Saturday, November 29, 2008

How To Set Up GTD Inboxes

This is day one of my Getting Things Done GTD Thirty Day Challenge and the first place we are going to start with is setting up your GTD system and more specifically your inboxes.

As we go through the challenge, I'm going to encourage you to take a long range approach to setting up your GTD system. I suggest that you start with the front end of your system and perfect it one step at a time.

Before you start running stuff through your system, your first order of business is to get your GTD system completely setup before you start collecting, processing and so on. What I did was take the GTD workflow diagram in the book on page 32, (and also available on David Allen's website in pdf format) and look at each component.

You'll notice that at the top it shows the first thing in your system is "IN." This is where you start. When I first started setting up my GTD system, it was my feeling that "IN" only referred to my physical inbox and my email inbox. However, when looking at "IN," open your mind to where everything comes into your life. You then want to make sure that you take all of that stuff and funnel into your inboxes.

This is the first skill you want to learn to master. Make sure everything runs through your designated inboxes. The toughest thing to get into your GTD system are your notes. You know the things you write on napkins. The backs of papers, anywhere you can find. Get into the habit of using one capture location like a spiral index cards or notepad to make all of your notes. If you cannot get it into your system, call your voice mail and leave the information there or text yourself a note for later collection. Get it into the system so you will not lose it!

What really matters here is that you create a net wide enough to capture everything into your workflow. I know at first, I felt overwhelmed by the sheer volume of stuff sitting in my inboxes. The thing is, don't focus on the volume, focus on the GTD workflow. You have the same amount to do, whether you hide it or not. Let the system work for you by letting it create a place to park everything so you know where it is and we will worry about doing later.

So, here is the GTD plan.

1. Get each component of your system in place, starting with inboxes.
2. Perfect each component one at a time.
3. Don't start with collection. Start with your setup. Start with your inboxes.

Think of all the places that your stuff enters your life and make a list of each place. Your list might look like this:

Physical inbox
Email inbox
Voice mail
Text messages
Snail mail
A capture tool like index cards, notepads, etc.
Fax machine

Remember too that you might have more than one physical inbox. Maybe one at work, one at home and one in your briefcase. I have more than one snail mailbox, voice mail and emails as well.

Your revised list might look like this then:

Voice mail 9693
Voice mail 8582
Voice mail 6328
Voice mail 3775
Voice mail 6116
Text 9693
Text 8582
Text inbox in Blackberry
Alerts 9693
Alerts 8582
Email glg
Email blackberry
Email bbbones
Email kidsmakemoney
Email ttEmail tt(1)
Paper index cards
Paper note pad
Paper notes on action lists
Paper notes
Paper loose in car
Paper in wallet
Paper on printer
Paper in project folders
Paper on fax machine
Mailbox 12814
Mailbox 1508
Mailbox 11650
Mailbox 8906
Physical inbox folder in briefcase
Physical inbox home

Get the idea? Make a complete list of all of your inboxes in a word file or excel spreadsheet because later on down the road we will be using that list to create a daily review.

Also, make sure that if you don't have an inbox to collect stuff make sure you put one in place. I didn't use to have one at home or in my briefcase and now I do. I'd suggest that you get a large inbox and preferrably one that stands alone, not those stackable trays. Get something sturdy and big.

Since I travel a lot, I used to take on the road with me a large plastic container, like for files at first, then downsized to a smaller plastic container. Now I carry a folder in my briefcase for my inbox. It took a couple of years to get to that point. Be patient. Just get started and you will pick up momentum.

Here is a video I did on inboxes that has some additional tips.

OK. That's it for today. I'm working on Getting Things Done GTD Thirty Day Challenge as I get time and look for the next day soon.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Welcome To The GTD Thirty Day Challenge

Introduction To The GTD Thirty Day Challenge

Welcome to my Getting Things Done GTD Thirty Day Challenge. I'm pleased to put together my GTD next action plan to help you get the most out of Getting Things Done by David Allen. I am nearly a black belt at Getting Things Done but don't worry if you are not. Just get started and try and do better each day. Start at the beginning. Work to get one component of your system in shape and then work on the next.

When I first started around 2005, I didn't even know how to set up a calendar (which I am ashamed to say), and had stacks of paper and thousands of emails. Now, it's all under control and organized in my system.

I think the book gives you the impression that you can get your GTD system in shape in a weekend and all is perfect from there. But for me, it didn't happen that way. I started small with email, then moved on to my calendar and then to the other areas of my system over a period of months and years to the point where now I have empty inboxes and an empty head.

I think that's what we all want from GTD. The realization of the stress-free productivity that David Allen promised us. Our inboxes at zero. An empty and clear head. I am hear to tell you that the system does work as advertised IF you apply it. I've been a student of Allen's system for several years now and can attest to that.

