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Case Study: John Winstanley

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 6 months ago

GTD Implementation for John Winstanley


How has GTD changed my life?


  • What your state of affairs was like pre-GTD:


Working as a construction industry project manager and cost consultant for the last 19+ years I had to develop many coping strategies in order to get my job done at a level at least approaching competence.


The methods I used were sufficient to raise me to a reasonable level of seniority within my various employer companies. There does come a time though when the work load (professional and personal) reaches a point where you have to stand up and say ‘enough is enough - I can’t do any more’. Once I did that and calmed down I started to wonder why I could not do more. There were clearly people around me who were getting more things done and had managed to hold on to more of their hair than me as well!


Don’t get me wrong - I had never got to the stage where I was simply failing to do what I needed to do. I was just not happy how I was doing it. Too many hours in the office after everyone had gone home and to many missed opportunities to do things I wanted to do with my family. Things had to change.


  • How you found out about GTD:


I tried all the usual self help books on the topic of time management but at each turn came up against a huge stumbling block: All these methods immediately ask you to plan out your entire life and write some kind of nebulous mission statement to act as your guiding light for the rest of your life! All I wanted to do was get all my stuff done as scheduled and with enough time left over for me and my loved ones.


In the absence of nothing better I embarked on the Franklin Covey method of time and personal management. Skipping over the esoteric life planning I got straight in to the ABCD task management kick and quickly felt even more overwhelmed - now I still had 300 tasks but also need to sit and score the importance / urgency of them all and then find a system to record them and remind myself about them. My work load had suddenly INCREASED, not an ideal situation.


Long story short: I stopped using the FC method after 3 weeks and had actually burned up more hours trying to get the system up and running.

There followed a hiatus of around 6 weeks before I felt confident enough to consider another method. After a few minutes Googling ‘time management’ I kept seeing references to David Allen and Getting Things Done. I seem to recall that the first sites I spend much time reading about GTD were 43 Folders and DavidCo.


David has the foresight to realise that by making quite a bit of his content free he can reel in more customers - so I gathered what free stuff I could and it all seemed to make sense to me: No ‘mission statements’, no prioritising of ‘tasks’, a down to earth approach to defining ‘Next Actions’ , and the real clincher for me was ‘Contexts’


  • How easy/difficult was your implementation


After reading the book twice I felt ready to begin my implementation. As a long term Palm PDA user I knew that I wanted Outlook and my PDA to form the backbone to my Trusted System.


For me the Collection stage was actually both tremendous fun and a real eye-opener. Fun because you really feel like you are doing something to tame this beast of your own creation. And an eye-opener because I could not believe how much stuff was occupying physical space and mental RAM that just did not belong there and had no Next Action. So I could just throw it away! Great fun.


I found setting up my Contexts was also surprisingly easy, though I did more or less just copy the suggested Contexts from the book. I know from the various discussion groups that a lot of people seem to struggle with defining their Contexts but for me it really was very easy - maybe I was just lucky.


One mindset shift that did cause me to wonder if it was wise was the notion that processing you stuff into Next Actions does not then contemplate the idea of prioritising your Actions. Looking back now I think I struggled with this notion just because every ToDo application I have ever seen (Palm and Windows) always does stress the picking of priorities - in other words it was a habit I had to break. The effort in un-learning the habit is paid back in spades thanks to the flexibility it give you to choose exactly the Next Action that best suits your Context, time availability and constantly shifting deadlines.


Reviews: Agh! Why can I not be better at these! This was (and still remains to some extent) my Achilles Heel when it comes to implementation. I’ve tried every which way to ensure I carry out at least the weekly review of my Project List and Next Actions: an appointment with myself every Friday afternoon - often too busy; ditto but on a Monday am - again often too busy; a session one evening in the week - struggle to find a quite place away from the family. Of course these are all just excuses to procrastinate and really there is time to do the reviews. All I can do is keep plugging away at this until it just becomes part of my GTD - I’m getting there.


  • What are your current tools for your system


My box of GTD tools consist of the following:


1. Outlook (work and home)

2. Pocket PC Smartphone, running Pocket Informant

3. A4 Daybook (work only)

4. Labeller (of course!)

5. Tickler file

6. 3 drawer filing cabinets (1 at home, 1 at work)


Here is a quick rundown of what each of these tools do for me.


Outlook - at work I live in Outlook for Calendaring, e-mail, tasks and notes. Therefore I do all home GTD stuff in Outlook at home also. It’s not perfect but it is very powerful and I find new features all the time. I did try the GTD plug-in but as I cannot install it at work I found it to be of limited use when only used on my home PC. This is synced to my…


Pocket PC Smartphone - used for all my on the move GTD stuff. With Pocket Informant running on there I can view my Next Action lists grouped by Context. I also make good use of the voice recording facility to capture ideas and Action during my commuting time (10-15 hours per week).


A4 Daybook - all my non-electronic notes and meeting notes go in here and the book is never more than 12 inches from my elbow!


Labeller - no explanation needed.


Tickler File - I have one at home and one at work. A great way to post reminders to your self when you actually need the item in your hand in order to action it (meeting minutes, water bills etc). For more general reminders I rely on Outlook / Smartphone alarms.


3 Drawer Filing Cabinets - 1 draw for tickler files and 2 for project and reference filing. I keep my work and personal files separate for reasons of privacy - not ideal but the best I can do.


  • What is the state of affairs like now, post-GTD


So - what is better now that I have control over the many pulls on my time?


I have a much greater feel of control and knowledge of all my projects. Many of my projects are delivered ahead of schedule and, with a few exceptions; none are delivered late or incomplete.


But for me the greatest advantage has been that this control has allowed me to focus on the bigger life goals and look at where I want to be in 1, 5, 10 years and beyond.


By bringing the day to day work under control I am able to focus on the mid to long term and that is where the real power lies in GTD. And the best news is that the better you get at GTD the better GTD gets!


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