To be honest, I’ve spent more time setting up the Getting Things Done systems than I’ve spent getting things done. At times it makes me wonder if GTD is just another way of putting off actually doing things.But you have to admit it looks cool. This is my Tickler File system (as opposed to my real file system, which is in a filing cabinet). The Tickler File system is a series of 43 folders. 31 of them are labeled 1 through 31, and 12 of them are labeled January through December. This is just one small component of the Getting Things Done system.
First thing each morning I empty today’s tickler folder into my in-basket and then move the empty file to the back of the numbered files. Throughout the day I add time-sensitive material to various folders in the system. For example, I’ve got a requisition form from my doctor to get a follow x-ray done in six months – I stuck the requisition form in the November folder. My books are due back at the library on May 19th, so I’ve placed a reminder in my folder labeled 18.
You can use the Tickler system to store reminders and actual documents so they resurface precisely when you need them. My old system involved leaving everything lying around so I’d see it frequently and therefore not forget about it. This system is so much more elegant, don’t you think? (See Tickler File description and instructions.)At the heart of the Getting Things Done system is an electronic labeler, which makes everything look far weightier than it is. Psychologically, this is very helpful.
The Getting Things Done system requires that you break everything down into next actions. All you need to know is what the very next physical action is that you need to take to move the project along, and then you just keep doing them and updating your Next Actions list as you complete each action.
Okay, so apart from setting up files and binders and a desk and so on, what have I actually done? Well, I’ve done lots and lots of Next Actions. But so far I’ve only completed two projects: I did my taxes on tax deadline day (yay me, I’m still capable of impressing myself) and I bought and installed a doorbell. These might not seem like huge accomplishments, but they are. Especially the doorbell. I’ve wanted a doorbell since I moved here two and a half years ago.
These were the steps involved in Project Doorbell:
Go to Home Depot and buy a doorbell.
Find glasses strong enough to read the sub-microscopic installation instructions written in six languages on a one-inch square piece of paper, complete with cryptic diagrams.
Fail to note that the unit requires three batteries, and only one of them is included, which is an easy mistake to make when the packaging says BATTERY INCLUDED!
Buy two more batteries.
Put two batteries in chime unit. Put one battery in push-button unit.
Test doorbell and figure out why it only works when the back is off.
Attach push-button to door frame with double-sided tape.
Attach chime unit to inside wall with screws.
Test unit/scare cat.
Cross Install a Doorbell off the Master Projects list.