Implementing David Allen’s GTD For Writers – How GTD Processed My Information Life to Zero

Jack Prot

I’ve always been a prolific writer and note-taker. I’ve always loved my language. For me, words and my time spent uncovering their meaning was always a source of endless joy. I never hesitated to mark a page in a notebook with my pen, an idle thought – an insight which would no doubt prove itself useful.

I recently read David Allen’s manifesto Getting Thing’s Done. Reading that book set off a small nuclear reaction inside my brain. Apart from all the brilliant uses that his system has in the realm of businessman and information worker, I saw Allen’s ideas as having a direct relation to my life, the life of a writer. Allen’s system showed me in clear focus, how truly disheveled and disorganized my information life had become.

Hold up a minute I hear you ask, what is an information life? These are all the elements of my life that exist purely in information form, otherwise known in GTD terms as “stuff.” Stuff includes:

* notebooks,

* important documents,

* digitised documents,

* text messages,

* emails

Actually a lot been written about GTD in recent years and it has certainly influenced the current generation of knowledge workers and cloud workers. I am not going to repeat what’s already been said on the topic but rather share with you my experiences after I read this book.

After reading GTD I became a little obsessed with the idea of processing things into buckets. I set up systems of capture almost everywhere. Due to the fact that I’m not working in an office, I transferred many of the broader principles and techniques I learned from Allen onto my life. My life became an office, I rapidly saw the potential of dealing with information whilst seemingly idle. The idea of taking control of all the information flow in my life, from external inputs, through my outputs, all the way down to internal thought generation, had a stunning effect upon me. In this frame of mind, I set about processing my life to zero.

Trashing My Notebooks: A Writer Goes Digital

It happened about two weeks after I’d read the book. I realised I was going paperless, going digital. Suddenly it was not acceptable to have un-actionable notes lying around on pieces of paper. I attacked my notebooks. I never thought this would happen because I had so many notebooks full of unaccounted for notes. But then I realised that it was inevitable. Notebooks have always acted as my most important buckets which capture the thoughts which my memory can’t handle. I had been watching my piles of notebooks grow for years into an unruly pile of unknown; occasionally browsing through them, laughing at the odd gem. It had gotten to the point where I couldn’t see a way in to deal with these notes. Then finally, after GTD, I found I the framework of a new apparatus that I could apply to my notebooks in order to deal with them.

I decided it was my mission is to either incinerate my notes, or else find a home for any useful stuff I wanted to keep. I had a wide array of notes on languages studied, notes on literature, quotes, philosophical treatises, furious polemics against this and that. It all had to be sorted according to utility. I set about diligently reviewing content and transferring things to digital format. I found myself addicted to the task. Suddenly everything became stratified into layers of use and importance. So many of my notebooks contained irrelevant information. Stuff completely unrelated to my current life. Thus, in going digital, I also went relevant.

Growing for a Writer Means Finding Ways to Be Relevant

One day I woke up and started to cut my notebooks in half, ripping out all the pages out left and right. I was dealing in words, sentences and paragraphs. I had to be brutal with what I thought was irrelevant. I was craving the freedom that comes from simplify and accounting for my entire information world. Once you know that everything has a home, every idea is captured by a system that you trust, I was overwhelmed with joy. This had been the bane of my existence for so long, and finally I’d found a way to cope. All my notes became ideas which were incorporated into my current projects. Massive of useless information was discarded. I felt cleansed.

Sorting through piles, I found a rather large manual for a digital camera. On the front it read manual del usuario. The entire thing was in Spanish. Suddenly my heart filled with joy. I realised that all manuals were about as useful as to me as the Spanish language.

What I realised in this experiment is that I’m constantly generating ideas. In my dishevelled state I couldn’t handle my own output of information. Now I would be happy ramping the ideas up again to match my output, because I have the systems of capture in place to take care of information flow. There will be information flow until the end of eternity. At least now I am prepared for it.

The Results: A Writer’s Life at Zero

After laboriously processing and digitising, I finally understood the trajectory that my life is on. Now I know what to do with information when it enters my life, exactly where to put it. I realised that I am much healthier with less. There is no more anxiety about my notes and only one hundred perfect focus on my current projects. I no longer keep anything irrelevant. It is my mission now to keep my life at zero and confidently deal with every piece of information as it enters my world.

Will currently lives on the road and has developed a fear of paper… If you liked this article then you might like

Next Post

Not All Marketing Consultants Are Created Equal

In my interviews people discover through (HMA) Hidden Marketing Assets, how to engage the client. How to design a system specifically for them and implement it over time, usually within 3 to 6 months. These results come by a systematic series of proven steps. What the consultants do is develop […]

You May Like

Subscribe US Now