My Killer GTD Setup – Part I

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Jun 15

How do you keep track of your time, tasks, and projects? It’s a critical question for Cubicle Warriors because how we manage our work translates into great delivery and, hopefully, increased job satisfaction.

I’ve written a bit about my methodology — Getting Things Done, or, GTD to the faithful — but mostly from the aspect of how the methodology helps work in general. Nothing specific as it relates to tools or how my stuff is set up.

But, I’m in the middle of changing all of my tools for how I manage my work. And then the Getting Things Done blog laid down a good challenge: describe, in detail, your killer GTD setup.

I’m up for a good challenge. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t think this would help you in your work. Sometimes, it’s just good to see how others do their planning and organization. In this case, you’ll also get the thinking behind the tools and how they fold into the use during work.

What follows is a three-part look at my environment for getting things done, my current tools, the thinking behind the need for changing tools, and, finally, where I am at right now with the changes I’ve made.

Changing the GTD Setup: The Thinking Part

Three weeks ago, I determined that what I was doing in my current GTD setup just wasn’t working. All the emotional reasons pointed this out — my lists were not complete, they didn’t necessarily have the next actions for the task, the projects were not being managed right, and, most importantly, I wasn’t “drawn” to my lists. The Law of Attraction wasn’t happening.

So I sat down and carefully looked at how I was going about the work and a lot of things showed up. Note: this has nothing to do about the GTD methodology; rather, it was about the tools I was using blocking effectiveness out of the methodology. In fact, my GTD methodology, in terms of the lists, contexts and projects I have, are rather bland. I simply don’t have a lot of things different from the recommendations in the Getting Things Done book.

Changing the GTD Setup: How I work today

Work Office

This is the day job. I work in a Fortune 100 company and these companies have standards. This includes the make of laptop, the type of software used, and what can interface with the laptop.

For me, the relevant GTD items include a Thinkpad, Outlook, MindManager, and Blackberry. I also have a place for storing files, but I am constantly harassed that I don’t have any paper on (or in) my desk. This is true; I try and keep stuff electronic at work.

I also process stuff pretty well using GTD methodology, so people don’t see all the other stuff that goes on — just the result. It should be noted that the office environment, because of company necessity, is quite strict in terms of what can and cannot be used as tools. This is perfectly understandable and not an issue with me. Try and support a non-standard environment with thousands of servers and tens of thousands of personal computers and you’ll see this light rather quickly.

Home Office

This is everything else. While I don’t have restrictions on what I can buy, I do have existing tools. This includes an older Dell desktop computer, a brand new T-60 Lenovo Thinkpad, a Palm Treo 650 for interfacing to the PC’s and having portability for tracking, and a four drawer (nice) filing cabinet for all the things that need filing at home. The file cabinet at home has a lot of reference material in it — everything from insurance papers to software manuals to taxes to vacation stuff.

This was the environment I am dealing with every day. If you you know a little about the Getting Things Done methodology, you’ll note that there a lot of conflicts here for capturing, storing, and knowing what’s next regardless of the context I am in at any given point of time.

The next article will take a look at my old setup. Then, part three will look at my changed setup.


About the Author

Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.