I started trying to apply David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” principles about 15 years ago (I’m writing this in March 2017), with imperfect results. His approach is oriented to executives and managers, but there is plenty of advice on the web to simplify it. I generally think it’s a good approach, and I recommend it. Here’s my take-away:
The key is to have a trusted system (e.g., a paper notebook or a computer application) that holds everything you need to get things done. The main point is: as soon as you find something that needs to be done, if you can’t do it in the next couple of minutes, get it into your trusted system (i.e., an inbox). Then you can stop worrying about trying to remember it, and trust that you’ll be reminded in a timely way. Just this simple principle is a great stress-reducer.
Around this notion, Allen recommends a workflow of five main steps (some refinements are possible; check his book for details, or find web resources):
- Collect (Inbox, etc)
- Process (actionable? next action?)
- Organize (add actions to lists)
- Review (daily: actions; weekly: lists; monthly/quarterly: projects; annually: goals)
- Do (actions by context, priority, time, energy)
In my attempt to apply the GTD approach, I tried the following:
- Documented some life goals
- Identified some projects that support those goals
- Identified tasks that would move the projects forward (in a. spreadsheet named ProjectsTasks)
- Prioritized and tracked accomplishment of tasks in monthly reviews
I haven’t been entirely successful in executing this program, but I still think it’s worthwhile to be aware of the approach, and try to adapt it as much as makes sense. The links above are to some additional posts that expand on aspects of the approach as I was trying to apply it.