Getting Things Done or GTD by David Allen is probably the best productivity book I’ve read… and I’ve done my fair share of researching productivity. I’ve done all that research because I tend to have two problems:
1.) I work hard, but not always smart
2.) I seem to never have enough time to finish projects due to procrastination and perfectionism… which are basically two sides of the same coin.
I’m always working on, thinking about or worrying about the things I have to do. But a lot of the mental gymnastics I am going through isn’t really helping me accomplish anything. My skating coach once told me that I work very hard, but not very smart and she was right. It didn’t matter how many times I was willing to throw myself into the air, until I thought about what I wanted my body to be doing, I wasn’t going to be landing any jumps. I have since figured out pretty well how to accomplish goals related to physical abilities, but I need to do the same with the other areas of my life.
I used to think I needed to manage my time more wisely, but I am starting to think that my projects simply swell with the time given to complete them. Deadlines always inspire a certain dread in me that counter intuitively bring out procrastination. It’s like I’m a little child that thinks if I just hide everything under the bed no one will notice… maybe the project will just disappear! But of course they almost never do and then I’ve just wasted more time and added to the stress. Perfectionism plays out in much the same way except when the deadlines are ones I’ve made up, the projects get pushed further and further back. Everything that I did this month is a perfect example of that. I was waiting until I had a perfect website envisioned to even start making one. Which basically led to years of essentially doing nothing except worrying and being upset that I hadn’t done it yet.
The main reason I feel GTD works for me, is that it allows me to capture everything going on in my world/ head so I don’t have to think about it all the time. This frees me up to be a person and not a walking worrywart.
I am really great at the initial part of the process which is basically make a list of everything that is or has ever been on your mind.
Next organize those thoughts into actionable plans. Basically, “Get in Shape” is not an actionable plan, but “Research nearby gyms” or “Make appointment with a Personal Trainer” are. The less vague the better. Some thoughts are one-step actions, while others will turn into multi-step projects.
Then do one of the following: Do It, Defer It, Delegate It or Drop It. There is also a recommendation that anything you can do in less than 2 minutes, you should do right away. Implementing this has been most helpful for me for emails. It’s amazing how many I will read and then let sit there when I probably could have responded immediately and just been done with it already!
The last part of his process is probably the most important and also the easiest to start avoiding or ignoring. It’s the weekly review. You basically want to review your system and all of its captured parts so you can stay on top of everything and make a plan for the next week about what needs to get done. It’s easy to start letting this slide, but without this step the method really won’t hold together for long.
I would recommend this book to anyone who ever feel even the slightest bit overwhelmed by the things they want or have to get done.
Here’s a fun chart that may not make sense to everyone, but it’s a great reminder chart after understanding his system.
One app I found useful is actually a browser extension for chrome called “ActiveInbox”. It is made to help you implement GTD in your gmail. I feel like it does a pretty good job, better than what I could do using folders and labels alone. I haven’t been using it long enough to know how well it stands up over time… but so far so good. If you are interested in ActiveInbox you can find out more about it here:
Oh yeah and its basic version is free!
Goodbye debilitating perfectionism, hello consistent, purposeful effort 🙂