Productivity and GTD

How To GTD When Your To-Do List Keeps Growing

AUTHOR: Kayla Matthews

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Growing to do lists

The sheer number and scope of your responsibilities are dizzying.

Work, family, community and personal obligations. Of course, they are all relevant and individually meaningful. Honestly, it seems the more you accomplish, the more additional tasks pile up.

Productivity and personal satisfaction, two of your principle goals, blur under the sheer weight of consistently endless task lists. Simultaneously vying for your attention, things that quickly need doing morph into worrisome stress and depletive distraction.

David Allen addresses this increasingly common scenario in the popular book, Getting Things Done. His methodology for stress-free productivity focuses on personal habit-changing and routine implementation. As with anything new, once you begin to practice the following steps with conviction they will quickly become routine.

1. Get Tasks Out Of Your Head. Like a group of overexcited toddlers chasing a single ball, thoughts regarding how, when and what needs to be done, circle your brain endlessly until you find a safe place to record them. Written lists, organizational apps, notebooks or files, it’s simply a matter of what you feel most comfortable using.

Obvious as it sounds, the biggest challenge here is to stop and write everything you need to do as you think of it. Now is not the time to ponder item importance, prioritize or organize. This stage is for purging, plain and simple. You will surprise yourself at the extent to which faithfully recording tasks in written form relaxes your brain.

2. Break Lists Up. While GTD focuses on and honors the interconnectivity of various responsibilities, it’s helpful at this stage to divvy up your initial list into separate life arena to-dos. Work tasks, parenting, perhaps caring for older relatives or friends, community involvement, personal attendance. Separating obligations assures no area gets overlooked or under-tended.

3. Prioritize and Balance. A natural progression from the previous step, this is the point at which to align tasks with goals, vision and responsibility. You will not have the time or energy for everything on your list—nobody does. But you do know which tasks are non-negotiable, and your newly-relaxed mind can creatively alter time frames for completion.

Instead of growing horizontally, your to-do list is now clicking into a vertical continuum. One which is in sync with individual goals and purpose. Immediate tasks become apparent while future projects wait in safe storage.

4. Write Achievable Goals As Calls To Action. Be as specific as possible using dynamic language. It is helpful to keep tasks simple, well-defined and manageable. Instead of “Find Preschool for Tommy” for instance, try taking it one step at a time. “Research Reviews of Local Preschools” is a clear, easily-achievable starting point which concretely facilitates ultimate goal completion.

Include on your to-do list any additional information necessary to accomplish each task, such as phone numbers, map location and contact names.

5. Allow for Context. One of the most practical aspects of GTD is an emphasis on contextual deviation. Situations change, many times unpredictably, necessitating alteration of immediate goals and time frame.

Within this system, such change doesn’t throw off the overall balance of organization. Previous immediate tasks simply move to future project status or get delegated out according to updated priorities. New time-sensitive obligations take over with a minimal amount of upheaval. Eventually, the feeling of being prepared for just about anything permeates a sense of well-being even in unpredictable times.

Imagine how much happier and productive you can be with a clear head and relaxed mindset. Don’t just try it, get it done!

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