Getting Things Done – the book – part 7

… starting from the point where the story stopped.

Organizing – in one of the eight buckets

Your organization system is not something that you’ll necessarily create all at once, in a vacuum. It will evolve as you process your stuff and test out whether you have put everything in the best place for you. It should and will evolve, as you do.David Allen

I have already discussed what the eight categories that form the outer ring of the workflow diagram1 of the GTD method are (when going through chapter 2). Chapter 7 is bringing more in-depth info about each one of them, starting with an important rule: It’s critical that all of these categories be kept pristinely distinct from one another. They must be kept visually, physically, and psychologically separate, to promote clarity. This is why the previous step, namely clarifying, is primary to getting organized.

If you don’t respect this basic rule, you will not trust your system.

And that’s it! Apparently, all you really need are lists and folders—totally sufficient tools for reminders, reference, and support materials. As the author explains, you shouldn’t [even] bother to create some external structuring of the priorities on your lists because you will have to rearrange or rewrite them as things change. He claims that we will be prioritizing more intuitively as [we] see the whole list against quite a number of shifting variables.

Action reminders

The actions that must be done on a certain day and/or at a particular time go into your calendar. Again, the only things in there are those that you absolutely have to get done, or know about, on that day.

The calendar should show only the “hard landscape” around which you do the rest of your actions . . . You need to trust your calendar as sacred territory, reflecting the exact hard edges of your day’s commitments, which should be noticeable at a glance while you’re on the run.David Allen

The other actions, that is those that just need to be done as soon as you can get to them […] are left in the category of ‘as soon as possible, against all the other things I have to do.’ Even those with a final due date! They belong to the Next Actions lists. The key to productivity here is to have those actions organized by context (e.g., Calls, Errands, At home, etc.). David Allen describes in detail eight common contexts in the book but explains that How discrete these [contexts] will need to be will depend on (1) how many actions you actually have to track; and (2) how often you change the contexts within which to do them.

Another productivity factor that this kind of organization supports is leveraging your energy when you’re in a certain mode.David Allen

As for reminders of all the things that you’re waiting to get back from or get done by others, they have to be sorted and grouped in the Waiting For list. This should be the complete inventory of everything you care about that other people are supposed to be doing. It’s a good idea to include the date that each item is requested for each entry, as well as any agreed-upon due date.

Your role is to review that list as often as you need to and assess whether you ought to be taking an action, such as checking the status or lighting a fire in some way under the project.David Allen

Project reminders

As briefly alluded to at the end of the previous chapter; hence, post, if you have more than one action needed to achieve a desired result, then you are dealing with what David Allen calls a project. Those go to the Projects list(s). Most of your next actions (on your Next Action lists) will be connected to a project (on your Project list).

The Projects list is not meant to hold plans or details about your projects themselves, nor should you try to keep it arranged by priority or size or urgency—it’s just a comprehensive index of your open loops.David Allen

If you look at the workflow diagram1, you will see that there is another category associated with projects: Project Support Material. Interestingly, while it is covered in this chapter, under the section Organizing Project Reminders, the first sentence about this topic is:

Project support materials are not project actions, and they’re not project reminders. They’re resources to support your actions and thinking about your projects.

Don’t Use Support Material for Reminding

Nonactionable data

Having good, consistent structures with which to manage the nonactionable items in our work and lives is as important as managing our action and project reminders. When the nonactionable items aren’t properly managed, they clog up the whole process.David Allen

Among the many things that have no action required (you might want to check my comment in the previous post on that matter), some are information that you want to keep, for a variety of reasons. They belong to the Reference Material category. The only question is how big a library you want. Based on this, you will decide how much to keep, how much room to dedicate to it, what form it should be stored in, and where.

As for the things that you want to reassess in the future, they go to your Someday/Maybe lists, on your calendar as reminders2, or in a tickler system. The list(s) should include anything you really might want to do someday if you have the time, money, and inclination (e.g., skills to learn, trips to take, etc.). Projects (from your project list) that you will not be able to work on for the next few months or more should also be moved to this list.

Of course, for the things that you don’t need at all, the appropriate bucket is the Trash bin!

Going through this post might give you the wrong impression that chapter 7 does not bring much more compared to what was previously discussed. There are a lot of pieces of advice that make this chapter worth reading. I did not list them here for obvious reasons (it would be wrong to copy/paste the whole content of the book); you will still have to read the book.

To be continued…

1 If you don’t know what I am talking about, you may want to consider buying the book. Alternatively, you can simply look for “GTD workflow” online. ^
2 Among the day-specific information, which fits perfectly within your calendar, Triggers for activating projects and Events you might want to participate in are a few ideas listed in the book. For the things that would take up too much […] room on [your] calendar, you can use a tickler file instead. This is a clever, and what is more perpetual, three-dimensional version of a calendar. As explained in the book (in more details), you will need thirty-one physical folders labeled 1 through 31 and twelve more labeled with the names of the months of the year. Check out this system; clever indeed! ^

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