If you’ve been on the Internet for a few seconds, you’ve probably heard of the massively popular Getting Things Done. You may even have come across Zen To Done. I’m here to say that GTD is too complicated! Zen To Done is an improvement, but still a little too long! Now I’m going to give you the brip blap organization system. This is how I keep everything organized. Everything. I’ll throw in a few fancy optional steps, but this system can be boiled down to almost nothing.
- Moleskine notebook – I love it. GTD will tell you to put in tabs or categories or whatnot. Don’t do it. Do not add tabs. Don’t add anything. Just write down stuff as it occurs to you, completely freeform. I have blog ideas, shopping lists, everything in there. If it crosses your mind or needs to be remembered – for whatever reason – scribble. I think it’s an improvement over PDAs or phones or anything of that nature because it’s so much easier.
- Each morning or evening – whenever you like, but at least once per day – transfer everything that’s a to-do into Google Calendar. A to-do is a specific action. “Get milk” is specific. “Go shopping” is not. Make sure you add an email reminder. If it’s not date specific, put it in for today with an email reminder.
- Cross out the task in the Moleskine. Put everything else in a text file or in a separate application.*
- Have Google Calendar send email reminders to your inbox. This part is easy. Set up a filter if you want, but I wouldn’t bother. Keep them new until you do them.
- Archive the email when you do the task. Every day, start at the oldest email, and work your way up the list until you see something you can do today. Do it. Don’t worry about any of the rest of the list. If you finish that task and have some time, move up until you find something else that can be completed today. Archive the emails so you can always search for them later.
I get email reminders for everything and gmail is my one-stop shop for reminders. All of my email accounts forward to one central email account, too.
The trick is to minimize all bells and whistles. GTD is massive overkill, and I have no idea why it’s so popular. The only good tip there that I liked was to consider ‘stuff’ in your organization – so instead of keeping some spare light bulbs in the laundry room and some in the kitchen and some in the garage I put them ALL in the garage.
PDAs are awful. I finally snapped my 8+ year addiction to Palm last year. It was one of the best moves I ever made. A Moleskine is infinitely better.
* If you want to add one fancy step in here, add Vitalist for non-date-specific tasks. I set Vitalist up with my email address so I get a reminder after 30 days that something I added (which was non-date-specific) is still open, just to make sure I don’t forget – although I do check Vitalist daily. It’s a small change to the super-simple system above, and you can skip it if you like.
Editor’s additional note: Since someone accused me of ripping Leo’s minimalist Zen To Done off, on his site (which I didn’t appreciate seeing as a comment rather than as a private email to Leo, but so be it) I wanted to reiterate as I often have on this site that I think Leo’s site is fantastic and to the extent anybody thinks I’m copying him I’m flattered! I should also note that Leo was cool about it, as I would have expected him to be. I am not ripping him off – I’m certainly entitled to coming up with my own system, and I cited Zen To Done as an influence.