Implementing the Getting Things Done (GTD) Method

Today, I am letting you in on a secret – I was a big failure when it came to organizing, managing and prioritizing tasks. I believed that I was the president of the Procrastinator’s Club until I came across my life changing productivity system – Getting Things Done (GTD) method of productivity.

If you have never heard about the GTD method, let me give you a brief. This method was introduced by David Allen in his book ‘Getting Things Done – The art of stress free productivity’. Getting Things Done (GTD) is basically a productivity system that helps you complete tasks and meet commitments in a stress-free and efficient manner using a system of lists and calendars.

In this post I will be sharing a general overview of this system, how I am implementing it and how it has made a difference in my life.

GTD – Getting Things Done Method Overview –

The GTD method is a 5 step process which helps you organize, prioritize and manage your time and life. The 5 steps are –

Step 1 – Capture

Collect all your tasks, appointments and ideas in one place called the ‘Inbox’ in the GTD terminology. David Allen believes that “Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.” Get your ideas out of your mind and into the GTD system.

Step 2 –Clarify

Process everything you’ve collected in your inboxes. What is the goal behind this idea / task? What is the next step?

Step 3 –Organize

There are various lists where you can park the results from the second step. Here are the lists and their functions –

  1. Next actions – Any task (that is independent of any other task or person) should be noted down in this list
  2. Projects – If any activity / idea needs 2 or more steps for completion, then it will go under the projects list. Maintain a master project list and a project breakdown list for each project.
  3. Calendar – Any time / date specific activities will come under this list. All appointments and events come under this list.
  4. Waiting For – If a task is dependent on any other individual then that task goes under the waiting for list.
  5. Someday / Maybe List – All the ideas, projects or tasks that you cannot / do not want to take on immediately go under this list.
  6. References List – Any important documents or information that you may have to access in the future will go under this list.

Sort each item in the inbox in either of these lists. Here is a quick processing guide in a visual format.

Getting Things Done - GTD Processing Guide

Step 4 –Reflect

Reflection is the critical factor for success. Review all the lists regularly to make sure that the system is working for you. David Allen suggests a weekly review to do this. I absolutely love the weekly review process that he has recommended. Here is what you do in a weekly review –

  • Make sure each project has at least one next action.
  • Look through your someday/maybe list
  • Process your inbox
  • Go through a trigger List (a list of all areas of your life to help your memory trigger any related tasks)
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Step 5 – Engage

Start working on your next action items based on context, time available, energy available and priority.

This was a general overview and if you are intrigued to find out more, I recommend reading the book! Now let’s move on to the implementation phase.

GTD – Getting Things Done Method Implementation –

After I read the book, I was instantly excited to implement it and see how it works. But in all honesty, I was more overwhelmed than excited. Implementation of this method gets easier if you have the right system in place.

You can design this system in any tool of your choice – Evernote, Trello, Notion or your very own pen and paper! I personally designed the Getting Things Done system on pen and paper and now I am implementing it on Notion. I have also created a printable + editable pdf version of this system. You can get it by clicking here.

Getting Things Done Printable Planner

After discovering Notion, I have transferred my system onto Notion and it works the best for me. Most of the work that I do is online and hence having an online (also on app) platform has been easy.

My Process –

  1. Throughout the week – Note down all my ideas, tasks, events or anything that comes to mind in my inbox page
  2. Sunday – I process my inbox and categorize all the items to the right lists. I also take a look through all my projects and make sure that at least one action item from each of them is added to my next actions list.
  3. I then get to my next action items list and add context and priority to each one. Optionally I add the project and due date as applicable. Here are the contexts that I use to sort through my list.
    1. @Mystigal (Anything associated with this blog or my etsy shop)
    2. @SocialNetworth (Action items regarding my social media management company
    3. @Finances
    4. @Personal
  4. Starting Monday, I start to tackle tasks based on priority, urgency, context and my schedule. (I have talked more about this in the last section of this post – How GTD Changed my Life)

This system is working out for me by just spending around 30 minutes per week for it’s maintenance (Weekly review). I keep improving upon this method with every limitation I face and make it work better for me.

How the GTD Method has changed my life?

Here are my biggest lessons from the GTD system –

Make space in your mind by simply noting down every single thing in your inbox / lists.

My experience – I had a hard time falling asleep at night because I couldn’t stop thinking of all the things that I need to do the next day. This has affected my life in more than one way. Ever since using the GTD method, I write down everything that comes to my mind in my phone’s inbox note. I am falling asleep within minutes now and it has made a huge difference in my life.

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Work based on contexts and priorities

My experience – Earlier I used to start working one one project, hop on to some other project in about 30 minutes and hop to the next one later. I would do things as they were on my to-do list or as I thought of them. I would come back home from getting groceries and then remember I had some other work that I needed to do while I was out. Categorizing by context helps me look at all related tasks and indulge in batch-working.

Also, I now work more intuitively. This means I check my energy every single day and assess what priority task can I handle at this stage. If my energy is low and I start tackling a high priority task, I always end up getting frustrated. And every time I am in a high energy state, I cover as many high priority tasks as I can so that I can cut myself some slack. This has not only improved my productivity but also increased my self-care efforts.

GTD implemented in Notion

The someday maybe lists to help you capture your most brilliant ideas

My experience – Have you ever thought of something that might be amazing to do / work on and forgot about it after the moment had passed? It used to happen to me a lot. These days, after capturing everything, I put such ideas that I would love to do someday on that list. The best example is doodling. I wanted to learn to doodle for a long time. After starting to use this system, once when I thought about doodling, I put it down. A few months ago, after the pandemic hit, our country was in total lock-down. Work was going slow and I was bored. At that time, I opened my list and saw that I wanted to learn how to doodle. I started taking online classes in my free time and doodling every time I felt bored. My mind would not have brought it up on it;s own and I am so thankful for this system for this.

Honestly, there are so many other things that are changing my life such as the references collection. But I am getting a feeling that this blog post has started to sound like a telly-commercial advertisement!

So tell me in the comments below if you have read this book, what was your experience with it and let me know if you would like any other details about the getting things done method.

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