Getting Things Done - GTD

Productivity 101: A Primer to the Getting Things Done (GTD) Philosophy

AUTHOR: Nouman Ali
Basic GTD Work-flow

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GTD or Getting Things Done is a way to plan and organize things to  help you stay productive GTD helps to stay organized and eventually spend less time doing things that would normally take a while to do. There are five basic principles of GT philosophy, which we will discuss in today’s article.

You may follow these guidelines to lead a simpler and more productive life. However, before we discuss this topic further, let’s try to understand why GTD has developed a reputation for being complicated. Put simply, GTD sounds complicated because there is no set of rigid rules for GTD. 

This is why GTD has ended up being labeled as “complicated” when, in reality, this has made GTD more customizable and user-friendly as people can mix and match according to their own needs. In the next section, we will be discussing the key elements that make up this philosophy. 

What Are the Five Pillars Of GTD?

1. Capture

The first thing to do is to capture everything that you are currently involved in. This can be your daily tasks, personal engagements, and work commitments, etc. As per GTD, you should jot down every small task; from attending work meetings to searching for suitable carpet cleaning companies in your area, you shouldn’t miss out on any task. GTD philosophy believes that when we don’t write things down, we spend half our energy and time trying to remember the tasks that we have to do each day.

Once we write everything down, half the task is already complete! If you are not a fan of writing on a notebook, you can write down the tasks in a word file or a mobile application on your phone. It is entirely up to you how you want to organize yourself. The good thing about GTD is that the concept will never force you to use a specific tool; you can use whatever you are comfortable with. This is also a great way to help you achieve your targets without procrastinating too much since you are using a mode that you are already comfortable with. 

2. Clarify

It’s not just about jotting things down; you should also clarify what you have written. Clarify means to process the tasks and determine whether they are actionable or not. If the task is actionable, then clarify what the next action is going to be.

If you have not clarified the tasks right then and there, there is a chance that you will forget the details later on, and it might take you more time to make it detailed later.  Define exactly what you need to clarify; it can be a new idea, a pending task, information that you may need to organize. One can use a flow chart system to organize items and be clear about them.

For example, you captured a task that requires you to organize your desk. In the clarify stage, you will assign an action to the task, depending on whether it is doable or not. If it’s doable, you should determine whether you are going to do it yourself or refer it to someone. If it’s not actionable, then you can decide whether you want to trash it or save for later. Try to provide more detail and be as specific as possible.

Take a look at the following flow to gain a better understanding:

3. Organize

Once you have clarified the list, it is time you organize it as well. In the context of GTD, organization means putting the task where it belongs. Choose an organization system that is suitable for your needs, break down the tasks in the form of milestones or set due dates for yourself, or even set reminders that help to keep a check of your responsibilities.

It is also a good practice to tag the tasks so that all the tasks don’t get jumbled up, and you can give each task the appropriate amount of time.  There are several ways through which you can organize your tasks. We have listed a few below:

  • Calendar: Put all your deadlines on a calendar. You may share the calendar with the relevant personnel as well.
  • Projects: If you have multiple tasks, create a project to hold them all.
  • Reference material: Compile any useful material such as videos, texts, which you find useful and will help you in your work.

4. Reflect

You should have your system ready by now; when you have it all set, you can take a few minutes to reflect on the tasks. Reflecting over your lists will give you a chance to clear out the tasks that have been completed, tasks that are no longer actionable, or tasks that you have deferred to someone else.

You may even see a task that you can do instantly (within two minutes). On the flip side, if there is a task that seems too difficult, you can further break it down into doable components. It is also a good idea to review your to-do list periodically so that you can remove tasks that have already been completed.

Reflecting on your tasks will also help you understand your progress and see where you stand.  You can review your list at a frequency which you find comfortable and whatever suits the nature of your project – you can choose to do it daily, weekly, or even on a monthly basis.

There might be some daily tasks that you might have to review on a daily basis. On the other hand, some tasks can wait for a week or two before they can be reviewed.

5. Engage

Once all the steps are streamlined, your next action would be to execute the tasks and get to work! Since you are now aligned with your system, and you are aware of your to-dos, it is now easier to get down to business. Your workload is now divided into manageable bits, and your projects can be easily completed. 

However, before you dive into the task itself, the following criteria can help you further categorize the problem and decide which action should be taken.

  • Context: Based on your current tasks and how far you have come along, you should be able to decide which task to do next.
  • Time left: How much time you are left with to complete your task.
  • Energy left: The amount of energy left within you to complete your tasks.
  • Priorities: Try to analyze which task would provide you with maximum results if performed right away.

Where to Start?

Since you are now aware of the basic principles, we can move on to the working of the GTD philosophy. It is pretty simple to start with; you will be surprised to know that GTD might be part of your system already, and you are not aware of it. It can be through an application or even through memos on your phone.

If you don’t have a system already, then the first thing you need to do is to find a useful tool or planner to help you organize your tasks or and other responsibilities. No matter what tool or planner you find, just to make sure that your application allows you the flexibility to move around your tasks. 

Another important pointer is to keep a check on your current to-do list on a daily or weekly basis. If there are any changes, adjust them accordingly. You should also be able to prioritize your tasks periodically; certain tasks may become important to tackle as compared to others. Therefore, keep a check to be able to identify those tasks that need to be dealt with urgently.

You should also make sure that your to-do list is not too over-loaded. If this is happening, then it is time to reevaluate your priorities and rearrange them accordingly. Giving yourself five minutes every morning can help you stay on top of your game and keep yourself  aligned with your goals

What to Remember?

GTD can be an ideal system for you if you manage to use it correctly, however, do keep in mind that it is only one philosophy, and you don’t have to stick to it to be successful. There is a fair chance that some other ideology might suit your nature of work.

Nouman Ali

Nouman provides ghostwriting and copywriting services. His educational background in the technical field and business studies helps him in tackling topics ranging from career and business productivity to web development and digital marketing. He occasionally writes articles for Carpet Bright UK.

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