Learn how the GTD philosophy helps you achieve more

GTD philosophy helps you increase your output
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Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them” – David Allen, author of “Getting things done”

Introduction

Do you know this feeling that you might have forgotten something? Did you turn off the stove? When I first read “GTD” I was struck by the simplicity of this system. I have never thought about my brain much, I sure as hell forgot something now and then. Implementing the GTD philosophy in my life has changed a lot.

You know that I am a big fan of principles. And the GTD principles fit right into that. They are something physical you can use. 

I don’t use it thoroughly but I integrated the best part for me. You will learn, which parts these are and how you can copy them easily.

Inboxes

David Allen talks a lot about inboxes in his book. If you don’t use the GTD philosophy already, you possibly have 4-5 inboxes. Namely, they are 

  1. Your brain
  2. Letterbox
  3. Intray (or your drawer.. I know you.)
  4. Email 
  5. Smartphone

That’s not a bad start at all – but you have to cut out your brain in this part. 

The brain:

You will forget things if you don’t write them down immediately so having information coming your way and storing it in your brain is awful. What you should be looking for is to write down every idea you have as soon as it occurs.

You have to figure out how you want to do it – if you prefer technology, get an app on your phone for it – a simple notes app is sufficient. 

If you are more of an old-school person, get yourself a very small book and pen which you can fit in your pocket at all times.

Now I want you to write down every idea as soon as you come across it. This part of the GTD philosophy is crucial to do because you help your mind by freeing up mental RAM.

You just eliminated your brain from the top list. You now have the book, you can rip out pages and toss them in your intray (don’t use the drawer!) or you can forward your notes on your phone to your email.

Okay, now you have 4 inboxes left. What can we do with that?

The letterbox:

This is something physical you have to check every day to not miss any relevant news – throw away the advertisements right away and toss the other letters after a quick scan right into your inbox – if you want to go more digital use a scanner or a scanner app to upload it right in your digital inbox as well.

You can’t get rid of the letterbox yet since too many things come the old-school way. But you don’t process it yet, you just put it in your physical intray/inbox.

Email: 

You get a ton of emails every day. First of all, unsubscribe from all the newsletters and things you don’t need once they come in. Less mail = more spare time!

Now you want to be mindful of the things you consume, don’t you? You don’t want the smartphone to dictate the pace of your day. Turn off the notifications on your phone. You are looking at your phone so often during the day, and I recommend you to check your mails at certain times. 

You can start with 3 times a day for example. Set up a reminder at 8 am, 12 pm and 6 pm to check your mails. You can do the same with Whatsapp too, make sure that everybody understands that if they have something urgent they have to call you!

Smartphone:

It’s kind of the same as email, but you do have some other apps on there which draw your attention and are like an inbox. Newspaper apps, funny cat videos, and so on – they are all like inboxes. Get rid of what you don’t need to minimize the clutter there.

When I browse on the internet during the week, I rarely read all the articles, mostly I just read a heading and if it’s interesting I just save them and read them on Sunday. More on this in the next chapter.

Processing:

Now that we have all our inboxes sorted out, we have to process them. Besides email and Whatsapp, which I do 3 times a day, I do all of the others once a week. Which helped me start was set a time block for about 2 hours on Sunday where I process everything I gathered over the week. This is my review and plan session.

Sometimes I need more time, mostly I need less time. 

This session is for processing everything you gathered within the gtd philosophy. All the letters you tossed into the intray will be processed, digitized if necessary, and put away. Every inbox you identified should be cleared when you are finished – this gives you a clear start in the next week and most importantly an empty, calm mind.

All the articles I saved during the week will be reviewed as well – I skim through the content if I like what I read I will put a harder look on it, and read thoroughly. 

Most of the time it’s sufficient to skim and get the main idea of the article.

After I processed everything I open up notion on my computer and plan for the next week. 

When you read through “A goal setting guide which impacts your life for the better” you’ve already broken down all your goals in manageable chunks. This is what you will do next.

Think about the next week. What do you want to get done by the end of it? What’s the most important thing you are currently working on? Write it down. Let’s say you want to build a chair. This is your goal for the next week. Break it down in daily tasks, you can do it every Sunday or every day before you start the day/after you end it.

Monday: Draw a plan and calculate what you need.

Tuesday: Buy materials.

Wednesday: Start building

Thursday: Finish the chair.

This could be your plan. I recommend you start doing this every day in the morning or evening until you understand your energy levels better. The last days of June and the beginning of July I wanted to post 2 articles – I didn’t manage to post one because I came back to work and it was very intense there – I had no energy left to do anything meaningful.

Don’t overburden yourself, start small.

After planning and reviewing it’s all about doing. The gtd philosophy lives by, well, getting things done.

Make sure that you identify bottlenecks during the last week in your review session – for me, it was my work, is there anything I could do to remove the bottleneck? Yes, there is, I did it and in the next two weeks, I should feel relief. 

Identifying your weaknesses is a key element of this planning session, if you don’t do this, you will lose motivation fast. 

Getting things done:

So now that we’ve reviewed our week and made a plan for the next, how can we do things efficiently? First of all make sure you read “3 Principles for a better, more efficient life” and get familiar with batching. These things work perfectly with the gtd philosophy. If you have topics to discuss with your boss, you can have a folder with everything for him or her in it. When the next meetings come around the corner, you can check off all the open topics and finish your projects. 

David Allen goes further and marks everything which he does on his computer with “Computer” so whenever he is on it, he does EVERYTHING he can only do on a computer.

I don’t think it’s working nowadays since everything melts together. We have smartphones and computers which are capable of doing almost everything. You can start with persons instead of context. For all the persons you work often with, set up a folder/label. My todoist has labels for all the persons I work together. This time, when I talk to someone I can take out my phone and just see everything related to them – I never forget anything this way and my projects carry on the momentum.

Conclusion

A good system is worth its weight in gold. It takes weight off your shoulder and helps you achieve more. The gtd principles are a good way to increase your productivity, but don’t be afraid to implement your personal touches as well – don’t use anything you are not comfortable with. In the end, you are the person working with it, not some author. 

I hope you could learn something from this post and it made your life a little bit simpler – let me know! You can find more productivity-related posts on the right-hand side.

As always, I would be happy to hear some feedback on this post.

-Julian

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