Welcome to Thomas Morales' Getting Things Done Book Notes! Enjoy 🙂
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I prefer the "Teens" version of Getting Things Done because it communicates the concepts much more simply.
Table of Contents
PART 1: THE ART OF GETTING THINGS DONE
GTD has 3 main parts:
- Five Steps - to help you gain control
- Levels of Focus - to help you gain perspective
- A Planning Map - to help you gain both control and perspective for situations and projects that require deeper thinking
- Thinking is the critical skills that will always be in demand. It will help you in the present moment as well as define what to do next
- The ability to think - to deeply, imaginatively and creatively think is being threatened by the huge amounts of information supplied by connectivity, amounts that have never been seen before
What does it feel like when you are “on”?
- When you really feel as if things are clicking along, when life is moving in the right direction, when time is disappearing, when you’re accomplishing your takss, you’re experiencing the ready state
- The ready state is one of focused, relaxed engagement, which enables you to bring your best to whatever it is that you are doing
- No matter how much you intentionally avoid - or how much control you think you have the right now in your life - challenges and pitfalls will undoubtedly force you to occasionally feel “off”, become distracted, be overloaded, and feel overwhelmed
- Stuff is anything that shows up on our world - physically, digitally, mentally, emotionally - that still requires some decision or action and has yet to be determined and isn’t yet organized
- Stuff can be generated by outside sources or from within your own mind
- If you aren’t careful, stuff can ruin your life
- The Zeigarnik Effect - The brain naturally remembers and holds on to anything that is interrupted or incomplete
- These interruptions and incompletions are called open loops
- The brain naturally seeks closure, or completion
- These open loops can, if not dealt with, build up and cause overload, which leads to stress and anxiety - they can reappear at any time, which can cause distraction
Control and Perspective
- Control is only the first part of the formula for achieving the ready state
- You must know where you are going and why - Perspective
- Perspective is the ability to look ahead, to see where you are going - the “why” behind anything you do
- The cycle of moving between “on” and “off” states is natural and nonthreatening
The Productive Habit
- To gain control over stuff, you will learn to (1) capture what has your attention; (2) clarify what each item means and what do do about it; (3) organize the results into categories; (4) reflect on and review what you have identified in each category, so you can (5) engage and do what needs to be done
1. Capture: Keep nothing in your head
- The first step toward control is to offload all stuff - getting it out of working memory
- Keep it all - whether physical, digital, or mental stuff - somewhere other than in your head, called buckets
- Capturing can close open loops even if action has yet to be taken or completion has yet to be achieved
- Involves a simple mental process for making decisions about all the stuff that you have gathered into buckets during step 1
- Making efficient and effective decisions with the least amount of effort is an art form called fundamental thinking process
- Carrying out this process results in the complete transformation of stuff into one of six distinct forms: actions, projects, checklists, someday/maybe, reference, and trash
- Setup simple lists, also called maps, to help keep a record of the work and decision-making that you will have done
- This step includes daily and weekly reviews to keep you consistently heading in the right direction
- Conduct daily and weekly reviews to keep you consistently heading in the right direction
- Gain control by learning to effectively take action on what you have decided is important
Part 2: The Practice of GTD
Step 1: Capture
- They work best when they’re readily available for use anywhere and at any time
- If you invest a small amount of time setting up a few buckets and capture tools, and then use them to capture all the stuff that comes to you, your mind will learn to trust that all stuff will eventually be dealt with, and it can let go of the open loops
Capture Ready Means Ready to Capture!
- If your brain doubts that you have captured it all, it will continue to be on heightened alert and actively scan for stuff
- The backlog is all of the stuff that has collected so far in your world
Your going to engage in an activity called stuff hunt, which you’ll search these areas:
- Physical space
- Digital space
- Mental space
As you scan your room, there are 5 types of items to notice:
- Reference: Information or materials you don’t need right now but may need later
- Equipment: Tools/items that you regularly use or that serve a function
- Decoration: Decorations doesn’t serve a functional purpose but reflects your unique personality
- Supplies: Practical things you use and ca get used up
- Stuff: Anything that is not REDS is stuff - It needs to go into your bucket
Conducting a Mind Sweep
- An activity that involves capturing anything and everything that is on your mind or has your attention
- A trigger is anything that serves as a reminder
- A trigger list is a collection of triggers meant to stimulate your thinking at the right time
- For Ex.: Commitments/promises, communication/digital presence, upcoming events, finance, leisure
Step 2: Clarify
- Clarify: To determine the exact meaning of something that emerged from the capture phrase
- Clarify is actually the most important and empowering of all Five Steps
- The clarify process will transform everything in your buckets from blobs of stuff into actionable, usable, or manageable forms
- Thinking at the right time prevents wasted time, wasted energy, and wasted attention
- The clarifying step will assign all stuff into one of 6 categories: actions, projects, checklists, someday/maybes, reference, or trash
- YES → This is something I will need to do, tend to, attend, turn in, complete, think about, research, look up, play with, talk to, message with, etc.
