emptied out

We did it! This week-end, Donna and I tackled those four huge in-tray piles in our office. We filed stuff, binned stuff, did the 2-minute stuff and next-actioned the rest. All the piles disappeared, and our in-tray is now empty!

It feels good – for the time being. Until we let the crud pile up again…

tickling email in outlook

In Tickling email in Outlook Adrian Trenholm describes a way to set up your Outlook inbox so that it also behaves as a tickler file:

“I wanted to take email which I didn’t want to deal with straight away, remove it from my inbox, then have it automatically reappear in my inbox when I was ready to work on it. … David Allen suggests that you operate from an empty inbox, so I use Outlook’s grouping, sorting and filtering to make my inbox appear empty, even while it holds flagged items.”

Well despite using GTD for nearly two months now my inbox still had over 70 emails in it. So today I implemented Adrian’s suggestion, and it works. An hour later I was down to under 20 emails, and suddenly beginning to feel I was back in control.

Next, my filing cabinet…

meetings, meetings

In Meetings, meetings, everywhere… David Allen (author of Getting Things Done) tells an alarming story and also quotes Dave Barry:

If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potetial, that word would be: “meetings.”

In a current project of mine, our metrics suggest that this is the biggest factor in the team’s low throughput of user stories. Meetings and other distractions have more impact than legacy code, lack of tests, poor backlog management, sloppy timeboxing, weak object design, …

gtd day 1

Well it’s time to kick off with my implementation of Getting Things Done. Last weekend I collected a whole load of ‘stuff’ and ‘open loops’, and manfully resisted any urge to actually ‘do’ anything :)

It turns out that I now have hundreds of things in my in-tray – far too many to attempt to go through them in one session. I also have a filing cabinet and a PC, both full of disorganised stuff, plus a house-full of little jobs that need doing. I’ve just noted as many of these as I can on pieces of paper and parked them in the in-tray for now. At some point I’ll have to sort out the filing cabinet and the PC, but for now they each just have one note on the pile.

At this stage I have no idea what next-action lists I’m going to need. Nor have I any idea how I’m going to use my laptop, iPAQ and paper notebook in the process. So my approach to implementing the process is just to start from here. I’ll create the lists and files as I go, and as each item requires. The first thing I need to do is to map the various collection tools I use, so that I know where to look each day for items to process.
Continue reading


Sometimes memes strike me as simply childish. But here’s one (via The Vision Thing) that may reveal just a little about the people taking part. The meme is this:

  1. Grab the nearest book.
  2. Open the book to page 123.
  3. Find the fifth sentence.
  4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
  5. Don’t search around and look for the “coolest” book you can find. Do what’s actually next to you.

I read that blog post while sitting on one of the sofas in our conservatory, which we’ve reserved as a child-free adults’ reading room. On the cushion next to me was the book I’m currently reading – Getting Things Done by David Allen. Spookily, the book was already open at page 123, which is precisely where I had read upto yesterday. Counting the sidebar, the fifth sentence reads thus:

“The in-basket is a processing station, not a storage bin.”

This is really one of the central messages of the GTD school of self-management. By removing the pressure created by having a full in-tray, Allen claims we can release our creative energy and thereby accomplish much more. I’m very optimistic that this system will work for me, and I’ll be implementing it during the upcoming Easter break. I’ll let you know how I get on…