Getting Things Done vs Curlicues + Doo-dads

The internet is bursting with women and their journals. Bullet journals, Filofax planners, Moleskin grids, and Leuchtturm notebooks. Fancy pens and 300 count marker sets. Browse through Pinterest and you’ll see hand drawn, two-page spreads by people who have clearly dedicated a weekend to creating them. While I do admire the talent behind pins like that, I also have a bit of skepticism about organizational tools that are so beautiful they make other people sick with envy.

 

What are you Measuring Success Against? Please, don’t say Pinterest. Or Blogs like this one.

Because you see, being a success is not about how many notebooks you can fill with dreams and ideas and wishes. It’s about getting things done. Period.

It doesn’t matter how pretty it looks. No matter how pulled together the person looks, writes, or portrays themselves as. None of this matters if the person ain’t getting shit done.

And I’m talking the real shit. The getting up early, the paperwork, the 9-5 job, the daily grind of parenting. In the real world, you have to get kids to school on time. You have to perform well at your job. Obtain insurance and pay your bills and make sure there is always food in the house for the kids. There are no A’s for effort in the real world. You either got your shit done, or you didn’t, and you have to deal with the consequences either way.

I always thought I was one of those people with the impressive bullet journals. It wasn’t until adulthood that I realized I’m actually not that anal, I just wish I were. I envy bloggers whose lives are clearly gorgeous. For me, however, my habit has always been to create a gorgeous, enviable system that would ultimately be too flowery to actually work. I love my bullet journal but make no mistake, its purpose is to help me get things done.

My Experience with Domesticity (stoned)

I’ve had a lot of years to practice running a household. No, it’s not a gorgeous or picture perfect. Yes, we have animal hair on our clothing 100% of the time. But do we get out shit done? Yes, all the time. No one is late, everyone is healthy, I do a fair job at paying the bills on time, and David is the Ninja master at bringing in money. I think by now I can dole out some decent advice on keeping it together.

My specialty in this field is doing the organized-work-from-home-mom thing as a stoner. Before I was ever a stoner I was a systems junkie. In the earliest days of my obsession with life management, I would browse the operations manuals of different organizations for fun.

Of course, our lives aren’t corporations. But think of your life. Your average adult life. It’s fucking ridiculous! It’s nothing but work, responsibility, dependents, money, insecurities, driving, a commute, waiting, appointments, meetings, bullshit and more. And yet on top of all of this, we’re expected to somehow meet the measures society creates for us. We’re supposed to be stylish, thin, healthy, eat clean, practice yoga, meditate, cosleep, raise chickens, keep our marriages together, and raise perfect children.

My point is, it’s a lot to manage, a life, and we often hold ourselves to an unrealistic standard.

My Favorite Life Management System (not as pretentious as it sounds)

Getting Things Done was written in 2001 by David Allen and is the gold standard of life and business management. I’ve heard him on different podcasts and his book was forever on my reading list. After listening to every episode of the GTD Podcast, I knew I needed to read the book and learn the system right away.

I like it because it works it works for any lifestyle, for any problem, and for the most chaotic life. It’s simple and doable but it takes dedication. GTD is a five-step method for managing all the things that are in your head, heart, and home. Because our lives are complicated and unique to us, they are worthy of having excellent systems to manage it. GTD is the granddaddy of all systems; it’s simple enough for an individual and robust enough for a family.

The Getting Things Done Methodology

The heart of Getting Things Done is the 5-step process. Over the next several weeks I will walk you through these steps, and by the end, you’ll have the framework of a system that works.

Capture | Collect what has your attention

Use an inbox, file folder, notepad, and/or voice memo to capture 100% of everything that has your attention.

The process starts with a thorough mind map or brain dump, where you capture every single thing that has your attention. Everything. Every bill, every future plan, every movie you want to watch, all the shit you want to remember. When a light bulb is out, when you are almost out of weed, when it’s picture day at school or when the hot lunch for the day is your kid’s favorite. EVERYTHING.

Capturing is not processing. It’s hunt and gather time. A scavenger hunt. Everything you’re responsible for, everything that’s been nagging on your soul. Whether it’s a bill from the IRS or an idea scribbled on an index card, it gets captured and collected and put in one place.

Clarify | Process what it means

If it will take less than two minutes, do it now. If not, delegate it, or put it on a list.

In this step, we process what we have collected. The first time we do this it is often a massive list, so it can take time. With each item, we ask “is it actionable?” If the answer is no your next action is to either trash it, put it on a list (explained next), or file for reference. If yes, decide the very next action required. If the next action takes less than two minutes, do it. If not, it goes on a next action list.

Organize | Put it where it belongs

… calls to make, emails to send, errands to run.

Everyone needs some method for managing their projects, to-do’s, reminders and appointments. In the organize phase we create the lists that will become permanent places for all of those things, and it’s way easier than you’d think. All you need is a calendar and a next-actions-list.

The next actions lists are activity & location based lists that take all the guesswork out of decision-making. I will go into further detail in an upcoming post, but typical next action lists are things like “we need”, “groceries”, “calls”, “errands to run”, etc.

Reflect | Review frequently

Look over your lists as often as necessary to determine what to do next.

When learning the GTD method, we continuously push ourselves to look over our list. This is building our muscle memory and forming a powerful new habit. A weekly review is the cornerstone of this method and sets the stage for the next week of productive actions.

Engage | Simply do

Use your system to take appropriate action with confidence.

With all of your life’s worries recorded somewhere outside of your brain, you have the space to focus on the task at hand. The next action lists and calendar guide your decision making. You no longer second guess how you are spending your time.

 

Over the next weeks, I will go into further detail of each step of GTD. We’ll do a guided brain dump, set up next actions lists, process our inbox and do a guided weekly review. And we’ll do it all stoned, hurray!