Catherine Gracey

Living Life, One Misadventure At A Time.

Operationalising Getting Things Done (GTD)

on October 26, 2012

I was sent this article recently about the sedentary lifestyle, and how inactivity is slowly killing a lot of us. As an information worker, I am keenly aware of the need to spend a lot of time with my butt on a seat. As someone who works from home, I am very aware of the temptation to work through lunch, and postpone other activities while I am working. The article might as well be pointing its judgmental finger directly at me, because I know I am frequently guilty of hoping that a single hour of exercise will undo the sedentary damage from the rest of my day.

From a different source, I was also sent a few other articles about the GTD method of project management. This method involves listing all of the tasks that need to be done, and then churning through them. The idea is that if you are able to relieve the brain of the burden of remembering what comes next, you are instead able to concentrate on getting things done. Sounds good to me; I have enough in my brain to keep several women stressed out and bewildered.

Seeing a brilliant opportunity to combine the lessons from both the health warning and the project management tools, I decided to work up a schedule for my week. It only took a few seconds to see that I was committing far more sins than I had realised on both fronts. After a lot of careful rearranging, I came up with the following table (boring bits have been condensed):

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Tidy bedroom Tidy bedroom Tidy bedroom Tidy bedroom Tidy bedroom
Eat breakfast Eat breakfast Eat breakfast Eat breakfast Eat breakfast
Gym Gym Gym Gym Gym
Buy groceries Buy groceries Buy groceries Buy groceries Buy groceries
Write blog post Write blog post Write blog post Write blog post Write blog post
Tidy lounge Tidy lounge Tidy lounge Tidy lounge Tidy lounge
Paperwork Market research Business email Paperwork Read IMM subs
Eat lunch Eat lunch Eat lunch Eat lunch Eat lunch
Tidy kitchen Tidy kitchen Tidy kitchen Tidy kitchen Tidy kitchen
Project 1 Project 1 Project 1 Project 1 Project 1
Tidy bathroom Tidy bathroom Tidy bathroom Tidy bathroom Tidy bathroom
Project 2 Project 3 Study Project 4 Project 5
Eat dinner Eat dinner Eat dinner Eat dinner Eat dinner
Wash dishes Wash dishes Wash dishes Wash dishes Wash dishes
Relax Relax Relax Relax Relax

The sections that require my body to move are in bold, and the sections where I can work are in italics. I have listed the gym as both work and physical activity because I can use the exercise equipment while reading articles or books.

One of the best parts about this system for me is that it is not time dependent. I do not have a sense of needing to drop something that is working well to move onto the next task. Things will take more time in some weeks than in others, and this method provides that flexibility. I can do what I need to do without watching the clock. Because I am less distracted, things are quicker to do than they used to be.

I am nearly a week into the new schedule. Results are mixed so far. The house is far cleaner than it normally is, and because the chores are spaced out over the day I am not becoming stressed by them. Once I got on top of a particular room, maintenance has been simple.  I hope that this pattern will continue as I progress over the coming weeks.

Trying to fit into this schedule has highlighted a few problems that I had not previously identified. By forcing things into a certain timeframe, I have confronted the obstacles that have stopped me from making them a habit them earlier. Some of these are obstacles that I have been able to find a solution for, but others remain.

Each of my main projects is now progressing again. My actual working hours have dropped considerably, and my output has risen. This is a significant departure from the 9-5 workday that I had been trying to maintain. I am much happier in the work that I am doing, and it is certainly easier than it used to be to maintain the load.

Overall, I am calling the new schedule a success. There are a lot of bumps that need to be ironed out, but at least I know where I need to focus my attention.


3 responses to “Operationalising Getting Things Done (GTD)

  1. […] few weeks ago, I wrote about implementing GTD in my daily life. When I was writing the schedule, I sat down and tried to fit in everything that I […]

  2. Dan says:

    I would recommend checking out http://www.Gtdagenda.com for an online GTD manager.

    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, and a calendar.
    Syncs with Evernote, and also comes with mobile-web version, and Android and iPhone apps.

    • Oh no! That page references a book I hadn’t come across yet. There goes a future day spent reading 🙂 The app might be helpful since I can sync it to Gmail. I’ll have to play around with it a bit once I clear my current task list. Thanks for the tip.

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