Monday, August 25, 2008

How to make the best out of GTD and mnemonics

I have been a great fan of David Allen's Getting Things Done (GTD) ever since my friend Arnstein introduced it to me over a year ago. I feel that GTD has revolutionized the way I work, making me more efficient and goal oriented and feeling more at ease knowing that all my agreements with others (and myself) are met. That being said I still fill that there is a lot to be improved in ways of implementing Allen's system to my personality - I am making progress every day.

Recently I have been reading "Mind Performance Hacks" by Ron Hale-Evans. It introduces you to plenty of small tricks/hacks on how to improve performance. There are more examples of usable than unusable hacks for me in the book and I think I will try to implement many of them in the near future. I highly recommend reading the book if you find this topic interesting.

Most of the hacks collected in the section "Memory" in "Mind Performance Hacks" are mnemonics (tricks on how to remember things). I find "the Number-Shape system", "Lots of Little Journeys" and "the Dominc System" to be the most interesting and usable ones.

David Allen's GTD is based on the fact that you are unable to store too many things in what he calls "psycic RAM", and thus you should store them in action reminder lists to avoid remember things by yourself. I completely agree that It is totally impossible to remember all things that you should do/want to do in the near and far future, but the problem appears when you actually want to start doing things ("cranking widgets") and your lists are not where you are.

How are you supposed to bring your actions with you in the right context? My solution to this has been and will be to store my action lists on the internet. This solves some of my problems as I have access to the internet at home and work as well as other places. When I want to do several tasks in the same context, for instance doing errands, I write out a list of the things at the context and bring it with me. Others are suggesting making "hipsters", low tech cards with the actions in priority. Both of these techinques works, but it takes time and effort to do.

The other thing I am missing is a system for remembering actions that you are doing on a regular basis. On mondays I do my weekly/montly review and check a random article on wikipedia (another hack). I mainly use outlook to remember this, but I have no ability due to IT security reasons to sync these and other actions to my home. I leap over this problem by only remembering scheduled activities at work.

This is were the mnemonics comes to play. By using mnemonics (for instance the "number shape system") you should be able to remember the context specific activities and the regular activities quite simple. It only takes the effort to find a system that works for you and start using it on a regular basis.