The Beginners Guide to Getting Things Done
In recent years the book Getting Things Done has become one of the most famous productivity systems in the world. Every day, thousands of procrastinators use this system not only to manage their to-do lists, but to achieve their goals as well. David Allen’s “keep it simple stupid” approach guides you to clear your mind of all the unwanted baggage that stops you from getting things done.
The GTD system is centered around the idea that we are constantly bombarded with competing “inputs” on a daily basis. Every day worries, concerns, chores and goals all mount up as inputs that need to be managed if we are to have any chance of being productive. In short, GTD gives us the means to manage our daily to-do lists. Without managing our daily schedule, we fall into the “emergency scan modality”, where we react to external inputs rather than defining them ourselves.
A Brief Breakdown
In order to follow the GTD plan, there are a few main steps followers must take. The first stage is to record all the thoughts and ideas you’re having difficulty processing into a “collection bucket” (This is any place where you can record information, such as a notepad or word document). This stage takes the information out of you head and gets it down on a page in front of you.
The next step is to decide what actionable steps you can take to act on or realize these ideas. After this, you need to organize your day-to-day schedule in order to make sure that you set the wheels in motion. Part of this is reviewing your progress regularly to make sure that your actions are conducive to your goals and overall productivity.
Regularly reviewing your progress is the most important stages of the entire process, as it forces you to report back on how effectively you’re putting your plan into practice. Without regular reviews it’s easy to full into the trap of plateauing or making mediocre progress with your goals.
The Rationale Behind the System
The core of the GTD system centers on the idea that you need to structure the thoughts in your head onto paper, before implementing an actionable strategy/schedule, which is then regularly reviewed. Recording and reviewing information in this way means that your brain doesn’t have to store all of this excess data, and you won’t be forced to try and remember your entire to-do list!
Liberating your mind of recalling these errands will not only help to relax you but cultivate what Allen calls the “mind like water” state. This is a flexible state where you are always ready to adapt to the demands of your day effectively. Rather than being blinded and pulled around unforeseen events, you’ll run your day instead of having it run you.
Without a structured plan, every day is oversaturated with what Allen defines as “Stuff”. Stuff is “anything you have allowed into your psychological or physical world that doesn’t belong where it is but for which you haven’t yet determined the desired outcome and the next action step”. This is a longwinded way of saying information that you haven’t set aside time to process and record.
When you rely on your mind to remember your entire to-do list your brain not only becomes fatigued but stressed as well. When our minds are clouded with a variety of inputs in can be difficult to shut off the white noise and get anything done, let alone important tasks. The GTD system is so effective because it addresses this fundamental barrier of our attention spans.
Use the GTD System to take Action
Ultimately, the GTD system will help you to bridge the gap between your daily schedule and your goals. So many of us fall short of our goals because we don’t quite leave the finish line and commit to a daily routine that lays the groundwork to future success. The GTD system recognizes that there’s only so much information our brains can process, and by writing ideas down we’re making our brains not only much more efficient but creative as well.
If you feel there’s too much stuff in your life, it’s a good idea to consider the GTD system to help you to run your day more efficiently. Being lost in the fog of daily thoughts, concerns and tasks is not only detrimental to productivity, but your health as well. Recording your ideas and regularly reviewing them will help you to get much better at taking action and reaching your long-term goals.