I confess: my passion for giving unsolicited advice is almost as great as my passion for making lists. So when Neil Kramer, a.k.a. Citizen of the Month, a.k.a. Blogebrity‘s newest word pimp, posted this semi-solicitous comment on a semi-recent post about the power of making lists, my hard little heart leapt for joy. (All I really want for Christmas is to be like Heather Havrilesky.)
You seem to be a person who’s found a great deal of inspiration from list-making and organizational tools. Since I look up to in these matters, I’ve tried to sit down and make lists of my own: things I want to do with my life, places I want to go, people I want to meet. But after writing down the numbers on the left hand side of the page, I get a severe case of jitters as I think about what I truly want, and I always end up ripping the list up. What is wrong with me?
Well, Neil, I do get a lot out of making lists. Listmaking is more than useful to me in the organizational sense, I also derive great comfort and security from my lists. They relax me! They cheer me up! They are much, much cheaper than cigarettes, alcohol, or dulling lifestyle pr0n like cable TV, Oprah magazine and weekend getaways.
That said, there is, or can be, a masturbatory quality to lists. Right now, for example, if that old saw were true and applied to listmaking, I’d be getting fur stuck in the keyboard as I type this.
That’s why, along with a few other projects I’m implementing over the holiday break, I’ll be baptizing myself at the church of David Allen and adopting my new faith: GTD.
Much has been written about the GTD, short for “Getting Things Done”, method of organization. Don’t believe me? Check Technorati*. Google that sucker. Shrines have been erected for Allen and his philosophy of stress-free management all over this geek paradise we call the interwebs. So I won’t go into too much detail here, other than to say this:
GTD is not about organization for organization’s sake, but clearing your mental (and I believe, spiritual) decks for bigger and better things than remembering whether you need to pick up socks at the grocery store, making it especially good for creative people who spin like tops most of the time.
Good? Wait, let me revise that: terrifying. The 25% implementation I did of GTD two years ago scared me so much with its potential for change and growth, I immediately abandoned it for fear of the potential (and attendant responsibility) I could suddenly see lay (lie? laid? christ!) with getting my shit together.
But the world turns and times don’t change and eventually, I get sick of it. Besides, I finally saw the part where Allen says it’s just FINE to make lists for fun if that’s what floats your boat: just don’t forget to do the heavy lifting first.
So I’m using my blog once again for what it does best: humiliate me into making changes. I’ll stop posting after this Friday (one more treat left for good little boys and girls!) and use the time to get my house in order. Literally**. The first step in implementing GTD is what Allen calls the Collection Process, or “Getting to Empty.” That means grabbing every bit of stray paper, every item on every list, every to-do/read/pay/whatever in your paper, electronic and voice corrals, putting them in one place and then sorting through, beginning to end, until you know where everything in your life is. No “I’ll think about this later.” Now. Do it. Delegate it. File it. Trash it.
He warns people to block out a minimum of one day, preferably two for this escapade. I’m thinking two and keeping a third day flexible, just in case. I’m not looking forward to it, and yet I am: he’s described the feeling most people have at the end of the processing, and it sounds like two parts realizing the monster in the corner was just a coat on the chair and one part noticing how good your head feels when you stop banging it against the wall.
And who knows: maybe there will be extra blogging. One of the unexpected benefits most people feel (outside of relief) is a surge of creative energy. If you’re not keeping a bunch of crap in the RAM, there’s room for some cool stuff. God knows, I like cool stuff.
So keep a good thought. Buy the book and play along if you like. It should be an interesting journey.
If nothing else, it’ll be a really dorky one.
*21 posts in the last fifteen minutes!!!
**Well, it’s an apartment, almost literally.