What the heck is GTD? (Producer Productivity Series – article 1)

As a Post Producer it often feels like I spend all of my time fighting fires. Anything that gives me the ability to be proactive is a gift. So what’s changed that I no longer feel as effective as I did just a few months ago?

As I mentioned in my last post, it seems like a lot of Producers don’t know about David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) system for managing personal productivity, so that seems like a good place to start our journey.

The best way to think about GTD is as a decision making system for all of your tasks. The core components of the system are actually covered in the first three chapters of the book. The system emphasizes a few simple points:

– 2 minute rule: if you remember to do something and it takes you less than two minutes to do it, just go ahead and do it now.
– don’t keep “open loops”: if something’s on your mind write it down in a trusted repository so that it doesn’t float around your head and nag at you all of the time.
– review your lists regularly: then “do it, delegate it, defer it, drop it” otherwise you will lose faith in the system and it will never work.

Here is a handy flowchart that shows you the GTD ‘algorithm’:

By SageGreenRider – Own work, Public Domain,

I read David Allen’s book about four years ago and when I put his methodology into practice I immediately saw my own productivity double or triple. In addition, I felt less reactive and more in control of my day. Having more control of my work also increased my job satisfaction and reduced a significant amount of stress and anxiety. This is no small achievement. As a Post Producer it often feels like I spend all of my time fighting fires. Anything that gives me the ability to be proactive is a gift. So what’s changed that I no longer feel as effective as I did just a few months ago?

My role. I’m not the same Producer I used to be. Having more control over my environment means I’ve been entrusted with responsibilities that previously weren’t in my purview. My increased efficiency has also enabled me to undertake projects outside of work. Therefore, one of my first stops on this journey is going to be reevaluating my commitments and defining my desired outcomes in each area.

My goals. As people evolve, it is only natural for their goals to change too. Recently my goals have developed from being the best producer I can be, into sharing what I know with my peers and helping the whole industry be better. This evolution means I need to be mindful of my output as well as my intake.

My tools. I used to work exclusively on my MacBook Pro and iPhone, but last year I was given a top-of-the-line iMac at work. Between the enormous 27″ 5K screen and screaming performance the iMac is my primary computing device (Well maybe second after my iPhone). But using the work iMac means that I’m not able to use apps from the App Store and sync with iCloud, such as Things 3 and Bear (We’ll dive deep into software in a future post).

My contexts. In GTD terminology a context is “either the tool or the location or the situation needed to complete” the task. For example: a context called “Avid” which would allow you to toggle tasks that require Media Composer. The idea being that if you’re not in front of an Avid, and you can’t complete certain tasks, then there is no point considering the task. The problem I think I’m having is that most of my tasks are calendar (i.e. need to be done at a specific time) or ‘Waiting For‘ (i.e. deferred to someone else and my task to check-in with them sometime in the future). Thanks to the power of the iPhone I’m able to get so much work done wherever I’m standing, the boundaries of my tools erode more and more every single day.

This contexts category is real nitty-gritty GTD stuff that we’ll dig into later in the series. Espcially as we look at the extremely power app OmniFocus. In the meantime, the next post will start to dig into the my capture process in greater detail.

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