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Get Things Done: Tidy Up Your To-Do

Productivity consultant David Allen’s Getting Things Done system is very simple at its core: it’s designed to help you organize your thoughts and your objectives in a way that reduces stress and can increase efficiency. He argues that a lot of the things that we need to do are things that don’t give us the feedback we need; instead, they clog up hard drive space in your mind.


He boils down the system into five major steps, the first of which is to get everything on your mind that you’re worried about and need to do on paper (or a Note taking app). You then “Clarify” or process each task, deciding what you need to do to accomplish it. You also determine if it needs to be acted on at all, or if it can be delegated or trashed altogether.


The next step is to “Organize.”


After you’ve compiled everything in step one, and deciphered it in step two - your job is now to set in motion what you need to do to execute everything on your lists. Start by trying to group your tasks together.


For example, if you need to email certain people and also make some phone calls, you can put those tasks together and group them as keeping up with correspondence. In your mind, needing to call your dentist to make an appointment and following up on a client email about a project might occupy spaces that couldn’t be further apart in your mind.


But, grouping them together will help you accomplish both quickly. Plus, it allows you to quickly move from “category of tasks” to “category of tasks based on how you feel.”


Let’s say, part of your day is to work on a creative project. Let’s say you get tired of working on that. With a categorized list, without thinking, you can just stop doing the task you’ve tapped out on and begin working on a separate task on a separate list.

You can go from your “creative” list, to your “correspondence” list. This way, even if you’re not working on what you necessarily want to work on at the moment, you’re still accomplishing something. You’re getting things done.


You also want to organize your list based on how quickly you can get certain tasks done. A lot of super quick, seemingly inconsequential tasks end up getting forgotten, done poorly or put off. This is like taking this quick task and immediately converting it into a stressor.


Group tasks that are quick to accomplish together and tackle them first. The rule of thumb: if it takes less than two minutes to finish, then finish it now.


Every person will have their own system. Allen himself likes to keep lists near the things or areas that he can accomplish those tasks at. Phone related tasks are on a note by the phone and so on. Other people would rather have a master document.


You can learn more about Allen’s specific system by purchasing his book, Getting Things Done. However you manage it, the organize phase allows you to organize those thoughts, and find an action plan for executing all of those miscellaneous tasks.


We’ll tackle the next phase - “reflect” next.

Want to know more about Getting Things Done? Check back each week for a more in-depth look at David Allen’s five steps. You’ll be so productive, you won’t even recognize yourself!

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