Getting Things Done is a book by David Allen in which he gives five broad steps to getting things done. They are the five steps of the GTD workflow. The book goes into much more detail about these steps, and this is just one section of the whole system. Getting the book, reading, and re-reading will help you to integrate these items into your daily habits.
The basic idea of the Getting Things Done book and the GTD system is to get everything out of your head and recorded in some way that will be regularly reviewed. The more you can trust the system, the less you have to think about whether you are going to forget something or not. Trusting your system will allow you to enjoy the moment you are in, knowing that everything will get done when it needs to be done.
The five steps, which are the core of Getting Things Done, are: Collecting, Processing, Organizing, Reviewing and Doing. Of course the final step of doing is the ultimate goal. To actually accomplish the task of doing, you need to first collect and process. You need to get everything together so that you can figure out what needs to be done with it.
GTD Workflow â€“ Step 1: Collecting
Collecting everything you need to remember into one place is a critical first step. If you are not collecting your thoughts and action items into some place that will allow you to process them, then you are likely to forget things. Once you start forgetting things then you lose trust in the system.
This step of collecting is not just having a pile of "to-do" lists. In fact Mr. Allen does not care much for to-do lits. His pocket, or electronic organizer, is full of lists, but they are different than a typical to-do list full of items that likely won't get done on the day it was assigned to.
There are many different types of collection spaces. There physical inboxes on a desk, notepads and electronic organizers, email inboxes, briefcases and backpacks, bedside tables and a host of other places where information and actionable items are collected. But just collecting the information is not enough, you need the confidence that you have collected all of the information necessary to move a project forward. Ideally having one inbox for everything will give you that confidence.
A big waste of time and brain processes is not capturingcou thoughts into an inbox of some kind. You need to learn to get your thoughts out of your head and collected into a trusted spot. This could be a smartphone, digital organizer or a simple piece of paper. If you are having to think about an item constantly so that you won't forget it, then you cease to enjoy the moment or have trouble focusing on the current task for fear of what is coming in the future.
This is the first step. Collect everything into a trusted place. You may not be able to combine all of your inboxes into one, but try to minimize everything down to as few inboxes as possible.
GTD Workflow â€“ Step 2: Processing
Once you have collected thoughts, memos, broken toys that need to be fixed, invitations, or anything else that needs to be acted upon into your inbox, you are ready to start processing. The goal of processing is to now empty the inbox you have been filling up in the Collecting step.
If this is your first time to collect and process, then begin with the item at the top of the pile and start processing it using the guidelines below. However, once you get in the habit of collecting and processing regularly, you should dump the inbox out upside down. This lets you process the oldest items first.
Pick up the first item in your pile (or mountain) and ask yourself, "Is this actionable?" What you are wanting to know is, is there something you need to "do" with this item to complete the task, or to move a project forward. Depending on the answer as to how you proceed from here.
If the answer is No: If it is trash, throw it away. If it is something that needs to be filed, file it. If it is reference information, it needs to be put within easy reach. If it is support material for a project, it needs to be filed with the project. If it is time sensitive for a future date, it needs to be filed in a calendar or tickler file.
If the answer is Yes: If it is something that can be done in 2 minutes or less, do it right then. If it is something that takes longer than 2 minutes, schedule a time to do it. If it is something that can be delegated, delegate it. If it is a project (meaning you cannot complete it in one step), create a project folder for it and write down the next action.
Remember that nothing goes back into the inbox once it has been touched. A decision has to be made about everything. The goal is not to complete every task and project that is represented by the items in the inbox, rather it is to make a decision about every item. That means some items will be completed, but others will be filed, delegated or intentionally deferred to a specific future time when it will be reviewed again. But, it does not go back into the inbox.
These first two steps are done constantly. The first time you do this you may need to dedicate a whole day to just collecting and then another day to processing. Your inbox will be used to collect items throughout the day or week. You process the inbox every time you have a chance to do so. Some items may never hit the inbox. Once you understand the collecting and processing steps, you will know that certain items get filed while others get done immediately.
GTD Workflow â€“ Steps 3-5
By this point you are ready to move to steps 3, 4 and 5: Organizing, Reviewing and Doing. Don't try to jump to the final step of Doing without the proper path to get there. This will result in your constant thinking about items that need to be done, but no way to move from the thought to an accomplished task.
I hope this has convinced you to read Getting Things Done by David Allen. It is a great book and will help you understand why your current system may be failing you.