Posts Tagged ‘Getting things done’

Getting Things Done

March 18, 2010 3 comments

Getting Things Done

March 18th | 2010

Getting Things Done

Software developers know what it’s like to manage a seemingly endless number of tasks. They can range from customer requests for new features to a new bug that showed up in QA testing, or a new technology that we would really like to start reading up on.

How do we manage all our shifting priorities and tasks? Well, according to David Allen in his book Getting Things Done, the answer is “Not very well.” He pinpoints the natural planning that most of us do on a daily basis and labels it Reactive Planning. This means that as we aren’t actually planning ahead, we are in constant reaction mode trying to play catch-up. All the things we need to do are held in our brains and we can’t consistently recall them when needed. As a result we work in crisis mode, constantly procrastinating and addressing issues only when it becomes absolutely necessary.

Allen’s core thesis is that instead of keeping these things in our heads we should address items as they come up. Every time we get an email or remember a feature that should have been included in the latest release, we should deal with it at once. This doesn’t mean drop everything and work on it immediately, but at very least identify the next actionable step. If it’s something that’s not actionable, then place it on the backburner list to be reviewed. Something like “learn French” might be placed on the long term list, while “Send a calendar invite for next week’s meeting” clearly is actionable and should be placed on a list to be completed in the near future. Furthermore, we should never attempt to hold things in our brains. Everything should be written down so we don’t have to depend on the brain to remember it all.

While I can’t say I’ve implemented the entire Getting Things Done methodology, I have taken some basic steps and have already benefitted from the payoff. Simply writing down all the things you need to do and the smallest actionable step you must take, as Allen recommends, is immensely satisfying and has some tangible results.

There are a lot of interesting blogs that embrace Allen’s ideas. Lifehacker and 43folders are two interesting ones have started reading since I picked up Allen’s book, and I highly recommend both.

Ben Yoder is a Senior .NET Developer at Thycotic Software, an agile software services and product development company based in Washington DC. Secret Server is our flagship password management software product.