All Productivity & Growth

Getting Things Done Simplified : productivity, for the rest of us

When I was 18 years old, I was offered a job as the operations director of a youth ministry. I had graduated high school less than a year go, and I was in the middle of the first office job I’d ever held as a junior graphic designer. I had zero experience in the world of management, ministry operations – the only things I’d ever really done were design t-shirts and build websites, but young, curious, and ready to try new things, I accepted the job.

That turned out to be one of the toughest assignments I’ve ever had. I went from pushing pixels to writing business plans and attending budget meetings literally overnight. I want to pause my story for a moment to mention that up until this point, I considered myself an extremely organized and productive individual. I would plan out my days and write out schedules in a notebook. I would write my goals in a journal and I would make little lists for myself each day of things to-do, usually on a sticky note that I would put on my office desk. I though I would have no problems embarking on a new job with, what I thought, was a great system for managing my life – but I was wrong.

Right when I got hired, the ministry was embarking on the planning phase for their summer camp that hosted thousands of teenagers in Kansas City between June and August. At the same time, I was starting to get “design-withdrawal” and so, in whatever spare time I had, I would sneak away to find or work on freelance design projects. Before I knew it I had more than doubled my workload from my previous job. I was getting dozens, almost hundreds of emails a day from my operations job and freelance clients. I was attending meetings on almost a daily basis which would inevitably created more tasks and projects for me to take care of. I was no longer responsible only for completing my own tasks, but also managing and delegating other team members and creating tasks and projects for them as well. Suddenly, I found myself forgetting to write things down in my schedule, missing appointments, neglecting emails, always feeling like I was forgetting something and constantly thinking of what I was supposed to do that day (there were so many sticky notes, I just didn’t pay attention to them anymore). I was overwhelmed physically, mentally and emotionally. I felt like a failure, slept terribly, I was depressed, I was always exhausted and eventually even had a private meltdown – most of all, I would daydream about the days I could sit quietly at my desk and just design. I wish I could say I hit rock bottom, pulled myself up by my bootstraps, discovered a solution, overcame my challenges, took that job by the reigns and turned everything around – but I didn’t. With no solution in sight, I did the only thing I could think to do to regain my sanity – after 9 months, I quit, and went back to graphic design full-time.

I quit the operations job, relieved and thrilled to be returning to my real passion, but that 9-month experience never left me. I was 19 years old and I knew that days would come again where I would need to face challenges greater than the one I just left – and I knew I’d need something better than my half-hearted sticky notes and lists to keep up with it. I spent the next months and years soaking up as much education as I could about productivity, personal development, time management…anything that I thought would make me more efficient. I discovered a plethora I’ve different philosophies, methods and concepts about personal productivity that I would attempt to apply. I tried dozens of tools that I would pair up with some of these methods and usually found myself going back to sticky notes and lists.

After trying and failing many times, I decided to give the GTD system another go. I thought I was familiar with it since I’d read about it on the internet and generally understood it’s concepts (which it turned out, I didn’t), but I decided to actually by the book this time and read it thoroughly. I found the system a little bit difficult to comprehend at first, I had to read the book twice to really grasp some of the concepts. But after a few months of trying, I was able to implement it into my daily routine and it eventually became second nature. I became a GTD evangelist and tried my best to convey the ideas to my friends and convince them that this was the key to reducing stress that everyone had been looking for. The problem was, no one wanted to read the book, and I had a really tough time trying to break down the ideas without losing people.

Fast forward several years and I learned to implement and improve ideas that I gained to make my life more efficient. As technology progressed, productivity became easier and easier to achieve. After starting multiple ventures, graduating school, juggling jobs and roles and planning a wedding, my process has evolved and improved into a lean and effective method of handling the demands of busy lifestyle and reducing, if not eliminating stress from the equation. My current “workload” now far surpasses what I was dealing with as an operations director, but due to my method, I have the bandwidth to not only handle what’s in front of me, but to still enjoy life, keep dreaming and thinking forward.

I decided, if this worked for me, it’s got to work for everyone else to, and I just have to figure out how to communicate it properly. I’ve realized, as my process evolved from the GTD method, one of the biggest challenges of the GTD system was how easy it was to get fixated on some of the minor details, that you really lose the beauty of simplicity and the essence of why it’s helpful. I decided it’s time to showcase the productivity method developed from those core principles and ditch the excess – something accessible for everyone, not just the nerds.

I’ll be talking about this more in the future, so stay posted to learn more.

If you’ve been waiting for answers to your time management issues, looking for a way to reduce or eliminate stress from your life, or are just interested in improving your productivity, I will be offering coaching sessions for a limited time. These sessions will include a 20-30 minute skype or in-person meeting, (recorded video or email will be offered for those of you that don’t prefer face-to-face, and a follow-up email correspondence to help you apply some of things you learn.

I will be offering this to 5 individuals right now for $25. If you would like to secure your position, you can paypal andrewchendesign@gmail.com or send me an email. The fee is fully refundable if you’re not satisfied with the session, so you have nothing to lose!

Again, for those that are interested in a coaching session, paypal or email me at andrewchendesign@gmail.com

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