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GTD with a Baby on Board

post relevantSubmitted by Nate Smith, Portland, OR

GTD is a popular buzz  term these days and it simply stands for "Getting Things Done." It is the brainchild of David Allen (http://www.davidco.com). All you new Dads out there already know this, and all you soon to be Dads are about to learn this; Getting Things Done with a newborn in the house is a challenge. But it's not impossible.

GTD is all about getting past all the obstacles in your day in order to complete all the tasks on your to-do list. Now it might sound insensitive to call your baby an obstacle (definitely do not let mommy hear you say that), but let's face it, that little bundle of joy sure does take up a lot of your time. Of course, it's a lot more legitimate to say you failed to get your chores done because you were taking care of your baby than it is if you were playing Grand Theft Auto. And if you were playing Grand Theft Auto with your baby, well that's just another thing we shouldn't tell mommy about.

Every good GTDer has some sort of to-do list and a system for managing it. Some people simply use a scrap of paper with a list of items, other people use a calendar system, and there are loads of iPhone apps that will keep your list neatly organized and synchronized. I for one love the OmniFocus app made by Omni Group. But however you keep track of your tasks, the fact remains that those to-do items aren't going to check themselves off.

As our day goes by we already have plenty of obstacles that can keep us from attaining our goals. Some are exterior, while others are interior. An exterior obstacle can be traffic on the drive home. You can't get much done while sitting in traffic. Although I do like to use drive time to make any phone calls that were on my to-do list. An interior obstacle can be as simple as procrastination or day dreaming (unless your like me and you put "day dream for 10 minutes" on your to-do list. Check!). All of these obstacles are manageable and we've been dealing with them for some time so we have figured out how to keep ourselves moving forward. We've got a good flow going.

A baby, on the other hand, is a totally different kind of obstacle. To be blunt your flow is about to be busted. Babies require almost constant attention. Of course you do have a teammate to help you take care of the baby, but a good father knows that paying attention to his wife's needs are as important as paying attention to his baby. So it can be tricky to get more than 5 minutes at a time to work on your important projects. If you're like me this can be really distracting and I end up not doing anything at all. It's a lot easier to peruse the internet than it is to be constantly interrupted while working on a...(hold on, gotta go change a diaper)...project that requires a lot of thought. But this is a new muscle you're just going to have to exercise. Get used to picking up where you left off and putting your trains of thought on hold.

You'll also notice that your to-do list is going to get a lot more crowded. If your list is anything like mine it is full of things you WANT to get done and things you HAVE to get done. The want-tos are usually set by you, while the have-tos are appointed to you by others like your boss or your wife (your other boss). I've noticed in my first week already that my once a week laundry chore has become almost a daily chore. I'm taking out the trash a lot more too. Another way a good GTDer breaks down his to-do list is by priority level. Of course your personal projects will be a lot more important to you than all those menial housekeeping tasks, but the thing is the dishes just HAVE to get done at some point.

I think it is very important to assign self imposed deadlines to any to-do items that don't already have a deadline attached to them. If I put "write blog post about explosive diapers" on my list but don't give it a deadline, it tends to sit there for days while other "more pressing" items are tended to. But if I write down that this article needs to be posted by a certain day and time, I'm much more likely to start working on it. Of course, in that scenario it is still up to you to hold yourself to your own standards.

It's also crucial to let your wife know what your priorities are. Usually when my wife asks me what's on my to-do list I'll say something vague like, "Just a bunch of stuff." Or even worse I'll say, "Not much." She will then start piling up chores for me to do. Inevitably I will have to do these chores. But if I start by telling her what I want to get done today, she will be much more understanding of my needs.

My final secret to Getting Things Done is, don't spend too much time reading about how to get things done. Just go do them! So with that I'll leave you with a final bullet point summary.

  • Make a list and check it twice.
  • Learn to start and stop on a dime.
  • Prioritize.
  • Set deadlines.
  • Communicate your priorities.
  • Just Do It!

Photo Credit: Bev Hawley babyloveletters.com

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