David Allen’s GTD methodology is summed up by his “Five Steps That Apply Control to Chaos”. I love it! Take some time now to actually do these steps as we go through them. You will feel great afterwards. Here we go:
Step One: CAPTURE – Collect what has your attention
David Allen says: Heads are for having ideas – not holding them
I agree. We are constantly overloading our ‘ram’ – it feels like there is heaps to do but if you down load it – there often isn’t as much as you think. Holding stuff in your head is exhausting – there is a low level (or high level) of stress that sits over us as we worry what we are missing. Better to get it out so we can actually see what we are missing!
So your first step is simply getting everything out of your head and capturing it somewhere safe. What’s got your attention? Is it work to be done, issues to be solved, emails to be read, ideas to be developed or implemented?
Use an in-tray, notepad, digital list, or voice recorder to capture everything that has your attention. Little, big, personal and professional—all your to-do’s, projects, things to handle or finish.
Step Two: CLARIFY – Process what it means
Take everything that you capture and ask: Is it actionable? If no, then trash it, incubate it, or file it as reference. If yes, decide the very next action required. If it will take less than two minutes, do it now. If not, delegate it if you can; or put it on a list to do when you can.
I love this – in the next section I’ll share a method of ‘trashing it’ – or I like to saying ‘ditching it’ without risk or fear.
Step Three: ORGANISE – Put it where it belongs
Put action reminders on the right lists. For example, create lists for the appropriate categories—calls to make, errands to run, emails to send, etc.
Most of my actions are generated by emails so I have found I can save emails as ‘Tasks’ in my electronic diary on the day that I expect to do the task – or when it makes most sense to do the task. For example, all emails relating to a meeting, such as the background papers and agenda, I’ll save as a task to do on the meeting date. I use Gmail but I have heard that Outlook is even better. By doing this, I get to decide when I am going to do these tasks, they are not clogging up my email or my head, I get to forget about them until the date they need to be done, and I never lose them – they are there when I get to that day.
To manage my projects and the big chunks of work that go over a long period of time and take many actions to complete (if ever), I have used a variety of different programs such as Microsoft Project, Trello and Solve 360. All good. But I have more recently gone back to basics and use an excel spread sheet that is an adaptation on the Gantt Chart. Instead of putting the detailed actions in the first column and shading the cell when it is to be done, I put the actions in the cell in the week that I plan to do the task. That way I can run my eye down that week and know what I have to achieve. More on how to set this up as a collaborative team weekly work planner later.
Step Four: REFLECT – Review frequently
Look over your lists as often as necessary to trust your choices about what to do next. Do a weekly review to get clear, get current, and get creative.
This is the weak link in the chain and where I find myself losing it! It is so important to do this step that I dive a little deeper into it in a later section.
Step Five: ENGAGE – Simple do
Use your system to take appropriate actions with confidence.