Getting Things Done (A Lot of Things)
I want to talk to you about being productive. The tools I use matter to me (I use OmniFocus), but they’re just tools, and you can implement these same methods with whatever tools you have in front of you. It’s about taking all the little things, as well as the big things, and turning it into daily actions. (This method comes from David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done.)
1. Brain Dump
It all starts here. With an inbox. A place where I have the freedom to throw all the good and bad ideas into a bucket, and not worry about what it all means. The brain dump is something I do throughout day when an idea arrives. I don’t worry about what to do with it, I just throw it into the inbox. Knowing that I have safe place to get everything off of my mind, until a later time, helps my mind stay free and ready for life, as well as new ideas.
Every idea and task added to my inbox most likely has an end-goal, meaning what does finished look like for this item? What are the handful of next-actions needed? Over the years, I’ve learned that thinking through projects is often as important as completing the task itself. It creates clarity.
An example project would be:
Clean out closet:
- Get bags
- Go through clothes
- Go through other items
- What to donate?
- What to throw away?
- Anyone I know want this?
- Put bags in garbage
- Put bags in car
- Bring to friend
- Bring to Goodwill
Each one of these items move the project forward, until having that one last item that completes the entire project. It’s important to write out even the smallest next-action, because each next-action has a different context.
Every next-action has a context. A context is not the task, but the location or item needed to complete the task. What this ultimately means is, you may have tasks in a variety of projects that require calling someone, and instead of bouncing around, attempting to complete a dozen task inside of one project, you would simply focus on the “Calls” context, moving several projects forward quickly. When getting in your car, you would move projects forward by focusing solely on the items that have the context Errand. The momentum of already being on the road, or already making calls, helps keep things mindless and easy to finish.
The review is a weekly (or as often as you can or need to) meeting with yourself, as you go through each item and project, making sure they all have an end-goal, and you know what finished looks like. More often than not, finished doesn’t look the same as it did a week ago. Life happens, and it’s important to constantly know what you’re working towards. This entire system falls apart if you don’t set time aside to look over what you’ve added, make sure your inbox is empty, make sure nothing slipped through the cracks of this system, and to realign your mind with the tasks at hand.
Rinse and repeat. This isn’t something you do once. I’ve been practicing GTD for almost a decade now. Enjoy the process, and even if you never perfect it, it has to be better than doing nothing. Even when I’m struggling, I know that my attempts mean more than wishful thinking.
I hope this helps get some of your projects started, and ultimately free your mind for new things.