Being coached on Getting Things Done

What a day. Yesterday I spent 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. with Michael Dolan, a coach who works for David Allen’s company and helps busy people get their careers to the next level through David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” methodology which most of us learned through his book of the same name. For a taste of David Allen, you might see his interview with me from last year. David also just released his new book titled “Making It All Work.”

For those who read productivity sites like 43 folders or Life Hacker this methodology is well known to you.

At the urging of Lenn Pryor back when I worked at Microsoft I read David’s book and later went to one of his seminars with Lenn. Found it useful to step up my game and keep up with an increasing flow of stuff in my life.

Lately I’ve been feeling under water and have been getting distracted by life and Twitter and friendfeed and needed a recharge.

Also, I wanted to get back into the system before the Getting Things Done Summit, which starts in about two weeks.

Translated: I was off the wagon and my life was a bit of a mess and needed to take a fresh look at my life, where I was headed, and I needed a system to deal with the hundreds of emails and tons of Tweets, friendfeed items, blogs, facebook messages and wall posts, and all that.

I was apprehensive, though, for a while. I had never had a coach sit down and look through my life and my email.

Would he admonish me? Would he find some new way to torture me?

Turned out my apprehension was misplaced.

We started the morning with a little interview that I filmed. I was expecting to do a lot more videos during the day, but turned out that I had so much work to do to get me more productive that we focused only on that.

So, what happens during such a coaching?

First Michael did a session where he reminded me of the basics of the Getting Things Done methodology. A refresher course.

Then he took out a yellow pad and had me write one thing at a time that I could think of that I needed to do.

Things like:

**Talk to Seagate about sponsorship next year.
**Buy power supply for camera (I left mine in a hotel in Davos).
**Plan next month’s interviews.
**Get oil changed on car.

We ended up with a stack of about 50 of these before I started running out of things that I could think of to do.

Then he customized my Outlook’s task system. He went so fast that I didn’t take good notes about what he did, but when we’re both at the summit we’ll sit down and talk about some of the changes he made so we can get them on video. But the things he did are pretty similar to what I’ve seen many people report on the web about how to set up Outlook for GTD.

It’s weird, I’m embarrassed to admit he taught me a TON about how Outlook works. Why am I embarrassed? Because I’ve been using Outlook for more than a decade and just hadn’t discovered all sorts of weird ways that it can be customized to build task lists.

Anyway, I have a ton of work to do to continue what I learned yesterday, so we’ll talk more about how this changed my life in the upcoming weeks.

46 thoughts on “Being coached on Getting Things Done

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  2. Robert,

    Check out an app called “Remember the Milk.” They have a great iPhone app that allows you to have an “app badge” that show the number of tasks you still need to complete today. Also syncs with Google, has hotkeys and ton of great, geeky stuff you’d like.

    All the best

  3. Robert,

    Check out an app called “Remember the Milk.” They have a great iPhone app that allows you to have an “app badge” that show the number of tasks you still need to complete today. Also syncs with Google, has hotkeys and ton of great, geeky stuff you’d like.

    All the best

  4. does anyone know if there are any coaches based in the UK, London? I love organising my organised inbox…

  5. Robert,

    Great to read your post! I will watch the video as an inspiration for my ongoing struggle with getting things done… I will use GTDinbox Gmail application and GTDagenda as my main tools. And I will get back to basic and start taking notes with a pen… ;) It is called Pulse Smartpen and you write your notes on a special paper with “dots” and you could record mental audio notes at the same time as you write. David Allen’s new book, Making It All Work: Winning at the Game of Work and Business of Life is on my purchasing list.

    Is it a thread on FriendFeed?

  6. Robert,

    Great to read your post! I will watch the video as an inspiration for my ongoing struggle with getting things done… I will use GTDinbox Gmail application and GTDagenda as my main tools. And I will get back to basic and start taking notes with a pen… ;) It is called Pulse Smartpen and you write your notes on a special paper with “dots” and you could record mental audio notes at the same time as you write. David Allen’s new book, Making It All Work: Winning at the Game of Work and Business of Life is on my purchasing list.

    Is it a thread on FriendFeed?

  7. Further confirmation that David Allen Co’s target market is to the high end executive, or to average guys with deep corporate pockets.

    David Allen’s books–and I own and value them all–are simply his business cards.

  8. Further confirmation that David Allen Co’s target market is to the high end executive, or to average guys with deep corporate pockets.

    David Allen’s books–and I own and value them all–are simply his business cards.

