GTD For People Living In Transition Countries

Like mine, Romania. It’s an European country that recently made his entry into European Union, proving a strong desire to let go the communist past. It’s a marvelous country, one of the most beautiful I know. The only problem is that we do have a somehow faible economy, although growing extremely fast, and a lot of cultural burden, related to the years of totalitarian regime and economical difficulties. You can add to that the fear that political police, the Securitate, induced in our behaviour for most than a half a century.

So how we can become productive in such an environment? How does GTD scale in this specific context? Is there a use after all for GTD in this incredibly fast changing economy?

The very fact that I started a blog about should tell enough. Yes, there is a need for more efficient methods of productivity and organization.

I must tell you first that I am an entrepreneur, I started my company, Mirabilis Media, in 1999, 9 years after the fall of the totalitarian regime. It was an act of courage, I didn’t had any previous experience with that, and my first 18 years of life I was raised with the communist ideas: we pretend that we work, and they pretend that they pay us. And we all are equal, of course, besides the fact that some other people (those working for the regime) are more equal than others.

Starting a business in this specific context requires a great shift in behaviour, in goal setting and in your overall attitude towards people and, most of all, you. It wasn’t easy. And still isn’t. But it’s very rewarding. I think that in a different economy, my personal values, ideas and experience as an entrepreneur would definately have a different rewarding level, maybe several times higher. But that’s not the point: the point is to act to your maximum level of performance in your own environment.

And how do I do that? I will tell you that using GTD as an entrepreneur in a transition country, it’s almost a medical help. Here are several rules of usage:

  1. Accept it. Yes, first of all you need to accept that you need an organized system for getting your things done. In an economy where everything was done by vertical planning, and all the goals where received by the higher authorities, there was no such need. You were only an executive. Once you start really competing with others, that mindset of a brainless executive is suicidal. Learn to accept that you need it.
  2. Do it continously. And by that I mean that the daily review should become an ongoing review. Learn to have your tasks and projects in front of you every moment when you are not doing anything else. It will greatly help your focus and avoid distractions and setting secondary goals, which, on a such fast evolving market, can be very addictive and dangerous. The things are changing so fast that your yesterday project my become obsolete by tomorrow. Be preparred for that.
  3. Live with its consequences: and those consequences are positive. You will have more time. Learn to use it in a healthy way. The race for making a living – or to become rich in a country where richness was a political advantage, not a result of hard work – it was hypnotising for a large number of people. The capitalist dream catched them all. And the effort they start to do for that was actually suffocating their personal lives. Using an efficient system for doing your stuff will bring you more quality time. You need this time to enjoy your personal life, your family life and to establish hard limits between personal and profession. If not, you may become richer, but ill.
  4. Use simple tools, but effective, don’t go for cheap and low quality, but for medium expensive and reliable. For years I used paper, several notpeads that I filled with everyday tasks. I kept them somewhere in some boxes, several dozens. If moleskine would be available in Romania, I would probably become addicted to them. Once a task done, an OK appeard after it. But no daily review, no weekly review, no 2 minute rule, no contexts. Really spartan. Once I passed this organizing activity to the computer, I quickly evolved from desktop to laptop, and from Linux to Mac. Now I use a MacBookPro (a little on the expensive edge, but still affordable) and a digital tool for GTD: ThinkingRock. There is also a rule on the Steve Pavlina site regarding what kind of stuff you should buy in order to be productive, and I must agree that I always had the best chair that I ever afforded :-).
  5. Don’t brag about it. Yup, that’s true, in such an environment you must keep your specific advantages hidden. People tend to misunderstand any form of personal development and translate it in some form of addiction to exotic cults. Must seem strange, but even though we do have a large movement towards new trends on organizing and becoming productive, there is still a lot of cultural resistence to anything really new. In the last 2 years this resistence is starting to decrease, but still, you don’t have time to brag about what you use, you are just forced to use it and do your stuff.
  6. Set some specific priorities in your system and stick with them. Otherwise your whole activity will soon start to be completely hectic. In my GTD system the first priorities are those related to financial aspects. The money are still expensive in Romania and that financial aspect is a priority, I check my company financial status almost daily. Second, comes the people management: there is such a volatile human resource market than keeping a person on your payroll for more than 2 years is a performance in itself. I keep activities related to those aspects always first as priorities in my GTD system, regardless of their mundane context: @work, @computer, and so on. And, as GTD says, I strive to actually DO everything related to those top 2 priorities.
  7. Adapt it to your specific needs. I have an Internet company. We do content and services. The way I use GTD is heavily related to this. As a programmer, I usually have around 5 to 8 opened projects and several dozens of opened single actions. My project management part is the heaviest part for GTD usage. Using the 2 minute rule and the weekly review helped me to stay focused on my specific projects. If I would have another business specific, I would probably go for people interaction more than project management. It only comes down to your specific needs, and not to a hard-wired framework. Especially in a changing economy, hard-wired frameworks are doomed.

These are my rules. For now. The best in this way of approaching your working life – I think GTD is more something like that than a framework or system – is its flexibility. I’m pretty sure that in 5 years, my priorities and contexts would change. But chances to use a GTD-enabled approach will still be high.

5 thoughts on “GTD For People Living In Transition Countries”

  1. Thanks for the kind words, I think I’m still doing a fine job, Mirabilis is still my central project. About those that aren’t GTD, well, that’s their business. I think we, Romanians, tend to give WAY TOO MUCH importance to the political aspect. Just doing my stuff, and avoiding politics, proved to be a very stress-free life for me. If they are not doing their job, we can change them, right? Why discussing about them every day, instead of only once, every 4 years?

  2. Hey, I know about Mirabilis Media, it’s cool, you did a great job! You GTD very well in a transition where everybody can GTD, except those ones we keep on electing every 4 years!


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