I have done something truly unique this winter: I consumed a longer piece of content multiple times. I do not know where that came from, nor where it will go, but it occured to me a day or two ago how exceptional that really is for me.
No less so because the content - essentially a recorded seminar - was in audio form, competing with all my podcasts for whatever listening time I have. That sounds like a very easy battle to lose on paper. But in actual life, it turned out pretty nice to have something to fall back to whenever the regular podcast list ran out of new things. A sort of way to prevent random additions of new things from all directions. Out of new content? Do not go browsing, just press play on this instead.
So what have you been listening to?
Getting things done fast, of all things. It is a roughly eight-hour recording of a seminar held by GTD creator David Allen himself, and that may well sound like the driest listening in the world to you.
I think of it as more of the audio version of the book, only even more condensed and in a much more conversational tone. I have had the book version of GTD since 2005 and have read it about 1,5 times. I picked up some useful things the first time - soon after getting it - but the main way I have adapted and been influenced by GTD has been through immense amounts of material on websites and podcasts, much of which originates with Merlin Mann. I have picked up a lot of useful thoughts from Merlin, and I have always intended to go back to the source, so to speak, for myself and see what more is in there and how it may have been changed in subsequent retellings. But we all know - okay, okay, I know - how hard it can be to find time and place for a physical book. Audio though, I can keep in in my phone and put on whenever I am doing something mindless.
If I formulate the seminar as eight hours of someone talking about productivity, it makes a lot more sense that I would spend time on it, as "someone talking about productivity" is what hooked me on Cortex just over a year ago, and made me spend all listening time over Christmas catching up on that podcast. Comparing to that, eight hours is nothing.
One important technical aspect is that I have put the seminar in Overcast, so it lives just next to all my other listening material. (Uploading your own files is a feature of Overcast premium, by the way.) And, I can listen at higher speeds with all the sound niceness Overcast applies as well.
Getting anything done?
At the time of writing, I think I have listened it all the way through at least four or five times. There is not much media in any form which I have gone through that many times, and even fewer if you filter down to educational-type things. Things start to gel in whole different ways when you go through material again with any sort of attention paid. Threads become clearer, pieces fit together better, and you always pick up something you did not pay attention to during previous run-throughs.
My own system for attempting to keep track of my life was always built on some pieces of GTD, and now that I am soaking in it a bit more I am starting to see how more and more parts could fit in and be useful, and also how I might put them in place in a way which works for my circumstances.
There is a lot of paper around in the world where Allen's seminar was held, and concepts such as the reference system and the tickler file just feel more elegant and approachable that way than digitally. Even the inbox concept itself becomes blurrier. It occured to me that I sort of had it as part of my system, but that it might be worth making it more explicit so that it can catch more things.
I am resisting trying to describe my own system right here, that should probably go into its own place some day. Suffice to say that it will most likely change slowly but surely, adapting more pieces from GTD where it can without getting bogged down.
Even the sort of outer edges of the seminar and sytem are starting to feel interesting to me. I have always focused on GTD as a thing for me personally, but some parts of the seminar go into getting things done as and within an organization. It remains to be seen if I will find concrete things to pick up from there, they still feel a lot more fuzzy than the core, but I relate to the problems described and find it intriguing enough that I want to dig into those areas as much as the core the next time I listen.
The power of repetition
Another thought this brings up is of course how much value there can be in actually repeating stuff. One question is whether I should make some kind of habit of repeating other things. Another is how many things I have consumed once which would give as much on repeat as this? Is it most things? Is it the rare exception in a flood of things best left as one-offs?
Summing it up, for now