As you already might have guessed from my previous posts that I am a little obsessive about the art of productivity. Over the last year, I’ve tried few time management and productivity systems. While they all helped me grow, there is something in those system that didn’t go well with my working style and thinking and which is why I kept digging. Very recently, I came across David Allen’s book called “Getting Things Done (GTD)” and I would like to write a little bit about that book today. Well, please note that GTD is not about telling you what software or tools to use to become productive. Instead, GTD is a productivity framework that you can tweak it to match your working style.
Why GTD for You?
You won’t like any system that tells you to do things exactly as explained in that system. GTD is not a rigid system, it’s a productivity framework!. It provides the high-level building blocks, which will guide you in implementing a solution that you think is appropriate. This is the #1 reason why GTD is a great fit for geeks.You don’t need to worry about assigning your tasks with High, Medium, Low priority anymore. You don’t even need to sequence the tasks in the order you like to complete. In GTD, you do a task based on the context, the time available, and the energy available.
Overview of GTD:
According to David Allen, everything that needs your attention are called “Stuff”. This may be as simple as buying milk from the grocery store, or completing the proposal for the multi-million dollar project. Anything that takes up space in your RAM (mind), are called as stuffs. Not all stuffs are actionable. But, all stuffs needs to be collected, processed, organized, and executed appropriately.
5 Different Phases of GTD:
1. Collection Phase
You are always collecting stuff. Some stuff comes to you directly, and some gets collected for you in the background. For example, emails get collected in your in-box in the background. You also need physical in-boxes where you can collect stuffs. At home (and work), have a physical in-box, where you thrown-in anything that needs to be processed.
2. Processing Phase
You should process the items in your in-boxes frequently. Please note that processing doesn’t mean doing. Don’t DO anything on this stage, except processing. Process the stuffs collected in your in-box once a day (or how often you feel comfortable).
How to Process?
Take one item from the in-box, and ask yourself – “Do I need to do anything about this item?”. Otherwise, “What is the next action for this item”?. You should come-up with a clear answer for this question. Initially this might be hard. Once you get used to it, identifying next action for every email (or physical item) can be done in matter of seconds.
– If there is no action, you should trash the item, or archive it for reference, or put it in your incubation list.
– If there is an action, you should do it immediately (if it takes less than 2 minutes to do it), or delegate it to somebody, or defer it for later by putting it in the appropriate next action context list (more on that below).
3. Organizing Phase
Any item that you’ve deferred for later should be put in the appropriate next action context list. In GTD, there are no priorities. You only have context.
All tasks should be organized around the context in which it needs to be performed. This might be different than how you are used to working, but once you get used to this, it will be effortless, and you’ll be super productive. I like to keep my next action content lists very simple. Some of my contexts are like Work, Home, Errands,Blog and Books.
Here is a flow chart for your easy understanding.
4. Do It! Phase
When it is time to execute, you should not be thinking about what needs to be done, or you should not be checking your email for items that needs to be done, or you should not be looking at a one big long to-do list with priority and try to figure out what needs to be done.
Instead, depending on your current context, you should look at the items in that next action context list, and decide quickly on what you want to do. For example, if you are at work, you look at Work list, which will have all your previously defined next action that needs to be performed. If you are planning to write your next article, you look at the Blog list, which all have the list of all ideas that you could work on.
You’ll have multiple next actions in your context lists. When it is action time, you should pick one item from the context list and execute it. The question is: which item should you pick?. Since there are no priorities assigned to the tasks in the context list, use the following as a guideline to decide which take needs to be executed at any give time.
1. Your available energy.
Certain tasks needs to be done when you have full energy. You don’t want to work on the “Create logical network diagram for new server room” tasks at around 4:00 pm, when your energy level is low. Rather, you want to perform this task in the morning. Please read my post here to find out how you can manage your energy more efficiently.
2. Your available time.
If you have 10 minutes, before going to a meeting, and would like to do something, check your Work list for next actions that can be completed quickly in 10 minutes and do it.
What I never do is to try to complete the work as it shows up, which is useless most of the times, and you might not be working on tasks that matter most.
5. Review Phase
You have to review your system once a week. I do it every Sunday evening. Following are some things that you might want to do as part of the weekly review.
– Review your project list and define next action required for them.
– Review your professional and personal goals and create new projects as required.
– Review your current week calendar and process any notes from the past meetings.
– Review next week calendar and plan appropriate next actions.
– Review all next action context list.
This is also a good time to process all your in-boxes before you complete the weekly review.
Thats it. There you have it. That is how I try to get my things done.
I strongly recommend that you give Getting Things Done (GTD) a try. There is nothing for you to lose, but it might dramatically change the way how you get your things done.