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#GTD is easy! Here are the three habits you already knew how to do

April 1st, 2011 Posted in GTD, Solution Focus Tags: , ,

I think you will spend 339 seconds reading this post

 

Getting Things Done book

Getting Things Done book

GTD – Getting Things Done- is a personal productivity method that helps you get things done and relieve the often associated stress. It’s been created by David Allen in his book “Getting Things Done, the art of stress-free productivity“.

This might surprise a number of you, but I’m a firm believer that GTD, in all its bells and whistles is easy to implement, because you already know how to do GTD and when you think about it, that basically comes down to only three habits.

Surprise! Who would have thought that? People often complain that GTD is tricky and complicated to setup and use, that they get lost in too many lists and that they don’t know how to deal with such a complicated system. To which is often replied that it would be worst without any system.

But do people really have no system to manage their todos prior to GTD? I doubt it and here is why.

First habit: write stuff down

What do you do when you’re stress because you have lots of stuff to do?

You write it down.

And what does GTD tell you to do? Suspense… Exactly the same: write stuff down!

So, basically, we all already know that to relieve stress regarding stuff to be done, the best way is to write it down so as not to forget any of it.

That’s all. The very basic of GTD is to write stuff down to:

  • Empty your head instead of trying to memorize it, so that you can think clearly afterwards to concentrate on getting things done.
  • Remember it later.

Is this black magic? I doubt it…

What GTD tells you to do is to write stuff down all the time. We had a working solution to kill stress, so all we have to do is to apply it continuously. Hey, you had a thought just right now! Write it down. And that one too: write it down as well! This is how your inbox fills up which brings me to the second GTD habit.

Second habit: identify the desired outcome

Ok, this one may be less intuitive, yet you do it all the time when you really want something: you describe it in as much details as possible. You create a powerful vision that’s so compelling to you that you can’t help but go for it and do the necessary tasks that are required for it to occur.

I agree that most of the time, these powerful visions result from some exchange with a friend or partner and you rarely construct them in your mind on your own. Yet, this is the way humans are: we move in the direction of our most powerful visions of the future.

What GTD tells you to do is to ask yourself, for each stuff that you’ve written down: What’s the desired outcome? You need to do this when you take a thing from your inbox and think about it. You need to turn that “stuff” into a “desired outcome”.

As for the technical background, a desired outcome is something expressed in a positive way (something you want rather than something you don’t want) and in the present tense “as if” it had already occurred. Both these criteria are necessary for a well crafted “desired outcome” that will ensure you the best results.

Which leads us to our third and last habit…

Third habit: identify the Next Action

Who needs an MBA to understand that “Call sister to book her garden for mom’s birthday” is easier to deal with than “Mom’s birthday party”? Clear and detailed next physical actions are easier to deal with than vague “stuff”. Oh that was difficult to come with, for sure!

What GTD tells you to do is to do that consistently, for all the “stuff” that came into your world that you probably have jotted down on paper or in your smartphone: first identify the desired outcome and then what the Next Action is.

Putting it all together

This is all about GTD! When you put it all together, it looks like what follows.

Write, Outcome, Next Action

So, here we are:

  • Write down everything that cross your mind in order not to forget about it and keep an clear mind
  • Identify the corresponding desired outcome
  • Write down the Next physical Action(s) required to move the original “thing” to completion.

What do you need to do that for? Well…

What GTD tells you to do is to apply this model of “write>outcome>action” to all your life (or more precisely to all of your altitudes). That means:

  • To your Actions
  • To your Projects
  • To your life altogether: Personal values, 3 to 5 years Vision, 1-2 years Objectives and Areas of responsibility.

Sort

What do you do when you have lots and lots of stuff? Again, real magic here… you sort them!

That’s just what GTD lists are: a way to sort all of this stuff and Projects and Actions you’ve come about into different “Contexts”.

What GTD tells you to do is to:

  • Move Actions to different Contexts so as to avoid looking at Actions to which you can’t do anything because you’re just not in the right place or have the right tools or are with the right persons to do them (these last lists are called Agendas).
  • Move stuff you’re not sure you’re really willing to do or you’re not sure when you’re going to do them, to a Someday/Maybe list.
  • Move stuff you need to check about later in a Waiting For list.
  • Move date or hour specific actions to your Calendar (yes, this is also a form of context in GTD, dependent on Time and Place: that of the meeting!)
  • Move all your projects to a Project List so that you also don’t lose track of them
  • Move all your project related information to Project specific folders so that they are all in one place.

So, here is how you come about to having a whole GTD system in place. Of course, viewed from the end, it’s a lot of lists. That’s why GTD tells us to do a Weekly Review just to maintain that system under control: go through all of your lists and mark what have been done. And during the review, write down stuff that might pop up in your head. And to help you further your emptying of your head, GTD provides you with Incompletion Trigger lists (both personal and professional).

That’s it! So, do you still think GTD is difficult?

 

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  • Dave Littlehales

    Brilliant summary!

  • This is a great summary, what I would encourage people to do is use the principals of GTD to design a system that works well for their specific need. The entirety of GTD may be too difficult or overburdening for some to implement. That being said there are many gems inside the GTD framework that can improve one’s productivity.

  • Gerry: as I said, people should not be afraid of GTD as it is easy (enpty your head, identify the desired outcome and note the Next Action onto your lists).

    After that, it’s all a matter of sorting out your list to keep the only one handy depending on your context. Work todo list when you’re at work and home todo list when you’re at home. Not rocket science.

    After that, I agree that your system must suit your need: whether it be paper-based or electronic, with lots of differing contexts or not (depends on your own life!).

    This is indeed something that David Allen says himself: it all depends on who you are and what suits you best.

  • Pingback: Appreciating Systems » #GTD and #SolutionFocus: doing what works for you!()

  • Pingback: Appreciating Systems » Advantage of the lastest version of #Autofocus (superfocus) over #GTD()

  • Jupiter

    Very interesting. Many thanks for sharing Nicolas. GTD is simple. People make it complicated.

  • You’re welcome.

    Also, I uploaded all my GTD templates and explanations on Slideshare (though most are in french, sorry), here: http://www.slideshare.net/stampf/tag/gtd

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