A new staff member of Campus Crusade for Christ recently asked me if he could learn more about how I’m using David Allen’s Getting Things Done process. He sent me some questions. How would you answer? I look forward to your comments.
1. How do you do GTD on the road? Conferences, retreats, summer projects, etc.
GTD works well on the road. I’m out of the office about 60% of the time. There are a few keys to GTD that I’ve found work well. I’m not sure this list is complete, but here are the things I think of right now:
- Everything stored in a trusted place. All emails containing actions. All telephone commitments. All verbal commitments. All thoughts while driving to an appointment (practice safe-driving!!! I keep a notebook on the seat and jot ideas while at stop lights then transfer into my trusted system later!)
- Review frequently. Formally, the weekly review is where I plan my week. Daily, I do mini-reviews to adjust priorities. Work from the lists daily. Don’t work from non-lists. If it’s not written down and cannot be done in 2 minutes, it’s not to be worked on unless I renegotiate my commitments with myself.
- Schedule into my calendar appropriate appointments with myself to work through lists. In an office environment, or probably in a field environment, these appointments are the times I give myself to work through the commitments I’ve made and documented in my lists. Life can fill up with meetings, but meetings are rarely the places where I “do” the things on my lists. Rather, my lists contain the commitments I’ve made in meetings. I must give myself time and permission in my calendar to do the things I’ve committed to doing.
- Break multi-step projects down into “next actions”, line them up in sequence, then start doing them. The feeling of progress is great!
To answer your specific question, at conferences and retreats, I write down my commitments in my lists. I set aside time to work on “getting things done” every day during the conference. Much of my life is travel and participation in conferences, retreats, meetings, so I must do this in order to continue to fulfill my commitments.
2. Do you know of any field staff using it? How successful have they been with it?
This is a very good question? Please use the Comments below to help me answer this question!
3. If you were in the field, rather than in the Global Technology Office, how would you change your implementation of GTD, if at all?
That is an interesting question. Looking back over my 34 years with CCCI, including field ministry, I’ve always had some type of system to write stuff down so I wouldn’t forget it. I’ve always worked from lists. Over the years, I started with a paper 3×5 card in my pocket. I’ve used the 7-star classic pocket diary system, the Covey Organizer, now called Franklin-Covey, various electronic things beginning with the original Palm Pilot.
In my early staff career, I found that I was forgetting commitments I had made, sometimes writing things down on scraps of paper, then was unable to find them or remember. I finally learned to a) write every commitment down and b) write all things in one place where I could find it again (a “trusted system” before I knew to call it that).
Because field work often involves verbal commitments, like someone asking “Can you send me the link to the retreat registration site?”, I turn these requests into something in my inbox by saying “Can you send me an email asking me for the retreat registration site link?”, or a Facebook message, or whatever. I keep the responsibility on the person asking, and I turn it into a written request so I can remember it, or can easily get it into my trusted system of lists.
What I find most helpful about GTD is the focus on getting it written down, getting it into a trusted system, and a weekly review of next actions in which my schedule is filled with times to work on my commitments. This is the essence of getting things done in my life.
4. Do you see any disadvantages to using it in the field?
No, I see huge advantages. You become a person who can be trusted to do what you say you will do. You become a trusted team member who gets things done. You become a model to students of a person that they respect because you respect the commitments you have made with them. You teach them, by your life model, to become people who keep the commitments they are making. You show up with a prepared bible study because you made a commitment with yourself to prepare, you put time into your schedule to prepare, and you show up ready for the study. When you agree to get the brochures designed and printed by next Thursday, you deliver and you are not stressed about it because you are on top of your commitments and you schedule to succeed.
5. Do you see the seminars being necessary to learning GTD well? I’d love to attend, but $495 for a weekend seems more like a luxury at this point than a need.
I never did a seminar. Someone gave me David Allen’s audio book. I listened to it. I found 2-3 others who were learning GTD. We shared ideas like you and I are doing. I’ve experimented.
I have found that personality type has a big effect on how you do with the GTD approach. I think all personality types can be successful at GTD, but you cannot simply emulate someone else’s approach. You might benefit from this article, Is there a Myers-Briggs Connection to GTD? . I encourage you to find a way that works and not get locked into an ideal that you cannot live with. Understand the Jim Collins’ “flywheel” concept. He talks about it related to an organization, but it is very true of any good habit in your personal life.
Success at GTD is very similar to learning to walk in the Holy Spirit, or learning to powerfully live a life of taking opportunities to share Christ with others. It’s about pushing and pushing and pushing, feeling overwhelmed but making small steps forward. Then it gets easier and goes faster. Eventually, it’s hard to remember how hard it was at the beginning, how consciously you had to remind yourself exhale/inhale, how to just start asking questions as a curious co-journer in life and see where the conversation goes and how you can talk about Jesus,
write it down – identify the single next action – review it regularly – get time into my schedule – do what is on the lists.
These are my thoughts.
What got you interested in GTD? How have you had success?
well, i have not read or learned the GTD system, but i resonate with your point of putting the responsibility on the requestor by asking him/her to “formally” make the request. i have found this greatly helpful as requests fly at me in class, church, work, etc. Rather than me writing the request down somewhere temporary, then taking the time to transfer it to a centralized list, then reviewing for priority and negotiating time to work on it, I ask the requestor to email it to me or call me (if appropriate) and “formally” make the request. This way it is on the person according to how important the request really is. This helps cut down the in the moment requests that are not really necessary, and helps me to be a trustworthy person to others if I commitment to doing something for them. Of course, when the boss asks, most of the time it is not appropriate to ask it to be emailed to me… 🙂
Yes, asking the requestor to take a second action by sending an email or calling later is a very good filter. It definitely helps filter out spur-of-the-moment requests, for both people! Sometimes when I make a request and someone asks me to email them, as I think about it, it’s not really that important to me so I do not repeat the request. It’s helpful to both groups. Unless it’s your boss… 🙂 (or your dad!!!)
If you’d like a tool for managing your time and projects, you can use this web-application inspired by David Allen’s GTD:
You can use it to manage and prioritize your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, schedules and a calendar.
Comes with a mobile version too, and with an Android app.