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, but for stoners. Because stoners can be productive. They are industry leaders and stay-at-home moms. They are 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 showed you the first step of the Getting Things Done method, Capture. In that step, we gathered all of our responsibilities into one giant list and/or inbox.
In this post we will go over step two of the Getting Things Done method, Clarify. I will show you step by step how to process each item from your inbox, whether it be a past due bill or a vague but brilliant idea. I’ll go over the essential “buckets” for holding our to-dos, and you’ll learn how getting your inbox to zero is completely manageable with a plan.
GTD Step Two | Clarify
What is it?
Clarifying is the process of making a decision about each item in our inbox. At this point, you should have one or more inboxes full of every random responsibility in your life. It’s probably a combination of a physical inbox (ie stack of papers) and a long list in the form of a mind sweep. I cover the inbox in my previous post in this series, so please read that if you’re totally lost right now.
As you make decisions about each item and organize them according to the GTD buckets, your inbox quickly empties. This is what it means to process your inbox. It’s also called getting your in’s to zero, and it’s something you will get very used to doing.
Before I show you how to process each item, you need to set up dedicated spaces for the tasks and ideas to live while they wait to be completed. Remember, GTD is all about freeing up mental RAM. We don’t want to store our lists in our heads, we have to get them out and into outside storage.
And that’s where the buckets come in. Before we start processing, gather paper and pencil, a list making app, or a word document. I have used Wunderlist to manage my lists for several years now, and using it to Capture items has become second nature. A notebook works just as well. Choose your list manager of choice and make three lists. Give each list its own page or file.
Title the following lists:
- Next Actions Lists
- Project List
- Someday Maybe List
Also be sure to have your calendar on hand for time/date specific tasks.
Before we Begin – Let’s meet the Buckets
The Next Actions List
The Next Actions list is a context-based set of lists. Organizing by context means taking into account the location, mindset, tools, time or energy level necessary to complete the task.
Some common list names for Next Actions Lists:
• Calls to make
• Emails to send
• Grocery store – a running list of things you need at the grocery store. Mine is shared with my husband via Wunderlist.
• Hardware store
• Computer – tasks you do on your computer
• Anywhere – tasks you can complete in unplanned spots of free time, like waiting in your car or in a doctor’s office.
• Spouse – things you need to discuss with your better half
• Agenda – If you have several people in your life that you need to consult with regularly, you may want to set up some agenda files. I have four kids, my parents, my brother, and my kid’s dad. They all have their own sub-list under Agendas. That way the next time I talk to them, I can pull up my list and make sure I cover everything.
• Waiting for – this is where you keep track of items that are out of your control, like waiting for something to arrive in the mail, or for a contractor to complete work, or for an influx of money that you know is coming in.
The above image is a screen cap of my own Next Actions Lists. As you can see, my contexts are personalized to address my unique needs. When I took this screen cap my lists were pretty lean, but believe me, there are times when my Next Actions Lists are out of control.
Our next bucket is the Project List. This is another big one!
A Project is defined as anything that takes more than one action to complete, to be completed over the next twelve months.
With that definition, the standard idea of a project expands. Something as simple as “choose a restaurant for date night” becomes a project.
Every responsible adult’s life is full of projects and possible projects, and yet we rarely track their progress in any concrete way.
My current Project List is to the right. I have things that are super general (update hair) to very specific (make video review with Cannabutter Cooker).
Also note that my Project List includes both my personal life (hair, pets, and kids) and my professional life (Stoner Mom videos to make). The GTD practice is fluid in nature. There is no true divide between “work” and “home” because it all amounts to the same thing, the draining of our mental RAM.
The Someday Maybe List
The Someday Maybe List is a catchall for possible actions and possible projects. When you get a brilliant idea that doesn’t have a timeframe attached to it, put it here and revisit the list occasionally. Some items will never be accomplished. You may outgrow the idea, or your life’s trajectory will change. No matter, since the Someday Maybe List gives you the permission right in its name, to not do whatever is on it.
If you are the type of person who has always had a junk drawer or two, the Someday Maybe List is a perfect place to stash all of those daydreams you can’t bear to lose, but are still too flakey to find a permanent place for.
Lastly, be sure to have your preferred calendar application with you. Anytime an action is time or date specific, it needs to go on the calendar and nowhere else. The calendar should only hold date-specific actions. If it doesn’t have a date attached to it, it belongs somewhere else. You should be able to trust that your calendar only holds the hard appointments that need to be kept or rescheduled. It is not a repository for your to-dos or weeks plans.
The Good Stuff | How to Clarify Items in your Inbox | Start with Getting Kinda High
Rub those hands together and get ready to inflict some serious damage to your inbox. First, load up the bong with a strain that’s high in THC. Choose a strain that helps you focus and doesn’t make you feel sleepy or lazy. Do a couple bong rips and then pick out one item from your inbox.
With every item in our inbox, we are going to ask a set of questions that determines its proper action or holding place. I created the flowchart above so you can see the decision-making process. It’s very straightforward and colorful, but you can also check out David Allen’s workflow chart here.
First, select an item from the inbox and ask yourself,
#1 | What is it?
Is it a bill? A mailer from a local museum, an appointment confirmation card from the salon, a receipt for something you need to return? Everything in our inboxes have decisions and next actions associated with them. Often the items in our inbox are fleeting thoughts, boiled down into one word. An example David Allen always uses is “Mom”.
“Mom” on our mind sweep list could mean anything from “call mom” to “talk to sister about what to do about mom” to “google doctors for Mom” to “call florist” to “ask mom for money” to “buy mom a birthday gift” to “get mom high”.
