Using the “Getting Things Done” Method on the 200 Projects Project

By Chris McGinty

In the introduction to what I’m calling “200 Projects” for the moment, I discussed John Cleese’s method of staying longer in the state of play to come up with the idea that isn’t obvious. He’s not the only person I’ve ever heard discuss this method, and it’s a method I’ve used many times over the years to generate ideas. There is some difference of opinion as to what to do with the ideas once you have them though. David Allen suggests writing all the ideas down with a plan for a time to follow up if you believe the idea worth doing. Scott Adams believes in immediately dropping any idea that didn’t give you a gut reaction, and that writing down bad ideas gives them a sense of importance that they don’t deserve. Both are methods of clearing your thoughts of baggage, but one engages with each idea while the other discards ideas quickly. One increases you Hand Size while the other discards down to five cards at the end of turn… sigh. 2020 was supposed to be so much better.

Let’s discuss David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” method for a moment, because I think that Nathan and me making our lists of project ideas more closely resembles his method. While we were possibly looking for new ideas, in a lot of ways we were just emptying our brains of all the ideas that we have accumulated. David Allen believes in capturing ideas, deciding whether or not they are presently worth pursuing, and then scheduling a follow up. This follow up can be a week or two in the future, or it could be put off indefinitely. The important part of his method is that he writes everything down. He reviews all of his notes. If he feels an idea might be worth pursuing, now or in the future, he writes down a plan of action including the next step.

Beyond that it’s a lot to do with scheduling your time in a reasonable manner. He talks about things like not over scheduling, and not taking on too much at once… I really should pay more attention.

I think the reason I thought to write out all of my project ideas as blog posts is because it would give me a chance to do the planning part of everything, even planning the ideas that are probably dumb. If I journal any work we do toward the ideas on Nathan’s list and my list, it’ll give me further writing material, and a chance to work out the next steps.

There is a concept that’s become known as a bucket list. I remember when I was a teenager that there was this guy who was considered successful in business. He had made a list when he was young of 100+ things he wanted to do before he died. The news story was because he wanted to walk on the wing of a plane, and he’d made the arrangement to do so. I wish I could remember who it was, because Google is failing me on this one. I think his list included important things and fun things and he’d done 90+ of those items at the time of the story. He clearly didn’t achieve number 103, which was “Be easily searchable on Google even if Chris forgets your name.”

In a way, I think that David Allen creates an ongoing bucket list that includes a lot of stuff that he never intends to get to, has given himself permission never to get to them, but that he has logged and filed in case he does. This is partially how I see these ideas. If they aren’t worth pursuing then we can log them and give ourselves permission to get back to them later if we want, but that we always have at least the next step planned.

On another level, I see these projects as a way to streamline our lives and operations by accomplishing as many of these items as we reasonably can. As I go along, you’ll notice that many of my ideas had to do with expanding our technology base in order to more easily produce content. When Nathan and I started discussing our lists, it turns out that Nathan was also thinking along those lines. What do we want to do? Spend money! When do we want to spend it? As fast as technology!

In a way, I also see these project ideas as a business plan to be unfolded by taking the next steps. I see no problem with the idea of using these bigger projects as a means by which to create our To Do Lists. Nathan said that in a couple of the cases he’d already taken the first steps to make the ideas reality. In that regard, I almost view the list of projects as the project. We’re just deciding what parts are the most important, and which activities to do next.

As a quick aside, one thing that David Allen has said is that if you have a task that will take two minutes or less to do then don’t list it for a follow up, just go and do it and then come back to your review.

Just from the first few project ideas that Nathan and I discussed tonight, I think we could easily be busy for weeks or months trying to complete those projects. We do need to decide what is most important to start with though. In the meantime, I’ll be writing. It’s what I do, even if I haven’t been doing it so much lately. I think that if I post my thoughts about the project ideas up to the blog (and if Nathan wants to do the same) it’ll give Nathan and me an easy reference when we’re looking for something productive to do.

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Chris McGinty is a blogger who is getting things done. Suuuure… some of those things were things he meant to get done back in September, but he had to get fed up enough with his job to finally go to part time. I mean, he didn’t have to, but it probably has helped.

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