Tuesday, February 19, 2013

GTD for musicians: I am my own roadie.

I started using the system described in David Allen's book Getting Things Done (GTD) in the past month and have found it works pretty well when adopted completely. (I say completely because 6 years ago when I tried reading the book I stopped at some point because of the business speak driving me crazy.)

The biggest change for me as a musician has been the way I have now become my own roadie.  I've had guitars and basses that have needed "help" because they've stayed half working or filthy for years. One day "the roadie" was given the task to clean them or order new strings or make repairs and when "the musician" next came to play he had nicely tuned working guitars with new strings. Not surprisingly "the musician" was also much more inspired to actually play the planks of wood he hadn't touched for many months.

I also seem to have hired an "assistant engineer" because when the "recording engineer" sat down to mix some music he found someone had updated and installed software on the latest computer in the studio. For months the "recording engineer" thought installing Soundtrack Pro 2 from disc would be good if he could get to those install discs buried in some spot or other. It seems like all the plugins that could be updated also got taken care of. I need to buy the "assistant engineer" a beer! Look old session files could be opened. Old files that needed bouncing somehow got bounced. Weird shit! Hey wait he fixed the nasty worn out headphone pads and fixed some broken headphones. He bought and installed a coat rack to hold cables and headphones at the ready. What a swell guy!

The bad news:

  • The book is clearly written for corporate executives in their language. It feels like pulling teeth to get through all the material.
  • It was written around 2002 when the first iPod was new and has no references to the many good tools available on the Mac, iPhone and iPad like Things and Omni-Focus. (It says the phrase "if you have a cell phone" at one point!)
  • It requires regular homework. Daily and weekly.
  • The book is very dry.
  • You will need to set aside time to really do it right.
  • Did I mention how painful it is to make it to the end and really have comprehended the ideas presented? I've read the book and audiobooks a few times already in the past month because I've found it was very easy to miss some of the finer points.
  • Most of the system is described using paper files and folders, which works, but I mostly use electrons instead of dead tree flesh, so adaption may be required. (I do use paper for mind maps and brain storming thoughts.)
The good news:
  • The audio version of the book is better. (Another audio version called Getting Things Done... FAST is even better but is out of print. Check your local library.)
  • A podcast I've enjoyed for years, Back to Work, covered the topic for several episodes starting here with episode 95. This might serve as a good way to test the water with a little less business speak. I should also warn you they do sometime wander into comic books and other things. (Episode 94 acts as a prequel in many ways.)
  • As a system it's well loved by geeks/nerds the world over, so in addition to the resources available from David Allen's website, you'll find the internet is full of good resources and tips on the google.
  • I've gotten a roadie and assistant engineer who will work for nothing! (Allowing me to play music or turn the knobs and push the faders.)
  • Things like this blog post seem to somehow get done when I'm not looking.
-John Tooker