How I “Do” GTD

This is the follow-up to a previous post on my GTD tools, where I’ll share my process for GTD, and how I use the tools.

In the beginning there was a big pile of stuff on my desk, and a couple of drawers filled with who-knows-what. It didn’t help that we had just moved and some of my reference books and papers were still in boxes. The stage was perfectly set for a thorough organizing. I picked up my copy of Getting Things Done and followed the instructions. I was inspired by the following quote from page 87, ‘Much of learning how to manage workflow in a “black belt” way is about laying out the gear and practicing the moves so that the requisite thinking happens more automatically and it’s a lot easier to get engaged in the game.’

So I gathered everything that I wanted to incorporate into my system, as well as all of the tools listed on page 92. Then I attacked the stacks and boxes, applying the rules to each item: Is it actionable? If no, then trash it, tickle it, or file it. If yes, then do it (if it takes less than 2 minutes), delegate it, or defer it.

After this massive purge-and-organize session, I was left with a clean home office and a stack of loose-leaf paper with ideas and notes on them. I had made my 48-folder Tickler File, and Reference Files for every topic that I had come across (utility bills, bank statements, printouts from blogs, web reference material, etc.).

Finally, I sat down with my folders and went over the list of “Triggers” on page 114 in order to clear my head of ideas, incomplete projects, what have you. I wrote down each thing on its own piece of paper, and laid them out on the floor. Categories appeared naturally ( i.e. Computer, Home, Work, etc) and I stacked like things together. The “Trigger” list was invaluable in helping to clear all of this information from the back of my mind. When this was complete I started to organize these loose papers by filing the appropriate sheets in the Tickler File, Reference File, or into a coherent system of lists in order to start the Next Actions needed to complete them. These lists were copied onto 3″x5″ cards for my hPDA.

Now, with my Calendar, the hPDA, my Tickler File, and a Capture Notebook I was all set. Or so I thought. Each morning I get up and check the Tickler File for any notes, then sit down with the Calendar and hPDA to organize my day. At the end of the day, I sit down and make sure that any Next Actions that have been completed have been marked off, any notes are filed or scheduled, and everything is captured. If any of the cards need to be replaced or updated, I do it at this time, and archive the old card for the end-of-the-month review.

Of course, this routine has evolved a bit, and the notes that I generate from the Weekly Review are archived for Monthly Review also. I have also winnowed the number of categories down, as tasks have been completed and Contexts have been more clearly defined. I have also created a 3-ring binder for a Tickler File at work, and a second 3-ring binder for a Customer Tracking system that I put together. Now when I get to work, I go through a second iteration of planning for the day.

The hPDA and a Pocketmod are used to capture ideas and customer information when I am away from my desk. The Capture Notebook is split into sections where I write down ideas, books that I come across that I’d like to remember, and so on. There is also a section for jotting down interesting websites that I encounter.

So far, the system is working, very well in fact. The only glitches that I have run into are being disciplined about the evening consolidation and keeping to the Weekly Review. I know that it can be improved, and as time goes on it will continue to evolve, and I will keep you posted.

I would appreciate your feedback, suggestions or tips in the comments.

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