Get Things Done

Your brain is not a storing device. It is a thinking tool.

David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done, provides a good outline for managing the many to-do’s everyone has on their plate. He emphasizes that “Your brain is not a storing device. It is a thinking tool.” As of such, it is best to create a productivity system that gives room for your brain to think. Allen recommends the following to-do-list system which encompasses 5 to-do-lists and a tickler system.

Projects List: (Review weekly): If something has more than one action task, it is considered a project. Capture the project name and its goal in this list.

Next Actions List: (Review daily): This list is the main list of concrete actions to take. Ensure every project finds its way to this list. Don’t be vague here. Write literal tasks with action verbs.

Calendar Appointment: (Review daily): All your meetings and events should be captured in your calendar, separate from your next actions list.

Waiting For… List: (Review via tickler): If you are waiting for someone else or another item that your action depends on, write it in this list, and get it off your mind.

Someday/Maybe List: (Review monthly): These are a group of miscellaneous lists such as trips you want to take, music you want to listen to, books you want to read.

Tickler System: (Review daily): For things that don’t require your immediate or upcoming attention, the tickler system is a way to store future tasks so you can clear your mind of them when not needed. When the timing is right, you move the items to your “next actions” list and be on your way.

Additional Tips

  1. Make your productivity system mobile. This way you can knock out your “next actions” list at unexpected times on the go.
  2. Only practical, concrete tasks should go on your “next actions” list. This list is telling you what needs to be done. There is not much else thought into it other than knocking these tasks off your list. Ensure the tasks are actionable in language, using verbs and a clear understanding of what to do.
  3. When you are reviewing your lists, remove anything unimportant. Really, if it’s not worth doing, remove it right away.
  4. Take care of small things immediately. If a task in your “next actions” list takes two minutes or less, just do it, and kick it off the list right away.
  5. Appointments and deadlines do not belong in your “next actions” list because they are not tasks. Hold these items in your calendar only.

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