Getting things done
I read David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” last year (or was it two years ago….). Overall the GTD approach to organization is a great way to go. He simplifies the process of keeping track of what needs to be done nicely so you can actually get things done. However, I just finished reading Timothy Ferris’s controversial “The 4-hour Workweek” which I’ve already mentioned once. The reason I’m mentioning it again is that it has given me pause with regard to GTD. Specifically, how much of the stuff in the various piles really needs to be done? Without going in to specifics about my list – much of it is actually noise. If I don’t do several of the things in my next actions piles nothing will happen. In fact by not doing them I create more time to focus on the things that will cause good things to happen for me and my family.
This isn’t a fault of GTD. It is my inability to prioritize things effectively that is at fault. If you happen to be a Covey fan then you would understand that I have been putting not important/urgent and not important/not urgent items in my next actions list. The only thing that goes there is important/not urgent stuff. Things like calls from my client to troubleshoot a biztalk problem still get handled but I don’t put them on my “to do” list. I just deal with the urgent/important stuff right there. Once it is taken care of I go back to work on the important/not urgent stuff.
The surprising thing about dealing with urgent/important stuff right on the spot is that you don’t actually get overwhelmed by it. I know people who seem to create a lot of drama around dealing with this type of stuff and seem to cause it to pile up. As I have begun tackling this stuff I’m finding that it is starting to go away. As the frequency of interruptions goes down the amount of time for important/not urgent stuff goes up.
The result – I’m getting a lot of stuff done a lot faster than I have in a long time. Yeah a few things occasionally fall through the cracks but I’m flexible enough to cope with that.
I’m not really sure what my point is here. I guess I’m trying to say that a few things without taking the time to organize:
1) Stuff that isn’t important doesn’t deserve your focus (motorcycle racing is important to me) things like reading forums and blogs most of the time is not important. If the blog has something I need then it is at that point in time. However, spending even ten minutes a day keeping up with news or Instapundit.com is a waste of my time. It doesn’t change things for me.
2) Deal with urgent important things on the spot. The phone ringing isn’t important (I drive my wife nuts with that – I almost never answer the home phone), neither is email (I’m down to checking three times a day). If you have a bug ticket open deal with it on the spot don’t defer it.
3) Spend as much time on the things that are important but not urgent (important is in the eye of the beholder). Reading up on Designers in .NET 2.0 is important to me, working on my products is important to me. Those things deserve as much time as you can allocate.
The reason I’ve drug 4HWW in to this is b/c what I’m saying is no different that what Mr. Ferris says. He just manages to piss people off better than I do. But it is also the same thing from David Alan and Covey (7 Habits & First things first).
If you haven’t read 4HWW read it for yourself before you let critics make up your mind for you. I don’t really want a 4 hour work week. But I’d like to have greater control over how my time is spent. At the very least the book should at least get you thinking about how you spend your time – the only thing you really have in this life.