Michael Brown

The Paradise Wars and Clark Ransom Thrillers

List Crazy

The last several years, I’ve been following David Allen’s Getting Things Done protocol.  It’s a way to manage the chaos of having too many things that you’d like to do, even when all those things are chosen by you–as Liststhey are in retirement.  GTD’s project management capabilities allowed me to retire early, move to San Miguel de Allende Mexico, move from a career of working for others’ goals to focusing on being a novelist.

However, even though I’m very grateful for its power (and the concomitant piece of software Omnifocus which allowed GTD principles to be realized), Getting Things Done, can have a heavy overhead: to make sure that tasks or projects weren’t dropped, GTD required constant review. Up to an hour a day could be spent in this review process. So, if time was short on a particular day, things you really wanted to do were dropped because a sort of low-grade panic would ensue if one didn’t meet all of ones GTD management tasks.

This overhead problem nagged and recently the nag became more persistent.  Yes, I knew that I wanted to work on rewriting my novel everyday, but I also wanted to learn how to have a more effective web presence, as well as to improve my Spanish. I also wanted  to take online courses in higher math, finish the six books I was in the middle of reading , manage daily tasks: bills, shopping, computer maintenance, etc, and still have some time to party.

So even though I did my daily, weekly, monthly, semi-annual, and annual GTD reviews, increasingly I felt like a deer in headlights staring at this long list. Anxiety was mounting about all the possibilities that lurked.

And wasn’t one of the joys of retirement supposed to be an escape from anxiety?

As anxiety increased, I spent more and more time finding excuses to turn on TV. I felt the familiar encroachment of depression in the wings, when somehow (junk mail, web browsing, TV–not really sure), I became aware of Michael Linenberger, another entry in the pantheon of gurus into time/goal/expectation management. Linenberger is author of Master Your Workday Now and  is a successor to the DayTimer philosophy of 30 years ago, Steven Covey of 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, and David Allen of Getting Things Done.  Linenberger includes his predecessors’ principles, but seems to understand the potential for a crippling anxiety that still lurks in those older systems.

Like David Allen, Linenberger has you keep a master list of everything that you think you need to do, would like to do, might like to do.  However, his contribution is to define your Now has having a week-and-a half horizon (instead of eternity).

This horizon is further divided into a list for what you must do Today and into a second list of what you must do or would really like to do in the next week and a half.  The Today list should be limited to no more than 5 actions, the next week and a half list to no more than 20 items.  As one navigates these three lists, (the Master List only reviewed once a week) you are satisfied that you are doing what you most need/want to do daily and that nothing is falling through the cracks.

The review process is rapid takes a couple of minutes a day, and maybe another ten minutes once a week.  On a daily basis you are never reviewing more than 25 items.  Quick.

Now some of you reading this are going to think: what a nerd!

My friends know that this time management passion (I won’t say obsession) is another side of my geeky nature.

I like to think of it as a compensation for the total lack of earth in my horoscope.  I’m Pisces with Scorpio Rising and Moon in Scorpio.  I don’t have a single planet in an earth sign.  I’m all water–emotion, imagination, dreams.  To get things done, I need a system like this.

If this resonates with any of you, take a look at David Allen and Michael Linenberger’s works.

Michael Linenberger’s Master Your Workday Now

David Allen’s Getting Things Done


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