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.