Getting Things Done is a popular system for being productive. However, I’ve never been able to fully integrate GTD into my workflow. Instead, I have a more simple method of getting things done.
First, there are two parts to what I do: my to-do list and my calendar. My to-do list has actions that I want to do, while my calendar has specific allotments of time to accomplish what I want in my to-do list.
My To-Do List
My to-do list is made up of multiple lists that keep everything organized. First, I have a few ongoing commitments (like this website and Rotaract) that are essentially never ending (e.g. there’s no date by which I’d like to finish this website). I add to-do items to each of these commitments as I need, and having them grouped together makes it easier to do related things at the same time and to look back on what I’ve accomplished.
I also have specific projects, which differ from my ongoing commitments in that they have an end date. For example, Iron Money is an ongoing commitment, but I create a project for each major release. Again, each project has actionable to-do items, so I should be able to do all the things in the list to finish the project.
Everything that isn’t a priority goes into my someday list. Every once in a while I pick through these things to schedule them or do them today, or sometimes I just realize that they’re never going to be a priority and I simply delete them.
As mentioned above, I also use my calendar to get things done. All future events go into my calendar, and I like to fill in the past events as well when I do things on the fly. I also have a bunch of recurring events that provide structure for the things I want to do. For example, I have fifteen minutes allotted every day for writing, thirty minutes for language development (currently Spanish with Rosetta Stone), an hour for exercise, etc.
Although I have a “routine” in my calendar that provides time for everything I want to do, my day has never turned out how I originally planned—and this is perfectly okay. I often move things around as I re-prioritize my day, or depend on other people to get things done. The important part is that I still have set aside time to do what’s important and I typically don’t take time away from something without moving it to another part of the day or later in the week.
Bringing It All Together
There are two critical parts to this system: recording everything and being honest with myself.
I trust my to-do list and my calendar to tell me what I should be doing and when I should be doing it. I can only trust the system if I record everything: every to-do and every future commitment. By recording everything, I don’t worry about trying to remember when I have appointments or what I need to accomplish in order to get something done. This is what turns this method into a trusted system.
Being honest with myself is another important component of my system. If I know I’m not actually going to do something—ever—then I simply get rid of the to-do item or calendar event; or hopefully, never add it in the first place. Saying “no” to the things that aren’t important to me help me focus on the things that are important.
And above all, that’s what a productivity system should do: help you focus on the important things in life.