Review of the first week ZTD


So, my first week’s (actually its 1.5 weeks) of ZTD is over, and I promised to write about it, so here it comes.

The review

First of all I tried to identify inboxes. Doing this alone, I only found some, but with the help of the forum I identified some more, so that the actual number now is 7, instead of 5. Quite a lot if you consider that each of them needs to be checked and emptied daily. But on the other side: I separate work and life a bit, so it is okey (there even aren’t that many possibilities).

So, while collecting is quite easy (everything into the box, regardless what it actually is), the actual processing is still quite tough work. And I was actually pretty successful procrastinating it, though also my girlfriend reminded me often enough to look inside. This actually is pretty bad. So I really need to focus on my processing habit.

To do so, I yesterday started and drew myself a workflow diagram (as solution for the third task). I than sat down and actually started doing it. While doing so, I realized that I am quite easily distracted from the work – but the workflow diagram is actually a good way to find back (always look at it!)
So this worked quite well I guess. I spend more than an hour, yesterday, and managed at least one third of what needs to be done.

But while doing so I encountered another problem. I am working with ThinkingRock, a tool that actually is pretty cool, and supports the whole GTD-Process – I will definitely blog on that tool sooner or later. But in there I have another inbox for thoughts. And whenever I identify a task in my inbox, I write it in the inbox of the tool – which actually means that I process a thought, identify it as an action that needs to be written into an action list, but then put it into another inbox, to reprocess it again. To be honest with myself, that is quite stupid! But ThinkingRock has other methods to add tasks, so I could actually use it. But on the other hand I am wondering, whether this doesn’t take away my focus. So maybe I’ll use ThinkingRock just for my tasks that are already in there, and try to use paper lists for the current tasks again. Anyway the Zen to Done group on the forum where starting with only three lists (work, home, on the run). When I started with GTD I also had paper lists and liked them pretty much. But organizing next action lists (as context lists) and projects is quite difficult and unhandy with paper and the sooner or later you’ll realize that there’s much more work to do, than you actually gain out of it. It seems like GTD is shouting for a relational Database, but programming one just to handle your context lists is way to much work – I mean, GTD should ease your work, not give you a load of it.

Then, I’ll encountered the problem of using undefined inboxes, which actually is quite evil! E.g. I’ve done this two times now: opening the mailbox while leaving. What do you do with the letters inside? Well I have a big inside pocket in my coat – big enough to carry letters, good enough to forget them in there. Thanks God it wasn’t important letters – but actually you don’t think about these Inboxes if you try to concentrate on the ones you have!

I was actually to lazy to keep a diary about my impressions, I should really start that now. It works quite well to write out of memory, but still, who knows, what I forgot, and will never remember again? Every night, right before bed-time. 5 Minutes! That should be possible, shouldn’t it?

Also I spend a lot of time doing different things than those I actually want to do. So now I really need to concentrate on getting the things on the lists done. And beside doing so, I need to get routine in processing – collecting is no problem. The routine is there already.

So my conclusion of this first weeks experience is:

  • I am pretty well prepared, I understood everything, it makes sense to me, and I am highly motivated
  • I should try to focus my work more and try to be less distracted
  • There’s special focus needed for my processing! I should try to empty my inboxes as soon as possible – and then get a routine in emptying it every evening.
  • After emptying my inbox, which shouldn’t take me more than half an hour maximum (if I do it on a regular basis) I should write into my diary!
  • The mailbox is only (!) to be opened when I return home!

Beside, I should not only focus on the bad things, but also on the good ones. So as I mentioned: I don’t even need to think on collecting – it just works! It also keeps my desk tidy. Because on the one side I have a place to keep all new stuff in, and on the other side – if my desk is to untidy I just drop everything that takes to long to think about where to store it into my inbox. I can then process it later.
And last but not least, I managed to get rid of a lot of things: just opened the boxes, thought about whether or not I need it and if I didn’t I just threw it away. If I did, it came where it belonged to, and for all the stuff I didn’t want to bother about right now, or that need reprocessing (e.g. digitalization, etc), I just threw them in the inbox. Worked perfectly, I got rid of so many things, it’s really unimaginable!

Some future thoughts…

I was also thinking about computers in general and I see a big problem in there – at least for me. My situation is as follows:

I have three computers; each of them runs a different operating system (I have a Gentoo Linux computer at home, a Windows Vista laptop at work and a private MacBook).

