How GTD Rescued Me

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Jesus saved my soul. GTD saved my future. Really, it did.

When started working at church at 19 I had no office experience. And although in my melancholic, creative nature there is an obsessive and meticulous organiser within me, unfortunately I have historically had a nasty habit of never implementing a system because I could never get it ‘perfect’ enough.

From 19 through to 25, despite the public successes I had, the lack of organisation, mental clarity, and ability to lead and to delegate was killing me.

Let me paint the picture for you. I could start a massive youth initiative, but I couldn’t keep it organised. I could start a great TV programme, but I couldn’t continue running it after the start-up energy drained. I could sit and share great ideas, but couldn’t implement them. I could start many, many things, but I could never finish them.

It is a curse and a form of mental torment to have potential, be a thinking person, see beyond the normal things, but be hindered from getting what is in the nebulous of your potential within you, out of you.

After I got thrust into business it was by need and by chance that I discovered this article on Getting Things Done. I cannot begin to explain how after just one read it transformed my thinking. Years of struggling with organisation, leading myself and others, etc etc, I would estimate were cut down by two thirds in my life through reading the book by David Allen. How?

  1. Order. You no longer have bits of paper or to do lists in your mind. Everything goes into a system and you work according to its order. New tasks go in the inbox. Your next tasks go in the ‘Next Actions’ list, and so on. This gives you:
  2. Trust. Because the system has an order you can relax your mind because you trust the order to work. I now know that if you email me a task, it will get done. I no longer accept tasks that are given to me audibly – only written, because then I trust my system will handle it. What this does require, though, is:
  3. Immersion. You need to fully do the system and find ways to work it into all the tiny little areas of your life. Otherwise, you slip back by leaving emails in your inbox, or letters on the sideboard. But, if you do immerse yourself, then you get:
  4. Mental freedom. Your mind is RAM, not hard drive space. You store your tasks in your system, not your memory. So all the mental power you were using to remember (and often forgetting) what you need to do is now freed up to actually process what you need to do. This gives you:
  5. Authority. Because you have a system for delegation, for reporting, for getting things done, you have new found authority in every area of your life, which gives your more mental stamina and power to delegate with confidence.

I’ll be posting my thoughts and experiences about GTD, and my setup in particular, in the coming months. As for now I want to emphasise the need for a system to every reader, and especially every Christian who wants to be in ministry. God is a God of order  (1 Cor 14:40), and Jesus counsels us that no one should build what they cannot finish (Luke 14:28-30). Running your to-do list, diary and filing is a foundational part – and something I teach to everyone who works with me or wants to learn from me.

And by-the-by, if you’d like to attend a GTD workshop in Exeter (and the surrounding area), then let me know!

Updates

  1. David Allen (aka GTD Guy Himself!) retweeted this post, which is very special for me considering how much he has impacted my life this year. Props also to @mickmel  @pastorhudson   @creativescott  @singfiel  @chadbrannon  all for retweeting that retweet.
  2. There is now a hashtag on Twitter for an Exeter and surrounding area tweetup – #GeeTeeDeeUp – although as of writing this update, it’s just me going on about it :-)
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David Thomas
David Thomas

Scott, your articles get better and better. I’m now off to order the book and yes I’d be interested in attending a workshop.

Lynn O'Connor

Scott –I loved your enthusiasm for GTD as you implement it in your life. GTD has had something of the same impact upon me. I still get out of order, need to re-awaken my commitment, go back to basics, figure out when I’m not doing something because it no longer interests me, and should be removed from my next action lists, perhaps moved to my someday/maybe list or deleted altogether –GTD is a constant process, and for me, it reinvents itself routinely, or perhaps its that I reinvent GTD as molded specifically for me over and over. GTD does not… Read more »

Ron Hudson

The stress of ministry is often overwhelming. The commitments we make to people are often of life changing importance to them. Before GTD I made commitments that I fully intended to fulfill, but because I didn’t have a system to help me remember those commitments I was constantly failing people around me. Even more often though I carried a crippling weight of looming guilt, shame, and fear that I was forgetting to do something or that I was not following through on some project I had committed to. Even when I had fulfilled all my commitments; I couldn’t enjoy my… Read more »

Scott Newton Smith

Scott,

Great post. This kind of information is soooo needed with pastors. With 1500 pastors/month leaving the ministry due to burnout (among other things), the basic principles of GTD can make a world of difference.

God bless you in your ministry and marketing biz.

Blessings,
Scott Newton Smith
Co-Host, The Sermonators Podcast
“More Punch In Your Preaching, More Time In Your Life”

Joe Bassett

Scott, this is great stuff. I’ve implemented GTD for myself in 2009 and it has revolutionized our ministry at Worship Concepts Network. The impact on our productivity has been so profound that I’m regularly asked how I might suggest GTD be implemented in the churches we consult with for worship. Seeing as you have an in with David Allen (@gtdguy) maybe he would consider starting a Getting Ministry Done component with us being coaches for churches.

Anthony R. Pisani

Welcome to the world of GTD and ministry. You might be interested in Godward Toil, the blog I started in 2007 after GTD transformed the way I manage the life God has given me. http://www.biblicalproductivity.org/

I look forward to interacting with you, brother.
Tony

Nate St. Pierre

GTD has made a huge impact on my efficiency at work. I’ve yet to apply it to my personal life (and yes, I know it should all be combined), but I’m gonna get started soon. Great article and recommendation, thanks.

Dean
Dean

I, too, had my heart and life full of activity – Sr. Pastor, Police Chaplain, City Chaplain denominational leader, etc. I was drowning! I spied GTD in the local bookstore and read it through twice before implementing it. Never looked back!

I now have my 10-50,000 ft. Horizons in place and am loving being in ministry again.