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January 11, 2012

Getting Things Done (for real this time)

I’ve been mentioning Getting Things Done a lot lately.  That’s because I figured out that I need a better system for, um, getting things done.  Since having Addison, I’ve realized that my work-style is a lot like my Dad’s (I’m reminded of this a lot now that I live with my Dad).  I can’t remember if I’ve ever mentioned this before, but my Dad routinely goes to work at noon and comes home the NEXT day at noon.  On Christmas Eve, he arrived home about 4:00 pm after having been at work since Friday morning (somewhere in the 28- or 29-hour range).  When people first find out about his work habits, they assume he has a cot in his office, or sleeps on the floor or something.  Alas, he doesn’t sleep at work.  Ever.  And he barely eats.  It’s nuts, right?

Except left to my own devices, I’m a lot like that.  I’m sure this is embarrassing to admit, but when I’m in “the zone” I will forgo going to the bathroom for 7, 8 hours even though I really need to go.  I will forget to eat for hours and hours because I don’t want to be disturbed.  My Dad and I both idle away plenty of time (him playing free cell, me surfing the internet) but once we buckle down to work, we can stay focused for ridiculously long periods of time (although even I couldn’t do 28 hours at a time with any regularity).

When I was single, I could work those long hours if I chose.  And even pre-baby, I could still do school/work projects like that on occasion.  But I think one of the reasons it took me so long to finish my thesis was that there just weren’t 12-hour chunks of time to work anymore.  I spent a solid year trying to figure out how to work differently, like in 3- or 4-hour increments, but I just didn’t seem to be making progress.  So finally we decided that the month of May was going to be all about my thesis, and I could work as many 12/14/15 hour days required to get that thing finished.  And it worked!  But even so, I need to learn how to work differently.  That type of schedule is inimical to the kind of mother I want to be — Addison handled it okay, but I was a mess some days, just dying to see her.

So I started looking into personal productivity books/blogs/systems, which might sound boring but when you’re the kind of person who reads personal finance blogs for fun, it’s not.  I heard so many good things about GTD that I decided to buy the book and wholeheartedly invest in the system.  That was in 2010, so obviously, I’m right on schedule.

I’m not going to write a proper review of GTD since there are many good ones already on the web (this review and article series convinced me that this system could work for me), but I think I will write a few posts about the process I’m working through to streamline my life.  So stay tuned for phase 1: collecting (unless this sort of thing bores you to tears and you just come here for the pictures).



  1. Just read the wikipedia page on GTD and I’m intrigued. From the 500(?) words I read, it sounds like things I might already be doing, but I’m sure there is a lot more to it. I’ll be lazy and wait for your reviews/evaluations to learn more. 🙂

    One interesting thing I thought about while reading this. I’ve realized that for focused intellectual efforts, ideally I need 3-4 hour blocks of time to be productive, but I’ve had to learn to work with 1-2 hour chunks, and those are even hard to come by given our family’s schedule and the way I work (and when I work, since after dinner time it is much harder for my brain to do intellectual work). So, even though we have completely different thresholds for our ideal work time, I think, ultimately, that motherhood—which has also presented us with completely different constraints given our very different children—has put us in a similar situation.

    Comment by v. blanchard — January 11, 2012 @ 9:48 am

  2. I am intrigued. I look forward to hearing more about your process. I am really weird about my focus, and I’m always trying to figure out what really does work for me. Some days my productivity is stellar (usually the burst is between 6am and 10am), and then for weeks at a time I feel useless. I don’t get much further than writing lists. I do know that it is incredibly difficult for me to get anything done at all if I’m hungry, bored, restless, or unrested. The only all-nighters I pull are the ones where I feel like I’m going in circles… Kudos to anyone who can pull them off.

    Comment by Robin-Elise Call — January 16, 2012 @ 7:31 pm

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