Getting Things Done… with Dolores.

For Christmas we got a gift certificate to a book store, and my husband and I split the money. I bought a book on writing Kanji and “Survival Japanese.” My Husband bought a book called “Getting Things Done” by David Allen. He isn’t especially interested in having a high powered career, but he has heard lots of good things about the book and was interested in what it had to say.

I was curious about the book, though I have a hard time taking self-proclaimed “Productivity Guru’s” seriously. When he used the word “workaday” in the first paragraph I nearly put the book down and never looked back. I also can’t read the title without adding “With Dolores” to the end of it, surely I can’t be the only one with this affliction.

Anyways, while most of the books advice is geared towards high powered individuals trying to get a handle on their careers I found that it has a fair amount of rather practical advice.

One thing that the author continually harps on is trust. He advises putting a sorting, filing, and calendaring system in place and keeping the lines between your categories bright. Things that aren’t time sensitive don’t go on the calendar, etc. He claims that once you start blurring the lines between your categories then they begin to lose meaning and then you can no longer trust your system resulting in stress.

Reading this has clarified something a habit that many people have that bothers me- setting your clocks fast. Lets be honest, it’s not fooling anyone, because every time you look at your clock or watch you remember that it’s really ten minutes fast. Maybe it tricked you in to being early for the first week or so but every time after that it just made you less and less sure what time it really is, and how much time you really had which only increases stress and makes you more likely to lie to yourself and believe that you have more time than you really have.

Basically what it boils down to is that you can’t trick yourself into doing things, and trying will only stress you out.
Being strictly honest with yourself all on its own may not make you more productive, but will certainly reduce stress.
Being honest with myself is something that I tend to struggle with, and I’ve tried many ways of tricking myself into changing my behavior. No matter how small of plate I use, my serving sizes never seem to decrease. No matter how early I set my alarm I still lay in bed until 8. No matter how many stars I put next to the ‘fold laundry’ item on my to do list I still find myself living out the laundry basket for a few days. All these habits seem to do is make feel bad about myself for not believing my own lies.
Maybe I should quit lying to myself. It may not get me out of bed earlier, but I’ll probably hate myself a little less for it.

Starfoxy is a fulltime caretaker for her two children.


  1. Although I’d never heard of Dead Like Me, I like the idea of Getting Things Done…with Dolores. I’d like someone named Dolores to come over and get her rear in gear around here.

    I also like your point about lying to ourselves. There are ideals worth striving for, and then there’s littering our lives with picky little goals, all of which we (I) think we (I) will somehow magically accomplish tomorrow. At some point it’s a relief to just set the alarm for eight and live out of the laundry basket and admit that certain things just aren’t up for change, at least at this time in my life. I can’t imagine I’ll really regret living out of the laundry basket on my deathbed.

  2. What meant to say, of course, is that I can’t imagine that on my deathbed I’ll regret having lived out of the laundry basket. Although by the time I’m on my deathbed I’ll surely be living out of the laundry basket. Might as well get there early.

    • LOL, Eve!

      Regarding the OP, I have also not had much success in changing my own behavior. On the topic specifically of keeping clutter under control, I was heartened by the book A Perfect Mess. Its authors argued that clutter can actually be beneficial in some cases in helping us make productive connections between things that we might not otherwise see. (It’s been a few years, so I might have forgotten their main point. I have a cluttered mind.) I also think it’s not difficult to argue that it’s easy to reach a point where straightening and prodding our lives into shape doesn’t give a payoff that’s worth the cost. But I might just think that because I’m a lazy bum. 🙂

  3. I love this. I’ve read or heard of every trick imaginable for changing habits, but they never worked for me either (especially the small plate thing). If it’s best to be honest with others, why with ourselves as well. I love the idea of trusting ourselves too. Thank you.

  4. If you’re at all interested in GTD, I highly recommend my favourite podcast: Back to Work with Merlin Mann at

    Start with the first episode, if you check it out, rather than his most recent. I’m not any kind of office professional, but this philosophy, I guess, has helped me become a more organised and creative person. I mean, look! I have a blog for goodness sake. And it has more than 4 posts! And I’m kind of proud of it! And I’d never have gotten around to it without Merlin and Dan Benjamin.

  5. This applies to me and my writing. I’ve tried every trick in the book to get myself to write more often and better (signing up to be a permablogger, for example).

    I haven’t done better on those two fronts, but I have noticed that I’m better able to see when my productivity is done for the day and walk away from my computer rather than, say, playing 20 more games of Free Cell and looking at FB a couple more times, pretending like I’ll write more.

    • Ha! I need to learn that. I can’t imagine walking away from the computer without checking Facebook a few (dozen) more times. Perhaps you’ll teach a class I can take (ideally, through Facebook, so I’ll be sure to attend)? 😉

    • oh yes, I’m very adept at pretending.
      Oddly enough what’s managed to help me the most was getting a tablet with lots of games on it. I read facebook and stuff on there too. It’s excellent for games and consuming/reading media but terrible for typing. Which means that when I want to write I go to my computer, and when I want to play or fiddle around I use the tablet. Getting a device that is primarily for play has turned my computer back into a tool instead of a toy. Kinda weird.

    • Me too. I have convinced myself that Spider Solitare “relaxes me” so I am ready to work more. I did like the “Getting Things Done” book, though, it helped me to not procrastinate the things that just take a couple of minutes to do and pile up (pay this bill, make that appointment, floss my teeth) and in that, I do feel really less stressed and able to do more.

  6. i’ve started Getting Things Done a couple of times. If only I could get it done. 🙂 It really does have some very good, very practical advice. And I aspire to putting its basic principles into practice. Specifically because I know how much stress I experience as a result of blurred boundaries and organizational/to-do practices that are all over the place. Bleh. Need to do better.

    The best thing I’ve read recently about changing habits is The Power of Habit which is more a non-fiction book about habit. It does discuss what it takes to effectively change habits, however, and it made perfect sense. That to change a habit you have to assess not only the behavior, but what reward that behavior offers so that you can substitute a different behavior that fulfills the same need/desire. Anyway. It was over all a great read.

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