Getting Things Done – Small Steps, Big Results

Getting Things Done

What is getting things done?

David Allen, a productivity consultant,  created Getting Things Done, or GTD for short. It is a popular task management system.

The methodology is based on this premise: The more information you have bouncing around inside your head, the harder it is for you to decide what you need to give attention to. As a result, you spend more time reflecting on your tasks than doing them. When you let this information pile up in your head, it will lead to overwhelm, stress, and uncertainty.

Getting Things Done is probably the only book of its kind to have cult status. It is often referred to as the “modern bible of productivity books.”

So get ready to find out why the method explained in this book is so popular and why its author, David Allen, has been described by the Guardian as “the man who can bring order to your world”!

Getting Things Done
Getting Things Done

Since it was first published almost fifteen years ago, David Allen’s Getting Things Done has become one of the most influential business books of its era, and the ultimate book on personal organization.

GTD” is now shorthand for an entire way of approaching professional and personal tasks, and has spawned an entire culture of websites, organizational tools, seminars, and offshoots.

Managing Open Loops And Getting Things Done

Nothing stresses us as much as poorly managed commitments we make or accept. The result is head clutter: in addition to the thousands of things you know you must do by a specific date, thousands more nag at you from the back of your mind.

Any task to be done can be an open loop, from the tiniest (such as “call Emily”) to the most modest (“buy a new bed”) to the impossible (“end world hunger”). All of these loops will demand your attention and negatively impact your productivity if they are not appropriately managed.

Good commitment management requires the execution of three basic activities and behaviors: 

Making a list of tasks is only the beginning: if you don’t make it clear what you can do to make progress on a task, it will remain unfinished for longer than necessary.

If you don’t write it down, you won’t remember it. Once you have identified open loops and ways to close them, start organizing reminders of these loops in a regularly reviewed system.

The “Getting things done” (GTD) system is one such system. It is essentially a simple method of managing your workflow in five steps, which includes the following five actions:

  1. Clear your head. You must first capture every item in it and transfer it to an external platform, whether it’s your computer or a laptop.
  2. Clarify. What does each item mean, and what can you do about it.
  3. Organize. Organize the possible outcomes into a list structure.
  4. Reflect. Think about all these options and decide what is important to you.
  5. Commit to it. Only then do you get to the right item?

Follow these steps.

Getting Things Done

GTD

The first steps: Creating time, space, and resources

Allen says that you should take two full days to set up a suitable workspace and prepare to use the GTD method before doing anything else.

First of all, you need to choose a physical location that can serve as your “central control cockpit.
“Allen says, “You need a dedicated, individual, self-contained workspace – at home, at work, and even when traveling,” “You need to use your system – not constantly rebuild it.”

The bare minimum you need in your workspace is a writing surface and some space for an in-bucket.

Besides, you will need at least three paper trays, a stack of ordinary stationery, an assortment of pens and pencils, Post-it notes, paper clips, staplers, tape, rubber bands, an automatic labeler, filing folders, a calendar, a wastebasket, and “common tools used to collect data, organize and create task lists, including mobile devices, PCs, planners, and paper notebooks. ”

Another more than an essential element is a sound filing system.
As a general rule, if it takes you more than a minute to take something out of the inner bin and put it away, you need to do something about it. It doesn’t matter whether you use your computer or drawers and folders – what matters is that you install a simplified storage system that is “fun, easy, up-to-date and complete.”

Step 1: Commit to getting your “stuff” in order, or in other words, Capture Everything.
Commitment is about giving your brain a break. “You feel good about yourself if you know all the things you’re not doing,” notes Allen. 

Of course, to know this, you have to be thorough and collect 100% of the incompletions. Any task or item you can think of that is associated in your brain with a ‘should,’ ‘must’ or ‘can’ is an incomplete loop.

This is what ‘capture’ does: it gets things out of your head and into ‘collection bins’ or ‘input buckets’ – which you can then empty by changing or eliminating them.

There are several types of tools you can use to collect your incomplete data:

  1. The physical in the bucket. This is still the most commonly used tool for collecting incomplete records, especially if most of them are in paper form.
  2. Flipcharts and notebooks. Use loose-leaf or bound notebooks, index cards, and notepads of all shapes and sizes to record random ideas and occasional tasks.
  3. Digital and voice note-taking. Use your smartphone or computer to record your thoughts.
  4. You can also send yourself emails or text messages; with a few filters, you can also automatically organize them into folders when they arrive.

