Spence Green

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I work at Lilt. In addition to computers and languages, my interests include travel, running, and scuba diving. more...

The Power of Lists

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A colleague recommended David Allen’s book Getting Things Done to me after witnessing my pre-occupation with efficiency. Giving crack to an addict would have been more conscionable. The undistracted reader can digest the contents in an afternoon as his techniques take little effort to grasp. At first glance, GTD is unremarkable–at more than one point I thought, “Yes, that makes sense. I almost do that today.”–a characteristic that usually indicates the author has realized some fundamental insight. In the three months since I started GTD, I have found these principles to be the most liberating:

  • Get tasks out of your head and onto paper
  • Build a trustworthy filing system
  • Make lists

The last point seems too plain to add value. But Allen writes,

Making lists, ad hoc, as they occur to you, is on of the most powerful yet subtlest and simplest procedures that you can install in your life.

I created a directory on my local drive entitled “Lists” and a simple OpenOffice template with a description area and a two-column table. Using the template, I have recorded the checklists that cover scraps of paper littered around my desk. The folder now bulges with travel packing checklists, maintenance procedures, and other processes. Do not underestimate the reduction in cognitive load that comes through placing this information in a safe, searchable location. GTD aims to free the mind from task-juggling so that it can focus on subjects that require a clear mind. It has fulfilled that promise in my life.

Helpful lists:

  • Vitalist — Task management and reminders. Includes a free SMS text message interface.
  • Added Bytes — Single-page computer programming tip lists.
  • 43folders — Merlin Mann’s repository of self-improvement guidelines and suggestions.

Written by Spence

September 4th, 2008 at 12:39 pm

Posted in Productivity

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