May 20, 2016

Mark’s Feed Bag, to be precise.

By Daniel

I gave a little mention to GTD on the NBA subreddit yesterday, noting how it would’ve made a big difference in college had I not been double-majoring in whiskey and pulled pork, and encouraged people to ask me questions about it. I got one this morning and I gave an answer in lieu of a blog post. Here it is.

Hey, if you have any spare time I’d love to talk to you about the book especially how you would do things differently back when you were studying. I haven’t read the book so I’m wondering if it will suit me.

Hey, sure. I’m on the train into work right now so I can give it a little thought. Like I mentioned, I was too concerned with keeping up appearances. GTD would’ve been a very useful tool, if I wasn’t too stubborn to take the advice. Good chance that I might’ve been. But I was doing a lot of stuff, going Greek, student council, freshman leadership council, intramural soccer, and then the actual studying for an engineering degree. My organizational system was pretty much nonexistent, if I happened to get a scrap of paper telling me when something was happening or due I kept it in my laptop bag, otherwise I tried to keep it in my head.

What that turned into was the laptop bag became a cluttered mess, and when I finished my classes for the day, I would know vaguely that there’s a lot going on, but I couldn’t think of anything specific that was due the next day, so I’d go to the fraternity house and shoot pool.

I give freshman me a lot of shit, honestly. But just having the capturing habit, to keep track of everything I have to do, would’ve given that year a fighting chance. As it was, I made a real mess of the year, lost my scholarship, and I never got a degree.

The book is honestly aimed at professionals that are engaged in what he calls “knowledge work”, where many times the end of a project is vaguely defined. But I believe it can be just as useful for a student, if that student is willing to admit that they don’t have all the answers to life yet and a self-help book is a totally acceptable thing to have.

I think these kinds of books are suitable for anyone. Even if you don’t end up using much of the content, understanding how a successful person organizes their day-to-day can always be useful. We all think differently, and drawing on the life experiences of others is a very handy shortcut for many things. When you get down to it that’s most of education, absorbing the experiences of others.

If I were doing it all over again, it would be a matter of capturing homework assignments, appointments, meetings, and so on in OneNote. For firm appointments (E.g., student council meeting), it would also go in Outlook. Between classes, I would consult my lists and make a determination on what needs to be the next task to complete. After all the classes for the day, do the same, determine what the most important thing is to do next. Sometimes the most important thing is to relax and shoot some pool, the system expects you to be aware of your mental energy remaining.

I kind of wish I could have another try at college but I make too much money now to take myself out of the workforce for years. If you’re going in, give yourself a fighting chance at succeeding.

Sorry for the wall of text, this is usually time I spend writing in my blog. Let me know if there’s anything else you’re curious about.