Life / Can Do

Helpful tips to living a better life

Suggested Reading: Getting Things Done

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I first read David Allen’s Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity in August of last year. I read some of the hype about the book but my expectations were low. I was expecting to learn some tips on managing tasks. What I didn’t expect was a life changing experience but that is what I got. It blew my mind.

I don’t expect everyone to experience the same results when reading this book and putting the principles into practice. It all depends on whether or not you “get it”. When I read it I thought I understood it but it was only after applying the techniques that I realized how amazing the concepts really were.

The GTD system involves writing down everything you need to do. We aren’t just talking about your big goals, but every little task no matter how small. So if you need to go get gas for the car after work, put that into the system. If you need to order movie tickets for the weekend, but that in the system. Thinking about buying new shoes, put that in. If you have an idea for a novel that you want to write someday, put that in. If someone hands you a business card, put that in.

The only exception are tasks that you will do in the next five minutes. If you get an urgent task that you know you can and should complete right away, then do it and don’t bother tracking it. Other than that, put it in the system.

It doesn’t matter how trivial or unimportant a task may appear, you should enter it into the system. By storing away all these tasks or “open loops” as David Allen calls them, your are freeing your mind from having to worry about or remember them. And it works.

The average person may have dozens of small to-dos bouncing around their heads at any given time. This causes stress and a feeling of being out of control. Before adopting GTD I had considered this a normal state that was an unavoidable consequence of living in the modern world. Now I know it doesn’t have to be this way. By storing away all the tasks for review later, I can now focus on the task at hand.

David Allen invented this system with a physical folder system in mind but I found that an electronic system works best for me for most of my tasks. There is very little in my world today that involves physical paperwork anyway and when it does I just enter an electronic note that represents that physical artifact. I’m currently using an Android application named Astrid to track my stuff but you can use whatever system works best for you. I don’t follow the GTD system to the letter, preferring to make small adjustments to fit my lifestyle, but that’s to be expected for anyone.

It doesn’t matter if you are a CEO of a large company or a stay-at-home Mom, this system can work for you. To adopt this system on your own will probably take about a month. You first need to read the book and then spend some time applying the techniques until it become second nature.

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Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

May 3, 2011 at 4:11 pm

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