The Art of Getting Things Done

A powerful tool to tame the chaos and manage complexity.

In late 2017, during the intense construction of the HOME Facility, I reached my limit.

I was stressed out. I was overwhelmed.

Despite being someone who could juggle an abnormally large task load, the complexity and volume of my responsibilities began to surpass what I could realistically manage. My to-do lists just kept growing, and it became increasingly difficult to sort through everything.

That's when I realized I needed more than just lists…

I needed a system.

As if on cue, during a late-night session at my office, a consultant mentioned something that would change how I managed everything:

The Getting Things Done (GTD) method.

GTD isn't just another project management tool; it's a comprehensive approach designed to organize every incoming task and piece of information—whether it’s your grandest artistic vision, an important project deadline, or a recipe that you want to cook one day.

In my opinion, GTD is the best place to start when implementing a project management system.

David Allen, the author of GTD says:

Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.

- David Allen

In other words, if you build a fool proof system to organize all of the information in your life, your brain won’t have to use so much energy trying to remember everything.

Your brain will have more room for imagination and creativity!

8 Steps to Mastering GTD

GTD, devised by David Allen, isn’t merely about keeping lists; it’s a comprehensive workflow optimization system that will clear your mind and sharpen your focus.

Remember, before you commit to managing a new project, make sure that you revisit ‘Strategic Thinking 101’ and the ‘10 Step Project Planning Guide’ so you are confident that the project aligns with your highest goals and you have all of the resources you need to move forward.

Missing a resource? Create a strategic initiative to get those resources now so that you have them when you need them!

I highly recommend that you purchase the GTD book, but here’s one of the key components of the method - the flowchart:

Don’t let the visual complexities scare you off.

It is actually fairly easy to understand. And once you have the lightbulb moment, you’ll have a dedicated place for everything.

If you want to level up what you can accomplish, you’ve got to get it out of your head and into a system!

Don't use your head as a filing system.

- Jim Rohn

Here’s a detailed breakdown of the GTD flowchart and how, together, each element can organize your entire life:

  1. Catch Your Stuff in Your Inbox: Collect all your tasks, ideas, or anything that needs attention in one place, similar to an inbox. This is the starting point for all new information.

    Most people have a simple ‘to-do’ list which serves as their inbox. But when you get mail or someone tells you to read a certain book, those things also go into your ‘inbox’.

    The inbox is the starting point, and from there it is sorted through the flowchart.

  2. Ask Yourself, What Is It?: Assess each item. Decide if it's actionable (something you need to act on) or if it's just informational.

  3. How to Deal With Non-Actionable Items:

    • Trash: Discard what is not needed. If you don’t need it now, and you don’t want to revisit it later, then it’s trash!

    • Incubate: Place items you might want to revisit later on a ‘Someday/Maybe’ list. This could be a vacation destination, a movie recommendation, or a new app you want to try.

      There is no hard deadline, but you may want to act on the info at a later date. The things you put on this list may be actionable in the future if you decide to move forward with them, at which point they will move into your projects folder and/or next actions list.

    • Reference: Store all the info that you will need later as reference material. This is often done with a spreadsheet format and will be filled with login info, important organizational documents, and ideas to revisit.

      The difference between the reference folder and the incubation folder is that reference material will not be actionable in the future. Reference material just needs to be easily found when you need it. Using a tech platform with a good search function is ideal.

  4. How to Deal With Actionable Items:

    • Single Actions: If the task requires a simple action, define the next step.

    • Multi-step Projects: For complex tasks, like producing an album, identify the ultimate goal and plan multiple steps. Each project will have a list of tasks (next actions) associated with it.

  5. Decide on Immediate Actions:

    • Do It: If a task takes less than 2 minutes, do it right away.

    • Delegate It: If you can find someone else to do it, delegate.

    • Defer It: If it takes longer, defer it by placing it on your calendar or a ‘Next Actions’ list.

  6. Review Waiting For List: Your ‘Waiting For’ also known as ‘blocked items’ lists have two things on them -

    • Things you are waiting for from other people.

    • Things people are waiting for from you.

    Some of these ‘blocked items’ will hold up an entire project until you get them across the finish line, so they may need to be prioritized.

    You have to stay on people to make sure they deliver, and you also don’t want to keep people waiting for too long when they need something from you.

  7. Check Your Calendar Often: Anything with a deadline (even things like birthdays and anniversaries) will go on your calendar. You also must block off chunks of your time to do deep work as we discussed in Time Management for Creatives.

  8. Prioritize Your Next Actions: Your running list of next actions will be pulled from your other lists and folders mentioned. You may need to prioritize something on the fly, or you may need to speed a certain project up to hit a deadline.

    Check in with your system each day, and each week do a full review to clean your inbox. Eliminate whatever unnecessary tasks or projects you can, or move things to your someday/maybe lists to ‘incubate’.

That’s the basic rundown of the GTD flowchart, and if you’d prefer a video breakdown, here is one of my favorites:

I hope GTD helps you as much as it has helped me.

It is the go-to system for mastering your time and your ability to manage a lot of projects without dropping the ball.

REMEMBER: when you become the master of your time, you become the master of your life.

Special Bonus Deep Dive Video

As a special bonus, I am dropping a MEMBERS ONLY 30 minute video replay where I applied GTD to a real life example with the Homies.

Click on the image below to watch the video on the HOME for Music platform, and let’s get nerdy 🤓