GTD for Stoners
The Stoner Mom’s Crash Course in Life Management
Created in 2001 by David Allen, Getting Things Done is a method of managing and maintaining all of your life’s commitments. In this blog series, I am breaking down the Getting Things Done method for stoners. Because stoners can be productive. They are industry leaders and stay at home moms, doctors, teachers, grandmothers, combat veterans and so much more.
If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed with your life’s responsibilities and don’t know where to start, then this is the series for you!
Welcome back productive stoners! In our previous post in this series, I went over the five steps of the Getting Things Done method. To refresh your memory, they are:
In this post we are going to cover the first step of GTD, Capture. I will show you how to capture 100% of everything that has your attention. We’ll talk about writing stuff down and how it’s an essential habit for this practice. I’ll also show you my inbox, give you tips on how to fully empty your mind, and how a mind sweep resets your ability to store information.
GTD Step One | Capture
What is it?
The first step of every project is to identify what the desired result is. To do that one must, as the cliché says, lay it all out on the table. That is what capturing is. In this first step we “capture” 100% of everything that has our attention. We do this with some method of recording; paper and pen, word doc, voice recorder, notes in your phone, etc. In GTD this is called a Mind Sweep. It can also be referred to as a Brain Dump or a Mind Map. It’s a common exercise that I’ve talked about before, and it has a wonderful, therapeutic effect.
Another way I have heard David Allen describe this step is to identify what is not on cruise control.
Why do we do this?
A Mind Sweep’s purpose is to free up psychic RAM.
Your brain is a computer. Computers spend all their time processing information and running routines, all while using finite space and memory. When our brain runs out of space to hold information, we can’t add more. We need to free up space.
A Mind Sweep’s purpose is to free up psychic RAM.
When a thought has your attention it becomes an open loop, running endlessly through your mind until you close it. How do you close the loop? By finishing the thought. Taking it through to its end. We will get to that soon, but for now it’s enough to identify the open loops.
The Setup | What you Need
For an ideal capture session, you need some very basic supplies. First, schedule your capturing for a time when you are alone and won’t be disturbed. By the way, it is totally okay to get high during this activity. In fact, for me, it’s a necessary step to the process. Whatever your leanings are as a stoner, try to use the method that provides you the most energy and positivity. For me, it’s always something high in THC, as I have a robust tolerance. But it’s different for everybody, so if a high THC strain makes you anxious and scatter-brained, then, by all means, use something else!
In addition, you need:
an Inbox |The inbox is a catchall for all things you need to process. As things come across your desk and in your mail, they are moved to the inbox until you can process them. Some GTDer’s process down their inboxes every day. Less busy GTDer’s can get away with a few times a week.
I use a hanging file folder in a pretty file box I found at World Market, but lots of things will work. A pretty basket, an open tray system, a drawer you can check often, even a corkboard.
Quick Video | Going thru my Inbox
Here’s a ten-minute video where I show you my inbox! I spaced out and say I got my inbox at Target, but it’s actually from World Market.
a 2017 Calendar | Calendars are totally personal, so feel free to use the system you already have in place. I use iCal because it works across all of my devices and allows me to subscribe to Google Calendar and lots of other apps. I also have paper calendars; a family friendly traditional wall calendar in the kitchen for everyone to use, and a Moleskin journal I use as a day planner.
My scheduling process is: any new appointment is entered into the digital calendar first. This is simply because I am the most likely to have my phone or apple watch with me, more so than my day planner. A few times a month I transfer new dates from my digital calendar to my day planner.
Paper and Pencil | It doesn’t have to be paper and pencil but you do need something for recording the brain dump. I have had lifelong luck with handwriting my brain dumps, but I’ve also used computer programs to empty my mind. For the past couple of years, I have been obsessed with using index cards, and I can’t recommend them enough! They are cheap, come in big packs, they are perfect for recording a single thought, and are easy to file or toss into an inbox.
Now that your setup is ready, it’s time to Capture! There are two steps to this, and it doesn’t really matter which order it goes in. One is a literal brain dump, writing down every single thing on your mind in a fast, stream-of-consciousness style without thinking about it. The other step is to physically gather items in your inbox or for your inbox. I prefer to do the gathering step first, as it helps inform my mind when performing the other step.
First Up, Collect
Go through the different areas of your home where notes, to-dos, reminders, loose paper, mail and other clutter gathers. In my life, it’s my desk, a couple different counter tops, my purse and my car.
