Year with GTD – 3 Months in and falling off the wagon

by Steve Fisher on April 3, 2009


As you all know, I began my journey to incorporate the “life management” methodology of  David Allen’s Getting Things Done or GTD. I spoke about my beginning the journey on January 1. During the last three months I have learned a lot about myself, my approach to time management and that not everything can be automated with a piece of software. Here is what I have learned that you might benefit from.

Lesson #1 – Keep Your Contexts SIMPLE

One of the main things in GTD are Contexts. These are how you will handle the task. After consulting friends who have used the GTD system and reworked it over and over, they all said to keep it simple. Otherwise you will spend more time classifying and categorizing things than actually doing them. So I kept to the three areas of my life – PERSONAL, WORK, MOVIE (PWM) – these three major areas are essentially the major buckets. That’s it. Just three.

Then I looked at how I handle the information. Again KEEP IT SIMPLE. I do four primary things – Run Errands, Email, Phone Calls and Using my Mac. Hence the contexts of EMAIL, ERRANDS, PHONE, MAC. When you incorporate the three simple categories you get this final list:

Email: Personal
Email: Work
Email: Movie
Mac: Offline
Mac: Online
Phone: Personal
Phone: Work
Phone: Movie

A note on the Mac category. I didn’t want to break it down by PWM because the real differeniation of using your computer is whether you are doing something where you need to be on the Internet or can be offline. This helps when you are in place without connectivty and have time to get a few tasks done or to group your tasks and stay offline and not distracted by everything.

Lesson #2 – You can’t automate everything with software

The whole point of GTD is to process something, get it out of your brain and into the system immediately to be organized later. I use three tools – OmniFocus, Evernote and iCal/Google Calendar. OmniFocus is awesome and with it little auto entry tool I can live GTD when I am on my computer. I hope to use the iPhone software when I get one in the next few months. In the meantime, I sync it with iCal and sync that with Google Calendar. I have three calendars – personal, work, movie (sound familiar?) and I use Google Sync on my BlackBerry so I am pretty efficient. I use Evernote to capture project information and organize it in the same context when I am using my Mac.

Notice I said a lot about “when I am using my Mac”. I thought I could use only technology, but as my friend Jessie Newburn showed me, you need paper. She is my opposite in that she is all paper and almost no computer.

What I have done is picked up a small moleskine notebook that fits in my pants or coat pocket to jot things down. This seems to be working. I just need to keep on doing this every day.

Lesson #3 – Do this every day or you will fall off the wagon

This is where I am. Like every New Year’s resolution we start with gusto and great energy and somewhere along the way you let the busy tasks of life get in the way. Like all good habits, you must reinforce it every day or at least every other day to make it stick. When I started I felt this release to get everything out of my brain. Over the first month I never felt more productive in my life. However, over the last month, I seem to have fallen back into plugging tasks into my calendar again and not getting them into GTD.

Where I leave you now is a recommittment to use GTD again every day and find my balance of effectiveness and happiness. If you have any advice on how you have been using GTD and what things work and don’t please leave comments.

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    • http://www.effingthedog.com Mike Vardy


      Don't fret…

      I had a chance to chat with Mr. Allen, who follows not only GTD, but EffTD.

      Part one of the interview can be found here:

      I know you'll enjoy it. You pretty much have to.

      Eventually yours,
      Mike Vardy

    • http://www.appsolve.com Steven Fisher


      Great interview. I need to pick up his new book and do an review of it and how I am incorporating the concepts into my GTD process.


    • http://www.appsolve.com Steven Fisher


      Great interview. I need to pick up his new book and do an review of it and how I am incorporating the concepts into my GTD process.


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