Evolution of My Trusted System from To-Do Lists to GTD
August 10, 2012 4 Comments
This is the second guest post on GTD for CIO’s from my friend, co-worker and fellow GTD enthusiast André Vargas.
As a junior solutions developer straight out of the University of Copenhagen, my company took its new recruits to an HR seminar where the topics included items like Work-Life Balance and Productivity Tips & Tricks. While all lectures provided useful insights, my takeaway “nugget of gold” was found during Tips & Tricks.
See, I’m one of those people who tend to bring work home. If unchecked, I stuff all the stresses of a project’s not quite finished or not yet begun business into a very heavy “mental briefcase”. That’s why, when the Tips & Tricks speaker brought up “The Tomorrow To-Do List,” he immediately had my attention.
His simple, yet genius suggestion was to end each workday with an action list for tomorrow; a well-thought out way to hit the ground running for the yet to come. I put this suggestion to use the next day and I was empowered.
A simple ‘mental download’ at the end of the day, although technically extra work, allowed me to let go. It was a way to power-down the “hard drive of my mind” and it was a gift. We all need to recharge our batteries and have well-rounded lives.
My “Tomorrow To-Do Listing” started as reminders scribbled on small pieces of paper, or entered into Outlook. While this more scattered approach proved helpful, inspired by a colleague and mentor, I eventually moved on to a journal (I chose a bound book with graph paper so I could put little squares by each task which I would fill in with a color as I progressed).
Each day would add more pages, and regularly, perhaps once a week, I would go back, cancel out no longer relevant responsibilities and move forward uncompleted tasks to a new page for the upcoming week.
Then I started adding notes from meetings, design diagrams, colleague and client business cards, and personal reminders. My notes and the supporting material were not only helpful in the short term to help clear my mental cache, but they became a narrative of my work; a bible if you will of whatever project I was working on. I have maintained this book for 6 years and still have it today as a reminder of my trusted system.
I say ‘reminder’ because I have moved on to an even better method: “GTD” (Getting things Done). It’s a more comprehensive system that addresses what I was trying to do with my handwritten book for years. When I was introduced to GTD, I was like a kid in a candy store; so happy to find the guidelines and structure I had attempted to create on my own for years.
My “Tomorrow’s To-Do list” has become my “Next Action Items list” and it has allowed me even more efficient task-management, enhanced my information processing and prioritization and time perspectives. GTD also introduced me to my new favorite list: the someday maybe list, which I am just starting to work on!
Clearly I’m pretty excited about this, but you don’t have to be as enthusiastic as I to reap tremendous benefits. Just try to find the system that works best for you, and keep it up because the simple task of creating a list allow you to shift the way you viewed tomorrow’s workday from a day filled with tasks still left undone, into a day filled with powerful potential.