What makes a good time management system?
Does it involve a way to avoid procrastination? Beat overwhelm? Use time to our advantage?
In the book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-free Productivity by best-selling author David Allen, these questions are addressed and answered. The GTD methodology is one of the most highly-regarded productivity systems of the 21st century as it lists a step-by-step approach to be "appropriately engaged" and as the title suggests, get things done.
Here are my 3 takeaways:
1. Capture everything
Nowadays, we constantly need to be on top of things, often too many things, that it’s more and more common to feel overwhelmed or stressed just with the number of things we need to do —
Submit proposal, meet with clients, cook dinner, drop off kids at school, set up dad's birthday party, go to the gym, research new topics, change porch light, plan summer vacation, take car to shop, pick up dry cleaning, the list goes on...
Allen suggests capturing everything in a reliable place, whether a notebook, app, or an actual in-tray. The reason for this is he believes our minds are for thinking, not remembering. Our minds are most valuable to us when it isn't overwhelmed. Instead, it should be able to freely and intelligently process information so we can choose which to act on at any given moment.
2. Apply the 2-minute rule
If a given task would take only two minutes, do it.
Allen suggests this simple yet effective strategy because there’s no sense in writing it down, identifying your next action, and letting it accumulate when you could have gotten it out of the way immediately. This helps us stop procrastinating.
3. What is the 'next action'?
Take for example a to-do list item that says "Dad's party." In reality, this isn't specific and can still be broken down into:
Brainstorm party ideas, book venue, hire caterer, send out invitations and get RSVP, decorate venue, and so on.
For this reason, capturing everything is just the first step. The second step would be to identify what your next action is. A ‘next action’ is the visible physical action you need to take to move the task forward.
This is helpful for those who feel overwhelmed with their tasks because they are either too vague or complex. Often, the task you're dreading is actually a project and according to Allen, you can't 'do' a project. You can only break it down into small and actionable steps in order to complete it.
Getting Things Done is a best-seller for a reason — it provides a step-by-step methodology to be productive and avoid procrastination. Though there are several other strategies out there, it's worth reading just to learn what you might be able to apply given your situation. When in doubt, capture everything, use the two-minute rule, and ask yourself what the next action is.
Share in the comments below: Which strategy are you interested in trying? If you've read this book, what are your three takeaways?
Want to put these takeaways into action?
Since one of the best ways to improve ourselves is to commit to continuous learning, this post is part of the blog mini-series called 3 Takeaways where I discuss three insights from thought-provoking leaders, books, and podcasts.
My purpose initially was to simply read more books, but the learnings were too valuable to keep to myself. My goal has since been to share the vital lessons that will help you be productive and free.
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