How I Get Things Done...Now

After getting through a bulk of the GTD book, the idea of clearing your mind is something that resonated with me and motivated me to try it again; albeit with some minor improvements.

With a fundamental understanding of "why" and clearer understanding of the workflow, this is how I'm getting things done now:

  1. I'm still using Evernote (no change here) because it is super easy to funnel everything I eventually come in contact with into a single point - the Inbox.

  2. I created a Reference notebook and moved all the notes from the role based notebooks into the Reference notebook. I deleted all the role based notebooks.

  3. I renamed the !Focus notebook I had previously, to "Next Actions", with the understanding that I will check this notebook frequently (as prescribed by David Allen) and perform those actions asap.

  4. I use the Waiting and Someday/Maybe notebooks as prescribed by David Allen (nothing special here).

  5. Projects. This time around I have broken out Projects into three categories (notebook stacks in Evernote):

    i. Projects (In-Progress)

    ii. Projects (Someday/Maybe)

    iii. Projects (Complete)

More on Projects. This is one I had to think about and I may tweak if it becomes to much trouble to manage. The idea is to have a Notebook dedicated to a specific project, where I can have multiple notes for each project. There will be one note that describes the project (purpose, desired outcome, next actions and brainstorming). The other notes will be actions I need to take on the project or reference material such as documents, pictures, etc. I then tag the notes as either ToDo, Done or Reference.

I thought about only having one notebook to track projects, with one note for each project, and spawning off action notes, which I would then funnel to the Next Actions notebook, but decided not to for the following reasons:

  1. As I understand it, the idea of Next Actions is to complete them casually, or as the situation or time permits. This may not be optimal for projects. Actions for projects should be completed with some rigor. This requires actions to either be scheduled or to use Ticklers to remind you when or where something should be completed.

  2. Funneling project actions to Next Actions can inundate your Next Actions box. Even if you are using ticklers, this adds noise and forces you to prioritize things that might not be as important.

  3. My workflow for Next Actions is to trash the item when I am done, unless there is something attached that I want to reference for later. Sending notes to trash breaks the context of the project, which would not make it useful for future reference. Even if I referenced these items and put them in the Reference folder upon completion, then I would have to use tags or links to string the project together. This could work, but results in more work and potentially another system that can break down.

I'm still on the fence about whether or not my project system is sustainable. For now, there are two things I think are extremely important to make the project system I described above work:

  1. Decide on which projects you will be actively working on. Move all others to the Projects (Someday/Maybe) notebook.

  2. You must review your projects during Weekly Planning and plan accordingly.

  3. Do only one action at a time. All your actions should be in ToDo or Done.

  4. Make effective use of Ticklers. Evernote has the ability to set reminders. If you are not using Evernote, then use your calendar, email or a reminder list to remind you when something should be done.

  5. Use Next Actions if it makes sense, just be sure to put your note back to your project notebook when you are done so you don't lose the context.

One thing worth mentioning: It is absolutely critical to make a habit out of weekly planning. This is the time to catch anything you might have missed earlier in the week, review your projects/goals and plan for the week ahead. If you know you won’t be able to make your planning event, the plan ahead and schedule it a time more convenient for yourself. Not making this a habit will cause your trusted system to collapse.

Anyway, I hope this helps. I certainly don't think I have it all figured out, but I'm pretty confident this will work and be sustainable (for me). I look forward to hearing what you think.