Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Getting Things Done

A while back, I mentioned that I picked up David Allen's Getting Things Done. It took me a while to get through it and to decide to what extent I wanted to implement it. There are plenty of summaries of GTD elsewhere (I like 43folders' general intro and their forums for academics), so I won't rewrite one here. I do want to highlight two points that have helped me organize.

1. If it floats into your head as something to do (buy granola bars, call adviser, vacuum), then it needs to be written down.

Once you write it down in a space you know you'll consult again, you've freed your mind a bit. I have adapted a hipsterPDA in order to capture the floating things. My hipsterPDA is a set of to-do lists, one for each location in which a task might be completed. One card is for things to do at the library (books to check out, articles to copy); another is for online activities (emails to send, Lands' End purchases); home, office, errands, to read, and to consider are the other cards. I always carry spare cards too, so I can add one if necessary. This organized to-do list means that I don't need to read over the whole list every time I have time to get some work done.

2. Sort your projects into actionable items.

There are projects, and there are actions. A project is made up of many separate actions. You cannot work on a project; you can only complete actions. This distinction has helped me see the usefulness of breaking down big projects into concrete actions. For instance, if I tell myself I'm going to work on the dissertation tomorrow, I still have no idea what that work will entail. I cannot do the whole dissertation tomorrow, so I need something more specific. Lit review. That's better, but I'm not getting that done tomorrow, either. How about the critical race theory thread of the lit review? Still more than I'll probably complete, but that's closer. Revisit critical race theory articles A, B, and C and write short summaries of each. That's an actionable item.

Cross posted at Intent/Effect.

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