I must admit GTD lives up to the hype. It has definitely improved my workflow and helped me keep track of tasks. Several of the principles of GTD I was already doing but I didn't take it far enough or clearly organize them. I've found that GTD makes keeping track of things easy to do and easy to review to stay on track. I'm now a believer in the Cult of GTD.
The first day I did my collection was daunting. I had a room full of "junk" piled on the floor. Processing it took three days! Once I had finished, the feeling of having EVERYTHING filed away and organized was euphoric. I've never been so organized in my life. When I was going through my stuff I found tax information and other odd things from the early nineties. Stuff I had been carting around with me for over a decade and a half in an amorphous pile for no good reason. I never wanted to attack it before but this time I forced myself to. It's an almost spiritual event processing the first time. It turned into a trip down memory lane.
Here is my advice for those contemplating GTD: Just Jump in. Don't get caught up in making the perfect workflow or setup. You can tweak it as you go. You will figure out the tools you need as you become familiar with your new workflow.
Picking the right tools can be tricky. You want something reliable, simple and that works for your needs. Spend a bit of time playing with the various options, but to get started, just work with good old paper and then convert to digital tools later or pick a simple digital tool (note taking app or list maker) and dive in. I ended up using iGTD for OS X and while it started out a bit rocky the app has stabilized and has turned into a great tool.
For most software professionals home/work has fuzzy edges. I treat contexts not as physical locations but rather as mind sets (modes of operation). Home is when I'm focussing on things I want to do at home. Work is when I want to spend time getting things done for work. This has helped me make sense of my contexts and keep them contained.
I suggest the following starter contexts (add or remove contexts as you work out the kinks):
- School (if you are taking classes or working on a degree)
- Shopping (could merge with Errands but I find its nice to keep them separate)
Also, get religious about checking your hard landscape (calendar) every morning and processing your inbox periodically (once a week minimum). If you don't, you find things pile up and your brain starts to juggle things again. The point is to keep stuff out of your brain and in a trusted system so use it!
One last suggestion, always keep a capture tool with you at all times. This can be a pad of paper, journal, pda, or even call your answering machine with your cell phone and leave voice memos. Trust me it helps. You don't want to forget something you thought of when out and about. For me I commute an hour (podcasts are your friend) and I keep my Palm on the passenger seat in case I think of something and record voice memos that I process when I get to my office. I also keep a file folder in my bag that I put physical items I collect when I'm out. This is my "To Go Inbox".
Good luck with Getting Things Done.