Welcome, everyone, to Day 3 of "Organizing the Writing Life."
If you're joining us again, welcome back! If you're new to the series, I want to introduce you to guest blogger Sharon Sarmiento, an Online Business Manager whose work "involves managing the daily operations of online businesses and streamlining processes to maximize personal and business productivity." She also writes an inspiring blog, eSoup, and her passion for helping people thrive in their lives through better organization has landed her in the Boston Globe and more than twenty other newspapers.
In addition to running her own e-business, Sharon is a painter and writer who is familiar with the organizational struggles that creatives face. For today and the following three Tuesdays, Sharon will generously share her knowledge and insight to benefit us all. Today's topic, based on blog-reader questions, is:
The Best Organizational System (Part 1)
Reader question: Is there one catch-all system under which writers can organize everything related to a writing project?
Yup. As far as keeping things organized, I recommend and use the productivity system called “Getting Things Done” (GTD), created by David Allen. This system isn’t unique to writers--it's a simple system that works for everyone from gas station attendants to the CEOs of major companies. It doesn't matter what you do for a living.
GTD has sort of a cult-like following on the Internet (and when I say "cult-like", I mean that in the healthiest, most productive way), so there's a good chance that you've seen the initials GTD floating around the blogosphere and have perhaps wondered what the big deal is.
Here's a little Q & A to get you acquainted with what the GTD hubbub is about:
1) What are the benefits of using the GTD system?
Well, according to David Allen's website,
Implementing GTD alleviates the feeling of overwhelm, instills confidence, and releases a flood of creative energy. It provides structure without constraint, managing details with maximum flexibility. The system rigorously adheres to the core principles of productivity, while allowing tremendous freedom in the "how." The only "right" way to do GTD is getting meaningful things done with truly the least amount of invested attention and energy.
2) How does it increase creativity?
As a creative person myself and someone who works with people I like to call "creative visionaries," I've noticed that one of the hallmarks of creative personalities is the daily (sometimes hourly) influx of new ideas. Now, some of the ideas are absolutely amazing and are definitely worth pursuing, and others are, although extremely creative, less feasible to be implemented in the real world.
With creative people, many times we'll have so many ideas that it's hard to know which ones to pursue, which ones to let slide, and which ones to file away to be tackled someday in the future.
I've seen it so many times--entrepreneurs or creative thinkers who are not executing their best ideas because their best ideas are getting lost in the shuffle. What I have found is that GTD helps me get these ideas off my mind (or get the ideas off a client's mind), so that our minds are free to concentrate on one thing at a time.
To do this idea-capturing thing, I use a simple list making system. Here are my lists:
1. A calendar--to house my to-do items that have a specific date and time
2. Next Actions--basically a to-do list without specific dates and times
3. Someday/Maybe--stuff I'd like to do someday eventually
4. Waiting For--things that need input from other people before I proceed
5. On-the-go--this is a little spiral bound memo book that I keep in my purse. If I'm out and about and I get an idea or it pops in my mind that there's something I need to do, right away I write it down on the on-the-go list I keep with me. When I get home, I can transfer the item to the appropriate list.
There's nothing that says you can't keep these lists electronically, but I have a soft spot in my heart for old-fashioned paper and pencil, so all of my lists are in hard-copy form. This also means that no matter where I am when I come up with ideas of things I need/want to do, I can simply pull out the paper list and write it down.
3) Is this system a pain in the butt to implement?
Not really. I mean, you do have to change the way you view and process incoming information, but it's really not rocket science. It's just lists and simple time management strategies. One thing about this system though, is that it's more of a lifestyle than a work strategy. It's something you do for your life, rather than just at the office.
To learn more and get ready for Part 2 next week, here are a few "Getting Things Done" resources:
Any questions or comments for Sharon? We want to hear from you — drop a comment, and let's keep the conversation going.
Next week's topic (April 24th): The BEST organizational system ever! (Part 2)
See you then!
Bonus links: Take a peek at previous posts from the "OWL" series —