I’m a fan of the GTD (Getting Things Done) system; not a fanatic, but someone who sees the benefits of incorporating such a system into my life. Although, I will add if I was fanatical I probably wouldn’t get overwhelmed like I do occasionally.
If you’ve not heard of GTD, what rock have you been under? Seriously David Allen and his Getting Things Done system has been around for some time, and has an almost cult-like following. Try Googling GTD and you’ll see what I mean.
The premise of GTD is that we have “open loops” in our life. These loops are all over the place and we expect out brains to remember every single one. Life is so crammed with information these days that as the plethora of communication escalates a system, such as GTD, becomes even more important than it has in the past.
GTD considers something a project if it takes more than two steps to achieve the desired outcome. Think about that – something as simple as changing over your car insurance is actually a project. It takes a few steps – researching other insurance possibilities on the Internet and applying for the new insurance. And will not take you five minutes, which is what you “think” it will when you decide to complete that task five minutes before school pickup.
The expectations we place on ourselves to complete tasks are ludicrous. I know I’ve done it myself. But I know that when I use the GTD method of breaking up a task (that more often than not is a project) and think only about the next action, life is much simpler. Then I schedule that action in and viola, progress has been made.
If you are feeling overwhelmed with all of your to-dos, especially those that aren’t even written down (open loops), I highly recommend you read David Allen’s book. In the meantime, here are my top tips – GTD style – to get you on the right track:
1. Assign a large block of time to get the process started
2. Take all of those things lying around in your office and put them in your inbox (a designated place to put all of the open loops)
3. Use a piece of paper to collect all of those thoughts that crop up during this “Collection” phase – you know the ones, “Oh I forgot about…”
4. Implement the two-minute rule – if it takes less than two minutes to complete, do it then. If it doesn’t put it in the inbox
5. Collate the inbox and determine “next actions” associated with each one. Capture these tasks in your Next Actions list
6. Assess your projects and schedule time in your calendar for the next action
7. Create a review day and schedule time to keep on top of it.
GTD is not for everyone; some cannot handle the “completeness” of it, others adapt the principles into their own system (like me) and the GTD’ers out there follow it to the letter and reap the results.
Don’t be scared by the reality of GTD. I know sometimes you might feel like it’s better not to capture everything and be more free flowing, but the only way you can free your mind is by putting a system in place to capture all of those things you need to remember. That way you can be present in each and every moment, without remembering about that client proposal you had forgotten, prompted by seeing a sailboat while you are having lunch, as the client is in the rigging business. That’s stressful and doesn’t need to be.
Think about it – life might be a bit easier if only you could “free” your mind of being the active diary, to being the free-flowing, thought processing, innovative thinker it can be.
What could you achieve if this was the case?