This week we catch up with Andrew J. Mason: husband, father and host of the Getting Things Done podcast. He’s also presenter of The ProGuide Podcast and a narrator on Audible.com, and enjoys running, editing video, and helping others craft their communications. We grill him about how he discovered GTD and how he uses it in everyday life.
- Hello Andrew. So tell us – when did you first come across GTD and what inspired you to start using it?
My first interaction with GTD happened as I was browsing the business book section of Barnes and Noble back in 2003. I saw the book, got intrigued enough to purchase it, but then my interest in it fizzled after I cracked open the first few pages. I wasn’t ready. My interest in both the book and the methodology lay dormant.
Nine years later in 2012, I was slated to interview David for a podcast. I was sceptical, but the interview with David actually turned into a personal coaching session that answered all my questions & hooked me. The lightbulb came on, and I haven’t looked back since.
- Can you tell us a bit about the system you use?
Sure! I tend to do a complete system overhaul every two years or so, but my current iteration is a combination of physical and digital. Capturing happens on OmniFocus (Apple’s task management tool), a pocket notebook, or a physical inbox tray. Most everything (if it isn’t trashed or immediately dispatched) makes its way into OmniFocus. My reference library is also physical (for must-haves like tax papers) and digital in OneNote (which houses everything else: from a picture of a birthday card I liked from five years ago, to pictures of my kindergarten graduation).
- What has been the most valuable thing you have learned from having GTD in your life?
If you trust the process, it really *is* possible to systematize personal integrity. A lack of self-trust is really just the mismanagement of personal commitments. That’s the bad news AND the good news. When we admit we’re in the mess, we can dig our way out. But like David says, “The way out……is through.”
- If we were to look at your projects list, what would you say is your favourite project?
I’d say “Second child adopted.” It’s amazing how such a collaborative, gut-level decision between two people can have next actions associated with it like “Find and submit last year’s income tax return.”
- What do you do in your spare time (now you have plenty of it, of course!)?
Haha….I don’t know about “spare” time, but I think being engaged with GTD means that you get to spend more time fully engaged with the stuff of life that matters the most. For me? That’s being present to my wife and keeping up with my son. I’m a business book junkie…..so more of that as well.
- How has GTD changed the way you work with other people?
It’s fun being known as the guy who consistently asks ‘What’s the next action?” and “What are we trying to *DO* here?” Although that may seem confusing up front when other coworkers don’t understand why we ask those questions, no one seems to regret it after the fact.
- Do you use GTD on your team/organisation, and if so, what are the benefits you’ve seen that come when there are multiple people using the approach?
My work with David Allen Company for our podcast is the only place that I interact with that actively plays with GTD. But it’s exactly as David mentions in his book: an environment filled with trust. You send an email or make a call, and trust it’s handled. Very fun, relaxed way to work.
- Do you have any tips on how to most effectively conduct your Weekly Review?
My best piece of advice would come from something I just saw Mike Williams share on Twitter recently. My paraphrase is that, “Some is better than none”. Just because you may not be able to find the entire chunk of time up front *doesn’t* mean you shouldn’t engage at all. You’d be surprised at what just 15 minutes of your Weekly Review can do for your psyche.
- What’s the coolest thing on your Someday/Maybe list?
Along with a “To Read” list on my Someday/Maybe section, I have a “Books to Write” list with crazy ideas I’ve thought would make decent books. My latest is a theory I’ve got on “Creativity Commoditization” – the idea that as more of the world becomes tech savvy and connected, the abundance of people willing to do knowledge work will shift our perceptions of its intrinsic value.
Whether you need a bakery logo, an explainer video, or Excel expense reports, the price of knowledge work will continue to decline. The new premium will then be placed on individuals who can broker the results of that knowledge work in order to get more *meaningful* things done. Something GTD could prepare anyone to do.