Getting Things Done

Decide the outcome and the action step, put reminders of those somewhere your brain trusts you'll see them at the right time, and listen to your brain breathe easier.
David Allen
About a year ago, I learned of the Getting Things Done system, put forth by David Allen in his book of the same name. Toodledo, a free, web-based todo manager, offers a concise summary:
The main principle of GTD is that recording your tasks in a reliable way - using a system that you trust - will free your mind from trying to remember and prioritize stuff. This recaptured mental energy can be put towards being more productive and efficient.
For a more in depth synopsis, Trent at The Simple Dollar has posted a great series.

I tend to be disorganized and a procrastinator. Using this system has been an immense help in keeping my day to day life in order. I use the aforementioned Toodledo to list, prioritize and date all the tasks I need to perform (I have an app on my iPod Touch which synchronizes with Toodledo. I also use the iPod Calendar which syncs with Google Calendar). Any task that I do not take care of immediately goes on the list. For example, my wife emails me asking me to remind her to bring a potluck meal to work two weeks from today. Solution? I go to the Toodledo website (always open on my home computer), make an entry, archive or delete email--done! And off my mind.

As John Reese wrote:
Here’s what I’ve discovered about myself. My level of happiness all comes down to my level of STRESS. And my stress level is mostly due to having the feeling of being OVERWHELMED.
As any procrastinator knows, putting things off leads to a messy buildup of uncompleted tasks. Mentally coping with a swirl of things to do, combined with the guilt of having put them off and the inevitable firestorm of consequences big and small certainly leads to feeling overwhelmed and stressed.

So everything goes into the system. Task items may include:
  • Utility bills
  • Credit Card payments
  • Insurance payments
  • Tax payments
  • Licenses and fees
  • Websites which require periodic login
  • Water and furnace filters
  • Charge cellphone periodically
  • Daily chores
  • Workout schedules
Calendar items may include:
  • Doctor visits
  • School events
  • Social and Family functions
  • Fest schedules
  • If I have a short span of time to kill, I can identify a task or two to complete.
  • I can quickly see all the high priority items falling due in the near or not so near future.
  • I avoid spending too much time on lesser priority tasks
  • If I don't have sufficient time for everything, I can concentrate on high-priority tasks
  • If I fall behind, the overdue items on my list provide incentive to catch up
  • If I find myself putting off a daunting task, I can break it up into smaller subtasks
  • I enjoy the satisfaction of checking an item off the list
  • Events are not forgotten
  • Conflicting events are not scheduled

It takes a while to get used to the idea that the nagging thought rolling around in the back of your mind is a task or project that needs to be recorded and processed. But once you see the benefit of this system, you will be more alert for things to put in your trusted system and let your brain breathe easier.

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