates and blog posts. The wide range of stuff he does is mind-boggling. He might have ten-folds of things to do than I have. However I saw a sense of completion in most of the things he did. I discussed with him about this in one of the 1-1 meetings we had. From his answers, I realized that instead of trying to manage my time, I should try to manage the things that I do. He recommended to read "Getting Things Done" by David Allen. I promptly bought the book. However due to bad management of things I do, I was not able to start on the book until a couple of months later.

After reading through a couple of chapters of the book, I was still trying to understand some of the concepts that the book. I decided to experiment the concepts that I learned so far practically. To start with, I have chosen to apply the techniques on my e-mail system. The first thing I did was to review my mailing list subscriptions and get myself removed from the lists that I felt not so important. Then I went on created tags on Mozilla Thunderbird to organize my mails according to some predefined GTD categories. Then it was time to go through all the unread mails by acting on them or moving them to an appropriate category. Once I got my e-mail Inbox to zero unread mails, I had a better sense of control of my e-mail. From then on I started applying GTD workflow for my e-mail processing and I get my e-mail Inbox to zero count many times a day. There will be a detailed post about the setup of my e-mail system sometime in the future.

Applying GTD to my e-mail was a significant success. For a couple of months from then, I was applying GTD techniques only on my e-mails. I realized that it was time to start applying them on the other things that I do as well. In the meantime, my employer was offering a day long class room session on "Getting Things Done - Mastering the workflow" training conducted by David Allen's company. I was very eager to attend the session to get some first hand sight of how to apply these techniques for everything I do. My manager was kind enough to approve my request for the class room session. I took this session last week that gave me more insight to things like mind sweep, weekly reviews, higher altitude reviews, etc.

I bought some stationery supplies last week to manage the paper materials I have. I sat down for my first mind sweep and weekly review last Sunday. The outcome was a very decent set of "Next Actions". I tracked them electronically using Tracks. I was very happy to see I have already done many significant things that I was procrastinating for a while. One of more visible things that I did was to clean up workspace. I can't wait to have my next weekly review tomorrow. I will come up with a detailed post on how I do my weekly reviews and capture things, next actions after a month. That will give me more experience to share about getting things done.