Friday, August 22, 2008

On productivity

This has been a busy, busy week, filled with productivity and failure (yes, both). I have to say that the people I work with often rise to the challenge of difficult situations and we really do band together in that goofy, sappy way you think of when the chips are down. So I'm grateful that there are good people in the world and that they happen to work in my building.

I've taken on a new strategy, which flies in the face of GTD, but I think I like it. I only check email twice a day and each time, I only spend 1 hour at most responding. In my line of work, I could spend all day just reading and responding to email. So, what I do is scan email, looking for important things, and respond to those first, and then deal with the more mundane issues. Honestly, I've had a lot of people figure out their problems all by themselves. I figure people will either email again or call if they get truly desperate. And this way, I actually get work done, I feel less frustrated (because I'm not constantly seeing messages that make me think, you have a Ph.D. and you can't figure this out?), and the day goes by pretty quickly. David Allen may not approve, but I think I like this plan so far. I do twitch a little when I realize there are over 300 messages in my inbox, but likely by the time I get to some of the earlier ones, I can delete without reading them.

Surprisingly, even though this was a post-vacation week, I didn't have the usual post-vacation slump, where I wish I were still on vacation and kind of flounder around hoping that work will disappear. I guess it was because there was just so much to get done, I didn't have time for that. The other strategy I developed over the last few weeks (also somewhat anti-GTD) is to just focus on getting 2-3 things done in a day. So often I'm staring at a huge list of things and it seems overwhelming and I get frustrated when only a couple of things get done. But that's because most everything I do takes several hours and if things don't go smoothly, well, you know how that goes. So now I write down a couple of things to focus on and it feels better to have accomplished everything on the list. I use post-its, so I don't even have room for more than a couple.

So maybe I'm falling out of love with GTD a little. I think I felt that sometimes, it made me focus so much on getting more done that I wasn't getting the right things done. While my inbox was at zero, I wasn't getting the more important things done--important both to me and in many cases, a large number of people. I still like having a kind of repository for stuff that needs to get done, but I think looking at it once a week is a better plan than staring at it every day. At least for me.