How to Really Get Things Done

To Do List for 2009Your to-do list is a mile long, yet you’re just lazily surfing Facebook and thinking about how you spent too much money last night at the bar. Bill stubs and half-read books litter the desk, and you just ordered out Domino’s — Again. You’re trying to figure out what it is that you needed to do right now, but you misplaced the napkin you wrote it on. Something needs to change here, and you know it. You need to start really getting things done.

It just so happens there is a great organizational method called “Get Things Done,” or GTD for short. GTD is a simplified system for people who hate organizational systems and complex, color coded planners, and there are many levels so you can be only as organized as you want to be. Inspired hugely by Study Hacks, here is the down ‘n’ dirty version of how to git ‘er done.

Materials needed:

  • small pocket or purse sized notebook with pen handy
  • a pocket planner or monthly calendar
  • a large calendar to hang in your room or dorm
  • optional: weekly and/or daily calendar (depending on how specific you want to get)
  1. Collect – every time you get a new appointment, assignment, task, or goal, write it down somewhere as soon as you get the notice or idea. It is handy to keep a small notebook in your pocket or purse. Anything that is time sensitive, write it down on a calendar or planner (or both, if you have both). In your planner, write assignments down on both the dates they are due and the date you hear of it, so you know how long you have. On your calendar, write down only the due dates and appointments.
  2. Plan– Plan out tasks, assignments, papers, and personal goals in your notebook. If something will take longer than a few days, then mark reminders in your planner or calendar. If you like to make daily plans, outline blocks of time to work on your tasks each day – make sure you leave plenty of room and time for breaks and time with friends or outside. Choose ONE time per day to check email and make your plans. Morning or the night before is best, so you can either relax or wake up and mentally get ready for the day.
  3. Act – When it is time to do a certain task, cut off all other distractions and work through until it is done. Get all materials needed, as well as a to-do list already mapped out. Keep water and snacks nearby so you won’t have to get up or go to the store. And when you check regular mail and email, make sure every piece of mail has a place – garbage, save, reply, or act. Your inbox should be zero by the time you’re finished, then you won’t have to worry about it later. If a piece of mail has a time-sensitive piece of information on it, then make sure it’s in your calendar or on your to-do list. Try to do the worst thing first, so you can just get it out of the way. You can also take a look at your calendar and see what needs to be done first, like a paper due tomorrow.

Have you heard of GTD or tried it? How has it worked for you?

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