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Another GTD Plus - Moving offices made much easier

This week my wife and I decided to move our home office downstairs, primarily for increased convenience - easier access to in-baskets, chances for opportunistic workflow processing, closer connection to our daughter's activities, etc. Interestingly, we've both adopted David Allen's Getting Things Done methodology, and we were really surprised at how relatively easy this move was compared to others we've done.

Why? Well, the basics of any move consists of the physical mechanics of moving things to the new space, including disassembling desks, unloading filing cabinets, packing books, packing up the computers, etc. That part, while tiring, is moderately brainless. However, without a system like GTD, there's usually a significant amount of mental stress involved as well, especially around "stuff" (i.e., artifacts with associated un-made decisions). In other words, in addition to the exhausting physical part of the move, we also had to do some collecting, processing, deleting, filing, etc. (see Allen's workflow diagram - or Doug Johnston's variation). Instead, with our systems up and running smoothly, there are literally no loose ends - everything was in our systems, and our collection points were empty, which enabled us to focus on the purely mechanical process, without the added psychological weight and resistance.

This is related to the point David Allen makes in his seminars about the relief people feel when preparing for vacation - a sense of control that comes from being on top of everything (i.e., having a complete inventory, and no "pending" files or in-basket items). As I explained in Is GTD the "Extreme Programming" of Time Management?, adopting GTD means you get that sense of relief at least once per week (in the weekly review), and often daily.

(For the curious, I've uploaded and annotated a picture of my desk in the new office on flickr.)

Related threads from the davidco forums
  • Moving Offices: Adopting GTD before a move has these rewards:
    1. a list of reminders rather than a pile of them,
    2. phone numbers entered rather than sitting in a pile or a file,
    3. most likely a reduction of total mass to move because you may encounter duplicates and get rid of the extras, and
    4. as you work you will think of projects that you want to embark on after the office move and if you have kept a record of them and how to proceed on them you may find that you are part-way to completion before you have even changed spaces

  • big move coming up:
    Moving is a great opportunity to pare down and organize. But if you run short of time the temptation will be to just pack up all the junk as is and stuff it wherever it will fit in the new location. So start paring down ASAP.
  • Please suggest the first action for this project!: Talks about GTD's advantages for processing the new space, if it's full of someone else's stuff.

Sidebar: Extreme Programming & GTD: Releases

This topic (moving) made me think of an XP similarity to GTD - releases. In traditional software development models (the waterfall), creating a release (e.g., version 4.0) is a big deal, involving lots of preparation, testing, getting together documentation, etc. However, following the Extreme Programming model makes it possible to release basically whenever it's convenient. The team is always working to keep the software ready at any point - helped by nightly builds and tests, along with the other XP practices.

The analog to GTD is that one is always ready for whatever's coming your way: Move the office tomorrow? Great! (Nothing much to do except do the physical move - you have very few loose ends.) Major project (read opportunity) dropped in your lap this morning? Fabulous! (You're ready to re-evaluate how this changes your work world because you know everything you've committed to.) As Jason Womack puts it - in life shift happens, and it's our responses to change that determine how gracefully we meet life's challenges. I've found Allen's work helps me be more agile, (and more relaxed), which helps me ultimately be more in tune with life' surprises.

Reader Comments (4)

What are you ready for?

I realized a while back, I may not always be sharing information on "how to get things done." In the mix is information about, "how to get ready to get things done."

Recently, a client asked me, "Don't you ever do nothing?"

Maybe I was tired...maybe it was a long day...maybe I've heard that question one too many times; my answer was, "I don't have time to sit back and watch what is happening...happen. I've got to do something."

Moving an office, writing a novel, spending time with loved ones...I'm still not convinced it's really about "doing" those things as much as it is getting ready to do them. I think that brings the most awareness/joy.

February 13, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJasonWomack

Jason: 1) I have to think about what you've said, and 2) I don't know if I'll understand it even after I *do*...

February 13, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell


Cool post...I think. It gets at the deeper current of "why be organized" in the first place.

In between the lines, I read that you two were able to handle a potentially *interesting* event (move, change, new routines, etc) with minimal impact. Focusing on an outcome, you set up a work-space that has space to work. (I love the annotated picture you posted!)

When I first read your article, and started asking myself, "Why is this a big deal? Why is this important? (and, most importantly) why is this so cool?"

My own answer was [taking total editorial liberty here...]: because you were ready, you went from "ready to get organized" to "working in the organizationed space" quickly, simply, efficiently.

So, probably not a whole more than meets the eye to my post...other than it caused me to really re-think the whole "Big P" thing:


The end of my post reflects an interest I've been researching and expanding lately.

Matching intent to action is powerful...you did it with an office, just imagine where else you can apply those methods!

February 13, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJasonWomack

Thanks, Jason. Deep stuff to think about, as usual.

> The end of my post reflects an interest I've been researching and expanding lately.

I'm looking forward to hearing more about it on your [ blog | http://www.davidco.com/blogs/jason/ ].

> Matching intent to action is powerful...you did it with an office, just imagine where else you can apply those methods!

Ahh. I'm starting to get it. Thank you.

February 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

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