Organize Your Life: Getting Things Done

Alphabetic organizerThe alarm goes off and the space between your ears, which only moments ago had you laying on a beach made of candy, is suddenly filled with the following inner dialogue: “I’ve got to start that reaction tomorrow, so I can’t forget to run by the stockroom today – maybe I can go after lunch – oh, but I have to meet Jason to talk about our collaboration – oh crap, I need to work up that data – but I’m meeting with the boss first thing in the morning – it snowed last night – better get out of here earlier than usual – no time to eat – am I out of clean undershirts? I need to do laundry this weekend – I’m out of detergent – when does Costco open? – did my membership expire or was that my car insurance? I’ve got to get an oil change – how much will that cost? Karen owes me $40 for dinner – I can’t stand that guy she’s dating…”

Ah, stress.  It can be absolutely crippling.

To tell you that there is one simple trick for getting rid of stress is just irresponsible.  However, much of the stress we deal with is caused by a lack of organization.  Mismanaged deadlines, poor preparation or an overwhelming to-do list can be a recipe for insomnia.  So a system that helps manage our lives should help tremendously, regardless of our profession.GTD

Enter David Allen.  In his book “Getting Things Done”, Allen outlines a system of organization that ensures nothing will fall through the cracks again.  This is not a motivational book that’s rich with literary high-fives but poor on details.  It’s a step-by-step manual for getting control of your life.

The book starts out by describing exactly how you’re feeling.  Yes, you.  It’s a little creepy how well he can describe the exact situation you’re likely in.  For example, one of my favorites – Have you ever made a to-do list and included items that you’ve already completed, purely so you can have the satisfaction of crossing it off? I did it all the time…  The sad thing is that I wasn’t really crossing off any important items, just little things to try to ease the anxiety caused by everything else I wasn’t accomplishing.

The truth is the system is extensive and at first pass the entire thing may seem a little intense.  But there are a few elements that are absolutely worth the cost of the book, even if you don’t implement the whole system.  The processes for clearing the mind, managing email and establishing an inbox will literally change the way you live and shouldn’t be missed.

With so many distractions in modern life, we all could use a little help staying on top of things.  Let David Allen personally guide you to lower-stress living, it really is possible!



Had any success with other organization systems?



8 comments so far. Join The Discussion

  1. NAdia T

    wrote on September 15, 2009 at 8:57 am

    I use a project management tool called DeskAway for my GTD… it works!

  2. PlayLady

    wrote on September 18, 2009 at 3:49 am

    I love DA style (David Allen)!

  3. Damian Castillo

    wrote on September 26, 2009 at 4:59 am

    I have used GTD for a long time now and have read Allen's book 3 times. GTD works as long as you apply the simple principles. Just don't get stuck in looking for the perfect tool to use for your GTD system.

    Once you find your tool of choice, don't spend all your time tweaking. Set it up and start getting things done.

    My tool of choice is Toodledo.

  4. Damon

    wrote on October 9, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    I keep a pad and pen on my nightstand and write down my midnight "todo panic attacks" so I know I will not forget them and can get back to sleep. Also good for remembering the billion $ idea that vaporises after you return to the beach of candy.

  5. devol

    wrote on October 14, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    Thanks for the tip. I don't know this book but I intend to read it.

  6. kfly

    wrote on November 11, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    Thanks for posting this, BenchFly! DA's tips really do apply to anyone looking for sanity in their work day! DA's techniques have helped me be so much more efficient in my work. Something I still do automatically every day is follow his "two minute rule." I ask myself, will this take me less than two minutes to get done? If so, I just DO it and get it over with. Doing this helps get rid of all the minutiae-type tasks that clutter up your day.

    In a previous job I was also trained on Franklin Covey methods. What stuck with me the most was the concept of the "four quadrants" that categorize most of the stuff we have to do in one day. In reality, we tend to have a reflex response to "urgent but not important items" and end up getting sucked into spending wayyy to much time on them (think emails). Instead the bulk of our day should be spent on the "not urgent but important" ones that usually make up the exact things the boss expects us to deliver by the next group meeting (and why we have a job).

    At one point I literally created a quadrant on my bulletin board at my desk and labeled post-its with each to do item I needed to get done. I then prioritized them by placing them in the proper quadrant. Seeing it layed out like that really helped put my mind at ease, and when I did finish a task it felt good tossing that post it in the recycle bin!

    Just in case the other two quadrants are: "not urgent and not important" and "urgent and not important (when you think about it, a lot of emails fall into this category — it's just that they always create a sense of false urgency because of that DING you hear when an email comes in, but their content or required action may not be that important!)".

  7. BenchLife: Managing Your Life in the Lab | BenchFly Blog

    wrote on December 2, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    […] Organize Your Life: Getting Things Done – scattered thoughts? short attention span? feel overwhelmed? This simple system will help you gain control of your life and give your brain a much-needed rest […]

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