Achieving Zen with the GTD Method

Do you have any of these problems?

  • The horrendous moment of panic when something you were supposed to do and forgot flashes through your mind
  • Constant feeling of overwhelm: Having so much on your plate you’re too busy sorting through the madness to actually accomplish anything
  • Piles of papers and receipts that you’re not sure are important/ worth keeping taking up space in your house
  • Trying your hardest to remember to run every single errand, only to get home and realize you forgot something
  • Tearing apart your closet feeling like you have nothing to wear and winding up with piles of clothes on the floor you’ll have to clean up later
  • Missing small details you thought you had taken care of
  • Feedback from a boss or client that you’re not being detail oriented enough

My goal for the month of September has been to be mistake-free, and to build systems that will carry me and ultimate free up more of my time for high-level thinking and important projects (designing an app, writing this blog).

This post will take you through a few systems I’ve learned to help YOU get super spiffy and organized.

Don’t you want to be one of those cool, calm collected people you always see on the street? You know you’ve seen them. They’re well-dressed, their clothes match, their homes are clean and organized, and everything has a place.

I used to wonder, how do these people exist? And how do I get to BE one of them?

I was finally able to figure it out..thanks to the ‘Getting Things Done’ method by David Allen.

In order for you to master a state of productivity, you must have a system in place to back you up. That way, random To-Do’s aren’t constantly flashing through your mind, sending you in a panic and pulling you in 7 directions at once.

Let’s begin with the very ninja-esque principle ‘Mind Like Water‘ or as athletes like to call it ‘Being in the Zone’.

As David puts it, your mind is like a computer. The conscious part is the desktop and the unconscious part is the storage. The more items are running on your computer, the harder it has to think to recall items, which often results in delays, crashes, and reboots.

The GTD method offers you the equivalent of a back up hard drive, where you can keep your thoughts and ideas for reference and review. That way, your desktop (or conscious mind) is clean and clear- ready to work and process the things you need to get done.

STEP 1- CATCHING THE WATER DROPS:

In order, to achieve ‘mind like water’ you need to sit down and collect all of your thought drops. This means cleansing your mind of your To-Dos and getting them in one place. These ‘To Dos’ probably won’t come to you all at once, but will drop into mind at unexpected moments.

It’s best to create a ‘bucket’ system that will catch these thoughts to be processed at a later time.

This is part where you sit down with a notebook and empty your brain. Jot down everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) you’ve got on your mind that needs to get done.

This can include lofty life goals, places you would like to travel, or a grocery list or project task list of the day.

Whatever it is, get it out of your head and on to a piece of paper.

Tools:

For this process, you can use a voice recorder, a notebook or a trusty tool like Evernote. I personally use Wunderlist– a To-Do list app that lets me easily import a task the second it flashes through my mind.

STEP 2- CLARIFY/ PROCESS WHAT IT MEANS

As a fetishist of To Do lists, this is one of my favorite tricks of all time. I’ll go into detail on how to make a To-Do list actionable and achievable in another post about New Year’s resolutions (coming soon).

For now, let’s simplify: make sure everything on your To-Do list has a small step next to it that you can take action on immediately.

For example ‘Lose Weight’ is not a truly obtainable list item. This would become ‘Purchase iPhone fitness app‘ and ‘Work out at home for 10 minutes each day’

STEP 3- ORGANIZE/ PUT IT WHERE IT BELONGS

This means organize your goals into lists so you can easily scan and refer back to them. List categories can include ‘Errands’, ‘Life Goals’, ‘Books to Read’, and more. Again, this is where tools like Wunderlist or Todoist can be excellent for this because you can separate your lists into Projects and Subtasks.

Bonus

Tip: One of the better systems I’ve used in years past is from Steven Covey’s ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People‘.

He suggests that after your brain dump, you categorize your To-Do’s by the roles you assume as a person. For example ‘Secretary’, ‘Entrepreneur’, ‘Mother’, ‘Pet-Owner’, etc.

I found categorizing my To-Do’s by the different roles and personas I adapted in life allowed for the large diversity in my To-Do List.

Then sit down in front of a calendar and then schedule time for each To Do.

STEP 4- REFLECT/ REVIEW FREQUENTLY

Reviewing your To Do List will help you stay on top of your system so the natural force of entropy doesn’t occur. This will also keep those gut-punching moments of panic at bay to keep your mind ‘Clear Like Water’ knowing things will be taken care of.

STEP 5- ENGAGE/ DO!

Obviously, this is the most important part of the process. Once you have your system and To-Dos in place, sit down and start cracking. Be sure to process every task equally. Don’t set aside things that are uninteresting, or complex. Assess if something is actionable, make it actionable if possible, and categorize accordingly.

I recommend reading David Allen‘s book for the full sha-bang on how to be the productivity super hero you’ve always wanted to be.

Did it work for me?

Absolutely.

I am writing this blog right now because I was able to plow through my redesigned To Do lists. Thanks, David Allen!

The best part?

Those pesky side projects that were nagging at me have lifted like weights. As I write this, I have a clear and focused ‘mind like water’. I’m pretty much enlightened now.

I hope you too can use this system if you want to Karate chop your To-Do list into oblivion. Here’s a handy little workbook to help you apply it: Getting_Things_Done_Fast_-_Workbook

Happy organizing!

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