I consider myself a very productive person. I get a lot of things done. I’ve accomplished quite a bit. I’ve written two novels, designed many websites, worked on Alternate Reality Games for organizations like the Cerebral Palsy Foundation and The World Bank, maintain an active social, family, and most importantly spiritual life. I take care of my health with doctor’s and therapy appointments, meet weekly with my writing group, craft excessively, serve in multiple church callings, and blog now and then. My plate is overflowing, so let’s just say I’m up to some big things! However, to date, I’ve managed to do all this without any significant structured planning of my time on a day to day basis. Maybe you’ll find it impressive that I’ve gone so long without any sort of a schedule or plan, just doing what seem right in the moment, as it occurs to me. That’s code for “whatever task is stressing me out the most that second”.
Enough is enough.
I decided it’s time to try Getting Things Done in a more organized way. Conveniently for me, Getting Things Done or GTD, as it’s often referred to by its adherents, is a system for just what its name implies – getting things done. It was created by David Allen, and there’re plenty of resources in other locations where you can learn more about GTD. But for a quick overview, check out this infographic:
Getting Things Done David Allen Infographic
Once I learned about this system, and with some help and advice from others, I decided to focus on creating a schedule for myself based on GTD. The idea being I would now have set “Bucket Times” to manage all the areas on my life according to the principals of GTD. But I’ll get back to Bucket Times later.
The main problem I was facing with finding a system that would work with me was finding something I could stick with. In the past systems either were so cumbersome, scheduling and planning me so rigidly that I couldn’t realistically do it long term. Or on the other hand, the systems were so vague and abstract, focusing only on broad goals that they didn’t help me commit to anything. The third category of problem systems were ones that were incomplete, only addressing certain aspects of what I needed from an organization system and leaving me feeling semi-organized but ultimately even more overwhelmed. Why? Because now I knew exactly what I needed to do but had no structures in place to help me accomplish any of it.
To address of this, I there are 4 major components to my personalized GTD system I am putting into place initially. (This is just to get started. After these are going well I will add more.)
Identify 6-9 Major Areas of Life
Roles and areas are the major categories of your life such as Family, School, Faith, Friends, Work, Writing etc.
List 10 Most Pressing Tasks Under Each Major Role/Area
Most pressing tasks are tasks that currently need to be taken for that area. For example, for Family, it might be something like “Spend time with Mom” or “Game Night.” For Work, it might be “Sign the Parsons contract” or “Return Sonya’s phone call.” Any task that has more than two steps is called a Project.
Create A Weekly Schedule of Bucket Times To Stick To Each Week
Bucket Times are blocks of time designated at the same time every week for completing tasks in each of your Major Areas. For example, I created Spiritual Time every evening from 10pm – 11pm. During those times I will refer to my List of Tasks for that Area of Life for to do items to complete. See the Downloads Section at the bottom of this post for an Excel template tool to help with this!
Generate Mind-Dump Of EVERY Open Loop In Life
Open loops are thought processes that are incomplete. They keep the mind’s inbox full when it’s most productive empty. Empty that inbox by downloading everything in it! Generate a complete list of everything, every to do, action item, task, someday task, maybe task, goal, dream ,wish, hope, plan, etc. Include everything from “Remember to pick up the milk” to “Improve relationship with Dad” to “Travel the world”. Get that mind completely empty and onto something tangible and permanent that is workable for future reference.
Once I had a plan of action, it was just a matter of putting it into place…
Starting is always easier said than done.
I needed some help getting started. So I decided to enroll someone else to do this thing with me. No, not all of you readers! My dear writing buddy who I create my day with every morning. I told her all about his idea and explained GTD to her (the Cliff Notes version). She was on board.
Over Skype, we came up with our Major Areas of Life. This is mine:
Weekly GTD Schedule – Major Areas of Life
Next I began to list my lost pressing tasks under each area. I’m constantly working on my list.
Then I created a schedule by which I would process the list of tasks. But instead of a rigid list of strictly scheduled times like ones that hadn’t worked for me in the past, I am working with a schedule of Bucket Times. The beauty of Bucket Times is it structured enough in that it gives you a set time you are committed to making forward progress in an area of your life, but it is flexible enough that you still get to choose what is most expedient to do within that Area. Furthermore, the whole schedule isn’t so rigid that the whole thing risks being thrown off if you go over a few minutes. As I see it, if you get behind you are often still within your bucket time for that type of item. And even if you aren’t you can rest assured that you have more time scheduled for that item soon. So file add it to your Bucket Time list for later. Lastly, the overarching rule is that this isn’t a rigid system, meaning the operative work is: expediency.
When all else fails, do whatever is most expedient in the moment.
I am committed to using this new system for a trial of the next 3 months. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to seeing an upswing in my productivity. And more importantly a decrease in my feelings of overwhelm at not knowing how to handle the overflowing plate that is my life. In this analogy, I’ve been eating off an overflowing plate for a long long time. Sure I’ve been digesting my food and getting nutrient, but lots of things haven’t been sitting well. GTD is a set of silverware – tools to help me eat my food, so that I can take small manageable bites and digest it easily and effectively. The schedule works like a restaurant menu (thanks Paul for that one!) with various selections for each category of food or area of my life. Some items or Tasks on the menu are more bland and others are the spice of life!
Give me a helping of work every weekday. Indulge in a double portion of friendship on weekends. A spicy side dish of romance if I’m so lucky! Pile it on my plate and enjoy a delicious, nutritious, and satisfying life!
