Setting up your GTD System
A couple of days ago, I wrote about David Allen’s GTD system and book. Today, we’re going to move on to how you can actually get a system up and running. Remember, this is my particular system – so it may need to be tweaked for your life and business.
When I prepared my system, I made a trip out to the local office supply store. I picked up a basket full of things: a bulletin board, thumb tacks, a new calendar, file folders, a black sharpie marker, plain white labels, a pack of index cards, and 1 simple inbox. In the book, they suggest getting an automatic labeller – now don’t get me wrong – they are nice to have, but I like my penmanship so I’ve stuck with that rather than adding the labeller to my list of products to buy.
I then started to actually collect all the stuff that needed to be done – if it was a physical thing (magazines, bills to pay, mail to open, etc) it went directly into my new inbox. If it was a mental item (put away clothes, paint kitchen walls) the item was written on an index card that was placed into my inbox. I started in my office area and worked my way around the house. This wasn’t a one hour task – it was actually quite difficult and took me the better part of a week to accomplish. Keep in mind though – once it’s done, it’s done forever so long as you manage your system the way it should be managed.
Alongside of my physical inbox, I also maintain an online system strictly for emails that come in. The same procedures were used here – there were 3 folders that were set up – @Next Actions @Projects, @Waiting, and of course the actual inbox. I went through all my folders and put everything into the appropriate folder.
When I began to process things, I quickly filed them into the correct file folder or box remembering to do anything that would take less than 2 minutes to do. I started by labelling the following folders and then started to process my inbox from the top to the bottom.
• Next Actions for anything that had only one thing left to do, but took longer than 2 minutes
• Delegate for anything that was going to be handled by someone else
• Projects for all things that needed more than one action (Keep in mind the projects file is not something you will work daily with – it’s just a reminder of the projects that are underway.)
• Someday for everything I want to do one day. These consisted of all the things I may want to do one day like take a particular class at the college
• “Tickler” for all the things that I wanted/needed to do at some point in the future. Things like scheduling a writing seminar would go in this pile.
I also filed away my reference materials alphabetically and put them directly into my filing cabinet. The folders that are mentioned above sit on the far corner of my desk so they are easily accessible. I try to walk through them every day to make sure I’m not forgetting or missing any important steps.