Archive for the ‘GTD’ Category

Simple system for color-coding your files

I have a dead-simple color-coding system for my digital files. It’s based somewhat on Jamie Phelps’ system, “Dynamic Digital Organization” except I don’t bother using Smart Folders or even Jamie’s Eureka for Mac app, nice as it is. (Personally, I don’t find Finder replacements to be all that necessary, but you may differ.)

When I read Jamie’s post 4 years ago, I didn’t see much application for me. Now, however, I’m a full-time freelancer, so I have to play project manager and business developer as well as designer and web developer, so it helps to have some sort of system in place to track the status of my projects. When I worked for someone else, if it was on my desk, I had to work on it. If it wasn’t on my desk, I didn’t worry about it. Now, I have to think about all of it.

With physical files, it’s easy to physically place project folders into a stack reserved for projects that are currently in play, or a stack of projects you’re waiting to hear back on. Everything gets a project number, even things I only write a quote for.

Plus, there are several different kinds of “@waiting-on.”

Since I pretty much keep everything with me at all times as I live out of my messenger bag, I can’t easily sort the folders that way. So while every project has a digital and physical counterpart, I can manage everything’s status digitally.

Here’s how it breaks down:

  • Red: It’s finished, I’ve billed it, and I’m waiting for final payment.
  • Orange: The project is at the client and I’m waiting for feedback.
  • Yellow: I haven’t verified that I’ve got the project yet. It’s tentatively a project.
  • Green: This is an active project that I need to work on, today if possible.
  • Blue: A personal project involving one of my own brands or something more personal than that.
  • Purple: currently not used.
  • Gray: Projects that I made a quote for but didn’t get.

Once things are paid for, or it’s been confirmed that I didn’t win the project, the folders move from the Projects folder to the Archive folder, where they remain until I decide it’s time to clean house and back it up onto a DVD or external drive.

How do you manage your digital projects?

Productivity is Dead… Long Live Productivity!

Friday night before last, I was talking with Jason Echols on IM about how the whole “productivity” scene has lost steam lately. Not long after the work.life.creativity. forums started this past summer, a thread emerged called Life After GTD? which is about a sort of post-GTD attitude. Then in September, Mr. 43Folders himself, Merlin Mann, announced that he is “done with ‘productivity’ as a personal fetish or hobby ” and promptly disappeared from 43F. A number of other blogs dedicated to the idea of productivity and GTD have stagnated.

Those of us who have gotten really excited about it in the past few years and blogged about it have ceased to do so, or at least slowed down to a trickle. While MF is a relative latecomer the “productivity” scene (although it has never really been just about productivity in and of itself in the first place), I let this site go stagnant, due partly to technical difficulties and partly to my own blocks. I’ve seen some other productivity-focused blogs start out all gung-ho and then fall by the wayside. Brett Kelly at Cranking Widgets announced last week that he is done with productivity blogging, and then over the weekend posted a rant about how GTD sucks. This past summer I helped launch work.life.creativity. with a bunch of other guys who saw an overall decline and therefore a need for something new in the productivity arena. Then we posted less and less frequently, and eventually became victims of that same decline ourselves. Most of us jumped on the GTD bandwagon in the past 3-4 years, but we are starting to get off and stay off. People aren’t getting back on. They’re straying into other systems, developing their own. Even my own personal productivity system has evolved quite a bit from “kosher” GTD to something a bit different. While I think that’s standard for anyone who has practiced it for a year or two, I don’t think GTD as a system is really “sticking” anymore.

I think the movement, if you can call it a movement, if you can call it that, is dead. That’s right: (GTD) Productivity (with a capital “P”) is dead. Read the rest of this entry »

The Importance of Capturing

Image: Illustration of inbox by Brad Blackman
Ideas are like dreams. There’s probably not a lot of difference what happens in the brain when you’re having a dreams or an inspirational flash. I’m not a neurologist, so I wouldn’t know. But I can imagine that something similar happens each time. (Ever noticed how many ideas are born out of dreams?) They have this much in common: these momentary flashes appear brightly for an instant, and then quickly fade into the subconscious, never to be found again when you need them or want to remember them.

There are a lot of important nuggets there in those flashes. Too bad they go away in a puff and they’re hard to recall. But they don’t have to be, if you find a way to capture those things and make a habit of doing that.

See, Capturing is one of the fundamental concepts of Getting Things Done. There’s so much “stuff” in our heads that escapes us when we need it. I can’t over-stress the importance of capturing things — whether it’s the need to call to make an appointment to get your tires rotated or if it’s an idea seed that could give way to a masterpiece.

It’s not so important how you capture things, but that you do capture them. The tools are as diverse as there are human beings, and everyone has their own way of doing it, their own preference. (We’ll discuss different capture tools in another post.) Just do it in a way that makes sense to you so you can act on it later. If it’s something that someone else will have to do later on, make sure you frame it in such a way that they’ll understand it, using clear, well-defined language.

