I used to write a lot about productivity, until I started reading blogs and discovered David Allen’s world of Getting Things Done. I discovered that some of the most popular blogs are about productivity, and my blog audience is full of productivity gurus. They gave me a lot of recommendations to improve my productivity ignorance, and each person mentioned the book Getting Things Done.
This was a little after the time that my blog started taking off, which meant three things: I was changing my job from a columnist to a blogger, I was writing five columns a week instead of two, and my email load went up about 500%. For a few months I was sleeping four hours a night. Crazy, right? In fact, many readers who caught me emailing at both 2am and 7am commented that maybe I needed to take a break. Especially after I posted about how important sleep is.
So I tried Getting Things Done (GTD). I went whole hog: In less than a week I changed my whole to-do list and whole filing system. I was the Queen of Outlook, with more folders to choose from than Imelda has shoes.
I had a A list a B list and a C list. I also had a spreadsheet of links that I had collected over six months as a blogger. I had links filed by topic and could sort my topics and links in ten different ways to come up with quirky, linky columns that addressed questions readers had sent to me – which were also searchable.
I was also adhering to the GTD holy grail of the empty inbox. But the empty inbox, I confess, made me crazy. I found myself deleting emails in the name of that cause, and not because I had actually dealt with them. Also, I was filling in my Outlook calendar religiously, by moving emails directly into my schedule. But I was not looking at my calendar religiously. So I often missed meetings.
I was getting things done. Sort of. I was probably annoying a lot of people along the way.
And then the worst thing that could happen for a GTD-er happened to me. My hard drive crashed and I didn’t have Outlook backed up.
Please, do not send me smug details about your great backup system. Of course I know how to back things up. Everyone who didn’t back their stuff up knows how to back their stuff up. It’s like telling someone who eats French fries that your system of eating salad is healthier. DUH!!!!!!
At first I panicked and imagined that the email of my lifetime was somehow locked in that Outlook view that will never come back. But then things got sort of cushy. For one thing, my B and C list totally went away because people reminded me about stuff on my A list, but no one said a word about the other stuff and I couldn’t remember most of it.
Have you ever read about the joys of declaring email bankruptcy? Well I think my situation was like inadvertently declaring GTD bankruptcy, and it was marvelous. I slept well. I opened up a gmail account, and I had an empty email box all the time – maybe because I also had no record of email addresses, so my outbound mail slowed down significantly.
So, this week, my hard drive came back. I looked at my old to do list and I laughed. I did not need to save all that stuff. I needed to get some perspective. And GTD bankruptcy gives you just that: Perspective. And getting a clear picture of one’s work is really what GTD is all about, right?