Productivity & Getting Things Done

Before I left on my trip, and while working on building this site, I realized that I had a tough time with getting organized, and getting things done. So, I went on Amazon and started searching for self help books on productivity, time management, etc. That led me to a book called Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity—pretty relevant to what I was looking for, based on the title…. I read the book, and did use some of the techniques, but I never fully implemented it before I decided it was time to skip the country and see the world. However, I still think it’s a great system, and since I’ve got a (somewhat daunting) pile of projects to work on at the moment, I’ve decided to give it another go—this time more seriously.

GTD is a “work-life management system” where you get all of the “stuff” out of your head and into lists of “actionable” tasks. Basically, you do a brain-dump of everything you need to do, or think about, no matter how big or small, and organize it into a trackable system. Get everything written down into lists of projects, which can be further broken down into lists of actual doable steps that can be reviewed often. After doing the initial dump of “stuff”, it’s amazing to see how many thoughts and ideas have just been hanging out in memory, and nagging at me—each adding a bit of stress, or anxiety to my life. Dumping all this stuff onto lists is an amazing feeling—a sort of mind cleanse.

I decided that keeping piles of paper lists would probably not work out too well for me, and may have been one of the reasons I didn’t get into GTD the first time I tried it. So, I decided to go with a software based system for keeping track of my projects and next actions lists. There are a few of them out there, but I settled on OmniFocus
, and it’s been a great tool so far, though I’ve only been using it for a short time. It’s pretty well geared towards the GTD process.

Another technique I’ve been using to help with my goal of being more productive is called the Pomodoro Technique. This is sort of where the “rubber meets the pavement.” While the GTD techniques help you clear your head and get things into lists of “next actions”, the Pomodoro Technique is what I’m using to focus on the “doing”. This is a very simple, but so far very effective way to keep focused on what you want to be doing. Basically you set a 25 minute timer (with audible second clicks) and work on one thing for that time, then take a 5 minute break. It can’t get much simpler. The thing that keeps me focused the most is hearing the timer clicking. At first it was a bit distracting, but now I look forward to each Pomodoro.

So far, so good. I’m looking forward to being more productive….