Do you ever feel like there are just too many things to do and not enough time?
Do you have big goals that you would like to achieve but you just don’t know where to start?
Are you in need of some creative ideas but you seem to be stuck because there are just too many things on your mind?
Yeah, me too.
Back when I was just thinking about starting a blog, I was reading a lot of other blogs for ideas and inspiration. I was looking for how-to type information – how to pick a topic, how to attract readers, etc. Unexpectedly, I found a tool that helped me not only get my blog started, but also helped me in many other areas of my life.
I wish I could remember the blog that introduced me to this, but unfortunately I can’t. In any case, I am very grateful that I was introduced to Getting Things Done with Work-Life Balance. The blogger I read gave it such high praise that I decided to give it a try. I’m glad I did!
Getting Things Done, or GTD, is a time management or work management methodology created by David Allen, a self-described “black belt” in the “martial art” of work and productivity. Allen offers this information in many formats. I opted to purchase the full version with the audio CD’s, workbook and other support tools. I’m glad I did too! Since I already had a problem with getting things done, I didn’t want to add another book to the shelf of books I intend to read – someday.
With the CD’s, all I have to do is put them in my car and within a week of driving back and forth to work, I’ve “read” the whole book. I like to give them a fresh listen at least once a year. The concepts are so simple and actionable that I was able to put them into practice right away.
I will share with you the basic components of the GTD methodology. The subject is far too broad to cover in its entirety, but here is a brief overview.
The first step in the process is very simple and to me, the most fun. Everything you’re commited to do and you haven’t done yet – write it down. Whether you write it on paper or capture it electronically is not important. Whatever you’re most comfortable with.
Putting all your commitments into an external system frees up the part of your brain that keeps trying to remind you of all the stuff you need to do. You know, that part of your brain that wakes you up in the middle of the night to remind you you need to buy milk at the grocery store. That part of your brain is not very smart and has no sense of time. I experienced a literal rush of mental energy and creativity after completing this step.
Go through each commitment collected in the “collect” step and define what it means. Simple tasks like “buy milk” need no further clarification. Anything that requires multiple steps and can’t be completed in one sitting, Allen defines as a “project” that must be clarified. The great thing here is, you don’t have to figure out all the steps in the project. All you have to do, is clarify the desired outcome, and the very next action to move you toward that outcome. That’s it! It’s important to make the outcome as clear and concrete as possible. So for example, “lose weight” is not a good desired outcome – too ambiguous. “I want my size 32-inch waistline trousers to fit me loosely” is a good desired outcome. It is specific and concrete.
Once completed, this step makes it much easier to engage with those projects that you might otherwise resist because they seem so big and you don’t know how to accomplish them. By defining the next action, you relieve yourself of the stress of figuring everything out and you give yourself some task that you can accomplish and get a win, and feel confident that you are moving toward your ultimate goal.
This step helps you put “blinders” on so you can focus your attention appropriately. For example, if you’re at work, you don’t need to be reminded to clean your garage because cleaning your garage is something you couldn’t possibly accomplish while at work (assuming your workplace is outside your home). In this step, you organize your tasks and projects onto lists in a way so that they are visible only where they need to be visible.
Once completed, this step reduces unnecessary distractions. When you’re in a meeting with a client, you’re not distracted by phone calls you need to make because that information is “parked” in a system where you know you will see it when you need it. Likewise, when you’re playing with your puppy, you’re not distracted by your strategic plan.
This is where you address your list of actions and you get them done.
Big, amorphous problems are broken down into discreet chunks. You get to experience the feeling of completing tasks and “checking off” things from your list more regularly. You get a tangible feeling of success and winning as each task gets done.
This is where you regularly set aside blocks of time to keep your lists current. Allen recommends a weekly review at a minimum. Not only do you go through the previous steps of the process, but you also define your purpose, vision, goals and responsibilities. During review, you might discover there are some projects you really don’t want to commit to any longer. Deciding not to do something is okay. It’s good executive decision-making to say “no” to things.
This step allows you to look at all your commitments from a higher level. You discover that your work is not something that defines you – rather, it is something you define for yourself according to your purpose and what you want to accomplish in your life. It gives you a sense of empowerment.
If you’re not already using a system or methodology to manage your time and your tasks then I definitely recommend Getting Things Done. Above is just an overview. There are many other nuances and tips that I couldn’t go into here that are worth exploring. I get something out of it each time I review it.