Collect these items into your inbox. Now that we’ve gathered these triggers and reminders in one spot, it’s time to do a mind sweep.
Next, The Mind Sweep
A mind sweep is simply getting everything out of your brain, and onto paper. It’s about recording every single thing that your mind is spending precious energy holding in limbo.
Remember that this is about collecting and not about processing. This isn’t about thinking deeply. It’s not about organizing or putting things into categories.
Your list very likely will be long, especially if you are beginning with a lot on your mind. Don’t focus on format, handwriting, accuracy, or spelling. Items can be one word or complete sentences.
If you want to set a time limit for motivational purposes, ten minutes is a good time frame. If after ten minutes you still have more open loops to record, feel free to go longer.
In a moment I will take you through a guided mind sweep, meaning, I will offer different triggers and areas of focus that might get your brain moving. First, some tips before you start.
Tips before you Start!
- Don’t think too much! A Mind Sweep should be a stream-of-consciousness type of exercise. When we stop to think more deeply, we lose the energy behind the exercise.
- Concentrate on emptying your mind. Identify every open loop and write it down. No matter how small or how large of a problem it might be, record it.
- Don’t worry about the looks of it. If you are like me and hate “ruining” a blank notebook with scribbles, then use a separate piece of paper and transfer the content of your brain dump later. Worrying about format has no place in a beginning mind sweep.
- Remember, identify what is NOT on cruise control. If you repeatedly have thoughts popping up, that usually indicates you have not closed the loops related to these thoughts and ideas. You will get an immediate sense of relief when you consolidate these open loops onto a piece of paper. Later you will have plenty of time to fully process a thought or idea.
- Some ideas are huge and lofty and have little chance of being realized. Write it down! Other items nagging the brain are small and simply require the time and energy to complete them.
Sometimes we just don’t know what to do first. The answer is always, identify the problem. In the average life we have several. Go over this guided mind sweep and record anything that has been holding your attention within the given areas.
A Guided Mind Sweep
- what immediate commitments do you have?
- are there appointments or errands to run?
- what are you having for dinner? Does this impact your day’s plan?
The Current Week
Think over the past few days as well as the upcoming week. It may help to think about:
- voicemails you haven’t listened to
- emails to respond to
- papers from school
The Current Month
It can be very helpful to look through your calendar and see what thoughts arise.
Do the same thing for all of 2017.
- matters related to upcoming seasons
- winterizing the home
- holiday decorations
- gardening and landscaping
- holidays and vacations
Next, let’s move away from the calendars and think about the different areas of our lives:
Empty your mind of all work related responsibilities. Identify what is unclear.
- project management
- new hires, fires, human resources
- quality control
- performance reviews
- tech and gear
- office, desk, computer
- the commute
- work wardrobe
Walk thru your personal space and write down everything that comes to mind:
- things to buy
- deferred maintenance
- items that need replacing
- rooms that need makeovers
- dream furniture you’d love to have
- areas of clutter or difficulty
Start with family and work your way out:
- conversations to have
- items to buy
- birthdays, anniversaries, dates and commitments
- questions or concerns
- real estate
- books, movies, music, concerts
- memberships, subscriptions
- outdoor toys, equipment
- cables and cords
- phones and other devices
- software and updates
Lastly, if there is something that you have yet to capture, what is it?
And, there you have it, the contents of your brain! Of your life! All of those open loops, all in one place. How do you feel? Sometimes people are elated to find their minds clean. Others feel scared or overwhelmed. Your list might be small and manageable, and it might be numerous and intimidating. Either way, it is very common to feel a strong sense of relief when completing a mind sweep, especially if you have been particularly stressed-out about your life and its responsibilities.
Either way, it is very common to feel a strong sense of relief when completing a mind sweep, especially if you have been particularly stressed-out about your life and its responsibilities. Often, a mind sweep leads to a surge of productive energy. If so, ride that high baby! Feel free to look over your list and go deeper, make more notes, start the thinking, close the easiest of loops.
In the next post in this series, we will learn to Clarify. That means processing what our list means. It’s a big step and is considerably harder to do than Capture. But this is when the problems of our life become prioritized, and a plan out starts to make itself visible.
Until then, here is some important homework. Before we go on to Clarify, try to build a solid foundation of capturing several times a day. Every time a new thought grabs your attention, capture it on the list you made today.
Train yourself to write stuff down. Do it every day. Focus on emptying the mind frequently. Place notepads where you can see and access them easily so when you have a thought to remember (the lightbulb in the closet went out) you can capture it right away.