The Organizational Art of Getting Things Done

I’m overloaded. There’s way too many demands on me in comparison to the number of hours in a day. At the same time, I’m committed to eating right and sleeping well—and not burning out. In other words, I’ve learned that burning the candle at both ends does not a long-term successful business make.

That’s why I’m reading a book right now that’s absolutely changing my life—not just my business life but my entire life. It’s called Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.

David Allen penned a time-management method that is more suitable for the modern age in which we live. Admittedly, the Getting Things Done (GTD) model is challenging at times to apply but will set your brain free to create and execute on more than you ever thought possible if you adopt it.

“The more facile you get with the GTD models, the faster you’ll be at processing your input, such as new e-mail,” Allen writes. “We’ve found it takes most people about 30 seconds to process something. That means making a clear decision about what “done” (the outcome) and the ‘doing’ (the next action) looks like. No software will do that thinking for you—but the GTD models will certainly assist you in improving your efficiency, productivity, and speed in processing.”

In his book, Allen outlines five simple steps that apply order to chaos.

  1. Capture: In this step you capture what has your attention. You can use an in-basket, notepad, designated e-mail account or voice recorder to capture 100 percent of everything that has your attention, Allen says. Whether it’s big things or little things—and whether it’s personal or professional—use a system to collect all the things that cross your mind so they can stop cluttering your subconscious.
  1. Clarify: The next step is to clarify, or process what the items mean. Allen suggest taking everything you capture and ask a simple question: Is this actionable? If it’s not actionable, you trash or, put it in a reference file, or put it in an incubation file to go back to at some point when it is actionable. If it takes less than two minutes, Allen suggests handling it right then and there. If you can delegate it, do so.
  1. Organize: Now, put the items where they belong. I use a designated e-mail address for this and e-mail myself thoughts as they arise, then put them in appropriate folders later, but I also carry around a notepad. You might categorize your items as “errands to run,” “appointments to make,” “calls to complete,” and so on.
  1. Reflect: Whatever capture system you rely on, you’ll need to reflect on its contents at some regular interval or your brain will continue trying to complete the task. Allen suggests looking over your lists as often as necessary to determine what to do next. He is also an advocate of a weekly review to clean up, update your lists and otherwise clear your mind.
  1. Engage: You can do all of the above, but if you don’t do what’s on your list you won’t advance. With this system in place, you can be confident you are taking the right action at the right time to reach your goals and deadlines.
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Jennifer LeClaire

Jennifer LeClaire

Jennifer LeClaire is a veteran business journalist, editor and new media entrepreneur with a strong niche in real estate and technology.