A few months ago I wrote about having picked up the book Getting Things Done. Since I don’t have the excuse of no free time now, I spent the last couple of days using a GTD plugin for Mori, a strange notebook/outliner program I have.
Does “GTD” work? It has a strong geek following: it’s an engineering approach to task management, built on the premise that what we actually manage isn’t time or projects but rather actions. The Excursion Society MUCK is a project of mine, but the individual actions I need to take for it involve better testing of the web interface, beating old Bandari players into getting onto ESM, beating myself into finishing porting pieces of Bandari over to ESM, etc. GTD is a formalization of the common sense notion that you get things done by breaking them down into small concrete steps and taking them one at a time—it’s a guide to turning your projects into actions, and then managing those actions. The idea is to get things “captured” on paper and thus out of your head, breaking the worry loop cycle. (There’s an explicitly acknowledged Zen component to the GTD approach: “mind like water” is the mental state you manage for. That also appealed to me.)
All well and good, but does “GTD” work for me? Outlook hazy. Ask again later. If I manage to make checking my “next action list” a habit, and make a habit of sticking everything I need to do, want to do, or think might be something to look at doing into my GTD notebook, I’ll have a good test for it. For the whole three days I’ve been doing this, it’s been working. I’m feeling some mild sense of accomplishment, which is definitely a positive thing.
I really am planning to advertise ESM, but that’ll be in its own forthcoming message. (Initially I’m just going to “advertise” here on my own journal.) One of my hopes for GTD is that it’ll clear enough mental underbrush away that I’ll be able to focus on my other projects better. Famous last words, I suppose. Even so, some little things that I’ve been failing to get done for months have been done now, and other ones are being captured.
In other news: a “next action” for today—now completed—was getting a writing sample together for an interview tomorrow. It sounds like this is with a company looking for ad hoc, project-based technical writing, not an offer of steady work, but I’ll see. I’ve also gotten a contact from someone at the company I did the 15-month contract for that took up all of 2005 and more, although my impression from the job description is that they’re looking for someone who’ll have specific technical skills I lack. Even so, I’ll review it and probably send a résumé.
My lost paychecks still haven’t arrived; in theory they’ll be sent to the personnel company’s office and I’ll pick them up directly Monday or Tuesday. I’m hoping I’ll hear from the unemployment office next week, too. In the interim, I’ve been doing the equivalent of looking for lost coins under the sofa. The little ad hoc subcontract I’d been working on is finished, from what I can tell, with just 15 billable hours. But I suspect I could probably make a living wage with just 15-20 hours a week if the rates were high enough (these weren’t, quite).
Final odd toy of the moment: I’m also playing with WriteRoom, a freeware program from Mori’s creator. It’s a simple fullscreen text editor, whose premise is “writing without distraction.” I’m not convinced that this sort of thing is necessary—one can, after all, hide the windows one isn’t writing in, and turn off e-mail and instant messaging programs—but this is an elegant implementation of the idea. I have to say that there is something focusing about having nothing but text in front of me. I frequently stop when writing to collect my thoughts, and I don’t have the opportunity to be distracted by anything else on the computer. There may be something to be said for that.