All three contain data I need every now and then. Most of this Data is out of the internet, digital information at work, manuals, stuff I consider interesting, and I want to keep, nice pictures, wallpapers, etc. photos I took, letters, movies, music, podcasts, filmed lectures – I guess a zillion files all together. These files are organized in different ways. I possess an external hard drive for all media stuff. In Windows I used to use the “My Files” setup, in Linux there is the home directory where I used to build up a pretty complex and thought through sub-directory system (with up to more than ten levels of sub-directories).

All in all, I am busy searching for things, and most of the stuff I only find, when I clean up my disks again (and then being totally astonished by the files I have). A total mess.

So I thought of an idea of how to solve this problem, and even asked in the German GTD-Forum for help. Actually the tip that most people have is to use Indexing of the files and then use the search functionality for everything you need. Actually a nice idea – Spotlight revealed itself as the best system I’ve ever used. But still I am not at all happy with the idea of keeping all my data in one messy directory.

So actually I was thinking about a different setup, which is more related to the “real world” then to the machine view (actually I build this old structure also to have a more backup friendly archive).

Here’s what I came up with:

To start with, every computer I have, gets dedicated tasks, so I only look there, and nowhere else if I need something!

  1. My Linux computer will be the multi-media system. Multi media means, that all the movies, and all the music are handled by it. Besides there are all the server tasks it does. And that is all. It won’t get the task of programming (if it is not Linux specific), and it won’t get any office tasks
  2. My working laptop is strictly used for working. All other data (private stuff, stuff for university, etc.) will only be held temporary if really necessary!
  3. As my travelling guide the MacBook is responsible for all my university stuff. It will be also used for all kind of office works (like writing letters, doing calculations, etc.). It won’t get the task of handling multi media (though it is best suited for these tasks, especially with iTunes for music), but it will get the task to organize my photos, as I am totally amazed by iPhoto, there is nothing comparable for Linux and the storage isn’t that huge. All my manuals, and documents, will be saved here

After having set that, there are following directories I want to set up:

I will keep my old directories music and videos, but I won’t also use them for lectures, or podcasts, or anything else, just movies, series and music!

I will get rid of any pictures, software, etc. directories I had. Instead these things will split up: In pictures there usually was the photos-directory. This will become a new directory. All other stuff (pictures, wallpapers and software) will be found in the new reference system.
The Reference System will look as follows:

  • There will be one directory called inbox. This directory will be actually used by every tool that can produce data that needs to be stored: browsers, p2p tools, attachments in mails, instant messengers, etc. – as in real life this is the directory that needs to be empty after each day I worked with the computer!
  • There will be a directory called documents. This can be compared to a Classei-System: Each new topic has a separate directory, and every directory is allowed to have only one level of subdirectories at maximum! So it would be still possible to group sub-projects, etc. or to think of superior ordering groups. Everything get’s in here. If I have a series of lectures as video file, they’ll be found in the directory named after the topic of these lectures. If I downloaded a program, it’ll be in that directory. Together with manual pages, notes I took that are somehow important to that tool, screenshots, plug-ins, etc.
  • There will be project folders but only of projects I am currently working at. Everything that is completed is moved to the document directory!
  • There will be a directory for my studies, but only for current lectures. Everything that is completed goes into the documents directory
  • There will be a finances directory, but only for current documents. Everything else goes… guess where? 😉
  • And last but not least, there will be a ToDo directory. In there I’ll find stuff that needs to be processed and is referenced to by an action in my context lists, but that is not a project

This setup should be totally GTD friendly, it’ll work well with the GTD processes and should achieve a better filing system for me that you can work with well.

I’ll still think about this – I won’t put it into action yet, as it is not the time for it now (you remember: stay focused on one thing!). Maybe if I have some free time at work I’ll try it there.

But I would be interested in what you think about this setup. Does it make sense (in your point of view?) Do you have similar setups? Or do you solve this problem in a totally different way?
I would be pleased on comments for this.

Conclusion for the first week

So that’s it for now. I have made some valuable experiences, I found out what is going well and where I still need to focus. I have a list to work on. And I’ve got a positive way of thinking, which I guess is the most important thing! So now I’ll really need to work on getting some routine. And what isn’t better then to actually do it? Right now there are two inboxes I can have a look at:

  1. My mailbox at work
  2. My bookmarks at work

So I’ll just start now!

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