What follows in the GTD Thirty Day Challenge is the roadmap I followed to get to black belt status. If you are joining me as I get started making these posts, you may not find all 30 lessons yet. Be patient. They are on my project list and will work their way into the challenge as soon as possible.

The thing about the internet is that you can't get traffic without content. And, you don't feel like putting out content if you have no traffic. For now, I am writing these posts live so the internet can find them and index them so it is possible that some of you will find them before they are complete because I don't expect anyone to find them. Surprisingly, they've already been seen around the world - see the update below.

Once the lessons are here, work your way through them. I am not going to take them away. I can't stress enough the process you should follow. Master one area and then move onto the next. Work at your own pace and don't beat yourself up about it if you struggle from time to time. Everyone does.

GTD Next Actions

1. Buy Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

2. Visit the Getting Things Done forum there. Many questions are already answered there.

3. Use the comments section below to introduce yourself. Let us know where you are from and where you are in your journey with Getting Things Done.

UPDATE: So far, I’ve had people from Australia, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Canada, Japan and more come to these pages already to work on setting up or improving their GTD setup. I’ve even had a chance to talk with a few people and am starting to make some friends worldwide now. It’s amazing how the internet can reach so many people.

4. If you haven't signed up for my email updates, go to my Black Belt GTD Project to get on my list.

5. Follow me on Twitter: BlackBeltGTD

6. If you like what you read, click the "ShareThis" button below. It will help get the word out about the challenge.

That's all for today and look forward to talking with you again on Day 1 of the GTD Thirty Day Challenge.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

How To Use A GTD Checklist

If it's your desire to become a black belt at getting things done, then you need to start developing a GTD checklist for everything you need to do.

Why? To get everything else off of your mind.

You see, as good as getting things done is, I don't think that it goes far enough in emptying the brain of the mundane tasks that I have to each and every day. I want to wake up and know what I need to do without thinking.

Once you've got your system in place and it's working for you, then you need to perfect it and you do that by breaking everything down into a gtd checklist.

You want to be like the NFL coach with the big sheet of paper that tells you what to do in every situation that you might face during the day. Ever wonder why they do that? It's because they have spent hours and hours of time knowing every decision they'll need to make in a game and boiled it down to one big checklist. You need to do the same.

The Daily Review GTD Checklist

Use your planning time to plot out what the perfect day would look like if it happened exactly as you planned it. At first, you may not be sure what the perfect day should look like and so therefore, you'll want to start small and write down what you do in the course of a day.

Get up at 7am
Walk for 30 minutes
Eat a breakfast
Take a shower
Get email inbox to zero
Check voice mail
Empty physical inbox

And so on. Break everything down and don't leave anything out. The more specific you are the better. When your daily review GTD checklist is complete, you won't have to think about what you need to do you'll have already thought that part out and you can get right down to doing. When you are not sure what the next action is, you can review your GTD checklist to see.

I suggest that you break your list down into at least two parts:

1. A morning checklist
2. And, an end of day checklist

Don't worry if you compile a long checklist. Most of the actions, you do anyway and this will make things more of a habit for you.

The benefits of doing this are:

1. You'll know each thing you need to do everyday.
2. You won't forget to review anything
3. You'll know what done looks like, or when work is finished.

That last one is a big one.

I work for myself and therefore, am constantly thinking about work. Work never seems to be done. Even with David Allen's getting things done system, gtd made me feel better about knowing what had to be done, but not when I could call it quits for the day and know I didn't forget anything important.

Getting Things Done Fast

Once you know what you have to do, the next thing you can work on once your GTD checklist is complete is the speed you do it. Make a place to note the time you started working on your checklist and when you finished.

Once you've completed a daily review as well as weekly review, you'll know that you have mastered your workflow when you then see how fast you can get through it, and later learn how to delegate it.

I can't tell you how great it is to know:

I've reviewed all my voice mail, email and physical inboxes and they are at zero
I've review my calendar to know what is on my plate for the day
I've completed my checklist to know that I've got a system I'm working and know what done looks like

Get to work mastering your workflow today by analyzing your work to the smallest component. A GTD system is not complete with out a daily review GTD checklist.

Monday, November 3, 2008

About Me

I am a getting things done junkie. I spend a lot of time perfecting my getting things done gtd system.

I work in sales and use GTD everyday. I have since 2005 ever since I picked up David Allen's book. I hope my site and tips help you implement your GTD system and get you to a black belt level. If it has, then I encourage you to make a donation as I do this site for free.

To contact me, just leave a post on this page.

Your Black Belt Mentor,
Getting Things Done with GTD