Figure out exactly what each item means, and then ask,
#2 | Is it actionable?
We know what actionable means. Your tasks should be as clear as possible, meaning they specify what action needs to be taken. Look at each item and decide what the very next action needed to complete the task is.
If the item is actionable, move to question #3
If the item is not actionable:
You have three options:
• Trash it. Has it served its purpose? Is it something that actually, now that you look at it, doesn’t seem that relevant? Throw away everything you can to streamline life as much as possible. If it’s a task item that just never seems to get done, it’s time to really evaluate whether it belongs on your list. Are you ever going to complete it? If not is it perhaps not that important to you now?
• Incubate it. Incubation is for very few items. Typically these have a “waiting for” element to them. For example, a bill you want to pay when a certain paycheck is available, or a paper you have to complete once you receive notes from a colleague. Items like these are housed either in the inbox (because you know they pay day is coming in on Friday) or on a “waiting for” next action list, or on the calendar with a specific date reminder attached.
• File it for reference. No matter how streamlined and minimalist we want to be, part of being an adult involves maintaining a certain amount of essential “things”, particularly for parents. We should all have a basic filing system set up in our homes. A filing or archival system can be as small as a binder to as extensive as several filing cabinets.
Online storage is also an option. Take advantage of different cloud storage services and store what you can digitally. Dropbox is a household standard for archiving, storage and sharing with family or clients. iCloud is effortless for apple users. Even Amazon offers cloud storage, so check that out Prime members!
#3 | Can I do this in two minutes or less?
If the answer is yes,
DO IT NOW! Sometimes this is the best part of processing an inbox. You realize that these ridiculous to-dos that have stressed you out really don’t take very long to actually do, and you’ll just start banging these babies out. It is an awesome feeling when you are able to knock out ten tasks in fifteen minutes. You get immediate RAM from fully taking care of things.
If the answer is no,
You have two options:
• Delegate it – to someone else to do. If it’s just not getting done, perhaps you are not the person that should be doing it. Mom’s have a tendency to do more than their fair share, so try to delegate when you can.
• Defer it – to a specific date that you put on the Calendar, or on a Next Action List to do at the next available opportunity.
And that’s it. It’s a straightforward process but it takes several run-throughs to get used to.
Let’s go through some examples:
1) an unpaid bill that is due
A bill is very actionable. You can either pay it or not. If you pay it, you can pay part of it, or all of it, or schedule it to auto draft.
For me, all of those tasks are doable in under two minutes, and so I would choose to pay the bill now. Once I go online and pay it, I can throw away or file the bill.
2) marketing for a museum exhibit I would like to see
Is it actionable? It depends. You can make it immediately actionable by looking at the calendar and blocking out a date and time to visit the exhibit. Then you can toss the mailer in the trash. Done.
Or, you may want to talk to your spouse first and decide together. In that case, it should go on a Waiting For List under Next Actions, or on an Agenda list.
3) a form for school photos next week
This form needs to be returned to the school on picture day. If it were due on the next school day, I would fill out the form and put it in the child’s backpack. If picture day were still a couple of weeks away, I would file it in my inbox, and put an action on the Calendar that said “Picture Day, send form with kid”. Further, I could set a reminder on my phone for the day before so I can have the form ready.
4) a receipt you would like to save for taxes
Easy peasy. File the receipt in a folder marked Taxes 2017. Keep it somewhat accessible and toss in relevant paperwork throughout the year.
Projects and Dreams
Don’t forget to use your Project List and Someday Maybe List for all of those bigger ideas that may need their own Next Actions List. Items far off can live on your Someday Maybe list, but Projects will need more attention paid to them.
Remember that a Project is anything that takes more than one action to complete. Projects should be relatively timely, to avoid overloading the list with a decade’s worth of to-dos.
To begin a Project, ask yourself what actions come in between now and the completion of the project. When you have an end you have something to work towards and it becomes easier to fill in what needs to happen in between.
Always break down every task as much as possible. Projects are only completed when progress takes place. The easiest way to do that is to have small, manageable actions, planned out over a calendar and worked on consistently. That, is how things get done. Mic drop.
Now Get It Done!
With this framework in place, work on getting your inbox empty. If there is a ton in there, wait until you have a dedicated day or two to do nothing but work on these tasks.
Remember that the first step of every problem or project, no matter how big or small, is to identify it, and then to clarify it. Don’t underestimate the work it takes the average modern human to get shit done. For many of us, it just doesn’t happen, and no amount of blog posts that you read will change that.
It takes work and action to change these sorts of cognitive habits. You have to literally wire the brain to capture (write shit down) and to clarify (regularly taking care of your shit).
The first compiled inbox and mind sweep is often huge. Don’t let the size of the task at hand frighten you into blindness. Once you conquer this first clarifying session, the next one will be easier and faster. You will start to count on the days that you empty your inbox because you will become addicted to the feeling of freedom and relief that comes with clearing your mind of all of its to-dos.
Simple. This week, process your inbox as many times as possible. Plow through your to-dos and really relish the feeling of getting everything done. The beauty of this system is that everything becomes doable, and the things that aren’t, have a place to live until they can become actionable.
• Put all of the contents of your mind sweep from our last exercise into proper buckets. • Get your inboxes to zero, as many times as possible.
• Feel free to view and download a copy of my GTD workflow on Coggle to help you work through the decision-making process.
The next post is a fun one! It’s time to organize! I’ll be showing you in-depth how I use my list management system. The Organize step is where we set up the permanent systems that transform the GTD workflow into a second nature way of thinking.