If you read many of the posts on this site you will quickly notice that I am a big user of GTD; so it strikes me that one of my earlier posts should be to explain what it is and what is does for me. I am actually going to split it over two posts as it’s such a large subject.
GTD is the acronym for the productivity concept inspired by the book “Getting Things Done” by David Allen.
This is not an attempt to fully explain how to implement GTD (for that you need to read the book) but rather to explain the main concepts and their advantages.
The GTD philosophy is based on David Allen’s assertion that to be most productive you must free your mind from other distractions in your subconscious of trying to remember everything that you need to do and, to do that, you need to capture everything in a trusted system that you refer to routinely enough that nothing gets forgotten.
The result is what he refers to as Mind Like Water which comes from a Japanese principle.
The basic premise it that you collect EVERYTHING that you need to do and categorise it, process it, have a system to review it and then a way to decide what to do and where/when.
So what David Allen refers to as Workflow becomes:
1 – Collect
– Get everything that demands your attention on one place
2 – Process
– Decide what things are
3 – Organise
– Decide where to put them in your system
4 – Review
5 – Do
– Usually based on 4 criteria; context, time available, energy available, priority
During this processing as part of a weekly review Allen has several categories and rules to follow. Two of the main ones are:
– if something takes more than one action to complete then it’s a project and a project is made up up actions so find the next action to actually progress that.
– if you come across something during the review that can be done in two minutes of under then do it there and then. This is the Two Minute Rule.
So once you have conducted your processing one of the things that you end up with is a list of next actions that you can actual act upon to start to get things done.
Also in this review process you will defer items, put them in your calendar perhaps, delegate some, classify some as someday/maybe to come back to in the future and waiting for where someone else has to complete an action before you can proceed.
This weekly processing review is central to the process. A daily review would cover next actions and calendar items and in a monthly review you would cover more high level and strategical items (more about that in part 2). This means you always have a system that you can come back to where everything you need to do is in one place and won’t be forgotten. Hence you can concentrate on what your next actions are and not spend part of your mind trying to remember what you will need to do afterwards or tomorrow or next week.
The attached diagram shows how the process and workflow fits together.
Once you have your list of next actions you have the question – what to do first. Allen has 3 models to apply here:
Four Criteria Model
– Consider time, energy, context and priority.
– Doing predefined work, work as it shows up or defining your work.
Six Level Model
– This relates to horizons of focus which I will cover in the second part of this post.
For me reading this book and discovering the process that it delivers was a major breakthrough and has changed how I work permanently. I had always been quite organised so was clearly in a receptive state for this kind of principal. Some work in a disorganised way and would never see the benefit of even starting such as system. I found myself reading the book and thinking ahead on how I would implement it. I already followed many of the principals so I didn’t have to stop doing anything or throw any of my systems out; just add to them or modify some.
I now run a regular weekly review, religiously, every Friday morning, to such an extent that if I have to miss it for some reason I have to find sometime over the weekend to get it covered, even if its just a cut down version. Its mainly for work related activities but my main personal stuff is in there are well. No point having them not in the system and providing the subconscious distractions that the system is designed to prevent.
My tools for running my own GTD system are Outlook for e-mail, calendar and tasks lists and Evernote for everything else. (More about Evernote in a future post). I was using these before I came across GTD but I have modified their use to fit the system. I have created a check list for helping my weekly review which is shown below, I complete one of these every Friday morning as part of my review, which normally takes 30 minutes and is one of the most critical and productive 30 minute spells of my whole week normally. the items in blue text are contained in Outlook and the items below are all in Evernote; a series of saved searches.