In this somewhat different post from what I’m used to publish, I’d like to give some highlight on Getting Things Done (GTD) which I’m practicing since 2006 (5 years as of today!) which unbeatable success.
GTD is an approach (some say a method) to personal productivity which allows you to get things done without the traditional accompanying stress (hence its subtitle: “stress free productivity“). I need to say this is absolutely true and GTD changed my life for the better!
Now, a lot of people are reluctant to doing GTD because they feel it overwhelming: lots of lists, lots of writing stuff down (or entering in a PDA or smartphone) and, in the end, lots of thinking. That’s true. Yet, when one think of it, there’s nothing new as compared to what people are usually doing when they’re starting to feel stressed by their work (beside, home stuff is still some work to do).
Indeed, I claim that GTD is the result of applying the principles of Solution Focus to personal productivity and stress reduction techniques.
What do people do when they feel overwhelmed by all the stuff they need to do?
They write it down onto lists!
And what increases the chances of an Action to be done? That there is no thinking left as to what needs to be done. Hence the stress on Next physical actions as opposed to just “stuff” written done on a list. Stuff isn’t done, actions are.
What do people do when they have too much of different things?
They make different lists!
Do you write your shopping list on the same page as your office lists or on your gardening list? Probably not, because you create lists that depend on Contexts: stuff that you can only activate when in the proper context.
With respect to gardening, should you need some fertilizer, chances are you’ll note it on your shopping list and put “Spread fertilizer” on your gardening list.
This is exactly what GTD urges you to do…
- Contexts (and Agenda) lists are used to separate actions that can’t be done because they mandate different places, tools or people
- Someday/maybe list is some things you don’t need to see often but need to store somewhere nonetheless
- Waiting For lists are to be reviewed to remind people (or yourself) of pending stuff so that your brain doesn’t have to remember that all the time
- Calendar is a special form of context where you note actions (“meetings”) at specific dates and times to be automatically reminded when they’re due
How many times have you been asked in business settings to apply the SMART criteria to tasks and objectives? This is exactly what GTD asks you when you’re asked to think about the Outcome of your Actions and Projects (or to your Horizons of Focus on a different level).
When it comes to projects, all that GTD advocates for is to gather all project related stuff into one place and write Next Actions to the context they belong to (ie, what is most efficient to ensure they’ll be done).
On Horizons of Focus
Horizons of Focus is just GTD way of sorting the short from medium and long-term stuff. What you want to get done now depends on where you want to be later. So one’s has better to identify that later as soon and as clearly as possible before going in the wrong direction (which is demoralizing so say the least and hinder doing of actions)
We all know life’s full of surprises and sometimes you get caught in the whirl of life. You get lost with yourself. So, what works for re-centering yourself? Reviewing of course!
- review of your lists (to mark what’s been done)
- emptying your head again to get clear
- review your horizons of focus to stay current with where you want to go
Frankly, in 5 years of GTD, I’ve never found the system unbearable or some kind of lists useless. I may not use all contexts (I don’t use Phone for instance) and my Errands-for-tonight-after-work ends up as a Post-It™ in my shirt jacket, but all of GTD is useful and easy to do (also here by David Allen himself)!
GTD is nothing that you’re not already doing by yourself, systematized.