Writers Rooms

Check out this series of photos and essays by British writers about their offices. So many of them write by hand first. Will Self uses Post Its. This quote from A.S. Byatt hit home:

I write fiction by hand, hence the absence of a computer in the picture. I write better since I put the computer in a separate office - partly at least because I am less tempted to play Freecell when I can't think of a sentence.

Wired Profile of David Allen

The next issue of Wired, I presume the October issue, has a profile of David Allen. There's nothing particularly new, but it's worth a look.

Quote from Stephen Pinker

Here's one for the DIYPlanner crowd:

Do you have a Personal Digital Assistant...? These are the hand-held devices that recognize handwriting, store phone numbers, edit text, send faxes, keep schedules and many other feats. They are marvels of engineering and can organize a busy life. But I don't have one, though I am a gadget lover. Whenever I am tempted to buy a PDA, four things dissuade me. First, they are bulky. Second, they need batteries. Third, they take time to learn to use. Fourth, their sophistication makes simple tasks, like looking up a phone number, slow and cumbersome. I get by with a notebook and fountain pen.

- Steven Pinker, How The Mind Works

GTD Projects as Inspiration

One of the things that confuse people most when they start GTD is the difference between next actions and projects. Does every project need to have a next action? Does every next action have to have a project? Can I have more than one next action per project? Do I have to do every next action before going back to the project list? Do I need to map out all the actions in a project first? Where do the actions go if I’m not ready to do them yet?

The answers to these questions are a matter of taste in some ways, and after dealing with them myself for some time now, I recommend a more “fuzzy” approach. One good way to think of it is that you don’t do projects. You only do actions. Projects are a way of getting to the actions you need to do.

I think of my projects as inspiration for actions. I keep each project on a separate page and use the page to brainstorm and write notes about its current status. A project is really a goal, and you need to think about what the goal is, and how you’re going to get there. By doing the thinking about your goal, you break it down into smaller and smaller steps. Some steps can be done now. Some need to wait for other steps to be completed before you can do them. Your next action list is just a list of the steps you can do now. The ones that can wait can remain on your project sheet until the next time you look at it.

When I started doing GTD I felt that I needed to tie every action to a project. So if I needed to make a doctor’s appointment, for example, I felt I had to link it to a project like “Stay healthy,” or something like that. I ended up with a lot of projects that weren’t really projects per se. These days, using the definition of projects as inspiration, I have pages in my project binder for general categories of life, which I use to get me thinking about actions I need to take.

For example, I have a sheet called Household/Finance, where I have listed all the parts of my life that I need to think about, like chores, gardening, bills, car maintenance, the vet, etc. That way, when I do my weekly review, I can look it over and be reminded that I need to get an oil change. I don’t really need a project for “Car maintenance,” but I do need to remember to think about my car.

It’s a fairly minor shift in definition, but seeing projects as inspiration has really helped me understand their purpose in the GTD methodology. Someday/Maybe lists function very similarly. They get you thinking and deciding, which is always the hardest part.

Lean GTD

Just found this really interesting series of posts examining GTD from a Lean manufacturing perspective, written by an organizational psychologist. Definitely worth a look...