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Getting Productive in 2008: The Two Minute Rule

Getting Productive in 2008, Starting with GTD

Gtd_cover It's the New Year and one of my resolutions is to try to get a better handle on my time. I'm also in the middle of planning for a time management webinar, so I guess I have productivity on the brain.

This week I wanted to share some tools and tips I've been trying out as I suspect that I'm not alone in the desire to get more done in less time. Some of these strategies are working well for me. Others are more of a challenge. My theory, though, is that just because it doesn't work for me, doesn't mean that you might not get something out of it.

Most of what I've been doing is based on David Allen's Getting Things Done (GTD), a time management and organizational system that for many devotees approaches cult-like status. It's a system that succeeds because it helps you get all the amorphous "stuff" that's clogging up your thinking and planning out of your brain and into a coherent system where you can do something actionable about it. As this 43 Folders article on getting started with GTD points out:

Stuff is bouncing around in our heads and causing untold stress and anxiety. Evaluation meetings, bar mitzvahs, empty rolls of toilet paper, broken lawn mowers, college applications, your big gut, tooth decay, dirty underwear and imminent jury duty all compete for prime attention in our poor, addled brains. Stuff has no “home” and, consequently, no place to go, so it just keeps rattling around.

Yep--that about sums it up for me.

So what GTD does is give you a system for collecting and organizing all of your "stuff." From the same article:

This is a really summarized version, but here it is, PowerPoint-style:

  1. identify all the stuff in your life that isn’t in the right place (close all open loops)
  2. get rid of the stuff that isn’t yours or you don’t need right now
  3. create a right place that you trust and that supports your working style and values
  4. put your stuff in the right place, consistently
  5. do your stuff in a way that honors your time, your energy, and the context of any given moment
  6. iterate and re-factor mercilessly

So, basically, you make your stuff into real, actionable items or things you can just get rid of. Everything you keep has a clear reason for being in your life at any given moment—both now and well into the future. This gives you an amazing kind of confidence that a) nothing gets lost and b) you always understand what’s on or off your plate.

As someone who has a LOT of "stuff" cluttering up my psychic space, you can imagine why this system appeals.

Now serious GTD enthusiasts can apparently spend hours talking about the merits of technology vs. non-technology-based systems and the tiny variations and adaptations you can make for yourself. For me, that's a little much, so I've been acting as more of a dabbler, trying out some of the key principles of GTD, as well as playing around with some nifty tools to help me keep track of and act on all my "stuff." These are the things I'm going to share the rest of this week.

If you want to get all hardcore on me, though, there's plenty to get you going with GTD. Here are the best resources that I found:

  • Beginner's Guide to GTD--there are links to many different sites for getting started. Take a look around to find the one that suits you best. This is a pretty long list.

That's more than enough to get you started. Tomorrow I'm going to talk about one of the key principles of GTD that's been working well for me--The Two Minute Rule.


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Hi Michele, Happy 2008! I've heard of GTD but haven't read it. Maybe that goes without saying? Did you know that Leo Babauta of Zen Habits wrote an ebook based on GTD called ZTD (Zen To Done) which I've considered downloading. Have you read it? If so, any thoughts? I like his blog and thought maybe I'd prefer his approach.

Oh, I forgot my question. What is meant by "iterate and re-factor mercilessly"?

Hi Robin--I didn't realize that there was an e-book on ZTD--I'll have to check that out as that philosophy is probably somewhat more compatible with my personality than the full GTD.

As for the "iterate and re-factor mercilessly," I THINK that it means that you should always be looking at the stuff that comes into your life as something that needs to be made actionable or gotten rid of so that you don't start to clutter things up again, particularly in your brain. But I could be wrong. :-) What did you think?

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