I am an organized person. I like my things just so and I am very particular about how things get done – and they ALWAYS get done. Sometimes, it’s in a haphazard manner, such as my penchant for doing a task and getting side-tracked by another task right in the middle of the first task because I happened to walk by an item I had intended to address and figured no time like the present!
I’d by lying if I didn’t say that practice has gotten me into trouble on numerous occasions. Like I said, everything always gets done, but when and how are at the whim of happenstance. For example, I’d be organizing a stack of papers and happen to notice a book I forgot to move to my bedroom. Naturally, I would stop in the middle to move the book. Once in my bedroom, I’d realize I hadn’t yet made the bed…and so it goes.
Sometimes I’ll look up and realize I’m late for something – now that I have a small child, the excuse is much easier to make. Other times I don’t get to something important because ohmygoshIhadtodotheseother15thingsfirst.
Recently, my husband gifted me a book titled Getting Things Done by David Allen. WHAT?! Was this some type of passive-aggressive move here? Imagine my surprise when I, the organizing queen, finished this book and thought what have I been doing to myself? This book is about clearing your mind by cleaning up your physical space. With five steps to get and stay organized, this book removes the clutter from your mind so that it can focus on actually thinking rather than wasting energy on remembering. What a novel idea and so obvious it’s almost silly that I (and most people) don’t think to do it.
Here are the steps of the GTD Method:
Capture – Collect what has your attention
You can do this by making a list of EVERYTHING: chores, upcoming events, things you need to order, things you need to buy, weekly responsibilities, etc.
Clarify – Process what it means
Processing means breaking everything down into easily achievable goals. For example, if your list includes Plan Child’s Birthday Party, that’s a large project. You can set up a system for achieving smaller milestones that will get you to completion, without seeming overwhelming. In this case, you can initially focus on selecting a theme. The following week, your focus is on venue and date. Once you have the those big items off you list, you can move on to the more fun parts like decorations, ordering the cake, and sending out invites. If something on your list takes two minutes or less to complete, do it immediately. If you can delegate an item, do that, and if not, put it on the list for when you can do it.
Organize – Put it where it belongs
This is the part where you get to categorize and organize things in the manner you find best suits you. If you like to have a written list, get a notebook and use it. If you prefer to use a phone app, put it all there. The way you choose to categorize your to-dos is completely up to you and customizable to your lifestyle.
Reflect – Review Frequently
Constantly circle back to your list, to-dos, and long-term goals. If certain items have been taken care of or projects have fallen by the wayside, remove them and any future reminders you had regarding those tasks.
Engage – Simply do
Get going! You have now unburdened your mind of everything it was warehousing. Use your lists and this system to keep yourself on track and accountable.
Here’s the thing: there’s no right way to implement the system. Getting Things Done introduces a system that can be adjusted to work with your specific situation. In my current role as a stay at home mom, some of the systems as presented in the book don’t seem applicable on their face, but if I adjust the to-dos, meetings, and other action items in the book to apply to my daily life, it works just fine.
After reading this book, I created some discipline that has made me much more productive. As a stay at home mom with no clearly defined schedule, I have found that imposing some structure to my day/week has made me more productive.
Here are a few things I implemented that have had an immediate impact on my productivity:
1) I identified a day to do laundry (Mondays) and I stick to it. This has prevented the task from happening over a number of days and it has the additional benefit of keeping me in the house to address everything that got “messy” over the weekend, while I was being a bit more lax because of family time.
2) If you’ve read my post on efficiency, you know that my husband and I implement some systems to make sure we’re always in the know about what’s going on with each other’s schedules and keeping grocery lists updated. BUT, I wasn’t taking the crucial step of maintaining a realistic to-do list and also reviewing the upcoming week, prior week, and significant events in the coming month or so to plan for them, because I was relying solely on my phone’s calendar and built-in to-do list. I decided to purchase a planner to help with this.
After doing much research on planners, I chose the Simplified Planner and the version that works best for me is the weekly view. I rely heavily on my Google calendar for my actual minute-by-minute schedule, so I use this planner in a more general manner, just noting what events I have each day and then creating a day-by-day to-do list. Every Sunday night or Monday morning, I fill out the coming week with all of the information I need, and I include any carry over tasks from the prior week that didn’t get finished.
In doing this, I’ve found that using my phone’s to-do list should not be a repository of everything I need to get done. In fact, it’s much better suited to remind me of important things at a specific time (for example, when to take medicine or reminding me to bring something to daycare that day for my daughter right before we usually leave the house).
3) I think the process for creating a physical inbox, follow-up, and later folder/box has removed the overwhelming feeling I had regarding “the piles”. You know what I’m talking about. There was always a pile of papers on the kitchen table, one on my desk, one near the front door. These created havoc and caused me to sometimes miss bill payments or not respond to something in a timely manner.
4) I genuinely took the advice in Step #2 to heart – if something takes less than 2 minutes to do, JUST DO IT. This has significantly cleared up my to-do list and I tend to keep these tasks in a separate list so that I can bang them out when I have 10 minutes of free-time.
Overall, I can’t wait for my systems to evolve, as I get more comfortable with the method of Getting Things Done. Making some of these simple changes has made me more productive and I generally feel less overwhelmed. Feel free to comment with other ways you’ve found to make your life more productive!
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