Look! I’m getting something done. Writing this post has been on my to-do list for weeks. So get ready to enjoy this long-procrastinated post about getting things done.
By the way, when I say something like, “This is the way I do it…” I usually mean, “I do it this way sometimes” or possibly, “I know my life would be easier if I did it this way, ” but usually, “This is the way I theoretically could do it if I got off my can long enough to do it like that.” With that disclaimer, we are ready to explore “my” system, the way “I” “Get Things Done.” (Inspired from David Allen’s novel, Getting Things Done). Theoretically.
The workflow is this: collect, process, review.
You probably have dozens of to-do items, appointments, ideas, and errands floating in your brain right now. And you have to consciously think about all of them, or you will forget them. Consequently, you can’t think about what you would like to think about, and falling asleep is difficult during the scheduling meeting your brain tries to have with you about all of your open loops.
So collect those open loops, and free your cranium for more interesting things.
An open loop is anything that is not supposed to be as it is, where it is. “Buy food storage buckets,” “Make cookies for my husband,” and “Buy more pacifiers for my baby” would be my open loops, if they weren’t safely in my Google Tasks. (Go to gmail, then click “gmail” underneath the Google logo, then choose “tasks.” I usually interact with my to-do lists with this app. It’s ad supported. I got over it.) When I first think of a new task, I jot it down (swype it down?) on my Inbox to-do list.
My other collection places are a tray on my desk and my email inbox. (My husband has a tray too, which is where I put bills and flyers and such he needs attend to. I don’t have to put it on his pillow, or his dinner plate, or the middle of his work space, which he probably appreciates.)
The key to collection places is regular processing. If stuff is collected but never processed, you won’t trust important things to your system, and it’s back in your brain again. “I process my inboxes weekly.”
If you are just setting up this system, the initial collection is a little intense. You walk around your house and write down all of your open loops. This will take a long time. Write down everything from urgent things to things that you want to do someday in the distant future. Then sit down and empty your brain. Write down everything.
Hold a meeting with yourself. Schedule it when nobody will bother you for a while. During this meeting, you will decide what to do with stuff in your collection places. Don’t put anything back. (That is to say, fully deal with each thing. Don’t skip something because it is going to be hard. I happen to put back things when I need to wait on them. Another person (Like David Allen) might keep a separate file for “project support materials.”) Ask yourself this question: what is the next action? Here are the potential answers:
- Something that will take less than two minutes. Do it. You will spend longer than two minutes writing down the task and reviewing it weekly. So don’t write it down, just do it.
- Throw this thing in the trash.
- I want to do this eventually, but not right now. Write down this task on my Someday/Maybe to-do list. Most of my things go here. 🙂 It’s nice to not feel guilty about not doing something, because it is on my Someday to-do list.
- Set a date on your calendar for when you need to deal with this item. Also write down where you put the item.
- File for future reference (even better: take a picture of it and save it in an Evernote, then throw away the paper. If you really want to keep papers, get a nice filing cabinet with folders labeled and alphabetized that opens easily and that you can reach from your chair. Otherwise, your desk will become your filing cabinet, because it opens easily and you can reach it from your chair.)
- This item will take several steps to complete. So write it down in your Projects to-do list.
- I need to be at a computer to do this. Write down on Computer to-do list
- I need to go somewhere to do this. Write down on Errands to-do list.
- My kids need to be asleep before I can do this. Write down on Kids Asleep to-do list.
- This is something I want to blog about. Write down on Blog to-do list.
- This is someone I need to call. Write down on Call to-do list, with phone number.
- This is something I need email someone about. Write down on Email to-do list.
- This is something I delegated to someone else, and I am waiting for them to do it before I can do the next step. Write down on Waiting to-do list.
- This is something I need to do at work. Write down on At Work to-do list.
- This is something I need to do at church. Write down on At Church to-do list.
Is that a lot of lists? Google tasks handles multiple lists well.
It’s good to separate your to-do items by context. When you have a minute at your computer, you pull out your universal To-Do list, and then you have to have a mini processing meeting with yourself. What is the next action on this? Can I do it now? No. Next thing. What is the next action on this? Can I do it now? No. Annoying. Pull out your context-specific list when you are in that specific context.
Weekly review is critical. I know, because sometimes I don’t have them and then I miss appointments, forget bills, and have a mess in my tray. It makes me not trust my system, and I need to trust my system if it is going to keep my brain clear.
What else should you do at your weekly review? This is my checklist.
[ ] Process your Tray
[ ] Empty Your Head
[ ] Process Your Inboxes (Gmail, task list)
[ ] Review Coupons
[ ] Review Calendar for the upcoming week
[ ] Evernote Work-In-Progress (review open research projects)
[ ] Review Projects to-do list
[ ] Review Next Actions to-do list
[ ] Review Waiting For to-do list
[ ] Review Someday, Maybe to-do list
What went well this week?
What should you change this week?
What should you be teaching Heidi?
What should you be teaching Peter?
If I don’t feel like doing the whole list, I’ll just process my tray. I should also review my Calendar.
I also have a checklist for monthly meetings.
[ ] Picture Dump (I should also save them to the cloud.)
[ ] Reorganize Pinterest Boards (This is where I keep links)
[ ] Reorganize Project Support Materials (I have a single folder. Maybe someday I will have two. 🙂
[ ] Reorganize Evernote (This is where I keep notes to myself, children’s milestones, pictures of handouts, research, notes on books, journal entries. Monthly, I should make sure things are tagged properly and in the proper notebooks.)
What can I do to promote health in my family:
What are my Temple plans:
What should I do for my calling:
How is my exercise going:
What should I change about the way I Get Things Done:
How can I improve my Social Life:
How can I be more responsible in my use of Social Media:
What should I do to continue my education:
If I don’t feel like all of this, I just save all my pictures to my computer. 🙂
So that’s it. When I feel like getting things done, this is how I get things done.