Productivity and GTD
How to Make Your Ideas Happen, with the Help of GTD
"Ideas won't keep. Something must be done about them." ~ Alfred North Whitehead
Although the good execution of an idea is essential for it to become a reality, the truth is that the root of all innovation — and of any creative work — is in an idea that someone had at a given moment and did not let it slip through the cracks.
Most ideas never come true. The seed of every idea is a small thought about something, brilliant and ephemeral, that comes and goes as soon as anything in your environment — an email, a call, the current task — distracts you again. Other times, the idea is followed by a period of time in which you’re really excited about it but, again, the return to routine makes the excitement go away and, with time, the idea ends up falling into oblivion.
You’ll get another great idea and, again, it’ll get buried under your daily tasks, the emails you need to answer to, and the projects you need to move forward. The sad thing is that you’ll never know if any of those ideas would have changed the world we live in a little, or at least your own life.
However, if you practice GTD and you’re true to its principles, your ideas will always end up in a place of trust where, sooner or later, you will have the chance to explore them. How can you make an idea happen?
- Capture it. As soon as you have an idea, write it down somewhere where you know for sure that you’re going to look again periodically, and that you’re going to act on what’s in there (an app, a notebook, etc.).
- Clarify it. When you check the inbox where your idea is kept, you should think about that idea a little deeper and decide what you’re going to do with it. Basically, there are three things you can do: (1) save the idea in the Someday/Maybe list, postponing any decision to another, more appropriate, moment in the future, (2) take the first step to achieve its realization, defining the first task in the list of Next Actions and creating a project that will remind you to continue working on it, or (3) discard it, if once analyzed you decide that, for whatever reason, you are not going to waste your time with it.
- Get organized. Knowing how to get organized nowadays is a great competitive advantage. You need to have those lists I was talking about earlier, that is, a system of personal organization. People who don’t organize their tasks, agenda, meetings, etc. have a much higher probability of never being able to execute their ideas. Dedicate the necessary time to effectively organize everything related to that idea (next actions to be carried out, different ways to explore, reference material, etc.).
- Share it. With your team, with your clients or with people from your environment. To carry out an idea you need people of different dispositions, people who think and people who do stuff. Any help and support you can get will be welcome. In addition, by making your idea public you will create a strong internal commitment to implement it.
- Execute it. Execute the actions you have already created in your system, and define new actions when the project no longer contains any. Also, capture any other ideas that may arise from this activity. Regularly review how the execution is progressing and don’t let the idea fade away.
As you can see, creativity is not at odds with organization. On the contrary, it is very difficult for creativity to bear fruit when there is no good organization behind it that allows ideas to be turned into something real.