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How does a geek hack GTD?
Merlin Mann | Sep 15 2004
Productivity programs like Getting Things Done obviously have been developed around the needs of managers, sales people, and entrepreneurs. This makes sense given that those are largely the people who are buying the books, listening to the CDs, and attending the seminars (or certainly represent the largest market share of potential customers).
But, one of my main goals with this site was to discuss the way that productivity plans and methods designed for the business world can be reframed in a context that's useful for developers, programmers, and garden-variety geeks. This is not to say that geeks don't fill many or all of these managerial roles in their work, but they also tend to have work styles, deliverables, and skillsets that are markedly different from the average, notional GTD user.
The prime example: "@computer." Man, geeks don't just use a computer for occasional work or to "look something up on 'The Interweb.'" They live on their laptop and take it anywhere they'd bring their wallet. They eat wireless like potato chips and crank out code for a living. They have an IM window and an IRC channel running all day. They're streaming conferences in and live-blogging conferences out. In short, if they follow the stock GTD setup, they will have a very, very long "@computer" list.
So I wanted to start a conversation about how geeks handle their lists, their projects, and their agendas--not so much in terms of the tool they use to store the information, although that's fair game--as with how they segment the information and decide when to break it into pieces. I'll start by providing the setup used by a San Francisco web developer who spends a lot of time on his PowerBook: me.
(Please note: since I'd love to see a lot of discussion about this, please post your response on your own site and just send a single trackback ping to this post (hit: http://www.typepad.com/t/trackback/1128456). Comments below are ok for short responses or for posting links to your non-tracback-able site, but please try to limit yourself to a paragraph or so. Thanks.)
My basic tool setup
To get the tool part out of the way, everything I mention here is maintained in the following way (for today, anyway: ask again tomorrow)
classic GTD lists
my additional non-geek lists
my additional geek lists
I also have a bunch of other ad hoc lists that are specific to a certain context or that I only need for a short period of time. My rule of thumb--and arguably the core of my own system--is to group like items for as long as possible, but then break them into pieces as soon as they start becoming a horizontal distraction.
My approach and where I get value
I suspect that I probably have more buckets than most of you do, but that might be written off to my modest regular expression skills.
But I also believe it's vitally important to honor the sanctity of the "classic" GTD lists; if anything stays on one list that really belongs somewhere else (or in its own new area), you risk losing a lot of value and trust in your system. I'm rigid about moving "super-TODOs" from "@nextactions" to "PROJECTS"--but only if I really am committed to it as a desirable outcome. That's the critical distinction over other productivity hacks. You aren't just shuttling TODOs from list to list; you're actually negotiating a future for yourself.
This additional layer of refactoring and evaluation has been a terrific aid for me, so I've tried to set myself up in a way that makes that examination easy and desirable. I now constantly find myself asking whether I really want to commit myself to something, so my TODO list doesn't feel like a millstone around my neck anymore. It just seems like a series of simple, miniature tasks that get me incrementally closer to the goals I've set for myself. And that feels pretty good.
How about you?
So, I guess my questions to you practicing GTD geeks are these:
Important: Trackbacks preferred, please
As above if you have a site that can send a trackback to this entry please post your reply on your site and just ping this entry once. Commenting or linking to your response below is fine, of course, but keep it short, pelase.
So tell me: how are you hacking Getting Things Done?
Edit: 2006-03-21 - Nomenclature fixed: changed "nerd" to "geek."
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