For those of you who are new to this, GTD stands for Getting Things Done, a revolutionary personal productivity system by David Allen.
1. Here is how my GTD journey started
I implemented GTD using Evernote. I was new to both GTD and Evernote. Initially, I found a bit awkward to keep storing things in Evernote (Probably because I was so much disorganized). However, as I started using it, it became my second nature.
Now that my habit is created, the moment I saw something interesting or worth considering, I clip it using Evernote shortcut and tag it. I don’t have to divert myself from my current task.
I forward important emails to Evernote, getting to Inbox zero everyday. I also started shifting my paper notes to Evernote (usually daily) and tear off the filled pages, always to see clean and empty pages everyday morning. It was such a relief to be in Zero state, so often!
2. Too much organizing can be Okay
Sometimes, it’s too much of work sorting through so many notes, tossing them in respective folders and removing unnecessary items. It does takes its own time.
But the good part is, once I am done, it feels a lot better. I almost experience that my mind is empty and I can go back to “doing” rather than constantly pondering unnecessarily over things!
The most visible benefit was the amount of new ideas that started flowing in. I have started getting tones of new ideas. Each day, I fill up one to two pages worth of ideas transferred into my Evernote.
Quite surprisingly, even after so much work during a day, I tend to remain in a state of relaxed control. I have also increased my self-awareness and use pen & paper often.
There is a greater sense of peace and relaxed control because I am aware of my world and where I am placed in the grand scheme of things.
3. It does takes some Motivation and Discipline
I realized that even after knowing the system very well and learning how to use it with Evernote, putting it to daily practice wasn’t that easy. I kept forgetting to review my “Next Action” and “Projects” list.
I often went back to doing things based on my default state, without giving any thought to time, energy and priority.
Gradually with some mindfulness, I become more aware of these default behaviors and started replacing them with habit of reviewing as often as I need to. The MIT’s (most important tasks for the day) came to rescue as a good productivity hack.
4. Piled up with Unprocessed “Stuff”
Once in a while, I kept missing reviewing all my notes and processing them. On certain occasions, my collection became so big that it took me almost half day to bring everything in order.
However, once I did it (reaching clear, current and complete state), I started seeing immediate benefits in my productivity. At times, I could literally finish up the same task in “half” the time than I used to because my mind was clear and focused.
Key lesson learned – “work hard on making things easier so that, you have to do less hard work”
5. Lost in Tags
Just like any new Evernote user, I was quite impressed with it’s tagging feature. I went into the frenzy of creating a large number of tags. Later on, I realized that the overwhelming number of tags were hard to maintain and use.
Subsequently, I started merging tags and reducing the tag list to just about 25. I still need to reduce some more but I think this is manageable for now.
6. Too May Notes to “Read/Review”
This is a potential black hole which I fell into while using GTD. I started creating too many notes. Since I knew that I can toss anything at Evernote, I started feeding a lot of stuff to it. (Evernote can eat anything from pdf, video, and images to calendar and to-do list)
I used to have over 30 to 40 items to “Read/Review” at any point of time. I knew there was no way I am going to read review all of that because it was increasing everyday. I was doing something wrong!
What did I do wrong?
I realized that I had started overusing the e-mail capture feature of Evernote. I was sending every e-mail “worth reading” to Evernote. A majority of such e-mails were blogs subscriptions.
How I fixed it?
The first thing I did was to just cancel 80% of blog subscriptions which I can afford to “read later” and added them to my Feedly subscription list.
This served multiple benefits. First, my e-mail inbox processing time reduced. Second, the amount of “stuff” collected in my Evernote got smaller. At the same time, I can always go to Feedly and read my favorite blogs anytime.
7. Lessons Learnt
- Don’t overuse Evernote. Be mindful about your “Collection” process. Sometimes, in the frenzy of collecting everything, you end up collecting a lot of “information” which may not be immediately useful
- Do not bring too may items to “Read/Review” in your Evernote Inbox
- Don’t create too many notebooks or too many tags. Keep things simple
- Use your physical notebook as your key arsenal
- Review as often as your intuition tells you. A good access is to ask yourself “Am I relaxed and focused?”
- Don’t focus on system so much. Focus on clearing your mind like “water”
GTD is not a sliver bullet
After fully getting used to GTD, I still think that it is not a sliver bullet. It is just a part of a whole new way of thinking and working productively. My radical personal productivity improvement was a combination of several other practices along with GTD.
GTD is just one piece of the puzzle. In my exploration, I found many more practices which can drastically improve productivity at all levels – mental, spiritual, emotional and physical.
My upcoming e-book on personal productivity will show you how to live a productive and balanced life, step by step – one day at a time.
Note: I am looking for “Contributors” for my upcoming e-book. If you are interested in becoming a contributor, click here to learn more and register. The number of people I am going to have contribute is limited, I suggest you to register right away.