Collecting My Thoughts

I DON’T CONSIDER MYSELF A CREATIVE PERSON. That’s not to say that I don’t have an original thought. It’s just that I always think of creativity associated with artists and visionaries, neither of which I count myself among. But since I’ve started working on getting things done in earnest, I’ve found that even just doing the first part, collection, opens the floodgates for new ideas.

For those not familiar, Getting Things Done (aka GTD) is a methodology for capturing, defining, organizing, and reviewing every aspect of your life, from where you want to be in 10 years to what you need to pick up at the grocery on the way home.  It’s not tied to a specific tool, and the concepts involved are generally things you already do, just not with enough regularity.  If you want to know more, there are dozens of people out there who can explain GTD better than I can.

This is actually my third time trying to implement GTD. The last two times I lost control of my system and then just stopped trying because I was not doing regular weekly reviews and I was disregarding the “hard edges” of my calendar by trying to plan out when I was going to do things, rather than keeping my calendar to the “must do” things for a particular day and working from my context lists. But both times taught me the joy of clarity. Do you have any idea how amazing it is for someone like myself, who works in computers, to be confronted with a completely empty inbox?

It’s very easy to remember when I started working on GTD this time around, because it was two days before I registered this website. Like the previous times, I took a work day and went to Starbucks instead of the office. For the serious brain dump I needed to do, I have to get out of the office where I can be interrupted, and I can’t be at home where I’m distracted. But once I got everything that was on my mind down into the computer, I decided I wanted to start writing. I quickly came up with the site name and several topics that I wanted to write about. Which, of course, created new projects in my GTD system. A very clear example of how the human brain is made for having ideas, not holding them. Once you relieve it of having to hold onto things, it can get back to what it’s good at.

So why did I just take over a month between posts, if I’m so organized and clear? Life, that’s why. The whole reason I started up again is because things were getting out of control. I have a full time job, a full time retail business, a house, and a 3 year old. I got myself together, but June and July threw a few curve balls. I felt like I had to let a few things on my list slide while I dealt with whatever the current crisis was. Everything was still in my system, though, so I was able to look at those things and say “not today.” I actually came up with the topic for this post a month ago, but I wasn’t in the right place to write it until now.

OK, so why write it now? I realized this past week that I’ve caught up on many of my stalled projects at work, simply because I had clarified them and had discrete actions available for each. Meetings that I had been putting off scheduling suddenly got on the calendar because I put an action on my list first to write an agenda for them. When I was in a mood to take care of things that I had been ignoring, I was able to because I was adhering to the GTD concepts and I knew what all the actions that were required were.

It doesn’t stop there. I’m picking back up on projects around the house, and around the business as well. It feels so good to check the actions and projects off my list that I want more of that. Clarity is addictive, and I wonder what else is going to flood in to fill the void when my head is clear.

Todd Palino


I'm a dad, a small business owner, a systems engineer, a developer, and any number of other things.

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