A software developer job is not easy, we’re expected to be self learners, take initiative and multi-task. So much needs to be done that it you might be overwhelmed by the amount of things needs to be done in a single day: send a patch to a customer, setup a meeting, ask a fellow developer about a specific part of his code and write a new feature and all of that before lunch.
The more tasks you have the easier it is to forget one of them or delay completion of other tasks because someone, somewhere hasn’t done his bit yet. Soon you become aware of a constant feeling of not being able to do all of the tasks that await completion.
Not anymore! welcome to the world of GTD, come inside and you wouldn’t forget anything anymore and know exactly what are you suppose to do in any given moment.
What Is GTD
GTD (Getting Things Done) is a task (and time) management system invented by David Allen. In his book (called Getting Things Done as well) David explain a simple system of cataloging all your actions and to-dos and moving the information from you head to a written form. Using lists instead of remembering your tasks organize your day and reduce overall stress.
When faced with a new task you can do one for these three:
- Do it (if it takes less then 5 min)
- Delegate it to someone else
- Record it in a way that the task will be available in the needed time and context
I’d like to share with you the simple system I have to record my tasks
Allen describes a suggested set of lists which can be used to keep track of items awaiting attention:
- Next actions — For every item requiring attention, decide what is the next action that can be physically taken on that item. For example, if the item is, “Write project report”, the next action might be, “Email Fred for meeting minutes”, or, “Call Mary to ask about report requirements”. Though there may be many steps and actions required to complete the item, there will always be something that needs to be done first, and this step should be recorded in the next actions list. Preferably, these steps are organized by the context in which they can be done, such as “in the office”, “by the phone”, or “at the store”.
- Projects — Every open loop in one’s life or work which requires more than one physical action to achieve becomes a project. These projects are tracked and periodically reviewed to make sure that every project has a next action associated with it, and thus can be moved forward.
- Waiting for — When an action has been delegated to someone else, or when one is waiting for some external event before a project can be moved forward, this is tracked in the system and periodically checked to see if action is due, or a reminder needs to be sent.
- Someday/Maybe — Things to be done at some point, but not right now. Examples might be “learn Spanish”, or, “take diving holiday”.
[Wikipedia – Getting Things Done]
I have customized this format to my needs, I have the following lists:
- Someday / Maybe
- List per big project I have (either personal or work related)
On top of these lists I have several tags according to where I’m suppose to do them:
- @Errands (i.e. by groceries)
Each task can have additional tag
- na (Next Actions) – the task is not dependant on other task to complete.
- wait (Waiting For) – other task need to be completed before I can finish this task
So if I need to research the internet about unit testing framework I’ll add a new item to the work list tagged @Internet & na.
It is that simple, whenever I have a few minuets I check my task list and see if there something else needs doing.
My tools of the trade
For GTD to work you need to have a single place you keep all of your lists. It is important to have your lists with you so you’ll be bale to add new tasks on the go (otherwise you might forget them). I’ve used to keep all of my lists in my Palm TE2, it was with me most of the time and I has good task management tools. After our ways parted I’ve decided to give outlook a try – it has tasks and seemed like a good fit for me… unfortunately it wasn’t mostly because I couldn’t take it with me and I kept forgetting to update it.
Right now I’m using Remember The Milk (RTM) to store my lists, it has exactly the amount of customization I need and is accessible where I have internet access (how and work), RTM can receives email so I can send tasks on the go from my n800.
The trick of my system is keeping it all written down so nothing is forgotten. if you’re interested in learning more about GTD pick up David Allen book, its short and to the point.