The beginning of a new year is a great time to evaluate your life and your goals. It’s the time when we make new commitments to change certain things about our lives. We call them resolutions – and they usually don’t last through the end of the month!
But, what if there was just one tool that we could implement in our lives that would make us more productive this year and the remainder of our lives? Well, the good news is that such a tool exists. It is a system created by author and speaker David Allen. It’s known as Getting Things Done, or GTD.
If I could only recommend one book to read in the area of productivity, this is it – Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen. By learning and implementing the principles taught in this book, your level of productivity WILL greatly increase. As pastors and church leaders whose jobs are never finished, this book is a game changer.
In his book, he lists his 5 steps to getting organized. They are as follows:
- Capture: collect what has your attention. Throughout the day we have a lot of ideas come into our minds. Most people try and retain that information in their minds. However, our brain was created to think and not to be a holding tank for ideas. When we collect 100% of those thoughts that have our attention into a trusted system, we free our minds up to continually be creative.
- Clarify: process what it means. Here is where we ask the question “Is it actionable?” If the answer is no, we either throw it in the trash, file it as a reference, or put it in a “someday” idea file. If the answer is yes, then we immediately decide the next action to take on that item. Our choices are to delegate it, put it on a “to do” list, or complete it immediately if it will take less than 2 minutes to accomplish.
- Organize: put it where it belongs. Here is where I find the beauty of David’s system lies. Instead of putting the idea onto a traditional “to do” list, he suggests that you put the next step onto a list by category (i.e. phone calls, emails, errands, things needing a computer, etc.). Then, for example, if you have 10 minutes at the end of your day, you might go to your email list and send out a few emails instead of wasting that 10 minutes trying to figure out what to do next.
- Reflect: review frequently. David suggests doing a weekly review to update your lists and clear your mind. I also use this time to plan out my week and schedule blocks of time for my projects and next steps. By working on a category such as writing letters, you can save time by writing all the letters for your various projects at the same time, instead of having to open your computer, load your software, and write one letter at a time.
- Engage: simply do. This is where you use your system on a daily basis allowing you to take the appropriate actions, across all your projects, with the confidence that you are not missing anything and that you are being very efficient in your use of time.
The key to the effectiveness of his system is the ability to process your projects and ideas through both a linear and non-linear approach. The typical “to do” list uses a linear approach – you spend time working through the list of things that need done on a particular project in a particular order. The non-linear approach adds the concept of categories, such as email, letter writing, phone calls, etc. By being able to group all your next steps from each project together into a category, you are able to save significant amounts of time.
Of course, doing so requires a system or tool that effectively uses the GTD system. The one that I use personally is called OmniFocus. It’s an app designed for the iPad, iPhone, and Mac. Since I am a PC user, I cannot use it on my laptop, but I have found that using a keyboard with my iPad works just as well. And, since I always have my iPhone or iPad with me, I have found it to be a great system to utilize the GTD principles. It also uses the Siri to help record ideas directly into the app and the GPS location function of the iPhone to remind you when you are near a location tied to a category on your list.
I highly recommend both the GTD system and OmniFocus to make 2015 your best year of productivity ever.
If you don’t use GTD, what system do you use for personal and professional productivity?