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Enjoy Amazing Productivity with the Getting Things Done System

Amazing Productivity? Really Gregory? Yes, this is what I have to enjoy by using the Getting Things Done, or GTD system. When I follow the system, I enjoy periods of incredible producitivity. When I fall off the wagon so to speak, I find I am just spinning my wheels.

David Allen wrote Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity back in 2001 and has since released several follow-up books to expand the idea. I began using the system in 2005 and today I am all in.

Getting Started with GTD

On a very simple level, GTD is a bunch of list and list of list. The big idea of GTD is that you cannot possibly remember everything going on in your life so write it down…. on a list. This is not about how smart you are or how organized you are. Any of us mere humans cannot remember everything going on. It is only logical to write it down so we will remember to do it.

Lots of productivity methods use a list to organize your life. David Allen’s brilliance is to to force us to think about our list in three key ways.

  1. Am I at the correct spot/place/setting and with the necessary tools/ materials/people to complete the task?
  2. Do I have the correct energy level or state of mind to complete the task?
  3. Do I have enough time to complete this task right now?

Organizing my to-dos with these 3 has been important for my productivity. Think about it this way, you know you need to mow the lawn. It is on the list. You cannot do it while you’re at work so why have it on the list in front of you. At 7 p.m. you are at home so you could mow the lawn but you had a tough day at the office so you do not feel like mowing the lawn today. Friday you get home from work early but you do not have enough time to mow the lawn, but you added to your errands list that you need to pick up gas for the mower so you can go run and check that item off before going out for the evening.

In this way you are finding the best task to complete right now based on your life at this moment. The flexibility allows you to create your own GTD system in a way that suits your life.

The Five Key Steps of GTD

Capture – You have in boxes or input points to collect all of the things you need to do at the moment you learn of the task. This can be paper or digital or a combination of both. The important thing is that you have a way to record the action that is necessary at the moment you learn about it because we already agreed we cannot keep things in our head.

Clarify – This step is about taking a moment to think about the task at hand and getting intentional about what it will take to complete the task. What steps are needed, what materials or resources you have to have at each step. Guessing about how long it will take you. Here is where you add the details so at the moment you are in action mode and ready to work you can easily query your list and find the best item to complete now.

Organize – You can easily end up with lots of in-boxes sorted into piles with legal pads of paper filled with an inventory of to-dos and pretty project plans that go nowhere. Organizing is about setting priorities to items so you do not pick just any fifteen-minute task but the best fifteen-minute task to complete right now.

Reflect – Reflecting on the current status of your list and the progress you are making is a key part of GTD. This weekly review of your task helps you stay focused and not lose sight of your personal big picture. David Allen shares what he calls horizons of focus and this reflection step helps you walk through each and keep your important goals alive.

Engage – This is where the proverbial rubber meets the road. Get to work! You have organized your list in a way that you can dig in and do the most important and best task you need done right now. Because you have thought out the steps you need to take the task is manageable in a bite size piece that you are confident you can complete right now. Done.

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