Sunday, November 25, 2012

Week in Review-Preview - Now Implementing GTD

This week on the blog we saw: 

Coming Next Week:

Monday -Test of Freedom Episode 11 "Pictures and Doggerel"
Mary realizes she has no drawing of Jackie to remember him by, but she has something else.

Wednesday -The Essence of Genre, Part 2 - At the Movies
Movie people see genre differently from book people.

Thursday -Test of Freedom Episode 12 "A Poetic Ox"
Jackie adjusts to having no voice, though he still has lots to say.

A Round of Words in 80 Days Update

This Segment's Progress: (see below for explanation of what GTD is)

Wednesday Day 52 - Began the GTD. Cleared my desk sufficiently to create a great work space.
Thursday Day 53 - Thanksgiving, some GTD. Started redoing the footers and navigation links on The Misplaced Hero.
Friday Day 54 - More GTD. Artwork.
Saturday Day 55 - Took most of today off rather than Sunday. But did some GTD and blogging.

Other folks updating today: ROW80 linky.

 Not Ready for Full-Time Diary

As you see with the above report, I'm making a couple of changes this week:

Transition From the "Day Job" Mindset

When you have a day job, your writing is something you hoard time for.  You squeeze your writing into every spare moment.  Mentally, a day off is not a day off, it's a day for writing.  That may not be good for your writing, but you don't really have much choice.

And I've begun to realize that I shouldn't go after this full time gig as if I just have more free time. There is no such thing as free time any more -- time is time.  Or perhaps I should say, free time should be free.  It's better for my work to have time off that's actually, you know, time off.  And work time that's actually for work.

And to each thing its proper due, whether it's prep or blogging or art or writing, or... (excuse me a moment...) or petting the cat.

I need to change my mindset more fundamentally. I need to change my whole approach to the dare, and to how I think about my writing and my work tasks.

I talked last week about how opening up the process -- giving myself more time -- has helped with the art, and I hope to do something similar for my fiction.  I think devoting time to each task is a really good way to start, and my first thought was to declare Saturdays as "Blogging Day."  And maybe take Sunday off, except for idle thinking and sketching.  And then I thought Mondays should be html and formatting day...

But then I realized that I just need to go after all of it.  Everything on my to do list, all the way down to petting the cat.

So to that end, I'm going back to Implementing My GTD.

What is GTD? And how and why would you implement it?  Well you may ask....

Implementing my GTD

If you spend any time at all on the internet in business productivity blogs and such, you'll come across the acronym: GTD.  This refers to a book called "Getting Things Done" bu David Allen, and especially the philosophy in the book.

Like a lot of such books, GTD offers a specific method and formula for getting all the crap in your life under control, but it rises far above the usual because it isn't about following the method or formula.  As a matter of fact, I suspect a lot of people fail at it because they try to use it that way.

The reason that GTD has a cult-like following is because it's really a theory/philosophy book.  There is an awful lot of zen in it.  And like zen, it's one of those things that takes a lifetime to master, and even if you don't master it, studying it a little here and there improves your life.

But there are certain really useful things about the methodology too.

Right now, my life is all about clearing the decks -- and that's what the first step of GTD is all about.

That first step (which is really, imho the second step after reading the book and thinking about what you're going to do) is to take all the junk in your life -- not just your business or a particular activity -- and stick it in your "inbox" -- even if that means your inbox is a whole room. (And yes, it is likely to be if you do it right.)  Then you go through and process it until the inbox is empty (or you've got "Inbox Zero" if you want to get jargony).

You don't actually do everything in your inbox.  You just process it -- which might be doing or might be scheduling or filing or just deciding what the next step will be, and doing or scheduling that.  I'll probably do other posts on that later, but that's not what this post is about.

And, frankly, it's not even why I'm doing it. What I find useful about the Big Inbox Gathering and Clearing process (that some call "implementing your GTD") is that it helps you take an eagle-eye view of your life.  It's like a big life-inventory-audit.

And the act of processing all that stuff doesn't just get the stuff under control. It causes you to think about things in a very different way.  It's really good for lateral thinking.  You see opportunities and get inspirations.

At least you do if you don't have to get it all done by 3pm because you've got a report due.  Being able to do a full GTD implementation with no deadline or competing priority means I can use the process in a more open and philosophical way, that I never would have been able to do before.

What I really hope to do is something I have done in small ways before: I hope to turn this into a daily habit that transforms back into the natural way I used to work and write.  Where I get in harness and set my brain loose and let it work.  It's related to the zen concept of "Mind Like Water" and maybe I'll talk about that in December.

Not So Compatible With A Novel Dare

The problem with my new approach (not just GTD, but the more wholistic approach to writing and my life) is that it is not so compatible with the way a normal "Novel Dare" works - in particular the measurable goals.

Existentialism is just not about bean counting, or word counting or clock keeping.

The point of a writing dare is to help you steal the time you need for your writing. That's the day job mindset.  Especially when you are talking about a continuous dare like ROW80 -- not just a temporary push on a project, but the ongoing struggle to block out time for writing in your life.

But I think I still need the dare. The reporting, in particular, is about being public and being held to account.  It's possible to be very zen about watching TV (even when you don't have a TV).

Furthermore, I might still want to do the old fashioned word-count push on a particular project once in a while.  But aside from that the usual numerical goals, like counting words or minutes, are out. They don't have a purpose, and they waste time and energy.

(I've noticed lately that I forget to check the time or count the words.  It's too much of a pain.)

So if the reporting is the thing I want to keep of the dare: what do I report?

I haven't a clue.  For now I'm going to go with a quick "what did I accomplish today?" on Wednesdays, and a more detailed discussion as usual on Sundays.  I find this dissatisfying because I suspect what I will be doing will be too diverse and complicated to explain in a line or two.

But we'll see.

See you in the funny papers.


Anonymous said...

Good luck on Operation GTD! I'm trying to schedule certain days for certain things and it's not quite as easy as I thought. I feel guilty for not doing more but I don't feel like I'm going nuts either. It there a balance between productivity and sanity?

The Daring Novelist said...

That's actually the whole point of the GTD book: not just finding a balance but integrating sanity and productivity.

It's a very zen kind of thing, though it is easy to get carried away and treat it like just another productivity book.

The difference between GTD and ordinary productivity books? Regular books try to teach you to change your habits to conform to a system. GTD is about creating a system that conforms to your habits.

Thomas E said...

Hmm... I am not a full time writer, but I am a freelancer, and so I often end up with periods of time I can write full time hours, and I have discovered why some people with the talent to go full time don't.

It is a mystery to me but I often find that I write just as much in a week where I can write full time as in a week where I am busy at work.

I think I am doing OK for a new writer, but getting the structure right seems to be hard when the problem is too much time.

Lee McAulay said...

Camille, it's fascinating to read your transformation as you go through it, so thank you for writing about this with such candour. Changing work habits is always hard, even if it's just moving to a new job or a new employer, but your self-awareness seems likely to help you adapt quickly.
Tasks beyond writing will fill the hours if you want that "Day Job" feeling! Plus, don't forget the vital role of time away from the computer/desk/shopfloor which is part of ordinary working life. Just because you're writing doesn't mean you're not allowed to spend the day on FaceBook...
P.S. Love the new covers!

The Daring Novelist said...

Thomas, yep, it's strange but true, we often get more done when we are busy than when we aren't. I think it has to do with being in a certain mode. Sometimes you're just in recharge mode.

Lee - glad you like the covers! And yes, if you're your own boss, you need to be a GOOD boss.