Capture, then Process

Writing stuff down on a sticky note won’t do you much good if you never see it again. When you capture things, be sure to put them in a place where you can find it — enter it in your Trusted System to ensure it doesn’t get lost. Make sure you review it and process it so that it’ll get acted upon or otherwise filed into the right place.

If you’re using the standard GTD procedure, it should go like this, going by the Do, Defer, Delegate, and Delete method, taking care to file away what needs filing away:

  1. Capture each item on a separate sheet of paper, which goes in the inbox.
  2. At Review Time (daily, weekly, as often as necessary!) Process it and deal with it by asking one of the following questions:
    • Is it actionable and can it be done in less than 2 minutes? DO
    • If it can’t be done now, in what context can I do it? (At the grocery, while I’m running errands, while I’m in the studio, etc.) DEFER
    • Is this something I need to let sit on the back burner and re-evaluate later? If so, put it in your Tickler file for future evaluation, or set up some other reminder for yourself, whether it’s 6 days, 6 weeks, or 6 months from now. DEFER
    • Am I the right person to do it? If not, I should hand it off to the right person and follow up with them at some specified time. DELEGATE
    • Is it a piece of reference material that should go in a reference file or an idea file? (This would apply to phone numbers you need to have around or to doodles that might make their way into a piece.) FILE AWAY
    • If it doesn’t get answered by any of these questions, it’s probably trash and not worth hanging on to. DELETE

There’s one caveat, though: don’t overdo it to the point that it’s an obsession, and you’re so busy capturing things that you never ever do them or just feel so overwhelmed that you’ll never get to any of it. Moderation is key. Just be sure to periodically evaluate and purge captured items that are no longer going to be useful or doable. If you think you’re doing that, take a good hard look at it like my friend, productivity guru Patrick Rhone, suggests.

Remember, getting a handle on capturing (and then processing) is fundamental to staying on top of things. If you wait too long to process or review, you’ll end up with forgotten ideas and missed opportunities. I’ll be sharing some of my own capture tools in a few days.

Useful Lists for Artists to Keep

David Allen has a great collection of Cool/conevenient lists to have, and it’s a great jumping-off point for many people, especially those that are new to the whole idea of writing down everything that’s in your head.

While most of us probably maintain at least a few of these lists categories regardless of if they practice GTDeveryone has a wishlist and a list of important phone numbers somewhere — none of these really apply to artists, per se. So I’ve compiled a brief and by no means comprehensive list of some lists that might be useful for artists to maintain.

  • Photos to take
  • Materials to try/experiment with
  • Themes to explore in a series
  • Single subjects to explore
  • Techniques to try out
  • Classes/workshops/lectures/seminars to look into or sign up for
  • Art books to read
  • Galleries/museums/exhibits/shows to visit/see
  • Supplies to get (can go into an @context list such as “@art-store”)

Again, while this list is not comprehensive, it is a start to a nice variety of lists to keep. In fact, some of these are jumping off points for the more business-oriented aspects of the artist’s life. The galleries you visit might become galleries you want to pitch your work to and build relationships with. Taped to the inside cover of my sketchbook is an index card with a list of themes and subjects to experiment with, and my OmniOutliner Pro + Kinkless GTD file has a context list of photographs I want to take, along with a list of art books I want to read.

I’d love to hear other artist’s lists. Feel free to share in the comments.

Using To-Do Lists for Works in Progress

Art & GTD Part 4 of 5

We all use a workflow to some degree when we do our work, and having one written out is especially useful when you’re trying to get the hang of something new. The creative workflow is pretty intuitive to begin with and becomes more so the more you do it. You reach a point where you don’t need it written down anymore and you can do your thing without really thinking about it.

This is true for just about everybody, regardless of what they do. An experienced mechanic has his checklist/workflow in his head, and checking things off on a sheet of paper on a clipboard list is just a formality. An experienced artist does this as well. You don’t hear of anybody telling B.B. King to tune his guitar. He just does it. He doesn’t think about it.

However, it sometimes helps to write down a list of things to tackle on a given piece or a group of pieces. This list can include anything from finishing the highlights on a certain piece, or making an appointment with yourself to photograph your pieces for submission to a show.

Personally I don’t do it all that often these days, since I usually know what to do after about five minutes of studying a painting in progress. But sometimes as I finish a piece, I’ll write down on an index card:

  • Glaze some shadows beneath the people on the sidewalk
  • Scumble some highlights on the windows of the storefronts
  • Fix the perspective of the lines in the sidewalk

When I’m done, I’ll put a note in my tickler file to varnish the piece in 4 to 6 months once it’s completely dry.

Using a to-do list for current projects can help when you get stuck. This way you can take a break, come back to it later, and pick back up at the right place.