The Getting Things Done (GTD) method is an alternative for overworked professionals, especially those who balance career, family and education demands. The tool creates a system to organize, control and execute everything that needs to be done with principles that optimize time and effort.
Although they are more than a decade old, the techniques presented by David Allen remain current. We live in a world in which the demand for performance, productivity and training are continuous, and good task management is fundamental to dealing with challenges.
So, if you are looking for a way to optimize time and energy, continue reading this post to get to know the GTD method and gain indispensable tools to deal with professional overload!
What is the GTD method?
The tool appeared in 2001, in the book “ Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity The Art of Making It Happen: Strategies to Increase Productivity and Reduce Stress”.
This manual presents a method based on the techniques applied by productivity instructor David Allen in years of experience in training for individuals and companies.
The central point is to create an out-of-mind system to manage all pending issues and, thus, allow attention to be directed only to what needs to be accomplished at the moment. The author calls this stage “mind as fluid as water” – and people often draw an analogy with the act of freeing the computer’s RAM.
It is interesting to note that the GTD method has evolved well. In the first edition, the main work model was the list of notes and physical agendas – used to differentiate and manage tasks. Today, technology brings several resources to optimize and facilitate the sharing of information, simplifying the application of the tool.
How does the tool work?
Be simple, like the desire to eat ice cream, be complex, like a decisive project for the professional career, when something does not receive a clear direction, the mind is occupied for a long period, consuming energy and generating stress.
The problem is aggravated if we think about the volume of obligations we have today. Education, career, family and friends generate demands at all times, and our minds can quickly become overwhelmed, even with health risks, stress and burnout syndrome. These assignments can be classified into three groups:
It corresponds to what appears on a daily basis and needs to be carried out immediately. For example, if the boss asks for information, the employee stops what he is doing and fulfills the order.
These are planned actions, such as appointments or task lists.
Activities to be defined
It consists of what has not yet been planned and demands progress. The role of task management is not only to organize activities but to allow the exchange between different types. If you are working and there is an emergency, it should be possible to stop, deal with the problem and resume the routine, always with control of the progress made.
With GTD, the idea is to create a plan for each thing, even if it is as simple as “looking later”. This closes matters and prevents them from occupying our attention when we cannot work on them.
How to apply the GTD method?
The GTD method consists of steps – ranging from how to receive and understand the demands to their realization. Throughout a cycle, everything that caught your attention during the day receives meaning and direction. Thus, the human mind is not overwhelmed and can focus on the now.
The steps may vary in name depending on the translation or focus, but there are usually five:
Write down the things that catch your attention on a daily basis, such as work demands, information, ideas, desires and obligations. You can use e-mail, mobile applications, notebooks, diaries, notepads, among others, and the chosen medium will act as an inbox.
Understand the meaning of each item in your inbox and transfer it to the most appropriate list. In the book, the author presents the possibilities below:
Item does not demand action;
- reference: it is something that has value as information for a project;
- garbage: it has no value, it is disposable;
- someday / maybe: desires, insights, and aspirations that cannot be touched now.
The item demands action;
- immediate execution: anything that takes less than 2 minutes;
- delegation: which requires action by a third party;
- postponement: the other items;
- next actions: lists of measures that do not have a specific date to be performed;
- agenda: appointments, that is, activities with a scheduled date and time.
All pending issues that require several actions must be structured as projects, within which specific measures will be developed. For example, delivering a spreadsheet is a project, because it requires research, data separation, formulas creation, information insertion, formatting, review, and delivery.
Group common items within the main lists. For example, you can bring together everything that is intended for the same context, such as grocery shopping, computer work or delegations to the same person.
An important point is that projects can have internal task management, especially when they are long. Imagine a work: it is recommended to concentrate all the information in a single physical or electronic folder.
Assign schedules on the agenda to take care of the system. Normally, each list has its periodicity, while the entry list should receive a daily review, the “someday / maybe” list can wait a few months, for example. In addition, it is important to update the progress of projects and monitor delegations.
Keep your commitments according to the schedule and take the next actions as soon as time is available. Items without a specific date usually receive progress according to the priority, time and energy available, in addition to sometimes being interrupted by emergencies.
Finally, consider the GTD method as professional competence. In the beginning, as well as other skills, it is necessary to strive so that gradually the behaviors become automatic and the system flows naturally.