Productivity and GTD

How to make an inventory of your reality

AUTHOR: Francisco Sáez

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One reason for the success of GTD as a personal productivity tool, is that it is the first one that urges people to make a complete inventory of everything that makes up their current reality, before starting to implement the method.

A daunting work? You bet. GTD is not a magic system — none of them is — that will solve all your organizational problems within the time it takes to say voilà! and with you doing nothing at your end. If you want it to work, you cannot start from scratch with a blank page. Life is not so simple, and it is absolutely imperative that you acquire a complete and accurate perspective of your life. Only thus you can improve your productivity and your control over the things that matter to you.

In our world, we create internal commitments on some stuff that show up, which we consider important for whatever reason, so we want to keep them under control and manage them in the best way possible. This requires having a clear idea of the volume and importance of the stuff we have to deal with.

Making an inventory is not an easy task and may take a few hours. It consists in reviewing all your personal and professional life, where you have to add to your Inbox anything that requires an action. If an item cannot fit physically in the inbox, you can write a note that represents it. During the inventory you will realize that some things are no longer useful or do not make sense. Throw them to the trash.

To inventory your professional life you must physically inspect every corner of your work area. Mails and pending calls, unread documents, business cards, loose notes, post-its, project folders… Check your desk, drawers, cupboards, cabinets, computers. Anything that requires an action should go to your inbox. Once you have completed the collecting, you have to do an additional mental exercise in order to add other pending things that have no physical trace yet. Think about projects that need to be started, commitments to your boss or colleagues, documents you have to write (reports, offers, articles…), financial stuff, administrative tasks, customer relationships, things you are waiting for, things you need to do to be a better professional, your career, etc.

Similarly, to inventory your personal life you must physically check every corner of your house and send to your inbox all things that are actionable. Do not forget your garage, storage room, garden or car, if you have them. Then, mentally review your commitments to your partner, children, family and friends, projects you want to start, things you want to do, events you want to attend, financial and banking stuff, home maintenance, appliances, health, entertainment, hobbies and so on.

It is assumed that if you make a full initial inventory and then you review and update it timely, you will always have your current reality represented in it. But it is not always the case. Sometimes our reality changes too quickly or simply we do not realize that some changes are happening around or within us.

Ask yourself about your reality from time to time. If you are not comfortable with your GTD system, it is probably because it is not well aligned with your reality. In your world also occur occasionally surprises and changes that alter your perspective at different levels. In that case, go back to do a new complete inventory.

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