As usual amongst knowledge workers, thereâ€™s no shortage of buzzwords and jargon flying around out there. A few months ago, after researching design thinking methods, I came across something called G.T.D.(getting things done). Usually these type of self-help approaches turn me off due to the large volume of overly complicated methodologies and hours of reading needed, but this particular approach seemed to keep popping up, and a few of the descriptions I came across interested me enough to get me reading further. As a designer I am a sucker for highly simplified yet highly effective solutions.
So what exactly is GTD?
According to Davidco, the website of David Allen, author of the book and creator of the GTD system, GTD is:
the popular shorthand for â€œGetting Things DoneÂ®â€œ, the groundbreaking work-life management system and book by David Allen that transforms personal overwhelm and overload into an integrated system of stress-free productivity.
Implementing GTD alleviates the feeling of overwhelm, instills confidence, and releases a flood of creative energy. It provides structure without constraint, managing details with maximum flexibility. The system rigorously adheres to the core principles of productivity, while allowing tremendous freedom in the â€œhow.â€ The only â€œrightâ€ way to do GTD is getting meaningful things done with truly the least amount of invested attention and energy. Coaching thousands of people, where they work, about their work, has informed the GTD method with the best practices of how to work (and live), in that most efficient and productive way.
Wikipedia Defines it in the following manner .
Getting Things Done, commonly abbreviated as GTD, is an action management method, a trademark and the title of the book which describes the method by David Allen.
GTD rests on the principle that a person needs to move tasks out of the mind by recording them somewhere. That way, the mind is freed from the job of remembering everything that needs to be done, and can concentrate on actually performing those tasks.
It works like this.
- Capturing anything and everything that has your attention
- Defining actionable things discretely into outcomes and concrete next steps
- Organizing reminders and information in the most streamlined way, in appropriate categories, based on
how and when you need to access them
- Keeping current and â€œon your gameâ€ with appropriately frequent reviews of the six horizons of your
commitments (purpose, vision, goals, areas of focus, projects, and actions)
Why I like GTD.
The thing which attracted me to the GTD system the most is the way David Allen explains how our minds work. Our minds store all unfinished tasks big or small, important or not and keeps reminding us of what we are not getting done. For me this is the main cause of my procrastination. So many thoughts, tasks, ideas floating around in the mind, puts me into a state of paralysis which almost completely prevents me from getting to do any of the things which I know I have to do. Iâ€™m sure you can identify with this in some way.
Now here comes the best part of GTD which should be common sense but prevents many of us from getting started a specific project or to do action, that being the â€œnext actionâ€. A large portion of the things we need to get done require more than one action. With GTD we start by getting the project or to do item out of the mind by putting it into a trusted system. A trusted system is something which your mind trusts you will check at some stage so you can stop obsessing over that particular undone item. If you scraps of paper always get lots your mind knows this and will maintain the task of reminding you about your undone items at the most random of times.
Next and more importantly is figuring out what the very next step is in taking this project or to do action closer to its completion. I never quite saw the value of this until I started putting it into action recently. Once I know the next step I can focus on it as an individual task and not on the whole project. As David Allen says in his book, you canâ€™t do a project, only a task.
One of the areas I have only recently covered in the book is the six-level view of your life from the bigger picture perspective right down to the smallest of daily tasks.
- 50,000+ feet: Life
- 40,000 feet: Three- to five-year vision
- 30,000 feet: One- to two-year goals
- 20,000 feet: Areas of Responsibility
- 10,000 feet: Current Projects
- Runway: Current actions
I have yet to start planning my personal GTD approach according to the six-level method but I can see the value in having this kind of view of ones life, in order to assure that the things I am spending my valuable time on right now agree with where I want my life to be going in the future. For example it would make no sense to be spending the next 3 years of my life studying in a particular field if I have no plans to use what I am learning in the future. This way I can plan my immediate tasks to get myself closer to my higher goals.
Some more insight.
Whilst researching the topic of GTD I came across a series of interviews conducted by 43 Folders which is Merlin Mannâ€™s site about personal productivity, life hacks, and simple ways to make your life a little better. David Allen was interviewed on the subject of GTD and gave a little personal insight into how he goes about planning his life according to his GTD method. For anyone interested in getting a basic insight into GTD I highly recommend listening to the podcast which can be downloaded here.
On my quest to implement some of the methods taught in the GTD approach I hunted around online for some tools to help me organize my thoughts and tasks and came across a few very promising free tools. Thinking Rock is a free tools which can be downloaded for just about any platform and makes getting started on GTD a breeze. I love the way this app has been put together and very quickly learnt how to make use of itâ€™s very simple yet powerful features. Lifehacker.com recently did a review for their download of the day in which they had this to say:
Collect your thoughts, process them into projects, actions and reference and review your action lists by context and project. ThinkingRock isnâ€™t the prettiest interface youâ€™ll ever see, but itâ€™s free, cross-platform, and is clearly developed by disciples of
The DavidDavid Allenâ€™s GTD method.
Something even more impressive which has proven to be extremely useful to me on a daily basis is 30 Boxes. One of the quotes on their homepage reads. â€œitâ€™s so easy my mom can do itâ€œ, and for someone who likes simple easy to use applications I tend to agree. Iâ€™ve been using it for a few months now and though I am not by any means a diligent GTD disciple it has helped me getting quite a few of my to-do tasks done with itâ€™s great collection of features. I personally love receiving email reminders of things I need to get done and appreciate this one feature most of all. Iâ€™m sure there are lots of other calendars out there with similar features, but 30 Folders makes adding, editing, deleting and planning tasks easy with its many shortcuts and easy to use features.
I wish I could integrate my thinking rock and 30 Boxes, I think that would really rock. Right now my personal GTD system is a rough mixture of 2 different sizes of moleskin notebooks, one for dumping stuff and one for organizing projects & tasks, and my 30 Folders account with a splash of cellphone reminders now and then just to be sure. Iâ€™ve gotten alot more done in the last few weeks and hope to stick to this type of approach. I dream of days where projects are completed, personal admin gets done in a jiffy and the anxiety brought on my a growing task list and increased procrastination is a thing of the past.
Go on then, get on with getting things done!