New Getting Things Done system

I have been using the Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity system for tracking my life and to do’s for about three years or so. But I’ve been using my PDA and the computer for my organizing, which isn’t necessary anymore. I work at home and don’t need to input everything into the computer. When I had to input things into the computer on my action lists, I ended up having paper to do lists and notes all over the place. Definitely not good GTD. So, this past weekend I created a new way of using GTD, using part of this system:

Here is the workflow:
1. My collection boxes:

  • my paper in box where I post to do’s I think about onto note cards – one card for each to do, the mail, papers from the kids, etc.
  • voice mail (either call right away or write on a note card)
  • e-mail (categories for my clients, my courses, action by Fri, Read and Review, Waiting For, bills, and some newsletter lists I am on)

2. Process: One of the problems, I have been having with the GTD system lately is that working from home, I don’t need all those categories like @ computer, @ home, @phone etc. because I am usually at all of them. So I created different categories for organizing my to do’s. I set up a 3 X 5 card file with these dividers labeled:

  • Business
  • Calls
  • Coaching
  • Data Entry
  • Errands
  • Friends and Family
  • Home
  • Personal
  • Office (for things to do on my office day, like letters to write, bills to pay, etc.) And at the back is my someday/maybe divider.

Now to process the inboxes. Is it actionable? If no it goes in the trash, reference files or behind the someday/maybe divider.

If yes, the card gets done if it will take less than two minutes, delegated, or deferred.

3. Organize: If the actions are deferred the card goes behind one of the dividers in my 3 X 5 card file or if it is a specific day that it needs to be done I put the 3 X 5 card in my tickler file for that day. A lot of times I put a 3 X 5 directly into the card file as I think of the to do.

(My tickler file if smaller than David Allen recommends. I have Sun, Mon, Tues, Wed, Th, Fri, Sat, Sun and then the month instead of all 31 days which is overkill for me).

If it’s an appointment, it goes on my calendar. Any documentation (invite, directions, etc.) goes into that day’s tickler file.

Most of my waiting for responses are e-mails, so I just have an e-mail folder for that. So if need be, I e-mail myself waiting fors.

If it is more than one step it is a project. I have a project list on my computer and file folders for projects with project plans inside. Some projects are just on my computer.

If it’s to read it goes into my to read file folder I can take with on appointments.

If it’s a bill it goes into my to pay file.

4. Review: I have taken everything off my bulletin board. Now it is my to do list. I labeled it at the top with home, business and done.

Daily review: I got through my collection boxes at least once a day to process them. In the evening, I take down my done notecards from the bulletin board and put them in front of my card file. The note cards that didn’t get done, stay there.

Next, I look through my tickler file and tack note cards up. And if there is room I go through my cards by category and see which ones feel most needed. It’s great to be able to spread them out on my desk and play with the order. I tack the most important up. When there is no more room, I don’t get to tack anymore on, because I know I won’t be able to get to them.

Weekly Review: I go through my done cards and take a little moment for enjoying the accomplishments. Then I put the cards into recycling.

Next, make sure all my in boxes are empty. If not I finish processing those. And I do a mind sweep of everything that’s in my head, filling out more 3 x 5 cards.

I look over my projects and make sure I have a next action for each of them in my file box. I peek at someday/maybe. I check my waiting for’s.

I also tweak my weekly time map that has a loose schedule with category time blocks like home, family, business, exercise, etc. Working from home, I have no concrete schedule that I have to abide to, so that can lead to never knowing what to do, when. My time map gives me a little structure so I don’t fritter away my day. I add any appointments and move things around.

5. Do: I let my time map guide me. When I am at the business part of my day, I look at my business part of the bulletin board. When I finish something, I tack the notecard under done. Even better than a check mark for me. During home time, I check the board for what home stuff needs to be done. If something comes up, I just move around time blocks or cross off that time block.

On my errand day, I take my cards from behind my errand divider in my 3 X 5 card file, quick jot down on the back of one of the cards an errand route, then put the cards in my purse. And I am off. I have one card for each store/place.

On my office day, during office time, I grab my office day cards and go through them till time is up. And I take my to pay file to pay the bills.

I know David is against time blocks and scheduling. But, because I work from home, doing to do’s by context just doesn’t work for me. At any time I could be doing almost everything on my list.

This system has been working for me. So far this way seems lighter, faster and more fun. And it didn’t take nearly as long to set up as my old system.