I enter the way-back machine, and go to the day I started my latest job. August 7, 2016, and I was determined that this time I would adopt the Getting Things Done(R)1 as it was a clean slate, the perfect time to manage my tasks, and duties, to properly categorize and dispatch with extreme prejudice.
I set up my mailbox with the right folders and began processing all my in-bound emails accordingly.
I ought to add that my first flirtation with GTD was in the mid-aughts, when I was absolutely buried in the minutia of product management, someone that I looked to as a guiding star mentioned in a blog post how it changed their life. I bought the book, read it a couple of times, and began arranging my workflow.
And it worked. My inbox was quickly a place of action. Things I could do immediately, got done and archived. Things that needed longer, but were important went into the “Today” folder, dealt with by the end of the day. A few trickled into the “This Week” folder, to be dispatched before I logged out on Friday, and ever fewer into the “Long Term” folder.
For a few weeks, this seemed to work.
Then the first day I failed to clear my “Today” folder happened. I wasn’t too worried. It was just a couple of items. No big deal.
Then the carryover grew to a dozen, then a few dozen items. I got the brainstorm to move them to the “This Week” folder.
Soon, I was spending 6 hours on Fridays trying to clear that folder, and soon - you guessed it - I was building a backlog there.
I fixed that by moving them en masse to the “Long Term” folder.
That was the end of GTD for me.
Plenty of reasons.
- Product management has a lot of input threads that can’t be quickly dispatched or ignored
- Whenever I traveled (something I did about 6 weeks out of every quarter) my inbox was wedged. Too many new mail items and not enough time to work on them.
- The realization that if I processed every email I got, I would spend about 6 hours a day in my Outlook. And frankly, that isn’t what I am paid for.
Needless to say, for me at least, GTD is a nice idea that fails in execution.
Back to the present
As I mentioned above, when I began this current job, I once again had the fantasy that I could actually do the GTD method. Apart from setting up the mailboxes, I added a 15 minute “meeting” to recur on Fridays at 4:00PM Pacific time. It says: “Clear Email Backlog”
Alas, I currently have 2,362 unread emails in my inbox.
I keep the reminder there to guilt myself for my moral failings in the Getting Things Done methodology.
So, when a colleague tells me they practice “Inbox Zero” I just nod and smile.
Ctrl-A; Del and empty trash, and I too can be “Inbox Zero”.