So David Allen has kinda sorta changed how people increase their productivity. His Getting Things Done method is said to have revolutionized the way people, well… get things done. Despite GTD’s raging success, it has been met with some critisism, however, the most prominent of which is that GTD is too inflexible and impracticle to be implemented easily. While I agree, I think that GTD is not meant to be followed evangelistically. Rather, GTD should be thought of as a set of guidelines that should be implemented so that it fits into the way you work. Even David Allen has said that he falls off the GTD bandwagon every once in a while.
The point of this post, however, isn’t to defend or slam the GTD system. It is to give the seven of you reading this my take on David Allen’s methods and how I’ve implemented them into my daily workflow.
So, GTD’s major priciple (and the reason why I believe it works) is that you must empty your mind of all tasks by recording them externally. This external device must be something reliable so that information is not lost (and so that your subconcious knows that it wont be). This way, instead of remembering what you need to do, you can focus more on getting those tasks done. Allen suggests that the simple act of “unloading” your mind is enough to relieve most of the stress that hinders actual productivity. The unconcious mind is therefore free of anxiety so that the concious mind can focus on completing tasks.
The first step to implementing GTD is to identify where you will be storing things that need to get done. This doesn’t have to be in one place and can actually consist of several different ways of storing tasks. When I first started using GTD methods, a major roadblock for me was that I had not clearly defined my “inboxes,” resulting in a chaotic mess of tasks that hampered my productivity. After clearly identifying where I collected tasks, my productivity skyrocketed. For me my inboxes consist of the following:
- Things (iPhone application)
- Microsoft Outlook inbox
- Balance (iPhone application)
- Google Chrome bookmarks
- Voice Memos (iPhone application)
- Post-it notes
- Paper tray (for letters and bills)
- File folders
After identifying where you store your tasks, you must decide how your tasks will be stored. For example, in Microsoft Outlook, when I encounter an email that needs a follow-up, I either flag it, or categorize it. In my Moleskine (being the most flexible of all inboxes), I just write lists in a free-form manner and sort through them later. I use a similar method when recording memos to my iPhone. In a later post, I’ll describe in detail how I use the inboxes that I’ve defined and how I empty my lists on a daily basis.
Recording your tasks, however, isn’t all there is to GTD. A good practice after you have identified and recorded your tasks is to group similar tasks together. Not doing this can actually hinder producticty as your mind isn’t capable of reminding you of any related tasks that need to be done, just as it seldom reminds you of when and where a specific action needs to be taken. Grouping your tasks as well as identifying each action’s context is, therefore, very important.
Getting your tasks in your inbox isn’t the end all be all of the GTD system. The point is to actually get things done, so if a task will take less time to do than it would to record, then by all means, get it done. The trick is to know when to bypass the process and when not to.
So, the seven of you should get out your pencils, stack your paper, turn on your cellphones and/or get your computers ready and… GET THINGS DONE!