Getting Things Done Video

Step 2. Clarify

As liberating as it may be to write down your tasks in your collection bins, it won’t get you anywhere in life – you also need to empty the collection bins regularly. 

Start with the first item and ask yourself two crucial questions: “What is it?” and “Is it usable?”. If it is not usable, there are only three options, three places where the item should end up during the organization phase: in the trash, on the “maybe” list, or in an appropriate reference book.

But what if the item is usable?
Then there are five options.
First, ask yourself if you need only one step to complete the task in question. If the answer is “yes,” you are dealing with a project that should be placed in the appropriate category.
But don’t stop there: once you have categorized the project, ask yourself what the following action is that you need to do to complete it; simplify until you arrive at a task that requires only one step.

If you can complete this step in less than two minutes, don’t file it away, do it immediately. If not, there are two options. If someone else can do it better than you or you don’t want to do it, delegate the work. If it is something you need to do, put it off – put it on your next actions list (to be done as soon as possible) or on your calendar (to be done at a specific time).

Step 3: Organise: Set up the suitable compartments

In summary, there are seven main places to organize your unfinished tasks:

The bin. If it’s past its expiration date or you no longer need it, you don’t need to store it: delete it or throw it away.

The “someday/maybe” list. Suppose the item does not require action now but may in the future leave it in incubation and put it on the “someday/maybe” list. 

Reference ranking system. If the item does not require action but is potentially useful information, put it in a reference filing system; important documents belong there.

Project list. Use a project list to keep track of all your current projects. Divide projects into categories and make sure that each project has a clear and specific next action.

The “pending” list. This list is for delegated tasks. Review it fairly regularly to make sure that everything is on track. 

Calendar. Your diary should contain only three types of entries:

  • Time-related actions, such as future flights.
  • Day-related actions, such as calling your friend to wish him a happy birthday.
  • Day-related information, such as documents you need to remember for your doctor’s appointment.

Next action lists. The remaining tasks go into your next action lists. You can also put them into separate categories for easy reference.

Step 4. Review: keep everything fresh and functional.

It’s not enough to keep everything organized in a well-structured personal organization system – you also need to maintain that system and make sure it’s up to date and complete at all times. And this is what the fourth phase of the GTD method is for. It contains two essential reviews: 

The Daily Review. Every morning, check your calendar and your lists of next actions. You can review projects, waiting lists, and ‘any day’ lists less frequently.

The weekly review. This review is more important than the daily review. It is a time to gather and process all your stuff, review your system and update all your lists – in short, a time to “clean up, clarify, update, and complete.”

Phase 5. Engage: make the best choices for action.

The GTD process final process is about actually doing things. But how do you decide what to do and what not to do – and how do you feel about doing either? The most straightforward answer is: trust your intuition. But if you need a little help, you can use one of these three methods to decide which unfinished business to tackle first:

The four-criteria model for choosing actions in the present moment. Apply the following four criteria in the following order: Context, available time, available energy, and priority.

The three-part model for identifying daily work. You can be engaged in three types of activities: doing a given job, doing a job when it comes up, or determining your job.

The six-step model for assessing your work. To find out your priorities, you can rank them from bottom to top in the following hierarchy: current actions, current projects, areas of interest and responsibility, goals, vision, and purpose. Everything else should flow from your life mission and lead you to it.

Closing remarks

The “Getting Things Done” productivity method is so popular for a straightforward reason: it works. Not for nothing did Time magazine call David Allen’s book “the most influential personal development book of our time” in 2007.

The essence of the GTD method:

  • Record your tasks.
  • Clarify and organize them.
  • Reflect on the importance of each task.
  • Finally, move on.
Getting Things Done
Getting Things Done

Since it was first published almost fifteen years ago, David Allen’s Getting Things Done has become one of the most influential business books of its era, and the ultimate book on personal organization.

GTD” is now shorthand for an entire way of approaching professional and personal tasks, and has spawned an entire culture of websites, organizational tools, seminars, and offshoots.

So try GTD if you…

  • Feel overwhelmed by the number of things you need to keep track of

  • Tend to worry about forgetting small details

  • Wear lots of hats in your life and job

  • Start many projects but have trouble finishing them

  • Have never practiced GTD’d before (everyone should GTD at least once in their lives)

Getting Things Done

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