Sunday, April 01, 2007

Grumpy Time Disorder

Maybe it's just the types of web sites I tend to read these days but everywhere I surf, I see things referencing GTD.

This is annoying. Firstly, I loathe the practice of using a phrase's initials when it's wholly unnecessary, largely because I never have a clue as to what's being referenced (this generally causes me much grief when I start a new job, where this initialing process is commonplace. Workplaces suck for this sort of thing.) GTD was no exception. I couldn't figure out why so many folks were spending so much time writing about a floral delivery service. Were they THAT exceptional? Free tap dance with your bouquet? Turns out I was a letter off (as I discovered when I tried to place an order.) GTD, in fact, stands for Getting Things Done.

Oh, well that makes perfect sense. Rather intuitive, don't you think? Whatever. The point isn't so much what it stands for, as much as what it actually is. GTD is an action, and, to a lesser extent, time management technique, which (on the surface at least, which is about the extent to which I've researched it) is remarkably simple, yet, by many people's accounts, very effective. It involves keeping a repository, or "bucket", whether that be a personal Inbox, an e-mail Inbox, a tape recorder, etc... as a place to store things which you need to keep track, remember, or (altogether now), get done. The implementer than follows some very specific, simple yet strict processes to do these things and thereby increases productivity and efficiency, making them a model worker bee at both work and home.

Sounds good, don't it? I can think of any number of areas in my life where application of GTD would be ideal - this blog being a perfect example. This post which you are reading now was started on Saturday March 30th, 2007 at around 10:30 AM EST. However, I wrote that last sentence more than 24 hour later, at 2:16 PM on Sunday April 1st (Happy April Fools Day, all. No jokes here. I couldn't figure out how to incorporate them into a GTD philosophy.) The irony is not lost on me - at all. Taking a ridiculous amount of time to write a post about Getting Things Done might be indicative of a problem. Further, I started writing because it had been over a week since the last post and, quite frankly, it was time for a new one.

So, GTD seemed like a good idea. In went the slip of paper reminding me to type up a post. In went the second slip of paper reminding me to update the sidebar. In went the third slip of paper reminding me to finish the book that's in the sidebar so that I could, then, update the sidebar. Get it all down, out of my head, and into my Inbox. Be a picture of efficiency, and the envy of every other blogger out there.

Or, so it should have gone. Only problem is, I ended up using a paper shredder as my "bucket." Ooops. But, who knows? Perhaps that's more appropriate for me. I have no doubts that GTD is a very effective technique for those who apply it consistently. But, like anything, individual results may vary. When I apply it to my own life, a few things jump out. The first is that memory (or remembering to do things), is rarely an issue for me. I remember lots of stuff, and I've never gotten much use out of PDA's, Outlook tasks, pocket notebooks, or index cards. I've just never really needed them. Lack of posts on this blog is not a result of my forgetting to post. On the contrary, I always know exactly how long it's been since I've posted. Further, daily reminders to myself that I need to post are not going to make me any more likely to do it. They'll just make me more anxious about the fact that too much time has gone by without an update.

No, it's motivation that's always been my biggest issue, and it's not a lack of motivation, either. It's an excess of it. I'm motivated to write a blog post, but I'm also motivated to play World of Warcraft, or finish that database table analysis for work, or watch a movie from Netflix, or (heh) read a book. What I end up doing is often what I'm most motivated to do at that particular time (and too often, World of Warcraft or a movie wins out, although I've gotten much better about prioritization lately. Yay me.) But that sort of leads into my next point...

Nowhere in the GTD manifesto is process mentioned (er... sorry, it might actually be, but it didn't say anything about it on the GTD Wikipedia page I read right before starting this post. In any event, I'm not gonna look for it now, because it would ruin my upcoming argument if it were actually there. Perhaps I should go into politics.) GTD seems to focus on the remembrance and completion of tasks, whereupon you move onto the next one. Always strive to finish, be productive, get as much done as possible. To me, that sucks all the life out of whatever it is you're doing. Take, for example, the book in the sidebar. Depending on when you're reading this post, the book up there is Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. Regular readers of this blog will note that I have seemingly been "reading" it for several months. In fact, I only started it about three weeks ago (little white lie there), but I'm thoroughly enjoying it. I enjoy the process of reading a good book, and the more I do so, the more efficient I become with regards to it's completion. If I were reading it simply because I had a constant reminder that I needed to finish it - and, in fact, my goal was nothing more than to finish it and move on to something else which I could then also finish, I wouldn't get half the enjoyment out of it that I do now. Simply crossing something off as done is not enough reason for me to do it, in other words. I don't necessarily have to enjoy the task (and in fact, I won't - I can think of several undesirable tasks I do for work and home - but I desire both a paycheck and a clean bathroom, so they're motivation enough), but even then, their completion will create a desirable end product, so that helps boost my enjoyment of the process there, too. (There's no shortage of mind tricks you can do with this, either. Can't stand to write those TPS reports? Think how easy they'll become after you do them regularly, and how they'll help you in the long run. Easy money. Um... I think.) In short, the joy is in the journey, as some of my friends say, and if, in fact, it isn't, then hopefully you have the wherewithal to start on a new journey and find some joy in that, rather than it's completion.

See? I'm even convincing myself. Who knew I could have so much fun writing about so boring a topic. Process, man. Process. I like writing posts. In fact, I think I'll write another one tomorrow. Toodles until then, jazzcats. I'm crossin' this one off.

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Blogger Amanda said...

Great post. Getting things done can be an interesting topic. And fun if you make it that way.


9:47 PM  

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