Systems of Structure: How Getting Things Done changed my life

By johannatime On November 9, 2012 Under Getting Organised

Making lists is a way of controlling reality. By organising your work and your life, you make more conscious decisions about priorities, you’ll be more productive and you waste less time. So most people who believe there is a way to control their world and make some progress in life, make lists. Like to do lists. I do, too.

And then, your lists fail

At some stage, you may have left your to do lists or replaced them by new ones, more sophsticated and more complicated ones even, maybe because the one to do lists got too long and outdated. Then life happened and you got too busy to update and maintain structure on your lists, and -oh overwhelm- it all got out of control, because:

  • The system took too much effort to maintain current and fresh
  • The system was designed for the easier bits of life

Can you relate to this scenario?

A life changing set of lists: Getting Things Done

At work, a guy mentioned Getting Things Done (GTD), an approach towards managing your work flow, invented by David Allen. I’m keen on learning smarter ways of working and I liked it, so I implemented about 25% of the methodology, the bits I understood well. Then one day, I got very busy. I had just moved homes, and at work, I had also taken on a couple of interesting projects. I decided to attend a seminar about GTD that same week, instead of dragging myself through a month’s worth of work.

The seminar instantly changed my life (Fokke Kooistra and Marleen Kruijswijk @, thank you).

I got even busier because I had just added a new project to my busy schedule: implementing the other 75%. It took me about 2 weeks to get it running at about 60%, spending about 2 hours a day extra on top of my work, on sorting out my files and archives. And then:

  • Information and commitments were not overwhelming me any longer
  • Great and relevant ideas started popping into my head
  • My lists were not just getting longer, I proactively got work done, my productivity increased by about 20%
  • My new system took a lot less time to maintain than my old one
  • I started enjoying the calm of an empty inbox, every day

What about the remaining 40% of GTD?

It took me another 3 months to get my personal GTD system to about 90%. My coworkers started asking me what happened, so I started telling them, soon discovering that GTD was the most significant method in my toolbox in terms of smart working. Another 6 months later, the final 10% were falling into place. I cannot imagine how I survived just making up my own system to organise and get hold on work and life as I went along until that very day when everything changed. Please enjoy this 4 slide Prezi (and allow some time for it to load, it’s quite visual) that explains how life was before and after that day!

This blog is about getting organised, getting on track, and improving the quality of your time. I love sharing what I know and what I learned, and I hope you like it. I would be very interested in your story, too, so please share your search for structure in the comments below, whether that be with or without Getting Things Done:

Johanna Jansen

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Lahoma
    December 26, 2012
    4:38 am #comment-1

    Nice read, I just passed this onto a friend who was doing some research on that. And he just bought me lunch because I found it for him smile So let me rephrase that: Thanks for lunch!

    • johannatime
      December 28, 2012
      10:05 pm #comment-2

      Thank you for sharing that, Lahoma, and I hope you enjoyed your lunch. Your friend may benefit from reading my other posts as well.

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