Saturday, October 11, 2008

Getting Things Done GTD Tips 1

You’ll get the most out of these tips if you have already read David Allen’s book Getting Things Done and started the implementation of your GTD system. In my opinion, this is one of the best business books on the market. If you have not started that process then you’ll want to start there and then come back to this guide. This guide is meant for those who understand Getting Things Done and have a GTD system but who are struggling to get their inboxes processed to zero each and every day.

Getting Things Done GTD Inboxes Tips

In order to get to become Black Belt with your GTD inboxes, they need to be checked and processed daily to zero. At first, this will be difficult, but with time, you can get your inboxes to zero each and every day. In addition, you’ll need to commit yourself and others to funneling everything into your inbox system so that your system is airtight and nothing falls through the cracks.

Three years ago, I started with stacks and stacks of paper and thousands of emails in my inbox. If you would have told me then that I could process my inboxes to zero and be getting things done with GTD, I would have called you nuts. To make matters worse, I work on the road about two hundred days a year. Today, though, I reduce my inboxes to zero on a daily basis. How did I do it? What follows is the exact strategy I used to get my getting things done gtd inboxes to zero each and every day.

GTD Project Outcomes

The overall outcomes for this getting things done gtd project are:

  • You’ve identified, set up and consolidated your inboxes to the fewest you need
  • You’ve made a checklist of each of your inboxes and listed them in order from easiest to hardest to get to zero and listed your physical “paper” inbox LAST
  • You’ve made sure that all of your stuff goes through your designated inboxes
  • You’ve made a checklist on how to get each inbox to zero
  • You’ve started working on mastering your inboxes on a daily basis

You’ve Identified Your Inboxes

Your first step is to identify each of your getting things done gtd inboxes. When I first setup my system, my main focus was on my physical “paper” inbox. I now know that I have many additional inboxes such as a mail box, voice mail and even an “in” folder in my briefcase. What inboxes you need will be different than mine and will be determined by your workflow situation. Take the time to analyze where your workflow is coming from and set up getting things done inboxes accordingly.

Once you’ve identified your inboxes, determine if you can eliminate your inboxes or merge them into another inbox. Email is an excellent example of where consolidation will do you the most good. I personally have several email addresses and they all go into one single account. While it might not be possible to eliminate any, review the possibility because the fewer places you have to check the better.

There are a few additional inboxes you’ll want to make sure that you have.

  • A roomy physical inbox at home and one at work
  • A folder labeled “Inbox” for your briefcase for transit. I use a plastic folder to handle all of the wear and tear of daily use
  • A capture device for note taking that you have with you at all times. I use a set of 3x5 spiraled index cards and when necessary I use my Blackberry to record notes as well

When it comes to managing your paper “in”, you’ll find that you’ll spend some time choosing your inboxes to your liking. When I started, I had a big plastic file case as my inbox for papers and now I could really get by with a folder. Your system will evolve with you and you’ll modify your setup over time but having a checklist will not. Fine tune your GTD inbox checklist to allow your work to flow fast through your system.

You’ve Made A Checklist Of Each Of Your Getting Things Done GTD Inboxes And Listed Them In Order From Easiest To Hardest To Get To Zero And Placed Your Physical Inbox LAST On The Checklist

Once you’ve identified each and every inbox, you then should make a checklist of all of the inboxes you need to check. This checklist will be the foundation for what will later become an integral part of your daily review checklist that you’ll be building into a complete Black Belt system later.

Make sure that when you make this checklist, put your physical “paper” inbox last on your list. As we check the inboxes from the top down, we will be pushing everything down to that inbox.
On the next page is my checklist of inboxes. You’ll notice that I grouped similar inboxes together.

Getting Things Done GTD Checklist:

VOICE MAIL: 8582
VOICE MAIL: 9693
VOICE MAIL: 6328
VOICE MAIL: 3775
-----------------------------------------------------------
TEXT: 8582
TEXT: 9693
-----------------------------------------------------------
MAIL: Piccadilly Circle
MAIL: Olio Road
MAIL: 86th Street
MAIL: 96th Street
-----------------------------------------------------------
DIGITAL: Blackberry
DIGITAL: Email
-----------------------------------------------------------
PAPER: Gather loose papers
PAPER: Spiral index cards
PAPER: Briefcase inbox folder in inbox
PAPER: Inbox at home/home office
-----------------------------------------------------------
GTD BLACK BELT: ALL GETTING THINGS DONE INBOXES TO ZERO
-----------------------------------------------------------

You’ve Made Sure That All Of Your StuffGoes Through Your Designated Inboxes

Once identified, commit yourself to funneling all of your stuff through the inboxes for processing. Let your family and coworkers know that they should do the same.

Make sure that you are no longer using places like your car and kitchen counters as inboxes. Also make sure that you are taking your notes in your capture tool and not on napkins and scrap pieces of paper to eliminate leakage of things that should go into “in.”

You’ve Made A Checklist OnHow To Get Each Inbox To Zero

For each inbox, figure out what it will take to get that inbox to zero and write down the steps in the form of a checklist. By doing this, you’ll take the thinking out of your processing and won’t have to think about what the next step in your processing is – you will have already thought about it.

By reducing your getting things done processing to a checklist of action steps required, you’ll realize two great benefits. The first is that you won’t have to think about your processing system while you are processing, you’ll just process. Second, you’ll know what a completed getting things done processing session feels like. And, by knowing what a completed processing session looks like, you won’t be worried about whether you’ve processed everything or not, because you’ll know.

Below are the checklists to get my inboxes to zero from easiest to hardest.

Checking Voice Mail

Get spiral index cards and pen
Check voice mail
Write down all messages on index cards
Delete all messages
Clear all alerts
Return all calls that can be returned now
Record any notes on index cards
Put notes in physical inbox
Repeat for all voice mail boxes
-----------------------------------------------------------------
GETTING THINGS DONE GTD BLACK BELT: ALL MESSAGES EMPTIED
-----------------------------------------------------------------

Checking Text Messages

Get spiral index cards and pen
Review text messages
Complete any two minute actions
Write down messages on index cards that require actions
Delete messages that are completed
Put notes in physical inbox
Repeat for all text message inboxes
-------------------------------------------------------------------------
GETTING THINGS DONE GTD BLACK BELT: ALL TEXT MESSAGES TO ZERO
-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Checking Mail Inboxes

Pick up mail
Open all mail
Throw away all trash
Shred private items
File all informational mail
Put remaining items in inbox
Repeat for all mail boxes
-------------------------------------------------------------------------
GETTING THINGS DONE GTD BLACK BELT: ALL MAIL BOXES TO ZERO
-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Checking Blackberry

Get spiral index cards and pen
Check Next Action Inbox
Take care of any two minute actions
Record any longer actions on index cards and put in physical in box
Dlete items in inbox
Check Next Action Waiting For
Check off any Waiting Fors completed
-------------------------------------------------------------------------
GETTING THINGS DONE GTD BLACK BELT: BLACKBERRY INBOX TO ZERO
-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Checking Email

Open email
Open calendar
Log into basecamp
Get Blackberry
Process Inbox – Mark spam, delete trash, process and move to Archive Folder less than two mnute emails and move action items to Action Folder
Review Spam folder to make sure that it’s all spam
Empty Spam
Review Yahoo! Reminders for actions and move to Action Folder
Review Waiting For folder for actions and move those to Action folder
Review To Print folder for things to print
Review Read Review folder
Process Action Folder to zero
Empty Trash
Close email
-------------------------------------------------------------------------
GETTING THINGS DONE GTD BLACK BELT: ALL EMAIL TO ZERO
-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Checking Paper Inboxes

Gather loose papers and put in physical inbox
Tear out index cards and put in physical inbox
Empty briefcase in folder into physical inbox
Set out the getting things done workflow diagram
Using the getting things done workflow diagram as a guide, work from the top down to process each paper into the system
-------------------------------------------------------------------------
GETTING THINGS DONE GTD BLACK BELT: ALL PAPER INBOXES TO ZERO
-------------------------------------------------------------------------

You’ve Started Working
On Mastering Your Inbox On A Daily Basis


Once you’ve identified your getting things done inboxes, made a checklist of them and developed a plan to empty each inbox, your next course of action is to start mastering your inboxes on a daily basis. Start with the very first inbox on your list, follow your checklist to get it to empty.

Using my list as an example, the first inbox on my list is a voice mail box. My first benchmark I want to strive for is emptying that voice mail inbox to zero today and then each day following. Once I have it to zero and am emptying it every day, I’ll move onto the next inbox and do the same thing – mastering one inbox at time.

The goal at first is get some “wins” or a feeling that at least something in my system is at Black Belt and move Black Belt down through my system of inboxes one inbox at a time.

More importantly, by creating these checklist, you’ve defined what done looks like for each inbox and should then create a master daily processing checklist merging each inbox checklist into one comprehensive daily checklist.

My Daily Getting Things Done GTD Processing Checklist

Get spiral index cards and pen
Check voice mail 8582
Write down all messages on index cards
Delete all messages
Clear all alerts
Return all calls that can be returned now
Record any notes on index cards
Put notes in physical inbox
Repeat for voice mail boxes 9693, 6328, 3375
Review text messages 8582
Complete any two minute actions
Write down messages on index cards that require actions
Delete messages that are completed
Put notes in physical inbox
Repeat for text message inbox 9693
Pick up mail from all locations
Combine and open all mail
Throw away all trash
Shred private items
File all informational mail
Put remaining items in inbox
Check Black Berry Next Action Inbox
Take care of any two minute actions
Record any longer actions on index cards and put in physical in box
Delete items in inbox
Check Black Berry Next Action Waiting For
Check off any Waiting For’s completed
Open email
Open calendar
Log into Basecamp
Get Blackberry
Process Inbox – Mark spam, delete trash, process and move to Archive Folder less than two minute emails and move action items to Action Folder
Review Spam folder to make sure that it’s all spam
Empty Spam
Review Yahoo! Reminders for actions and move to Action Folder
Review Waiting For folder for actions and move those to Action folder
Review To Print folder for things to print
Review Read Review folder
Process Action Folder to zero
Empty Trash
Close email
Gather loose papers and put in physical inbox
Tear out index cards and put in physical inbox
Emty briefcase in folder into physical inbox
Set out the workflow diagram
Using the getting things done workflow diagram as a guide, work from the top down to process each paper into the system
-------------------------------------------------------------------------
GETTING THINGS DONE GTD BLACK BELT: INBOXES TO ZERO
-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Process Up To An Hour Once In The MorningAnd One Half Hour At The End Of The Day

I use a checklist similar to the one above each morning shortly after I get up and at the end of the day. Since I work from home or in a hotel, it might be easier for me to get right into it. I allow an hour in the morning and at night. But as my system has gotten better, many times, I do not have to use all of that time. If you can only process in a half hour, do it in a half hour.

Carve the time out of your schedule and make it a sacred time just like it’s suggested that you do with your weekly review.

What you’ll find is that by using your checklist, you can work faster than you thought. Note the start time that you begin processing and how long it takes you to finish. If you do not get finished, the next time you process, try and get further down the checklist, trying to do better each time.

With time, you’ll find your end of day processing may not take but a few minutes.

Dealing With An Initial Backlog

Once your GTD processing system is set up and running, you can intensify your getting things done collection efforts. If you are like me, your physical inbox will be overwhelmed from the get go and you might have thousands of emails backlogged in your system. These will be the two types of inboxes that are hardest to get to zero.

Here is what I recommend.

For Paper

Scan your backlog for anything pressing put it in your inbox
Stack your backlog in a specific location. A big box, corner of your office for later processing
Keep current on anything new that comes in your inbox
Work through your back log during the time you schedule each day to do your processing and when you schedule your weekly review

For Email

Scan your email for anything pressing and move to your Action folder
Create a folder called Action Backlog and move all backlogged emails there for later processing
Keep current on anything new that comes in your inbox
Work through your back log during the time you schedule each day to do your processing and when you schedule your weekly review

You Can Use The Weekly Review To Get Your Processing Under Control

Chances are that when you started with GTD, you were not doing a weekly review but maybe getting more things done. Many people complain that when they start doing weekly reviews that they take several hours and they get frustrated.

Although you can follow the weekly review structure, I suggest that you start by giving yourself permission to use that time to get rid of your backlog and work on getting the front end of your system in good working order.

Later, you can fine tune the weekly review, once you solve the problems on the front end.

Falling Off The GTD Bandwagon

You’ll inevitably get overwhelmed from time to time from too much in your inboxes and you’ll lose the momentum you generated. Don’t worry about it. Pick up your checklists and start from the beginning again. After awhile, you’ll fall off the wagon a lot less because you’ll have a roadmap already made to get you right back on the wagon. And, you’ll recover a lot faster.

Next Action: You Can Do It!

Set realistic expectations on getting your inboxes to zero and you’ll slowly improve your system to a habit of reducing them to zero each and every day. I can tell you from experience that it is without a doubt one of the best feelings you can have at work, to have nothing in your inboxes and in a trusted system.

For me it didn’t happen overnight, but now that I am there, it’s an easy thing to keep that way. If I can do it, anybody can. Good Luck!

Visit http://www.blackbeltproject.com/ for more information.

If you follow these getting things done GTD tips, you'll be getting things done with your GTD inboxes in no time flat.

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Getting Things Done GTD Tips

Welcome to Getting Things Done GTD Tips. This site provides tips and techniques for people beginning GTD. If you have questions not covered in Getting Things Done GTD Tips please feel free to email your question to support@gettingthingsdonereview.com.