GTD for storytellers

Part of the problem creative types have with David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology is that we tend to be “big picture” type people and GTD focuses on the little things. Even if we’re methodical in setting up our GTD system, we’re never quite sure we’re focusing on the right little things. Remember, the difference between efficiency and effectiveness is that while efficiency is doing things right, effectiveness is doing the right things.

This has become more and more apparent to me recently. I’m at something of a crossroads in my life, a reboot where I have the opportunity to re-invent myself and build my life the way I want it. But what do I want? This is where I’ve always run aground with GTD. I’ll do a “core dump”, writing down all my open loops, but still have no idea if closing all of those open loops will get me to where I want to go.

So in addition to all that “in the trenches” stuff, I decided to see if I could determine what my goals (master projects) should be by doing what I do best: telling a story.

My “reboot” concept will take a little under two years, after which both myself and my parents will be financially secure and independent. So I decided to visualize a normal, typical day for myself two years in the future. If I get to where I want to be, what would that look like?

Here’s the start of that day.

The alarm on my Palm Pre goes off, waking me up. Shooing the cats off the futon, I sit up and glance around my Spartan bedroom. The walls have framed posters from favorite movies, and there’s a TV stand in the corner with my 24″ tube TV and a small DVD player. I get up, pull my Pre off the Touchstone inductive charger, pick up my clothes from the night before and walk into the living room.

The living room is also a wide open space with little in it. There’s a large cat tree in the far right corner, a futon immediately to my right, against the wall the borders the bedroom, and a large flatscreen TV mounted to the opposite wall. Under the TV is a metal strip running to the carpet, which both holds three glass shelves and conceals the cables from the shelf contents. The first shelf holds my Nintendo Wii and various controllers, the second holds my Xbox 360 and the third my combination DVD player/VCR. On the carpet at the bottom is my Wii Fit balance board.

I walk past the living room and make a right into the laundry room. Immediately to my left is the automated cat box, which doesn’t need changing yet. I drop yesterday’s clothes into the stainless steel washing machine, which also isn’t full enough to run a load yet, and ignore the boxes of CDs and other media stored in the corner.

As I walk back to the living room I go past the kitchen and look into the “dining room”. I have a L-shaped glass and steel computer desk in the corner, holding my home server/gaming PC, a multifunction inkjet and paper filing system. I then walk into the kitchen, start a batch of rice steaming and pour myself some hot tea from the timed coffee maker.

It’s hardly a riveting bestseller, but there’s a lot of useful information there. Going back over that section, I can pull out factual, declarative statements that have to be true for this vision of my future to be true.

  • I have my own apartment.
  • I have a Palm Pre and a Touchstone charger.
  • I have a futon for the bedroom.
  • I have a futon for the living room.
  • I have a large cat tree.
  • I have a flatscreen TV with a wallmount.
  • I have a wall mounted, glass shelf entertainment system.
  • I have a Nintendo Wii and a Wii Fit.
  • I have an Xbox 360.
  • I have a stainless steel washer/dryer set.
  • I have all my CDs and DVDs ripped to a home server (since the media is in storage).
  • I have a home server.
  • I have an L-shaped glass and steel computer desk.
  • I have a multifunction inkjet printer.
  • I have a paper GTD system.

Now, admittedly a lot of this is going to turn out to be shopping list. But as I go on writing about my day, it turns out I use the Wii Fit every morning for aerobics, strength training, yoga and meditation. I stream all my TV through my Xbox 360. So I go over my list of statements and see some obvious groupings, which in turn imply other goals. All the shopping list stuff goes under “My apartment is furnished to my tastes.” but that implies “I can afford to furnish my apartment to my tastes.” The bit about the paper GTD system ended up morphing to using a scanner to scan all my paper data into OneNote, where it can be managed by Outlook. The home server/media center thing eventually led to planning on buying a few 1TB USB drives to hold video content.

When I’m done with this consolidation, I have the following top-level goals for two years from now.

  • I’m as close to 100% digital as possible.
  • My living space is clean and organized.
  • I take good care of myself.
  • I have my own apartment.

Under each of these I have sub-goals (both “I drive a Honda Civic hybrid” and “I play LOTRO with my friends regularly” go under “I take good care of myself”) and each of those in turn has projects and next actions under it. But in the process of doing this little exercise, I’m convinced I have the “big rocks” covered and I’m on track to achieve the important things in my life.