When I first read David Allen’s productivity masterpiece, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, I’ve been a bit overwhelmed by the process he laid out. I did not know how to get started and I wasn’t so sure I wanted to implement every part of his methodology. It seemed too much.
The good news is, if you’re feeling overwhelmed as I was, you don’t need to do it all. You can pick and choose a few components of GTD and just get started with that. Over time, when it feels natural, you can start adding more components. In today’s article, I will share a few pointers on the most valuable parts of Getting Things Done that you should consider trying today. If you are not yet familiar with GTD, I suggest you read my beginner’s guide here.
Start small : the 2 minute rule
One of the smallest commitment that you can make when getting started with GTD is the 2 minute rule. The rule is simple : if a task takes less than 2 minutes to accomplish, do it right away. It is not worth adding to your task management system, because it would take longer to process the task than to get it done. So don’t think about it, just do it.
The benefit of the 2 minute rule is to get rid of small nagging tasks that would otherwise remain as “open loops” and consume your mental RAM. When you get them done, you free space in your brain to think about the important stuff and you create momentum to get you going with more meaty tasks. Give it a try! I bet you’ll enjoy the peace of mind that the 2 minute rule will provide.
David Allen keeps speaking of the “mind like water” concept. He says that, when Getting Things Done works as its best, you will be able to react accordingly to the stuff that will be happening to you. Since “your mind is for having ideas, not for keeping them”, capturing the tasks and ideas that pop up will allow you to achieve that mind like water. You should be capturing everything in a trusted system as soon as it comes up.
I like to use an hybrid of analog and digital productivity system, so this is how I capture my tasks. During the day, I use the daily spread in my Bullet Journal to write down tasks, ideas, projects and notes as they come up. I like being able to log my thoughts rapidly, with simple bullet signifiers that let me know what type of item they are, be it tasks, notes, ideas, appointments, etc. During my weekly review, I redistribute those notes in the according spreads in my Bullet Journal or in my digital brain, Evernote.
When I am on the go, in the subway or running errands, I like to capture my tasks in the Todoist app on my phone or my ideas in Google Keep, a rapid logging note-taking app. After trying several task management systems geared toward Getting Things Done, I chose Todoist as my task manager because it is easy to use, simple and beautiful to look at. I like that we get a dedicated Inbox where are stored all the on-the-go tasks that I capture, so that I can review them during my weekly review. David Allen emphasizes the idea of inboxes to work with his system so I like that Todoist has that function.
In the end, it doesn’t matter what tools you use to capture your tasks, as long as you do it right away when they come up, so you don’t have to keep anything on your mind. Once you experience the peace of mind of having nothing to store in your mental RAM, you will truly experience mind like water and the full impact of Getting Things Done.
Most of all, Review it all
If there’s one last part of GTD that you should absolutely be incorporating in your workflow, it is the weekly review process. You now have built the habit of emptying your mind and you have a trusted system to integrate the different parts of GTD. Now, you have to make sure that your tasks won’t be forgotten and that all your projects are moving forward. The answer to make sure nothing falls in the cracks is the weekly review. I wrote a dedicated article on my review process that I suggest you read if you are starting with the weekly review. But in a nutshell, you have to review your project list, to make sure that you know what needs to be done next in each project. Review outstanding tasks and process your notes in the according lists. Think of the different roles you play in your life and write down what needs to be done in any of them. Make sure that you have a game plan to get all those things done.
The weekly review is incontestably the longest process in the GTD methodology, but without a doubt, it is the most valuable, the single process that makes everything else work. Make sure to schedule a few hours each week to get it done as you will reap the rewards of your work.
If you have not done so already, I highly suggest that you read Getting Things Done by David Allen. No one is best suited to guide you through the method than the master himself. You can grab a copy of the book here. You can also read my beginner’s guide in this article. If you are curious as how I use GTD in my Bullet Journal, you can check out my Instagram account or read my detailed article with tons of pictures.
If you have tried Getting Things Done, what is the part that gave you the biggest reward? If you have not tried it yet, what is holding you back?
See you next Tuesday!
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