  9. Hey there Robert. If I may – a little bit of shameless promotion of some great resources related to your post:

    1) If you want help setting up Outlook the way I did for Robert, check out our GTD Outlook Whitepaper at http://www.davidco.com/store/catalog/GTD-and-Outlook-2007-US-Letter-Size-p-16426.php

    2) Join us at the GTD Summit next month in San Francisco! Here’s a link with a video invite from David Allen: http://www.gtdsummit.com/

    3) GTDTimes (http://www.gtdtimes.com/) is a great place to RSS for ongoing ideas, support, and inspiration on all things GTD

  10. Hey there Robert. If I may – a little bit of shameless promotion of some great resources related to your post:

    1) If you want help setting up Outlook the way I did for Robert, check out our GTD Outlook Whitepaper at http://www.davidco.com/store/catalog/GTD-and-Outlook-2007-US-Letter-Size-p-16426.php

    2) Join us at the GTD Summit next month in San Francisco! Here’s a link with a video invite from David Allen: http://www.gtdsummit.com/

    3) GTDTimes (http://www.gtdtimes.com/) is a great place to RSS for ongoing ideas, support, and inspiration on all things GTD

  11. What you really need is an assistant. A professional that keeps your professional life on target and in control.

    Although technology has delayed the time it takes for an executive to require organizational help, at some point really busy people need help to keep things in perspective, organized and moving forward.

  12. What you really need is an assistant. A professional that keeps your professional life on target and in control.

    Although technology has delayed the time it takes for an executive to require organizational help, at some point really busy people need help to keep things in perspective, organized and moving forward.

  13. Robert, why are you back to Outlook? I know you dabbled with using Mac OS X as your primary OS, but that must not have stuck if you’re finding yourself in Outlook for email / task management. Having switched to the Mac myself, I can honestly say that I’m glad to be rid of Outlook – it’s seductive in that it seems to have everything that is needed in one app, but for me that’s also its biggest downfall; I could never get Outlook to perform fast enough to keep up with my thought processes (and I’m certainly no brainiac as my family and friends will be quick to point out).

    Thoughts?

  14. Hey, guy…still got a pic of you and me on your Red Couch? Nice to have our paths crisscrossing. Kathryn and I both watched your interview with Michael a few minutes ago, and she says, “Scoble’s a really good guy!” I won’t argue with my wife. Delighted things worked/working for you. – David

  15. Robert, why are you back to Outlook? I know you dabbled with using Mac OS X as your primary OS, but that must not have stuck if you’re finding yourself in Outlook for email / task management. Having switched to the Mac myself, I can honestly say that I’m glad to be rid of Outlook – it’s seductive in that it seems to have everything that is needed in one app, but for me that’s also its biggest downfall; I could never get Outlook to perform fast enough to keep up with my thought processes (and I’m certainly no brainiac as my family and friends will be quick to point out).

    Thoughts?

  16. Hey, guy…still got a pic of you and me on your Red Couch? Nice to have our paths crisscrossing. Kathryn and I both watched your interview with Michael a few minutes ago, and she says, “Scoble’s a really good guy!” I won’t argue with my wife. Delighted things worked/working for you. – David

  17. Glenn: every time I re-read the book, or take the class, or get coaching, I pick up another piece of it or so. It doesn’t all work for me either. I think with things like this you take from them what you can. Now the problem is that Michael showed me that GTD is one of those things that you need to do all the way to get a real payoff from. Having a coach sit down and reorganize your Outlook or Lotus Notes and help you really learn the program is better than the book. The info is in the book, but it’s a bit difficult to put it all into practice. That said, I have a ton of stuff to process already and it is very tough.

  18. Glenn: every time I re-read the book, or take the class, or get coaching, I pick up another piece of it or so. It doesn’t all work for me either. I think with things like this you take from them what you can. Now the problem is that Michael showed me that GTD is one of those things that you need to do all the way to get a real payoff from. Having a coach sit down and reorganize your Outlook or Lotus Notes and help you really learn the program is better than the book. The info is in the book, but it’s a bit difficult to put it all into practice. That said, I have a ton of stuff to process already and it is very tough.

  19. It really works for you? Maybe I’m too unorganized. I read the book, but it didn’t click with me. I had a hard time seeing how to get from concept to execution of the GTD formula. How did you cross the chasm? Is the seminars/private sessions critical? I’ll take all the guidance I can get.

    Thanks,

    Glenn
    @ggruber66

  20. It really works for you? Maybe I’m too unorganized. I read the book, but it didn’t click with me. I had a hard time seeing how to get from concept to execution of the GTD formula. How did you cross the chasm? Is the seminars/private sessions critical? I’ll take all the guidance I can get.

    Thanks,

    Glenn
    @ggruber66

  21. I was coached over the phone about a year ago using computer sharing and loved it. Most of GTD is intuitive and simple-I had to be coached to not think complicated.

  22. I was coached over the phone about a year ago using computer sharing and loved it. Most of GTD is intuitive and simple-I had to be coached to not think complicated.

  23. Great post. We all struggle with time management and gaining efficiencies with your productivity tools like Outlook’s Task and Calendar is certainly helpful. Keep on Keepin On Mr. Scoble.

    Matt Gentile, Director, PR and Comm
    CENTURY 21

    Sender-Channel-Message-Receiver (SCMR)
    Same as it Ever Was

  24. Great post. We all struggle with time management and gaining efficiencies with your productivity tools like Outlook’s Task and Calendar is certainly helpful. Keep on Keepin On Mr. Scoble.

    Matt Gentile, Director, PR and Comm
    CENTURY 21

    Sender-Channel-Message-Receiver (SCMR)
    Same as it Ever Was

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