I’m a strong advocate of GTD. I like its bottom-up approach of starting where we are, instead of where we want to be. There’s so much distraction in everyday life, that reverse engineering from ‘where we want to be’ and organizing daily activities around these priorities (like Stephen Covery’s method) is impractical and near impossible. Starting with where we are, handling all the various stimuli, life throws at us every day, organizing, clarifying and doing it appropriately helps us to get control of our life and only then, we can ask ourselves what we want to do in life, break them into do-able action items and fit them in our schedule. This way, we are in control of the daily activities and also moving towards where we want to be.
And this is the way I do it:
- The best capture tool ever, which helps me in free flow thinking and writing, is “pen & paper”. I have a stack of small sheets of paper and cheap 5 rupee ‘classmate’ gel pens (which write well) at home and in office on my desks. Once a thought triggers in my mind, I quickly jot it down and throw it into my ‘inbox’ (in my case, a small tray to hold papers).
- I move all the stuff collected via various capture tools into one main inbox.
- I start processing my inbox in ‘last-in, first-out (LIFO)’ order and break all what’ve I written into actionable steps – steps I can physically do. If I have time, and it takes less than 2 minutes, I do it; if it’s more than 2 minutes, I defer it. If it’s an idea which does not make any sense, I trash it. If it’s regarding any material, I would like to read/review, I save it as ‘reference’. Any activity requiring more than 1 step to closure, becomes a project
- Once deferred, items either go into my calendar or to-do list.
- Calendar: Anything time specific or day specific – go here – these do not change. They are the hard landscape around which I can organize my day.
- To-do list: For anything which needs to be done as soon as I can get to it – I open ‘Things’ to check what I want to get done that particular day.
- Every week, I set up 2 hours of time on saturdays to do a ‘weekly-review’. Here, I organize all my thoughts in ‘Things’ and plan for the week ahead. I try to avoid processing stuff in the middle of the week unless very important – in which case I do a daily mini-review.
- When I do the weekly review I decide what I’d like to do in that week and schedule them accordingly, so that they land in my ‘Today’ focus in ‘Things’ on that particular day
- Once (if) my ‘Today’ focus is empty, I search for activities based on contexts (tags) and filter out those I can do, and move them to ‘Today’
- I always strive to have the system current, because only when the system is current, I can trust it, and the more I can trust it, the more I can dump stuff into it and free my mind
- Capturing ideas happens all through the week on paper or in ‘Things’. I sit with the inbox open in my weekly review to process these ideas
- Most of what I deal here are from the ‘someday/maybe’ list.
- Every week I go through my complete lists to see if I can move any items to my current projects.
This way, I manage both my day to day activities and those I wanted to do, but never knew how to move them to completion. ‘Things’ is my digital GTD system on which I rely heavily.
Click here for my GTD workflow with ‘Things’