Worker bee lost in between beehives....
April 29, 2012 7:51 PM   Subscribe

GTD Filter: How has GTD helped you in your experience of unemployment? I'm looking for a system to organize my thoughts, structure my time, and keep me working toward goals without losing steam. Google-fu is failing me, thanks in advance!

I need to feel like I'm moving forward, and in the past I've found I'm happiest when working toward goals. I lose steam (motivation) and get depressed when I don't have a goal. In fact, I do best with multiple goals. I'm hoping GTD will provide a structure, but I'm not sure how to apply this to unemployment. Much of what I read from others' usage of GTD is work-oriented, not "unemployed" oriented. Also, I'm a newbie at GTD and most of what I read seems quite cryptic. Should I just follow the book word for word? Read the summary? What is the best way to get started with GTD? (Yes, I've google'd all of this and cannot find an answer to my question, probably because it is multi-faceted).
posted by luciddream928 to Work & Money (6 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a huge GTD nerd who has used it during unemployment and my recommendation is not to use it except maybe to find jobs, apply for them and do e-mail and phone follow-ups in batches. It is not goal oriented at all, and it will take a fair amount of energy just keeping the system running. It also does not have a mechanism to organize thoughts; all it offers are "someday/maybe" and the review. It does not structure time at all; in fact it wants you to keep projects completely off your calendar and it does not play well with due dates unless you do a lot of set-up work in a complicated program/system. Most importantly, it trains you to not think about the work you are doing with the assumption that you aren't focusing on any one thing; this is just not how the brain gets worthwhile things done.

Just for the record my system is:
If I'm doing it, I keep everything in my head and in the actual project itself. For example, if the project is a big Illustrator file, I have my to-dos in the actual file.
If I'm doing it with other people, I use Basecamp so I don't have to keep a task list of what everybody else is doing (GTD essentially has you duplicating everyone's task load if it touches your projects with Waiting For.)
If I'm not doing it then it's just an item in a list somewhere, currently a Trello list. I don't force myself to review these; if I don't have to or want to do them right now then I don't burden myself with fake projects.
If it's something like a furnace filter or taxes or a haircut I get reminders from OmniFocus for iPhone.
I keep my Google Calendar up to date with events only (okay, that one I did switch to because of GTD.)

P.S. I am very sad that only prosaic answers are accepted here.
posted by michaelh at 9:00 PM on April 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think one of the keys to grasp about GTD is that it doesn't tell you what to do, it just helps you keep clear and organized so you're able to make the best decision about what to do in the moment, whether that "what" is stuff you've previously committed to do or things that show up ad hoc.

If you get motivated by goals, it seems like it would be useful to to think of your projects list and maybe even your next actions lists as goals. If you want longer-term goals to think about, maybe take a look at the six horizons (Ch. 2, p. 51-53; Ch. 9, p. 200-210 in the paperback):

    Runway: Current Actions
    10,000 feet: Current Projects
    20,000 feet: Areas of responsibility (this is a big one)
    30,000 feet: 1-2 year goals
    40,000 feet: 3-5 year visions
    50,000 feet: Life

These are just the levels, the book goes into much more detail about how to think about these and why they're helpful to look at on these levels.

About getting started, I'd recommend just following the book. It does quite a good job of stepping through the process in detail. Then you just keep doing it. There are also some free articles available at the davidco Web site.

So let's break down your goals:

Structure your thoughts: GTD can definitely help you do this, as far as breaking down big things into small steps, planning projects, that sort of thing.

Keep you working toward goals: It can help you do this by breaking down large items into discrete steps that are easy to do. "Get a new job" isn't a step. "Web search address for Company X to send resume to" is one.

Organize your time: Nope, sorry. At least, I don't think so. The only way GTD helps organize your time is again by breaking stuff down into manageable chunks, making sure you have an inventory of stuff to do at any given time (so if you're procrastinating it's not because you don't have anything to do, it's because you don't want to do anything on your lists), and organizing the "hard landscape" items (stuff to do at a certain time, on a certain day). But it won't tell you "do this specific thing next." Chapter 9 is about "Doing", making the best choice for what to do from your lists.

To get it going, I'd read the book. Follow along. Do what it says. I'd be wary of playing around too much on the site I linked, trying to download and set up programs that work the system and so on. Keep it simple.

I'm no GTD guru, but I've read the book and listened to one of the live seminars-on-CD and I do think it's pretty useful and flexible.
posted by brentajones at 10:19 PM on April 29, 2012

I use software to do my GTD system. I find the most useful part is that it helps me manage all the details floating around my head. So for me, job hunting was a great time because it gave me a place to track all the contact information and ideas while keeping focus on what was the actual next step for each of them. Best of all, it gets stuff out of my head and onto paper which really helps reduce anxiety for me.
posted by metahawk at 11:05 PM on April 29, 2012

So my projects(*), sub projects(#) and action items (-)related to the job search might look something like this (add more detail if it is not complete clear what the specific action implied should be):
* Marketing
- revise generic resume
- Create niche resume 1
- Create niche resume 2
#Write generic cover letter
* Networking
#Elevator speech
- google elevator speech, spend up to an hour reading about it
- write draft
- call friend, get feedback on draft
# attend networking event 1
# contact alumni office to ask about services
* Job leads
# creating new leads
# company 1
- call x to see if he knows about any openings
# company 2
- send resume to job listing found yesterday
- do research in case they offer me an interview
# company 3 .....
* Keeping skills up to date
- surf web for relevant articles on my industry/interests
- read technical manuals
Then of course there is the whole rest of your life to track as well....
posted by metahawk at 11:26 PM on April 29, 2012

I think the problem with GTD in this situation is that it is designed to keep you organized, so that you don't lose track of where you are on things and what needs to be done. It doesn't really do anything about time management other than showing you what you need to do next. It also doesn't do much for setting goals.

I think GTD is great, and you should definitely read the book and follow it if you think it will work for you. It does wonders for people who always feel like they are forgetting something, or who aren't sure what their next steps should be. I use a variation of it for my day to day life, and used it heavily in my last job. It helps me to know what I need to get at the grocery store, figure out what's next for the house remodel, and not forget to email someone about a playdate with the kids.

I don't think you should expect it to organize your time or keep you motivated, though, because that isn't what it is designed to do. It certainly doesn't get me to change the cat litter (although the smell always ends up doing the trick).
posted by markblasco at 7:50 AM on April 30, 2012

Thanks everyone! Not sure if it's the system for me, but I'll certainly give it some more thought.
posted by luciddream928 at 8:57 AM on April 30, 2012

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