Are you a fan of the Harry Potter series of books and movies? One of the cool “gadgets” that we love in the wizardry world is the Pensieve – a magical instrument where you can store and review your memories.
When our heads are full of thoughts,we cannot think clearly. Taking out these thoughts and literally setting them aside allows us to clear our head, and to review our thoughts for better clarity and patterns.
Unfortunately, we don’t have pensieves in our non-magical human world. What we do have the Getting Things Done (GTD) system by David Allen, to help us clear our heads and get more done with less stress.
“If it’s on your mind, your mind isn’t clear.” – David Allen
The GTD system comprises 5 key steps, though you need to invest some time and effort to set it up initially:
1. Collect. Incomplete things, however small (e.g. “I must remember to mail that letter” or ‘I must put out the laundry later”), take up our mind-space. When we have too many of such loose, incomplete items, they clutter our minds, and it slows us down like a computer with inadequate RAM.
Hence, the first step is to collect everything into a single collection bucket outside of your head. It can be a physical basket, or an electronic one (e.g. using apps like Things or Trello). The key is to establish a system that’s so robust that gives you a peace of mind that everything you may need to do, is captured in your system.
2-3. Process & Organize. Once we have everything in 1 place, we decide what’s the next concrete action to be taken, then organize/ file them into distinct buckets which represent different levels of commitment (e.g. to do, delegate, defer, projects, thrash, incubate, reference materials etc. – refer to the summary for more details).
4. Review. Daily and weekly reviews are short sessions to keep our heads clear and our GTD workflow functional, while occasional big-picture reviews help us to align our short-term decisions with our long-term goals, visions and purpose.
5. Do. With all our “stuff” organized into distinct buckets, and clear to-do items that are aligned with our larger goals, we are ready to take action purposefully. Be it pre-scheduled time prioritized for specific tasks, or unexpected pockets of time that become available, we can use the decision frameworks in the book to decide if or how to take action.
So, here are the key GTD steps once again: