Getting Things Done - GTD

8 Tips to Implement GTD Successfully

AUTHOR: Francisco Sáez
tags Stress-Free Weekly Review Habits Capture Clarify Advice
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8 Tips to Implement GTD Successfully

Getting Things Done is a personal productivity method that is easy to learn as everything it teaches is common sense, yet it can be difficult to put into practice, at least at first. There are a number of habits you need to implement, and creating habits you don’t have can be hard.

It’s a bit like starting to exercise or quit smoking. It’s easy to start because we all understand the benefits it has for our health, but it’s just as easy to give up after a while if we don’t get the good habits established and get rid of the bad ones.

Here are a few tips that can help you implement GTD if you are just starting out. They can also be useful if you already practice GTD and you have the feeling that something isn’t working as well as it should:

1. You must have the will. As I said, to implement GTD you’ll have to create or eliminate habits, and that requires work, time and discipline. Of course, the benefit will make it worth the effort, but it’s not free. Are you willing? Are you open and committed to change to be more effective? If you’re going to try for the sake of trying, without purpose, you’ll surely waste your time.

2. You must know the methodology well. Read the book first… but read it well. Getting Things Done is the book by David Allen that explains the GTD methodology. Don’t read it as if it were a novel, because when you finish it you won’t remember half the things, and there are many details to unpack. It’s a book for learning, so make it a productive read. As you read it, underline the most relevant things, make small summaries and outlines, and make lists with the actions you should start taking.

3. Worry about the method, not the technology. Many recommend starting with a low-tech system, and buying good equipment and enough material (folders, trays, binders, etc.), which requires a lot of space. This isn’t necessary, unless you are particularly fond of that way of working. Of course, you’ll need some basic equipment (a physical inbox, a notebook and a pen, at least) but you don’t need to go back to the 19th century. There are digital apps that connect with your email and work tools in the cloud and, in combination with your computer, tablet and smartphone, will make things much easier. FacileThings is a good solution to get started with GTD because, in addition to allowing you to gather and organize all your tasks in one place, it will guide you to implement the method in the right way.

4. Do an initial “mind sweep”. David Allen recommends an initial capture of 100% of the things you have pending, which may well require a couple of days of hard work. If that puts you off, you can do an initial capture of everything that comes to mind for, say, a couple of hours, and then collect things incrementally as they come in. If you do the Weekly Reviews correctly, you’ll build on the initial capture and before you know it, you’ll have 100% of your inventory of actions to do in the system, without having to go through such a grueling process. The mind sweep is always the entry point to GTD. If you ever fall off the wagon, the way to get back on again is to collect again everything you have pending.

5. Clarify and organize your initial capture. This will also take some time, but when you finish you’ll have your GTD system up and running. For each of the things you’ve collected, you should think about exactly what it is, write down a clear description of it and put a reminder in the appropriate list.

6. Master the five steps of the workflow. Capture, clarify, organize, review, engage. In the first days of implementation, repeat as often as you can the entire workflow to assimilate it well, but above all, to start feeling the benefits of the methodology: having everything under control and releasing stress. If you subscribe to our blog, you can download the free ebook “The GTD® Workflow”, where we explain in detail the ins and outs of each stage.

7. When you are in control, go for the perspective. After a few weeks (or months, don’t be in a hurry), when you’ve mastered your workflow and reached a certain stability, it’s time to go one step further. Everything you do, your daily projects and tasks, should obey larger goals and give meaning to your life. This is what is called perspective or vertical focus in GTD. It consists of defining your purpose, goals and focus areas, and making sure that your projects and actions are aligned with them. Make sure that, in your life, you are the one in the driver’s seat.

8. Simplify. One of the biggest mistakes when starting to implement GTD is to try to make everything perfect and try to cover everything. Over-complicating the system can lead you to abandon it in a short time. Use as few tools as possible, because the mental work you have to do to keep a set of tools in balance can be overwhelming. Reduce the number of inboxes to a minimum (ideally one), because if you have to go to several places to process your stuff, you’ll soon get tired. Use the minimum amount of contexts and categories so that the classification of your actions is useful, but not overwhelming.

And if you want to start now, here is a quick start guide to successfully implement GTD.

Francisco Sáez

Francisco is the founder and CEO of FacileThings. He is also a Software Engineer who is passionate about personal productivity and the GTD philosophy as a means to a better life.

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