I’d heard so much over the past year about GTD this and GTD that. I had no idea what folks were talking about until Richard Poole began blogging about his desire for personal organization and how using the “Getting Things Done” principles found in David Allen’s book had helped him.
Since I am a fluid thinker and tortuous multi-tasker, I filed the book away mentally as something I’d like to get done… It wasn’t too long before a particularly overwhelming week hit that provoked me to finally order the copy of the book that had been sitting in my Amazon Wishlist.
I’ve been plowing through it for several weeks, and I must admit that it almost immediately began transforming my workspaces and habits. One of the primary points of Allen’s material is that our brains are profoundly able to retain information…. That’s not necessarily a good thing for many of us.
Every little to-do, project, honey-do, and urgent item that has ever crossed your mind is still buried in there somewhere. Over the course of time, you began to feel stressed and overwhelmed because you’re juggling so much mentally. Even things that carry relatively no weight – things that you just occasionally want to get to “someday” – occupy your mind with equal frequency as the need to finalize that big project.
So the first thing you do with GTD is simply to begin the collection process. Allen recommends setting aside an entire day for this. It’s a literal, physical collection process. Everything that lying around your house, office, in files on your computer, bulging email inbox, and floating around in your brain becomes part of this process. The goal is to simply empty it all into appropriate “collection buckets.” Whether file folders, trash cans or folders on your computer, Allen’s book guides you through this process.
As I’ve done this, I must admit that it’s mentally freeing to see accumulated piles of stuff – some things in them dating back a few years! – disappearing and being acted on, filed, or trashed.
The next step is “processing.” After collecting everything into one spot, now begins the time-consuming step of going through it all. He advocates a 2-minute rule in this step. If you come across something that you realize you could get done within 2 minutes, then stop and do it then. You’ll be surprised – I was – of how true that is. It’s also VERY encouraging to see things dwindling and getting done.
The next step is “organizing.” It’s this step that I’m still working on, but I’ve purchased a little file stand for my new filing system. Allen recommends the following broad categories: a “tickler” file (Someday/Maybe), Errands, Waiting (things that you’ve passed off to someone else but need to remind yourself of), Projects, and Reference (things you don’t need to act on but want to keep).
Obviously, you’ll also begin to create a more indepth filing system, but those are essential. Allen’s book is definitely not “pie-in-the-sky;” rather, it’s extremely practical and immediately useful.
After processing comes “reviewing.” You must carve into your weekly calendar a set time to sit down and review what you’ve filed. If you don’t, you’re in danger of simply getting things out of your mind and forgetting what you got them out of your mind for. You do the mind-dump in order to become more proficient and focused on what you begin to “do.”
And that’s the final step – “doing.” Start asking yourself about each project, task and floating idea, “What’s the next action step I could take on this that would advance it forward?” As you take that step, (and more like it as you then identify the next step after it), you’ll see even the largest, most daunting duties reducing in size and complexity.
I’m passing this book off to wifey, in the hopes she’ll digest it as well. It’s going on my yearly read/review list because I sense it’s one of those areas that in which I’ll need to be challenged again.
By the way, I finally bought Omnifocus after writing this review and using it for a while. It’s incredible. I especially like the ability to email myself and it automatically be put into my Omnifocus task or project lists. Another interesting new tool – with less features but a cleaner look – is Things.
Here’s the process: