Confessions of a GTD junkie

My background is music, my teens were spent in music lessons, music centre rehearsals, practising for gigs, listening to music, and my university studies were classical music.

My speciality is improvisation, and if you put me in front of a huge audience and gave me a grand piano and a song request of pretty much anything I could hum (especially something interesting like a jazz tune), I would confidently play the song without music, form my phrases correctly, play with the rhythms, and make a piece out of it. (A skill which is second nature to me, but seems to impress most non-musical people I know.) I am fearless when it comes to musical improvisation, and I know that small mistakes are sometimes what gives a piece character and spirit.

The same is not true of life.

Small mistakes – or forgotten thoughts – lead to lost sales, decreased efficiency, and generally adds to the feeling that there is something important that I haven’t thought of.

(A small example: having to go back to the supermarket because you bought all ingredients for an amazing recipe except the critical one.)

In reality the small mistakes don’t get in the way of my efficiency and rarely lead to lost sales.

It’s more that the fear of small mistakes, and I’m sure this is irrational, the fear of small mistakes is something that hovers over me like an impending huge mistake in itself, unless I have a mechanism to thwart it. Unless I have a tried and tested system.

GTD stands for “getting things done”, and the theory and tools are a very popular subject for discussion on websites such as lifehacker.org.

I have a strong suspicion that many people who place a little too much emphasis on searching for the perfect method of getting things done (rather than just… getting those things done!) have this same affliction.

To put it in a more positive light, I actually enjoy the process of recording tasks. It sounds ridiculous, but in the same way I get caught up with the intricate process of brewing my coffee, with the exact right brew ratios, water temperature, coffee age, pouring technique; I like to get a bit caught up in the process itself. Perhaps it’s because it gives me time to think about other things. Or perhaps it’s just how my brain is wired. I fought it for a while … futile.

By ‘caught up’ I mean that I sometimes stay up late reading the blogs of people who write various GTD (task list) applications, contributing to discussions, and the like.

I flip from one method to another. Windows application, iPhone application, application that syncs between Windows, iPhone, and ‘the cloud’, hosting own php task-list applications online, I even toyed with the “pen and paper” method, which is whereby you write a list on a bit of paper (or in a book) – magic I know.

(This didn’t work out for me as soon as I realised that I keep different writing books for different things, and that my Moleskine exists for me to brainstorm my life mid-week. It’s useful for drawing connections between notes, writing freestyle, and the like, but not appropriate for recording things in a running list whilst I am on a job, in bed, for good, in a searchable, archivable manner that you can come back to at any point.  Also I have this belief that paper should not be used for things that have to be properly recorded, due to their annoying habit of getting lost when you need them.)

I’m a GTD whore, and I often declare my allegiance to one application over another then change my mind.

I am currently using a sub-optimal solution on my iPhone that syncs with a cloud-based system that gives me access to my tasks on a laptop if I need. It’s extremely flexible, safe, and efficient, but sub-optimal for many reasons I won’t go into here.

I have compared tonnes of apps (for an idea of what I mean, see this list – I’ve looked in detail at every one of them myself, and spent many hours customising a number of them for my needs. Yes, I know. Not efficient).

I probably shouldn’t disclose here how many apps I have also purchased for this.

Confessions over.

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