Wednesday, April 25, 2007

GTD vs. TCB

By now you're probably familiar with the term GTD - short for Getting Things Done, a philosophy for approaching one's work/life productively that encourages its practitioner to collect his or her tasks in a central location (or "bucket") and deal with them in a systematic fashion. As my life has complexified and my available free time inches its way ever closer to zero, I've become more and more a devotee of GTD, which has proven to be an absolute lifesaver in my work life since taking on some additional duties that were not originally part of my position.

Sometimes however Getting Things Done is hard to do when you work at a service desk, where first and foremost one must be Taking Care of Business (or TCB*). Whereas GTD is a proactive principle of organization, TCB by its very nature must be reactive, as it usually involves spur-of-the-moment decision making and problem-solving that just won't wait, mostly because the person you're helping is standing right in front of you. To be fair, GTD espouses a "two-minute rule", whereby any task that would take you two minutes or less to complete should be done right on the spot, but whereas these are exceptions to the GTD method they are the rule in a TCB workplace.

The tricky part then of course is figuring out how to combine these two philosophies on the job. I've discovered that the best way to do this is designate GTD time away from the service desk, as even the most iron disciplinarian will find it hard to Get Things Done when being interrupted at unpredictable intervals. It has gotten to the point where I actually need to schedule an entire day off-desk every week for GTD purposes, and even then that still only seems to take care of a fraction of everything that I should be doing.

The funny thing is that I could probably spend the entire week downstairs in my office instead of manning my desk, which is the complete opposite of how this job was described to me originally by my former boss. In his defense the position was a little more circumscribed than it is now, but nevertheless it has always been the sort of job that would respond positively to the amount of extra work one could put into it above and beyond the daily expectations of TCB. Only now after a year and a half am I beginning to appreciate this interesting paradox and figure out how to make it work for me, but I suppose it takes that long to truly settle into any kind of job, doesn't it?

* For those of you who are fans of Elvis Presley, you may already know that TCB was a favorite saying of the King. TCB also happens to correspond to my initials: Thomas Charles Bruno. I've been fond of the mantra myself ever since I worked at a bakery/coffeehouse who derived endless mirth out of this coincidence, addressing me as "TCB" in as Memphis a drawl as he could muster. On one of my two (!) trips to Graceland I picked up a TCB coffee mug - it's one of my most treasured possessions.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

My personal favorite is WSD.