I am sure most of you are familiar with David Allen’s Getting Things Done system.
GTD, as it is known, is a system for organizing your office, your home and your life. It has generated all kinds of software to implement the system, and you can also find all kinds of charts and tools to help you use the system.
However, all the books, and software and tools are missing that there is essentially just one thing that needs to be done. The system is a structure for using GTD, but it is not GTD itself.
What is the real core of GTD?
When all is said and done, and you look past things like Omnifocus, and Brother-labelled file folders and fancy flowcharts, the real key to GTD is this:
Change knowledge work back into “widget” work.
What does that mean?
David Allen makes the comparison in the the Getting Things Done book that work used to be cranking widgets. You came into a factory, you had a pile of things to be worked on, you did that and went home. No decision making, no stress.
When you read between the lines of the GTD system what you are doing is applying a set of rules to what now constitutes work so that in the end you have a simple list of widgets to be cranked.
That is it. That is the goal you are trying to achieve. Nothing more.
The whole idea of the GTD Workflow map is to assist you in reaching that goal. What is the item? Is it Actionable? What is the next action? The Natural Planning Model. All they are are a set of rules to apply so that you end up with a widget.
Another clue alluded to in the Getting Things Done book is the discussion about your calendar. Why is the calendar an easy thing to trust? Because the items there are already defined. All you have are widgets labelled meetings or reminders.
When you process and clarify your “stuff” you do the same thing with all the non calendar items. You turn it into a discrete action or set of actions. It is now just a widget to be cranked.
The weekly review? Convert more stuff into widgets.
The Horizons of Focus? Same thing, only it is converting everything from day to day stuff to your whole life into some form of widget that you can do.
That is why people who really implement and use the system are in control and bursting with ideas. Cranking a widget is easy. All you have to is decide which ones to crank when. You brain is freed up to think new ideas, your stress levels about work are reduced because everything you can do is pre-defined for you.
Now, did I just save you from buying and reading all of David Allen’s books?
Sorry, no. While you might now know the final end goal of the process, exactly how you do it is detailed in the books, and it has been tested and honed over several years into its leanest form.
If you keep in my mind that all you are doing is defining everything into a widget the underlying structure of the books becomes more clear, and you can start to use the system faster.