Getting Things Done

The first pie I've ever baked

I am sitting on the plane again, heading back to location. On the flight over the North Atlantic, I’ve reviewed two edit scripts, nailed my task list, planned my week (as much as you can on this job) and sorted the overburdened A’s in my Blackberry contacts.

It’s two months since Dad died and I feel now like I’m back in the land of the living. Rest, love and time have no doubt helped me recover but there is also another reason that I’m firing on all cylinders again. For some time, Jen has been evangelising about ‘Getting Things Done‘, a book by David Allen she read that teaches us how to be more productive and less stressed.

For my birthday she bought me a gift that others have said is a strange token of affection. She gave me a day with Curtis from ‘People Who Do‘ who taught her how to ‘get things done’.

As arranged, at precisely 9:30am on Wednesday morning there was a knock on our front door. I greeted the trendily dressed and well groomed Curtis. He carried a small, neat leather school bag. It contained an iPad, and some very thin brown books. In the books were measured words on productivity, beautifully printed by his partner on an antique letterpress. Everything about Curtis looked planned but he appeared to be friendly too. First, he listened to me for possibly longer than he would have liked. At 10:45am he politely suggested it was time to get things done. Over the rest of the day, (with an hour off for lunch) he helped me collect, sort and build a system to deal with the deluge of paper and email that floods our lives.

The basic principle of GTD is that if you don’t have a reliable system of collecting, storing, prioritising and reviewing all the things that assail you then your mind will never be at peace. If you aren’t confident that you can store, retrieve and act on tasks when you need to, you become stressed as the mind tries to keep hold of too much randomly stored and unprioritised actions.

I’ve always been fairly anal, but in the past year especially, it’s been apparent to me that I had to find a new way of working. The three legs to my tripod of work, family/friends and fitness had become skewed. I needed a way of keeping or increasing my productivity at work but also wanted to find time to strengthen the other legs of family and fitness. Curtis held that his system, diligently applied would mend the tripod.

It was both a therapeutic and cathartic experience. When Curtis left at exactly 5:30pm as had been arranged, I was exhausted but exhilarated. It has been only four days since I started the new regime, but I am more in control and more relaxed. Although it does appear that I have shed loads of work, I seem to be able to get through it faster and more effectively.

And so having run out of power on my laptop as I fly over Greenland, I continue my new found efficiency drive by weeding my overblown contacts database on my blackberry. Sorting through the A’s I come across the name, Archie Maynard.

Five weeks ago, just after his funeral I returned to Alaska. An accidental encounter with his contact entry in a jet lag haze was the catalyst for the sudden dreadful realisation that my Dad had actually died. I fell apart.

I’m better now and on a roll but I hesitate as I consider pressing delete. I can never press that button no matter how productive I might be. Why? Because even though he’s not at the other end of the phone, you can never delete your Dad. You just have to pick up the pieces, remember how lucky you are and get on with it.

3 responses to Getting Things Done

  1. Lisa Q

    Always a pleasure to read and an inspiration. Will have to make Rob read this one! See you soon xx

  2. Hi Sam,

    I’m so glad it’s working out for you. It was a real pleasure working with you, and, I have to say, your comments are possibly some of the kindest someone has said about this work I do. It’s very much appreciated.

    It’s also very apparent you have really got the system and understand the core stuff – I’m looking forward to catching up when you return.

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