I recently started a new job here at the Foundation and it’s a bit like other internal transitions I’ve made in my career. There are innumerable transition tasks–meetings for getting up to speed, relationship hand-offs, getting dropped into new projects and processes, new team-members, etc. It can be overwhelming, mostly because the old duties don’t go away with the start of the new job. So there’s everything you were struggling to stay on top of before, plus all this new stuff to stay on top of, plus there is a large brain burden for trying to make sense of all the new stuff, not just keep track of the tasks. Oh, and you have to hire your replacement.

I’ve always thought that the biggest benefit of a good getting things done (GTD) system is the mental relaxation that comes from knowing you’re not forgetting things. My brain is one that cycles on things even when I don’t want it to, so I’ve really loved not having to spin on ‘am I forgetting something I’m supposed to do?’ In this transition there are a ton of new timelines and tasks I can’t lose track of. Budgets need to be done, priorities set, meetings to attend. But the best part is there is a new level of organizational strategic thinking–I get to design the strategy for my department and lead the process for our Theory of Change. And my GTD system is really helping me save the brain space for that processing. Now whether I come up with any good ideas is a different story, but it’s great to feel like I’m not spending all my cycles on a mental to do list and starving the part that could be cycling on the really fun, intellectually challenging work.

My GTD list is in Omnifocus. I haven’t fundamentally changed my GTD process, but I find I have tweaked it a bit in the transition:

  1. I’ve upped the frequency of my reviews. I look at everything more often because so much of it is new. I’ve gone from one weekly review to multiple-times-a-day mini-reviews.
  2. I created a new perspective called “Blocked”. This shows me things I’m waiting on other people for where the due date has passed. On short deadlines I need a place to look and see quickly who hasn’t gotten me what I need to move forward. This helps me with gentle nudging…
  3. I have created waiting contexts for new people I’m relying on. I mostly relied on a general ‘Waiting for someone’ context, but I now find it helpful to call out key people who are supplying me with things I need.
  4. I’m using due dates more than I have in the past. I’m finding that with all the new stuff it helps to put a hard date on it even if it’s not actually due that day. Perhaps I’ll stop doing this once the short-term stuff settles down, but for now it helps.

But I think the most important thing is that I entered this transition period with an established and working GTD system. I worked hard over the past year to get things to where they are. I was able to tweak my processes, rather than trying to learn a new system at the same time I was dealing with all the other new things. So my advice is this–the best time to get your GTD system working for you is now, not when you really need it most. You never know when transition will happen, so be ready for it!