Time management is something we all struggle with daily, and if you are a small business owner this could be your single biggest frustration. Getting Things Done (GTD) is a time management method devised by David Allen during the 1980’s and made popular following the publication of his first book in 2001.
At first glance the method can appear complex, but can be easily customized to your own specific needs, retaining the general idea of GTD, but simplifying the system and elements to fit within your structure.
The GTD method relies on a specific system linked to steps to keep you focused and productive, these are:
- Capture – Write, record or make notes of everything that requires your attention or involvement, and do this as you think of them.
- Process – Work through these note and your inbox and sort everything appropriately.
- Contexts – Split to-do lists into smaller lists that focus on context and what can be actioned or completed now.
- Projects – All tasks are made up of one or more physical action, and any task that requires more than one action becomes a project.
- Workflow – The workflow is quite flexible, with you being encouraged to action any tasks that your current situation, time and energy allow.
- Weekly Review – On a weekly basis you review the actual system, ensuring that every required element is in place, and that the system is functioning properly.
- Tickler File – The Tickler File is a tool to remind you about upcoming tasks, projects and commitments. David Allen recommends a system of 43 folders, 12 for the months of the year, and 31 for the days of the month.
- Filing – An essential part of any system, but here Allen favors a simple approach that encourages you to file things immediately.
- Lists – Occasionally you would encounter projects that you either want to do later, or where you need feedback or information from another person before you can continue. To manage this you should have two lists for parked projects – Someday/Maybe and Waiting On.
- Goals – Part of any operation, and while the GTD method emphasizes daily actions, goals are evaluated as part of the Weekly Review.
These are the basic elements of the GTD method, and if you want you can choose to follow the system exactly, or you can tailor it to your needs. Let us look at ways to simplify the GTD method:
Trim your to-do list.
Before you even begin to implement the GTD method reassess your tasks; you will discover there are tasks you can eliminate completely, some that can comfortably be delegated (maybe to your Virtual Assistant), a few that are not urgent and can be delayed, and even certain commitments that are not really essential. Reducing your tasks results in a reduction of how much you need to organize.
Capture your ideas.
GTD attempts to move you from trying to recall tasks to actually actioning tasks. This element relies on your ability to write down tasks and actions immediately, instead of trying to remember them later. Get into the habit of carrying a small notebook with you to do this.
Decide on your most important tasks (MITs) for the day.
At the start of each day record what your three most important tasks for that day are; if you only get to complete three tasks what must they be. Throughout the day you work towards completing these tasks and remain focused on them at all times.
Batch process smaller tasks.
Your MITs are always your focus, but they don’t replace the smaller tasks we all encounter each day too – paperwork, filing and email, for example. Instead of doing these small tasks throughout the day, thereby interfering with your MITs, process them in batches at specific times. Clear your inbox and respond to email twice a day at a set time, and do all your paperwork and filing at the end of each day, before you leave the office.
Refine your goals.
Goals are essential in any organization, but having too many often results in a lack of focus. Have one goal that you want to focus on for the next year and then break it down to a sub-goal that you can accomplish within 6 months. This sub-goal can then be broken down into smaller goals that should be achievable within one to two weeks, and these become your short-term goals. Each day check that one of your MITs includes a task that moves you towards achieving your current short-term goal. Following this method you are able to focus on goals that are achievable in the short-term, but ultimately feed into your larger goal.
The following elements can be included if you feel that they are needed in your business, but they are not essential for small businesses:
- Projects – This depends on the nature of your business, and the size of your tasks. Rather see if you can simplify your tasks before deciding to implement projects.
- Lists – Someday/Maybe and Waiting For lists are helpful, but certainly not always needed.
- Filing – If you still use a lot of paper in your business, investigate the possibility of digitizing all of your documents, which will make filing a lot simpler.
- Tickler File – Unless you have a lot of tasks and projects to manage and remember, a Tickler File won’t be necessary.
Following these steps can result in a simpler time management system that helps you become more organized and productive. Always look at ways to simplify tasks and systems, eliminating any unnecessary steps or processes, and remain focused on what is important.
About Out of the Office Virtual Assistance:
At Out of the Office, we are committed to providing earth-friendly administration and offer ideas and ways to increase your productivity, decrease your workload, and work more efficiently. We nurture a successful business relationship, while continuing to grow as your business partner. We are focused on streamlining your administration, social media planning and execution, and offering creative solutions for your business success.
Image credit: Time by Alan Cleaver | CC BY 2.0