Getting Things Done
Last Update: 2017-09-12
Five Sentence Abstract:
Lists for every occasion. One list for current actions, a waiting list, a list for each of the people you have business with, and more. The use of folders to both keep reference material organized, but also to "mail" yourself things into the future. A calendar and regular reviews of all your lists to keep your mind free from having to remember what you need to do. Last, but not least, how to put EVERYTHING into your inbox and still make sure that it stays relatively empty.
- I listened to the audio version of this while I was
sleeping over a week or two so these notes are not at all comprehensive to what
Since I don't have a fast paced corporate lifestyle, my version of lists and
folders is simpler.
I use a "projects" folder to hold files of interest and subfolders of things
I have or want to be working on. These subfolders might have a book, the
notes from that book, and images extracted from the book or a computer program
or article I might be writing.
I have another "notes" folder that contains mostly text files like
"shopping_list.txt", "writing_ideas.txt" and the generic catchall
"notes.txt". Under "notes" is a "goals.txt" file that I put the projects I
want to complete based on seasons.
My last organization folder is "logs". Here I keep logs of whatever it is I
might be working on long term. I keep things like a mood log and an exercise
log here. I find these keep me on point when it comes to mundane recurring
activities like exercise that I wouldn't keep on a to-do list since it would
always be on the list. Updating these logs gives me that "accomplishment"
feeling of checking something off a to-do list.
For timing and calendar based things I use orage liberally. I have reminders
scheduled for taking pictures of or planting things in the garden, garbage
night, and other recurring or single shot events. I have a seasonal reminder to
update my "goals.txt" note file.
After I finish a project or no longer need a log/notes file, I move it to an
archive folder with the same basic structure as the "live" folders.
There is a little more to it than this, for example I have a "code" folder
with subfolders for python and c++. Each of them has most subfolders for each
program I've written. It is basically a toned down version of the lists and
folders method described in the book.
I used to use a spreadsheet with columns being days and various rows being
the tasks I wanted to work on. I would the log the number of hours I put into
a given task. I found this to be somewhat overkill for day-to-day private use,
but would use it if I had to track something like billable hours.
Table of Contents
- You can sort your lists, or have separate ones, to identify what actions you
can take where. For example all of you phone based to-dos might be on a list
(near your phone) while all your errand based to-dos might be on another list
(in your car). This allows you to focus only on the tasks you can actually
Lists of projects
- General list of all the projects you are working on.
Next action list
Next action list for specific things that need to be done to advance each
This prevents you from having to think about what step you should work on.
It may not seem like much but apparently it has numerous benefits. For
example if you have low energy and you look at a list of your projects, you
might not have enough energy to sort out what needs to be done. If, on the
other hand, you can see exactly what steps need to be taken, you can choose
something simple to suit your low energy mood.
If you keep everything organized, when you have low energy you can do
something easy. This "accomplishment" might jump start your energy levels.
Even simple things like water the plants and refill your stapler can be good
low energy tasks.
Instead of writing "tires" (or "get new tires"), which could go on your
project list, you write "call mechanic and make appointment". If you don't
have the number you might write "call Fred to get the mechanic's number".
Can visualize this as an outline with your top level projects as roots.
"Waiting on xxx" list
- A list of things you are waiting to get back from someone before you can take
more action with.
"Possible/maybe in the future" list
- Can have a list pertaining to things you want to discuss with a particular
person. You can then review the list before meetings to have the topics fresh
in your mind.
Husband and wife use inboxes for one another. Even when they are only a few
feet away from one another they still use them. This allows them to not
disturb one another while they are working and allows them to focus on each
other during their time.
Get up to date and try to keep your inbox empty or nearly so.
If something will take less than 2 minutes, do it.
- Your calendar should only have things that must be done on a given day, not
things you could or would like to do on a given day. If you have 3 phone
calls listed that you want to make today, but only 1 has to be made today, you
might forget when you are inundated and forget to make the mission critical
Can keep a set of folders that allow you to "mail" things to your future
self. Have one folder for each day of the month and one folder for each
month. You can reuse the 31 daily folders. Put future items in the appropriate
day folder and look every morning at what is in there. Move the current day to
the next month folder. If you want to "mail" something for next month, put it
in the month folder outside of any day folders (it may be the only thing in the
month folder). When you get to a new month, check if there are any loose papers
and file them under a day during that month.
This can be translated to computer folders with even more ease. You can
simply have one folder, or 12 months folders, and preface the filename with
the date you'd like to look at it. Check daily. No need to rotate physical
A few file cabinets kept at arms length for reference material. This is
probably all but obsolete with things like Evernote and scrapbook.
If you still use hard copies, keep them all alphabetically sorted. No need
for sub sorted topics. Go through every year and clear out the deadwood.