Stay tuned for Part Two of this post series on Generating a Mind-Dump of All Your Open Loops coming soon! Get an email reminder when it comes out! Subscribe to the newsletter!
I hope you enjoy the Downloads below. The Weekly Schedule Templates for Microsoft Excel should be helpful tools for planning a schedule in the fashion described in this post. Please post comments with ideas for improvements, and I will do my best to make them.
If I’ve learned anything the last 10 or so years of my life if the last decade or so, it’s to enjoy sweet moments for they are often fast and fleeting. I am learning to let go of the painful moments rather than choosing to experience their pain again and again each time the though surfaces Most importantly I discovered how to cheerish the eternal moments and divine nature of this life. It is everythihg. All that I have, With it, I never need to shrink from what lies ahead.
They say that I’f you don’t your health, then you don’t have anything. By this standard must be very poor indeed at writing from a hospital bed in the ICU. Laying here for the last five days in pain and unable to move my limbs let alone breathe without the assistance of machines, I’ve had all my blood removed, cleaned and returned to my body without any plasma five times. i’ve realized there’s a lot of ways I could be consuming my time. Or worse: letting my time consume me.
I could bask in the fleeting joy of being a a birthday party which triggered this frightening experience. Or I could be berating myself for rationalizing staying at the part once I saw that there were latex balloons everywhere since I already knew that I can react just by breathing the air around them. But I seemed find throughout the party until I got home and went to bed.
I woke up at 5am having trouble breathing. Neck and face swollen. Wheezing. It was too severe to go to my normal hospital where all my doctors are which is about an hour away from me. But I figured, it’s just an allergy? IT’s not like I’ll be admitted. Riiiiiight.
So I raced to the nearest hospital and was taking right back and given large doees of IV steroids, benadryl and epinephrine As soon as the epi entered my bloodstream i could breathe again. But my releef was fleeting.
After about 30 minutes my legs starteed to grow heavy. Then my arms. Then my voice got weak. It could only mean one thing. Myasthenic Crisis. But I refused to let terror set in. Not then.
As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ ofLatter Day Saints, I am so grateful to have priesthood holders who can perform blessings for comfort and healing for me whenever I need to. Their Priesthood comes directly from Jesus Christ himself. So I called my Home Teacher to give me a blessing. He and another member of my church came and blessed me with all the things I needed to hear to get through the last several days and be comforted. It was very emotional and I’m eternally grateful for the peace I received in a time of so much fear.
Chirst’s Healing Words
Since my last 3 month stay in the hospital last summer in which I was intubated for over a month in the ICU from Myasthenia as well, I’d be dreading this would happen again. I’ve been dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from it. But in one simple moment, all my fear melted away into love for my Heavenly Father and the plan he has for me. In the arms of his love I was swallowed up in divine trust.
That moment has since past and I still need to keep calling it back up for myself. Reminding myself that I have a Heavenly Father who knows me and everything I need. I will be taken care of if I just remain ever faithful and endure to the end.
So though it may seem strange to have such a spiritally connected moment in the noisy Emergency Room. To me it makes perfect sense. It’s how I’ve learned to cherish divine nature (in others, in God, Christ, and especially in myself) Surrounded by the divine nature of all the wonders of life Heavenly Father and my savoir Jesus Christ has provided to me, I have no cause to shirnk. In fact, I must not shrink. As I stand strong, my testimony will grow as I feast on the gospel at all times and cleave closer to my Savior’s atoning and enabling sacrifice during there types of trials.
I dont’ know when this particular trial will end, but I know that with faith I will endure all things.
Sometimes it takes something devastating to remind you to be grateful for the little things in life.
I’ve been missing in action lately. I spent exactly one month in the hospital with an infection, blood clot, and flare up of one of Myasthenia Gravis, one of the autoimmune diseases I have. I’ve been home a little over a week, and let me just say how good it is to be home! I don’t remember the last time I was so grateful to be in my own house, in my own room, in my own bed, with the company of my own dog.
It strikes me as kind of sad though that it often takes something catastrophic happening to us to remind us to be grateful for everything we have. We speed around with our blinders on forgetting to see everything in our lives that make them so wonderful and so worth living. But we don’t have to wait for something terrible to happen to remind us to appreciate our lives. Here are five simple things you can do to stay present to gratitude in your life:
Put time aside.
One of the most important things you can do is put time aside to think about the things you are grateful for. Whether it is a minute before each meal or before you go to sleep or even a whole day of the week, take time to think about and reflect on the things that make life wonderful.
Write it down.
When you take time to think about things you are grateful for, remember to write it down somewhere special like in a journal or even post it on your wall. That way when you forget you have a physical reminder of the good things in life. This is especially key to have during difficult times when life seems bleak.
Share the love.
Good things in life are meant to be shared. Telling others the things you are grateful for will help you stay in tuned with gratitude and may even help others find gratitude in their own lives.
Don’t discount the little things.
Sometimes when things aren’t going well it can seem difficult to find anything to be grateful for, so break it down to the very basics. Find gratitude for small things that make up your life. For waking up in the morning, for hugs from people you love, for breathing, or whatever it is in your life.
Whether you thank a the people in your life you are grateful for or thank a higher power, saying thank you keeps you in touch with gratitude in your life.
I am grateful for being able to walk. For being able to smile. For being able to breathe. I am grateful for friends. For family. For my dog. I am grateful for my Heavenly Father. For my Savior. For the restored gospel. I am grateful for my creativity. My intelligence. My skills, abilities, and gifts. I am grateful for good times. For challenging times that make me grow. I am grateful for this life. I am grateful.