Saturday, September 22, 2007

Am I Still Getting Things Done?


I first read Getting Things Done back in June and have worked hard to implement this system in my day-to-day life. I'm happy to report that I am still sticking with it.

I'm still a subscriber to, despite their recent decision not to offer free service any more. That was a disappointing decision for many. However I decided it was worth $5 a month for a little while just so I could keep up my organizational momentum. I am very hopeful that there will be other productivity software specifically designed for GTD available soon. I know of one person who is actually working on that. I of course would strongly prefer to pay FREE for an online service or even purchase a software package just once. In 6 more months I'll reevaluate my options and see if Vitalist is still worth it compared to the certain multitude of GTD options that will no doubt be available to me by then.

What I like about GTD: I love having every single thing I need to do, now or even in the far future, all captured in the same place (Vitalist, for me). It's been difficult for me to remember to capture my To Dos at the very moment they occur to me, but since there is a self-reinforcing positive consequence to doing so, I'm getting better at remembering to do that. I'm so used to having everything in one spot that I get irritated with myself when I fail to capture a necessary action.

What I don't like: well....can't really think of anything. Like all productivity systems, you get out of it what you've put into it. GTD seems to align with the way my brain works.

On a somewhat related note--as I've been implemeting GTD and accomplishing some of my decluttering goals, I have discovered that I actually LIKE keeping things in order. Some background may be necessary here. I have never been what you might call a neat-freak. I do have minimum standards of cleanliness of course. But clutter has not really bothered me in a profound way. Well, guess what? It bothers me now. This has presented some problems as I also share a house with several also-non-neat-freaks. I am trying to share with them a new love of mine: empty space.

This may sound amusing to all of you naturally tidy folks out there, but there is something inside of me (nature or nurtured--I don't know) that wants to think every horizontal space in my life--bookshelves, countertops, tables, beds--needs to be holding something vitally important. Except that feeling inside me is dying because I'm killing it off consciously and brutally! Here's my strategy: whenever I pick up something off the floor or clear off the counters while loading the dishwasher, I simply gaze upon that small bit of empty space for a brief second and enjoy it. Teeny tiny lego on the floor--when I remove it, there is a teeny tiny space of clear, open happiness that had been hidden underneath it. Move a few more things--more clear space! It has become somewhat of an addiction, this revealing of empty neglected space underneath all the stuff, one piece of stuff at a time. So I take a moment's pleasure in the clear space and that encourages me to move on to the next thing.

Of course, if you walked into my house at this very moment, you would see quite clearly how far I have to walk along this particular path! But I've got to admit it's getting's getting better all the time!


Deb said...

I know what you mean about enjoying empty space. I love empty space. I look around and wonder what more I can get rid of.

My parents were slobs, so I never developed the precise habits of organization until I was an adult. I only started thinking about what that meant when I was about 29 and my husband insisted (it's wrong to have your stuff constantly cluttering up someone else's life, getting in their way...I had honestly not grasped this simple fact). I realized that it requires a habit of a certain kind of attention, focusing on appreciating one's immediate environment, which I just had never learned.

Also, I realized that I had spent my 20s acquiring stuff. But by the time I hit 30, the only stuff I wanted to acquire were things like shelves and cabinets, better to store the stuff. Now (at 38) I am totally stuff-phobic, because it ruled my life for so long, and it gets in the way of getting done what I need to get done.

I think, actually, this is a kind of natural process that I would partly have gone through even if I had grown up with organized people. When you're in your 20s, you're suddenly economically powerful because you've started working, and just that simple fact is such a RUSH that you want to go out and acquire things with your new money. I took real pleasure in these purchases, because they were concrete proof of my productivity. I'd look around me and think not "What a mess!" but "I bought all this stuff."

Now, that feeling has dissipated, along with the fact that I really notice (it hurts!) when I step on my kids' stuff. (Polly Pocket has really sharp little fingers and toes.) I've taught them to be fairly organized, and they're definitely the better for it, and our home schooling routine is DEFINITELY the better for it. Plus, interestingly, while they really like the stuff they have (it's theirs), they're not really focused on acquiring more. So, I'm pleased.

Rational Jenn said...

Maybe we were raised in the same house and never met. Hi!

My parents aren't slobs, per se, but just very, very knick-knacky. My mom is the collectible collector and my dad is the book collector. I was taught from a very early age that Books are Good and that More Books are More Good and that one mustn't ever get rid of a Book or It will be Sad.

You know, you're so right about my 20s (it's like you were there!). We had good jobs and needed Stuff and bought Stuff. George Carlin has a very funny bit about Stuff, btw. Then we went through our Stuff Organizer acquisition phase, which happened simultaneously with babies and all of their requisite stuff. And now, at nearly 37 (don't tell!), all I want to do is get rid of it ALL. My brothers-in-law took a 9 month trip around the world a few years ago and sold nearly all of their stuff. I was and am still jealous.

Now I hate the stuff, but my husband isn't quite there yet. I'll point him to your comment "it requires a habit of a certain kind of attention, focusing on appreciating one's immediate environment" to see if that makes sense to him. The habit I'm cultivating is my love of little empty spaces, which, when aggregated, reveal delightfully large empty spaces.

Do you have any advice on handling getting rid of kids' stuff? My son just can't stand it--and I don't blame him really. We put together donation boxes every so often, and I always include things of mine to donate as well as outgrown (but still usable) or duplicate toys. I want to be respectful of his things--I would never get rid of a cherished toy or stuffed friend--but he still gets upset. It is getting better though. We will have a toy purge soon--to make room for the toys they will get at Christmas. And that's another thing! Any thoughts on how to get my family in on the not-so-much-stuff-please plan?

Part of the reason I'm having this stuff revelation now is because I know I will need to be more organized on the homeschooling front as my son gets older. I hope that seeing me get down to essentials only and getting better about keeping things neat will help my kids develop those habits now.

Thanks for your comments!

Deb said...

About getting rid of kids' stuff:

The strategy I've employed is that I get a nice big box and, after they've gone to bed, purge a bit every six months or so, taking away stuff that they've outgrown or junky things that they've never played with (McDonald's toys, etc). I put the box in the attic. They don't, typically, even notice that anything is gone. Then, about a year or so after I've done, this, I donate the box to friends or put the stuff on Freecycle. Occasionally I've had them help with this at this point, when they no longer have any emotional attachment to the stuff.

One web site/email list you might really like is Cindy has a rich approach to frugal living, and her mantra is "Do, don't buy."

Make sure you dust all of those empty spaces with something that smells nice. Then point out how nice it looks with your husband.

Deb said...

I mean, point it out TO your husband.

It might also look nice with your husband there, but that's not exactly the point.

Rational Jenn said...

Thanks for the tips, Deb! I don't know...maybe if I flatter him with how nice the empty spaces look with just him in them.....might work!

I love the "Do, don't buy" approach and I've had success with getting some of our family on the plan as far as gift-giving. None of them live in town and I'd rather they spend their money coming to see us or when we go up there....but it's a compulsion, it seems. Something I need to work on, too.

Thanks again for your comments!