Due to a long term illness, I have found myself having to almost restart my GTD system over the past couple of weeks, after nearly 3 months of inactivity. It has been a very interesting journey and one that has forced me to refine and simplify how I do things while I get back into my routine. The foundations of my system were still there, but much was out of date.
My biggest challenge was to tackle my email inbox, which had bulged to many hundreds of items during my absence: the 2-minute rule, a pen and paper and my @Action Support folder allowed me to deal with these without being frighteningly overwhelmed. Getting my inbox back to a manageable level really helped me to feel more in control and to have a better understanding of how much I could manage to take on as I slowly regained my feet.
Interestingly, I have found that I have stuck with pen and paper since that first day of sorting emails, rather than returning to the electronic system that I was running before I became ill. Returning to the basics, including to pen and paper, has simply felt more comfortable.
I was relieved to find that the habits I had developed hadn’t vanished due to lack of use and they were a lifeline for me in trying to get my work in order. “What is it? What’s the next action?” – this methodical approach gave me hope that the seemingly never-ending backlog of work could be managed. Thanks to GTD, when I was able to come back to work, I could set out my tasks meaningfully and trust my judgement regarding importance and urgency.
If you haven't felt able to engage with your system recently, don't beat yourself up about it. Take one step at a time and try to implement the areas that might make the biggest difference for you. My experience has taught me that a system can lie fallow for months and still be resurrected to help you get back to more productive ways.