Arguably one of the most gifted wordsmiths and thinkers of our time, David Allen's writing on organization and productivity for the modern person reverberates with resounding clarity of purpose and intention. His focused method, aptly named "GTD" for getting things done, and its accompanying practices and principles spell out for the average person how to tame the chaos in our lives due to the overwhelming amount of information streaming at us through emails, colleagues, supervisors, devices, reading materials, voicemails, phone conferences, bills, appointments, and the million other "to do's" we have to conquer over the course of our days, weeks, and lives.
David Allen makes a distinction between a simple "to do" list into "next action" lists and asks us to integrate the question into our lives, "What's the next action?" This action-oriented thinking makes us close open loops, defining our work, eliminating vague non-decisions that may plague us at later times, like when we are trying to enjoy the sunset (or sunrise if you're a lark like me). He separates these next actions into discrete lists in separate contexts and functions in low-tech fashion (looseleaf planner or notebook) or high-tech fashion such as a list organizer like OmniFocus offers.
Once these lists are in order you ask yourself to go through five stages of control: capture (what do you want to accomplish? change? do?), process (decide what to do), organize (put on the correct list), review (in the weekly review), and engage - just do it! The type of activity you engage in is determined by four considerations: context, time, energy, and priority. These methods are compounded by a few add-ons which he considers crucial: email inbox to zero every week, a filing system that is fun and easy (completed with a labelmaker), project folders, a master project list, a someday/maybe list, the 2-minute rule (if it can be done in less than two minutes - do it now), and finally the oft-referenced weekly review!
The weekly review is something which he considers pivotal to high performance. It is a time, once a week, when you check in with your lists, review your calendar from last two weeks to next two months, capture, process, and organize any next actions coming up, park reminders in your tickler system, and any other actions that are relevant to your specific role or job.
The result of a full and complete implementation of his suggestions would result in what David Allen refers to as "mind like water". A karate master before turning organization and productivity guru, David Allen all but guarantees that you will experience a relaxation and clarity of focus unlike ever before with your newfound control as "captain and commander" of your life and work. I have found this to be expressly true and I will clearly delineate how using this system has affected my life.
I started to implement the GTD method in May of 2016 at the end of the last school year. I spent about 6-8 hours emptying my four email inboxes over the course of 2 days, I used a labelmaker to typeset all of my tabs for my files (home and work), purged my files (home and work), set up an independent workspace in my art studio (as opposed to using my husband's workspace), made project folders and collected reference materials for current projects, captured everything at home and work that wasn't up to my standards, made decisions on what I was going to do about it, organized those decisions onto next action lists, started using a looseleaf notebook for my lists, and much more! I continued to refine and implement the system as I read his next two books over and over: Ready for Anything and Making It All Work. These were crucial to the refinement and understanding of these practices and principles. Finally, I believe I keep rereading these books because I have never (aside from spiritual texts) read someone who wrote with such astounding clarity on life and it's many facets and opportunities for growth.
The benefits I have seen in implementing such a method in my life have been: increased relaxation, increased productivity, a higher level of engagement with life, being clear about everything in my life, being straightforward with myself and with the agreements I make with myself and others, reconsidering commitments due to the shifting nature of my life situations and work demands in a relaxed and focused manner, coping with emergencies and health issues in a clearer and more astute manner, better interpersonal relationships due to fulfilling expectations and clearly stating expectations, pursuing long-lost dreams and hobbies (playing the guitar and becoming a yoga teacher, being realistic with myself, i.e. actually pursuing writing versus being resolved to "someday being a writer" and much, much more!
Overall, alongside my marriage, meditation, and my exercise regimen; I consider using the GTD method to be one of the most profoundly positive things I have integrated into my life and practice in my entire adult life. I cannot sing its praises enough - sometimes to the chagrin of my friends and family who do not share my penchant for organization and GTD - and I am overjoyed at looking to my future with one more tool in my toolbox to approach my life's work, both personal and professional with new purpose, clarity, intention, engagement, and organization! I highly recommend it!
For more information, check out David Allen's website at gtdconnect.com.
Below I have shared some photos of various elements of GTD: my home workspace, my typeset (labelmaker files), my labelmaker, my typeset curriculum binders, my GTD weekly review checklist, and my GTD planner (list holder) and calendar. (I'm totally low-tech - I love paper!)
Disclaimer: this method is meant to strengthen, inspire and collaborate with you to build the life you envision within the parameters of your standards and ideals for operations. This is not meant to be a universal prescription for everyone to behave in the same identical manner. In fact, if done correctly, there would be numerous facets of the method which are unique to you only. Take what works for you, leave what doesn't behind. It's your journey. But whatever you do, as my art mentor and great teacher used to say before every session: MAKE IT COUNT!