- NO → This is something that I don’t need, or I need/want to keep it, but it still doesn’t require me to take any action on it at this time
Non Actionable Items
- Questions to help determine if an item is Trash:
- Will I truly use it or need it again?
- Do I have multiples of the item?
- Could I access this item online if I needed it?
- Are there any consequences if I don’t have it in the future?
- Does the item hold any emotional or sentimental value?
- A personalized list, developed over time, to assist with a specific activity
- Checklists can serve in many situations, such as knowing items to pack, or things to do before you go somewhere
- Anything that you may want to take action on later but doesn’t require any action now
- Includes movies to see, books to read, trips to take, or wish lists
- Anything non actionable that may be needed at a later time
- Includes directions, receipts, warranties, a class syllabus, driver’s license, passwords, etc
- The next physical, visible activity that progresses something toward completion
- A next action should be so clear and simple that it needs very little thinking or effort to complete
- When a next action is not obvious, it can result in stress or procrastination
- So many ideas end up dying a slow death because a single next action is never identified
- Does your next action include a simple action verb?
- Is it specific enough to know where it happens?
- Is it specific enough to describe any tools needed?
- Is it easily started without any thought or decision making?
- The goal with next actions is to create momentum instead of worrying about success or completion
The Two-Minute Rule
- If you can complete an action in less than two minutes, do it right away.
Are You Done?
- The last sub question is: Will I be done after taking that action? If not, when will I be truly finished?
- To know when to stop, all you need is a clear picture of what you want to accomplish when you’re finished
- Any outcome that is going to take more than one action or session to complete
- A project is a description of a successful outcome
- If the project description is completed, then there aren't any more actions to take
- If you are clear on where you are going (outcome) and have a concrete next step (next action) to get there, you have what is necessary for both control and perspective, and you are set up for success - You are ready
- Regardless of who generates the project, you are the one in control of clarifying it and deciding what a successful completion will look like
Learning to Create the Conditions
- When defining outcomes, the key is to focus on the things over which you do have control
- If you base your success on external factors that re outside your operational control, you'll constantly face disappointment
Step 3: Organize
- To physically, visually, or digitally sort and place items of similar meaning into discrete categories and locations
The Three Actions Lists
- The calendar holds only 3 types of information
- Time-specific actions
- Day-specific actions
- Day-specific reference items
Next Action List
- A complete list of actions that DO NOT need to happen at a specific time or in a specific location
- Actions on this list should require multiple steps or demand any additional decision-making
- This list doesn't contain any next actions or calendar items
- You visit this list to ensure you are making visible progress
- Every project should have at least one next action
- This list contains items that you decided you MIGHT want to do when the opportunity presents itself
- Routines and procedures that you've decided aren't yet habits take the form of checklists
- The most important benefit of a checklist is having access to it when you need it
- Nonactionable item that you decided you need to keep but don't require any action are reference
- Make a few decisions as to where you are going to keep your physical/analog and digital reference materials, and then set up reference lists to hold them
- To be organize ready, it doesn't matter HOW you organize your reference, as long as file and retrieval is quick and efficient
Parking the results of decisions maximizes effectiveness with the least amount of effort
Step 4: Reflect
- Use the two lists that hold all your actions: your calendar and your next action list.
- At a minimum, try to look at these lists twice each day: first thing in the morning and before you go to bed
- One of the hidden benefits of your maps is that you can decide not to engage with anyting on them without experiencing worry or stress
- The more you engage with it, the more you and your brain will learn to trust your calendar, next action list, and checklists as trusted parts of your system
Part 1: Get Clear
- This review helps you gather up any stuff that may have accumulated over the past week
- Includes physical stuff, digital stuff , and the subtler mental stuff that may be rattling around in your head:
Part 2: Get Current
- Getting current helps ensure that the maps you are relying on are complete and accurate:
Review previous calendar entries (past few weeks)
Review upcoming calendar entries & capture any actions about projects or actions required for upcoming events
Review next action list, mark off anything complete and add new actions
Review projects list and make sure you have at least one next action associated wit every project
Review any relevant checklists for any that you'd like to assess on a weekly basis
Part 3: Get Creative
- Someday/Maybe — Look back at the ideas you've been capturing along the way:
Is there anything on here that I want to take action on now? IF yes, move it over to your projects or next actions list
Step 5: Engage
- This is where you make progress toward the plans you've made
- To clearly, fully, and confidently do what you know you should be doing in the moment
- Using your next action lists will help you get things done with the least amount of effort possible
- The spotlight supports your brain in considering a unique mix of 4 criteria:
- How much time do you have available before your next scheduled activity?
