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GTD Masters: An Interview with Michael from BlackBeltProductivity.net

Master Series

This post is part of a series Iíve dubbed the GTD Master Series – a collection of short interviews with well-known GTD bloggers who many consider to be masters of their craft. Enjoy!

I first started shooting the breeze with Michael, half of the two-man productivity assault team at BlackBeltProductivity.net, after posting something about del.icio.us here at the CW blog. We’d chat here and there about different productivity tools, GTD webapps and the like, quickly realizing we have a bit in common. I consider Michael to be a friend – and now I’m proud to feature him on this installment of GTD Masters!

For those who aren’t familiar with you, would you give a brief personal introduction?

Hi, my name is Michael, and I GTD. (Hello, Michael)

I am a 35 years old and I am a Network Administrator for a small municipality in Alabama. I have a wife of 11 years, a Jack Russel Terrier of 8 years, a son of 4 years, and a daughter of 10 months. I have been at this job for a little over a year, and I have been in IT for almost 10 years. I met Jason via the boards and we found that we had a lot in common (besides both living in Alabama). We talked about GTD a lot and then decided to start blogging in April of 2006 with Black Belt Productivity.

How did you get started with GTD? Was there a particular event/experience that led you to want to be more organized/productive in general?

A former boss of mine started reading this book called Getting Things Done, and I saw how he was beginning to organize his life. I started searching around the web and found 43Folders and David Allen’s company site and started reading there. Shortly after that in March 2005, I procured my own copy of GTD and read it in 2 days. I started implementing almost immediately. I felt that I could subscribe to a “system of radical common sense” to organize my life. Since then, I have read GTD 3 times and I am about to begin a 4th reading. I think that reading it every 6-8 months helps reinforce the concepts. Everytime that I have read it, I have come away something new to put into my system. I have recently gotten a copy of GTD Fast! and I am still working my way through that. There is a LOT of good info about GTD in those recordings. It would be great if they were made available again, instead of having to watch eBay auctions.

From March 2005 to the end of the year, I implemented a lot from GTD, but not a full bore system. In December, I accepted the position that I am in now and decided that as a 1-man IT department, I was going to have to get more organized. So another read of GTD took place over Christmas and I jumped full bore into GTD, using Tracks as my main systems implementation.

In your opinion, what’s the biggest pitfall of GTD for people just starting out?

The perception that GTD is all or nothing, and that it is set in stone how to use it. Most don’t realize that even if all you use is the 2-minute rule, you are going to be more productive (more of that radical common sense). When you start adding emptying your head, contexts and next actions, that is where you are going to get the most return. Another thing is that GTD is a framework to customize to work the way thar you work. There is no Golden GTD Way. The way that David Allen does it is vastly different then the way that I do it…but we are both more productive because of it.

What’s the thing you like the least about “canonical” GTD?

The fact that people think that there is “canonical” GTD. David Allen states

“What follows is a compilation of more than two decadesí worth of discoveries about personal productivity – a GUIDE to maximizing output and minimizing input” [caps are my emphasis, xii, Getting Things Done]

Whatever way(s) make you more productive everyday is the way that it should be for you. Don’t go looking for permission on any blog or forums, just do it…it is your system and you have to use it.

Which aspect of GTD did you find the most difficult to implement? which was the easiest?

The hardest for me was the tickler file. I have tried to use one, but have finally given up on using it. I use a note on my calendar as a tickle for anything that I need to be reminded of. The easiest thing to use is the 2-minute rule. Man, if it takes less than 2 minutes, the DO IT! Nothing hard about that, and it add so much time to the day. I used to procrastinate phone calls like you would not believe…but now, bing-bang-boom, make the call, scratch it off the list.

How did you deal with any frustrations when you first started with GTD? Do you have any “inspirational” items that encouraged you to stick with it?

I would ALWAYS go back to the book. That is where the answers lie. David Allen does a wonderful job of presenting GTD is a way that is easy to understand. Do I get frustrated…sure, everyone does. Most of the time, me and Jason talk and bounce things off of each other, and that usually helps me a lot. I also love to read the blogs, and especially the ‘white papers’ of how people do GTD. I usually can find a little nugget that someone is doing to add to my own system.

Please briefly describe your current GTD implementation (tools, applications, etc.).

Right now, I am all analog. I use a Moleskine Weekly Planner+Notebook for most everything. I was using Evernote for support material, but I am not using it to its full potential so I hardly use it at all anymore. I have moved a lot of the reference material collection to some Moleskine Cahiers. Currently, I am a Windows guy, but very shortly I will be buying a MacBook Pro. I will be using the MBP as my main machine and the Windows box will be for gaming. I am excited about the new world of GTD software that awaits my switchover. I am also looking at a number of web apps that I may start to use for my lists. I am looking at Nozbe, Vitalist, and one from a fellow from the 43Folders board. They are all pretty impressive (especially since I don’t program, and cannot make the data display like I like it.)

Final Thoughts, etc.

GTD is a wonderful system that can exponentially improve your productivity…if you want it to. There is a LOT of discipline involved in keeping your system flowing like you want is to. I think that people seem to think that once you put stuff into a system, whether it is a webapp, or a Moleskine, or another piece of software, that it will do the work for you. Those things are really only a means to the end of getting things done.

These last nine months of blogging at BBP have ben great. I have met a lot of cool people and hope that our future is bright as a reliable resource for GTD related things.

As always, a hearty thanks to Michael, my latest in a short line of victims. He was terribly gracious in taking the time to answer my questions, and I’m grateful. Be sure to check out Black Belt Productivity (or just subscribe), as it’s a wealth of valuable information and tips on leading a more productive life.

Until next time – subscribers get extra bonus points in a game where there are no points… ;)

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