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Getting Priorities Done



Getting Priorities Done

Last year I kept hearing about all these people using something called GTD (Getting Things Done).  They didn’t talk about it much.  But occasionally one of them would send out an excited tweet mentioning GTD.  I got tired of hearing all these excited tweets and finally decided to dive in.  I had actually purchased the audiobook of GTD years ago but never got around to listening to it.  I was only a few pages into the book when I had the urge to make a big list of everything I have to finish.  I started out putting everything into a spreadsheet.  Everything from “Script new Mount Point Daily Check Job” to “Remember to pickup dry cleaning” was going into this list.  I would frequently realize that I was behind on a certain task; so I’d stop and take care of that item. 

After 6 hours I was in love with this technique.  After 18 hours I was slightly overwhelmed.  And after  48 hours I was ready to quit.  I had a list of over 80 items, and adding to that list did help me finish any of those items.  In fact the list left me feeling that life was more out of control than before my to-do items were written on paper.  I couldn’t understand how anyone –let alone all these people I had heard of – could get anything done using method.  Like my first attempts with PowerShell, I closed it down and decided it wasn’t very useful.

At the same time I had just started a new job much closer to home.  I had an extra hour available for every workday, but I was accomplishing less than ever.  It felt weird.  Almost everything was in place – so much so that I felt anyone should be able to succeed given these conditions – and yet I wasn’t!  I wasn’t getting to the gym more, I wasn’t spending significantly more time with my daughter and I wasn’t all that much less stressed.

I took a while, but after seeing that list and realizing how much was there I recognized that, short of having two clones, I was never going to be done with my to-do list.  What to do?  Simple.  That list must be shorter. With the writing on the wall I decided to categorize the things on my now out of date GTD list and see what I could scrap.  To say it was a punch in the face would like saying Southerners like Barbeque.  “It ain’t dinner unless a pig had to die.”  Right now my daughter is 13 and still listens to me at least pretends to listen when I speak.  I’m not sure how much longer that will last.  Her school is 2.2 miles away from both our home and my office  (For those playing at home, that is a 12 minute Atlanta commute. :-) ). At the end of the day life is about priorities and I’ve finally figured mine out. So until my daughter stops letting me drop her off at school, play taxi-cab for her and her friends, and generally allows me to be seen with her in public… well, I’m not going to have a lot of free time to do much else :-)

So what does that mean?  Am I going to stop blogging, writing, speaking, everything?  I don’t know, quite possibly.  Maybe for a while, maybe for a good while.  I have two items in my Professional Development category that I’ve committed to get done (and thankfully they both won’t take up very much time at all).   I’m still going to finish those two and they might result in some interesting content.  But for everything else?  Well following the GTD method those are all marked as “Maybe-Some Day”.

6 Comments

  1. You hit the same wall I did with GTD and then gained the same realization. We’re busy people and we hate to say, “No,” unless it is to developers. But at the end of the day we can’t do everything. Part of what I’ve learned to do is put some of the stuff in the some day category, but another big thing is when it first comes in, to make that hard decision about whether it’s something I need to take on, hand off to someone else, or simply say, “No.” That was one of the hardest things to come to terms with.

    As for your priorities, absolutely applaud you, man. Working with youth so much, I can see the difference between the ones who have a parent involved and the ones who are basically left to themselves. In that first group, you can definitely see a difference between those who has a parent actively engaged and one who has a parent maybe less so. It’s a humbling reminder to me to be more involved with my kids.

  2. Andy Leonard says:

    Excellent post Aaron!

    :{>

  3. […] of having a company of six (nearly seven) people, having to lean on God more than ever, and (like Aaron) making sure I prioritise the things that are important. I’m not leaving the community – I see […]

  4. Peter S says:

    While I think it’s safe to say we’ll miss your blogging presence and seemingly random Powershell scripts, I think you’ve made a great choice. Based on what I remember of GTD, I think you may have been overwhelmed due to classifying everything together into one big bucket and not breaking it out into Projects vs. Tasks. (Or adding that critical “next step” to your projects instead of just seeing it as one huge task.)

    Enjoy that time with your family. These are the moments you won’t get back.

  5. Frank says:

    Am I going to stop blogging, writing, speaking, everything? I don’t know, quite possibly.

    Don’t leave us – will be missing your great professional input! So, please stay on air getting this one thing done, Aaron… :)

    1. Aaron Nelson says:

      Alright Frank, I’m putting a sticky on my monitor saying that we’ve got one vote to keep blogging.

      In the course of an average week I generate on about 2 blog-worthy scripts per week; I just suck at writing. I’ll go ahead and email you one from last week as a “thanks for commenting” :-)