- If you ONLY have 5 minutes available, beginning the thinking process for a big project might not be the best choice
What can I do in the time I have?
- Energy comes in many forms — physical, mental and emotional
- When are you at your best? In the early morning? Midday? Late at night?
- If you've mapped actions really well, you can always find and take actions that can create great momentum
What can I focus on and do with the energy I have?
- Given the time of day, where you are, and the resources around you, what can you take actions on?
Where am I? What is something I can do in this location?
- Some things just have to get done now... If you have an assignment due in the morning, your energy, time and location may have to take a back seat
What is most import for now? Today?
Gaining Perspective: Levels of Focus
Zoom In, Zoom Out
- The Levels of Focus can help you create, store and retrieve information from different points of perspective
- Moving up and down your life's levels of focus is something that you already do naturally
- Purpose is the highest of all levels
- Take a moment to capture your initial thoughts on why you're here (doesn't have to be perfect):
- This level involves imagining what you'd like to have to be true in the future
- Key Question: If you were wildly successful in the coming years, what do you imagine or see yourself doing?
- Your goal is to describe your ideal future, from who you will be, to whom you'll be with, to what you'll be doing
- Take a look at what you captured for your Purpose and Vision — What do they inspire you to do in your life this year?
- Goals are later aspirations with a somewhat more immediate time frame that help you to determine where to put your focus and attention I would like to (what) by (when)
Areas of Focus
- The Areas of Focus level enables you to track the major parts of life that continually need your attention that you are committed to maintain
- Creating, reviewing, and maintaining your Areas of Focus will help you achieve a sense of clarity, balance and calm
- After listing out your Areas of Focus, take a moment to answer the following:
- Projects get organized in your projects list, and actions go on your calendar or next action list — These are the bottom two levels on the levels of focus
Looking at your Areas of Focus, do they trigger any new goals you might want to add to your Goals map?
Looking at your Areas of Focus and Goals, do they trigger any new elements you want to add to your Vision map?
Looking at your Areas of Focus, Goals, and Vision maps, are there any edits or adjustments you'd like make to your Purpose map?
- If you're feeling a bit stuck in life or are facing a problem or tough decision and need more clarity, try moving up the Levels of Focus to gain clarity
- Every time you review, reflect upon, and update your Levels of Focus, you connect the dots between your Purpose-Goals-Areas of Focus to your Projects-Actions
Project Planning: The Planning Map
1. Purpose/Guiding Principles
- Purpose describes the point of the action: "Why am I doing this?"
- Standards define the boundaries: "What are the rules?"
2. Vision/Desired Outcome
- Vision describes the goal in detail
- What will wild success look and feel like?
- Brainstorming begins to generate and lay out all the pieces
- What are all the thoughts that occur about making this happen?
- Write down all the ideas that come to you that could potentially help make the vision come true
- Organizing describes the components, categories, or order of events needed to achieve the goal
- Begin by naturally grouping items from the brainstorm session into categories
5. Next Actions
- Generate the next action(s) needed for the project
Tips & Tricks
Try a Walking Mind Sweep
- Do you think better when you are moving?
- Go for a walk outside and bring a capturing tool
- If you land on something that needs your attention, capture it
Try a Mind Sweep before Bed
- Are you having a hard time falling asleep? Try placing a capture tool by your bed
- Write down the things on your mind
- Once you have them visible on paper, your brain can see them and can relax
Try Capturing into a Big Bucket
- Instead of "cleaning" a space by going through one thing at a time, remove everything that doesn't belong and throw it in a large bucket
- Don't make any decisions, just clear the space of stuff and clarify it later
- You'll notice that its easier to deal with, it and will take a lot less time, and will feel great
Try Timed "Doing" Sprints
- Do you sometimes struggle with procrastination?
- Set a countdown timer for five, ten, or fifteen minutes
- Put your full effort and focus into your chosen action until the timer rings
- Helps you pack with less time and effort
- Reduces "I forgot my [fill in the blank]" moments
Back Up Your Phone and/or Computer Checklist
- It allows you to recover from hardware failure, stress-free
- Draft a checklist of things you need to back up on a regular basis
List of Gift Ideas for Family and Friends
- It creates a bucket that allows you to track gifts you might to get for friends and family
- When you see something that might make a good gift, capture it on the list
List of Books to Read
- It creates a place to capture books that you might want to read in the future
- When you hear about a book that sounds interesting, capture it on the list
List of Questions
- It creates a place to capture questions that you find interesting or inspiring — Questions create space for answers
- When you receive or hear a question that you find inspiring or interesting, capture it
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