GTD for Moms

Community Contribution from April Perry

Mothers need Getting Things Done as much as (or more than!) any other group. Why? Let me show you a glimpse into my life “pre-GTD.”

My 7-year-old son, Ethan: Mom, want to see this cool toy lizard I got as a prize today?

Me: Yep. Ooh. That’s neat. (Then in my head) I need to buy paper towels, we have ants in the bathroom, it’s my niece’s birthday Friday, there’s a permission slip form somewhere around here I need to sign

Ethan: Mom, you’re not even looking!

Me: Sorry. Okay. Yes, I really do like that lizard. What’s his name? I didn’t even exercise today. I’ll remember tomorrow. Don’t I need a sitter for Friday night? How’s the laundry doing? If I could just get that laundry room organized, I would feel so much better. Where’s that book I was reading? I need to remember to get some chocolate chips at the store. The carpet needs to be vacuumed. Where’s the baby?

Ethan: Look, Mom! Right here. The lizard has cool eyes that pop out when I squeeze his neck.

By this point, I’m so frustrated with the dialogue in my head that I just ask Ethan to show me his toy later (which won’t happen), and I head off to find the baby and then make some progress (any progress) on my continually-growing list of “to do’s.”

Scenarios like the one above have a familiar ring to every mother out there. I wish the hospital would include a copy of Getting Things Done in every take-home diaper bag, but I don’t think the world in general understands how incredibly overwhelmed mothers are. We’re struggling every day to handle the PTA newsletters, the little feet that keep growing out of shoes, the fishy cracker crumbs on the couch, and the band-aids stuck to the inside of the dryer. We try to use our talents, nurture our minds, and save the world, but we end up discouraged when we realize there’s no way we can “do it all.” Mothers love their children and want to have a handle on all the “stuff” of life, so we can enjoy moments like the photo above.

No one likes living with stress, but many mothers simply don’t know there’s another option. Once they find out about Getting Things Done, their lives will change.

Here’s what Getting Things Done has done for me:

  • It has enabled me to REALLY enjoy my family. I like to be with them now because every “open loop” is captured in a trusted system. I’m not always worried about my task list, so I can savor our time together. That alone is worth the time it takes to implement the system, don’t you think?
  • It’s narrowed my daily focus to a simple calendar and an organized Next Actions List. When ten minutes open up while the spaghetti is cooking, I have specific, effective ways to use that time.

It has given me the energy and “brain space” to move rapidly toward my

  • goals while maintaining balance in my life. A friend of mine said, “If you could create a program to show women how to succeed in business while balancing a family, every single woman I know would buy it.” Well, David Allen’s already done that. It’s called Getting Things Done.
  • One final thing I’ll mention is that I’ve learned that organization is not about a perfect house—it’s a state of mind. I used to spend HOURS cleaning and organizing my house because that was the only means to feeling “in control.” Now we keep things generally clean and organized, but I’m so excited about life that the toys, fingerprints, and all the messes associated with raising a family don’t even phase me. My home is bliss.

If you’re a mother, and you want this same experience in your life, here are a few ideas to make it work:

(1) Read Getting Things Done. Order it online, check it out at the library, or borrow it from a friend. Just skip TV-watching for a couple of nights and read the book cover to cover.

(2) Translate it into your “language.” Don’t feel like you can’t use the system when you hear about people who take READING materials on airplanes while you’re packing fruit snacks and finger puppets. The principles of GTD will work for anyone…even you. (And I bet your plane rides are much more exciting anyway!)

(3) Invest an hour a day implementing the process. Most mothers don’t have huge chunks of time to get organized, but the bite-sized pieces will add up eventually, leaving you calm, happy, and excited about the possibilities ahead.

If you want to give the mothers in your life a GREAT gift, Getting Things Done is a wonderful option—because it’s more than a book, it’s a key to stress-free motherhood.

April Perry is the mother of four children and co-director of