Technical Communication and GTD?

Subject: Technical Communication and GTD?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: Technical Writing <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, "Eric J. Ray" <ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Sat, 03 Jan 2009 09:59:36 -0500

Eric Ray wondered: <<I'd be interested in hearing more about how you
are implementing GTD (Getting Things Done,
as technical communicators? Have you tried it? Does it help? Do you
have other systems/techniques you use?>>

Haven't specifically tried out GTD, but I've seen so many time
management tools described over the years that I've developed my own
syncretic and idiosyncratic approach that borrows bits and pieces from
probably dozens of different philosophies. It's rare to find any one
system that meets an individual's unique needs, so generally you need
to do some extensive customization. Currently, I use a twofold approach:

First, I use a simple calendar program (Apple's iCal) to keep track of
my ongoing to-do list, both for firm and floating deadlines. Here, I
store small things that can be done in an hour or so (never much
more). The calendar boots up automatically each time I turn on my
computer, so the first thing I see each day is my calendar. Tasks with
firm deadlines get categorized as "work", and are highlighted in red
so that they stand out; I focus on them first. Stuff that needs to get
done eventually, but that I can keep bumping to the next day and the
next day and so on, until it becomes a crisis or until I get
interested enough to get the thing done, are highlighted in blue. If I
have time to fit them in, I do them; if not, I keep bumping them to a
later time. Should they become a crisis or suddenly bump up against a
real deadline, I turn them red and prioritize doing them. This works
well with all the miscellaneous tasks of life (e.g., writing a
birthday card, downloading an eBook, calling Mom).

Second, I block out (reserve) time for things that are going to take
me multiple hours and often occupy full days, so I know how much work
I can fit into my week and when my next available work time slot opens
up. I developed a simple and kludgy, yet somehow elegant (i.e., it
works well enough to not annoy me <g>) way to organize my workflow.
Basically, I create a folder on my desktop that holds aliases (in
Windows, "shortcuts") to folders deeper into my hard disk that contain
the actual work files. I add dates ("would like by" and "absolutely
due by" dates) to each shortcut, and use the aliases both to put my
work in chronological order and to reserve work days for that work.
Large time commitments such as weekends and vacations get their own
placeholder in this list. The approach is very flexible and
customizable, and can be adapted to a variety of situations. In the
couple years I've been using it, it's worked brilliantly for me.

But it's important to note that all the methodology in the world won't
help if you lack the self-discipline to tell yourself to stop wasting
time and simply get on with whatever tasks need doing. I'm a highly
trained professional at the art of procrastination; few are my equal.
Yet I possess the ability to suck it up and just buckle down to work
when necessary. Without that ability, all the tools in the world won't

Geoff Hart (
ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca / geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com
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Technical Communication and GTD?: From: Eric J. Ray

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