This post comes on the heels of 2 previous ones; part 1 and part 2. I have been documenting my efforts to become more organised as a freelancer. Last time I said I was going to try the Getting Things Done method. How did it go?
I thought I would write this post last month but it actually took me a long time to finish the book. I could blame this on being super busy but in all honesty it is a combination of 2 factors:
- Laziness on my part
- Verbosity on the book’s part
I have a friend who maintains that any non-fiction book longer than 100 pages is padded. I don’t 100% agree but it was certainly true in this case. There was altogether too much philosophy at the beginning before getting into the meat of the method in part 2. The excessive philosophising killed my enthusiasm for the book and I had to force myself to push through. Thankfully, a long car journey from the UK to Poland provided a lot of dead time that helped me finish the book.
What’s It All About?
Despite what I just said, I think the book is full of excellent ideas. I am going to try and summarise the book’s main thesis in a couple of paragraphs and thus prove my friend right:
Trying to keep track of all the things, personal and professional, that you are doing and want to do provides a mental burden. Remembering that you need to buy toothpaste when you are not at the store is ineffective, it stresses you out a little bit because you feel you should be doing it now. On top of that, you have to try and remember to do it again at the actual right time.
All of the things that you want to keep track of should be taken out of your mind and put onto lists. This relieves the mental burden of trying to remember things. Every item on the list should have a clear next action. This means that you are clear what to do to move things forward. Every list should be reviewed at the appropriate time. This means you can be sure that nothing slips through the cracks and you can rely on the system to do the remembering for you.
There are a few points that I could elaborate on but that is the bulk of it. The book then goes into the actual process of realising the system.
What Did I Do?
One Saturday afternoon I sat down for a couple of hours and dumped out everything in my head. Everything. Everything that I was currently doing, needed to do in future or dreamed of doing at some point in my life. Everything from a dental check up to Scuba diving the Great Blue Hole in Belize.
I then identified every “project” that was there. I grouped them into current projects, projects that need to start at a particular time and projects that I might do one day. For every current project I wrote down the next action that was required. I grouped the actions into contexts; things to do in working time, things to do in free time, things to do at the shops etc etc.
It was a very freeing experience. I enjoyed it. I felt good writing down all of the things I dreamed of doing.I created lists of life goals and responsibilities. I felt daunted by the amount of stuff but I was happy to get it out of my head.
Then came the review schedule:
- An hour every Friday afternoon to go over all of the projects; to check that everything is up to date; to check whether anything should start; to check whether there is anything lurking in my brain that should be in the system.
- An hour once a month to review my areas of responsibility and life goals; to check that all my projects are the right ones; to review what I achieved the previous month.
I even created checklists so that each review has a structure. On the weekly list I added a reminder to check out concerts and events. This made me happy because I only check event listings every so often when I remember and frequently miss things I would have liked to do.
How Did It Go?
My first monthly review was last Friday (it hasn’t been a month yet but I wanted to trial the system). I loved it. I feel like there is less on my mind because I know it’s all in the system. I feel very proud of getting everything down on paper and having a proper system in place. Like a real grown up!
Paradoxically, I’ve actually been busier since starting the system. This is because I wrote down tons of small projects that had been lurking at the back of my mind. Without a next action I was vague about what to do. When they were written down in black and white with a next action attached I felt compelled to do them. Organise my address book, sort out the holiday photos, book train tickets. I’ve been ticking stuff off the list and I feel great about it.
I’ve already realised monetary value from the system – I made a note to book advance train tickets for our trip to the UK; something I would have thought of and then forgotten until too late. I wrote it down, gave it a due date and saved myself 100 pounds.
As you can probably tell, I’m pretty enamoured with the system so far. I will do a follow up in a month or so to let you know how it’s going when I am past the honeymoon period.
How do you organise your time when freelancing? Let me know, I’d love to hear other ideas.