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Vox Pop: Implementing GTD for Creative Work?

creativepro.com - Getting Design Done

Interesting article here by our old pal, Keith Robinson, introducing GTD to creative types. This is a fascinating topic for me, particularly since I sometimes find it difficult to "crank widgets" when it comes to anything creative.

Keith's an old hand with this stuff, so it's not surprising that he's developed his own tweaks for Getting Creativity Done. Here's a novel idea:

Create a creative time and space for yourself. Make sure it's free of distraction and get into the habit of going there as often as you can. When there, pull out your @creative lists and get to work. I find this is a great way to tackle smaller creative problems. It's how I come up with -- and get started on -- most of my writing. This article is a result of my @creative time.

That's an interesting way to think about contexts. Ordinarily, you'd think of contexts as representing access to a certain kind of tool or as a physical or temporal limitation, whereas Keith is using it almost like a project.

This is challenging stuff that my buddy, Ethan, and I end up talking about all the time. We both agree that you can use GTD to "clear the decks" for creative work -- to move aside all the mundane workaday tasks that might keep you from focusing on blocks of time for creative stuff. But we, like a lot of people, both struggle with how (or even whether) to put truly creative work into our GTD systems. What do you think?

How are you using GTD for creative work? What do projects and next actions look like for a painter, a screenwriter, or a dancer? What's your best trick for getting creative stuff done?

Sigurdur Armannsson's picture

I am in the creative...

I am in the creative business as I work in an ad agency. I am an Art Director and I also take care of various things for the company, like training designers, maintaining the computers and more.

For many years, since before the desktop computers, I have chopped every project I am faced to into manageable pieces that is easy to visualize and easy to execute. Then I rearrange the pieces in a priority order (in GTD lingo called Next Actions) and from that point I can see if I need extra help with the project.

I used and still use for paper jotting, a very simple system. I write down the actions needed to be done on a paper, using indented lines for sub actions and so on.

Through the years I have found software that make this process easier to manage. Outliners like More, Acta and then later OmniOutliner is the software I have found most useful as they dissolve the boundaries of plain paper and make shifting paragraphs (Projects with their Actions) and subsets a breeze.

My old system of marking down the progress of any sub-action of an project is simply this way: In front of each action I write down is a circle. Kind of a white dot.

When the job is started it gets a diagonal line across the circle. (A started work is half done.)

Half way done; safely on it's way or waiting for a reply to finish I fill the right half of the circle.

Fully done; no more worries; written off, I fill the other half of the circle. Black dot.

I still write a lot down on paper and any note I make gets a circle (or a white dot as I see it) in front of it. It's easy to see the status of a project — even without the glasses.

I have tried out various ways of implementing GTD to the creative field. In the daily routine of an ad agency I have to admit that GTD for the usual projects simply does not work. The work turnaround is too fast, the projects are to many.

But using methods of GTD or at least keeping it in mind and pulling out the useful aspects of it helps a lot. By using tools like iGTD to collect the other fields of business and life, like personal things, home, interests and hobbies, books to order and read, personal evolvement, travel etc.... any thing that comes to mind and using it to chop down those projects into smaller doable actions helps to compile it into one trust system and free the mind from being distracted repeatably while trying to work on projects that need focusing as creative matters do.

Being creative or not is not bothering me as such. Why should it? In iGTD I have a few contexts that relate to creativeness but the creativeness is not the real issue. It's simply to get a thing done in a field you are at and keep the customer happy. The customer can be a paying one or it could just be yourself.

I don't really see a point of using @Creativity context. At least in my case it covers too different things that I rather split it into more precise contexts.

@Brainstorm. Here someone (It could be me) is asking me to come up with a solution to a project.

@mac Design. Here I need to make something visual. I could be an ad or a brochure; it could be my yearly calendar poster I give out at my blog.

@mac Fonts. Here are projects that relate to a special interest I have. Font designing or problem solving.

@mac Write. Ideas for my blog or it might be a report on a special project my boss or a customer wants me to solve or at least give an input into. It could also mean preparing for a lecture at work or offsite.

For those contexts I do and enjoy using GTD methods. Basically I am doing it the way I have done before but all the GTD discussion for the last two years or so has really given me some ideas to impove many aspects of it.

Creatively the most important thing is to get the idea out of your head as soon as possible. An idea out makes space for the next one.

I find the best helpers to be a small notebook that can follow you anywhere even to the beach when you don't have a computer (I use the thin lined Moleskine). At the computer(s) I use iGTD synced via .mac to grab any idea or thought that comes to me. Processed later.




An Oblique Strategy:
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