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January 19, 2012

Getting Things Done: Collecting

The culmination of my “git ‘er done” year is that I want to fully implement the  Getting Things Done system in my life.  So I’m going to document the stages I’m going through over the next few weeks (before 2011 really ends).

One of the main premises of GTD is that we keep too much in our heads.  Even if we are able to accomplish things that way, we’re probably using too much mental energy and what we aren’t doing, but think we should be, is weighing us down.  Um, yes.  Story of my life.  I have generally been a fairly productive person and I have always been able to keep a lot in my head.  But as time goes on, this is becoming more difficult and maladaptive.  It takes a toll on my sleep (to-do lists pop into my head and keep cycling the minute I turn out the light).  It takes a while to figure out what I can do in a few spare minutes and so sometimes I squander the time I do have.  And keeping things in my head will necessarily become more difficult as age slows down my mental capability.

So the collection phase is about one thing: getting everything out of your head. I started with collecting all my papers/mail/random crap and putting them in a physical inbox.

But that was only the beginning.  I have about a gazillion things I need to do, but they can’t be put in an “inbox.”  So I wrote lots of notes that I put in my inbox to represent the thing that needed doing: Process Box 1 (I numbered most of our still-packed boxes from the move).  Replace old family picture with new family picture.  Sort drawers in Addison’s dresser.  I walked through every room in the house, making notes of anything I felt needed to be done.  This took a while since we have a lot of spaces that look like this, even after living here for five months:

(Isn’t that a lovely painting?  Neal gave it to me as a going-away gift when we were dating and he thought we wouldn’t be seeing each other much anymore.  Little did he realize that you don’t let go of guys who give you paintings with poems on the back!)

When I was done with that, I got on my computer and looked at all my programs and files, all the online applications I use, my email accounts and Google Docs.  I was trying to think of any possible thing I wanted to do with them and write it down, regardless of how important or useless it was.  Collecting is not the time to evaluate — it’s just getting everything out of your head.

Finally, I just sat for a good 30 or 40 minutes and thought.  I wrote down everything that came to my mind that I’ve wanted to do, or considered doing, or might want to do in 30 years.  I don’t know if you’re like me, but I know even plans that can’t happen for 30 years still take up mental energy because I think, I don’t want to forget that it would be cool to do that when I’m 60.

I really enjoyed this collecting phase — probably because it felt like accomplishing something, without really having to accomplish something.  And it was some of the least physically-draining productive work I’ve ever done.  In fact, I think it gave me an energy boost because I finally felt like, I’m really doing this.  I’m really getting everything out of my head so that I don’t have to waste psychic energy on things I’m going to do in my 60s.  What a relief!

I knew I was enjoying the collection process, but it turns out I was enjoying it even more than I realized.  When I started processing (the next phase), I found notes like Process Box 8 when, in fact, there was no Box 8.   But then I could just cross it off my list — look at me, gettin’ things done!

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1 Comment »

  1. This is tangential, but I did give up a guy who painted me a picture with a Latin quote on it. But in defense of your original statement, Neal’s painting is waaaaaaay better than what I got. And even though I was taking Latin at the time, the guy still had to translate the quote for me. It was not meant to be. )

    Way to GTD!

    Comment by v. blanchard — January 19, 2012 @ 8:53 am


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