Six weeks of Getting Things Done

Getting Things Done is a book that outlines a specific process and philosophy for managing all the work you need to get done. I’ll leave the overview for someone else, but I do want to report on some of the my takeaways after six weeks adopting the philosophy as a web developer.

  • Never store to-do’s in your brain - I think I already sensed this but the brain is terrible at keeping track of long lists of items… especially when those items are constantly changing. If you can get those lists out of your head and into a trusted system, you can use that brain-power for better things. 
  • Your system needs to be trusted - What do you do when you need to remind yourself of a mission-critical task? If you can’t with good faith put it into your task-management system, then your system isn’t trusted, and untrusted systems don’t work.
  • Weekly reviews are essential - In Getting Things Done, they recommend holding a weekly review, where you look through your system, make corrections, and see what’s coming on the horizon. I’ve learned that if I don’t do this, the items get out of date and I stop trusting it.
  • Web projects result in infinite to-do items -  Sad, I know, but if you’re working on a website, framework, or some other web project, then realize that it can never be done. The web moves way too fast. If your website was perfect 2 years ago (highly unlikely) then today you’d want to optimize your images with picture-fill, provide retina versions of your images, convert simple graphics to SVG, add support for iOS smart banners, integrate with Twitter’s embedded timelines and tweets, add Google+ buttons, test it on 200 new devices, and take your Skeuomorphic design and make it “flat”. Not to mention all the things you should be doing, but aren’t (A-B split testing, SEO, performance profiling, etc). As a result, I’ve chosen not to integrate the to-do items for my web projects into the same system as my other to-do items so the web ones don’t completely bury the other ones alive.

I’d say that Getting Things Done, with a few minor adaptations, is working well for me. But even if you don’t read the book and adopt the system, these takeaways are helpful for whatever system you use.