Tools for Productivity – Getting Things Done

I’m a big fan of being productive. In a pretty geeky way, actually. I love the Getting Things Done methodology. David Allen’s book changed my life. I’ve been reading Lifehacker since its inception and am always on the lookout for finding ways to be more productive. I’m busy; who isn’t? I’ve got young children, a growing business, friends and family I like to hang out with and a lot of hobbies that I like to spend time on. The days aren’t getting any longer and I. love. to. sleep. I’m not one of those people that can get by on four or five hours of sleep. I need a good seven hours to function.

So I’m constantly in search of new tools and ways to make my life easier, both personally and in my business.  When I started writing this blog post, I thought I’d just talk about productivity, in general, but then I realized that there’s way too much to cover in just one post, so I’m going to break it into three parts.  This first part will focus on the basics of Getting Things Done (or GTD), why it works for me and why it’s important to find your own “system” that you trust.

The reason I’m starting with GTD is because it’s a fantastic methodology for the digital age we live in.  At the same time, it works for the physical things we still encounter every day: mail, receipts, and kids’ artworks, for example. If you’re not familiar with GTD, 43 Folders has a great overview of both how it works and getting started.  But to me, maybe the best part of GTD isn’t GTD itself.  It may just be that it’s a system that works for me and one that I trust completely.  And by trusting my system, I have the confidence to know that nothing will be lost, I always know what needs to be done and what’s on my plate.

When it comes to our productivity, I think it’s critical to find a system that gets everything out of your mind and onto paper.  And by paper, I mean real paper, a list on your iPhone, an online todo list, or any other place that you can easily reference in the future. Basically, when stuff rattles around in our heads, it either gets lost or it wastes precious memory space – for me it’s that feeling of something hanging over my head; that nagging feeling that I’m forgetting something.  I hate that feeling.

Our minds don’t work in the most efficient manner all the time.  For example, I’ll be dropping the kids off at school and remember that my friend had her baby and I need to send a gift.  Or, I’ll be meeting with a client and remember that I need to buy creamer at the grocery store.  If my mind was really on top of things, I’d remember that my friend had a baby *only* when I’m browsing  And I’d only think about creamer *only* when I’m actually at the grocery store.  But that’s not how our brains always work (at least mine doesn’t)!  So, with GTD, whenever a thought like that pops into my mind, I immediately get it out of my brain onto my iPhone.  Those thoughts are no longer rattling around in my head.  I have a few places I might store these things; for example, when “creamer” pops into my head, I drop it right into the grocery reminder list on my iPhone that is shared with my husband.  And when “buy a baby gift” pops into my head, I drop it into my Trello personal todo list.

This, I believe, sums up the GTD system in a nutshell:

“So, basically, you make your stuff into real, actionable items or things you can just get rid of. Everything you keep has a clear reason for being in your life at any given moment—both now and well into the future. This gives you an amazing kind of confidence that a) nothing gets lost and b) you always understand what’s on or off your plate.”

– Merlin Mann, 43 Folders

So what’s your “system”?  Do you use GTD, or a version of it?  Do you use paper and pencil to write todo lists?  Or do you rely on your smartphone?

Image by Dave Stokes (CC BY 2.0) via flickr

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