Organize, by far, is one of the most talked about parts of GTD. And why not? It’s all about cool gear! With GTD, choosing your tools is up to you and there’s incredible freedom in that. David Allen is not telling you what tools to use, but how to use your tools. So let’s dive in to look at what’s helpful to know about this phase.
WHAT TO ORGANIZE:
Organizing identifies the various placeholders or “buckets” where actions and support material are stored that you’ve processed. David Allen has also described organizing as simply “things are stored based on what they mean to you.” The four primary action lists are:
- Next Actions (with optional subcategories by context such as Calls, Computer, Office, Home, Errands, Agendas (people and meetings) and Anywhere)
- Waiting For
- Calendar (for time-specific actions, day-specific actions, and day-specific information only)
SOME QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN CHOOSING YOUR TOOLS:
- Are there any tools already in place that you plan/need to still use? Like a corporate calendar?
- Where is your email? Not required, but certainly helps to have your email and lists near each other.
- Who else needs to see your data? Does it need to be on a shared server or would local be fine if you go digital?
- What do you tend to be drawn to–paper or digital?
- Is security a concern? Are you okay with your information being in the cloud?
- How would you back it up, if needed?
- What are you willing to carry around?
- What tools are you already familiar with?
- Would you trust putting almost anything into it?
- Is it scalable?
- Can you easily learn how to use it?
- What are you willing to pay for it?
- What does it need to sync to?
ORGANIZING SUCCESS FACTORS:
- A good rule of thumb when choosing tools (especially your Calendar, Waiting For and Next Action lists which will get the heaviest traffic) is “can I maintain this easily if I am sick in bed with the flu?” That will tell you whether you’ve overbuilt it or not. Don’t build your system at the height of your creativity and complex thinking. It’s too risky that you won’t be there all the time and won’t be able to easily work your system when you need to.
- Settle on something as a list manager. Yup. This isn’t marriage. It’s just a list manager. Let go of the idea that the perfect list manager is out there, if it’s holding you back from picking something that will be good enough at least to try. You can always change it later if you really need to.
- If you’re still on a learning curve with GTD, you may not want to add to that learning curve by picking tools you’re not familiar with. Instead, start with something you already know, like a paper planner.
Now, I know I haven’t mentioned specific tools. There are a rare few that David Allen has personally vetted for GTD. That doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of tools that will be a fantastic support for you though. And there are loads of suggestions from your fellow GTD fans on this blog and in our Forums. Bottom line? Pick tools you’ll be more attracted to than repelled by. Trust your lists for holding your reminders more than holding them in your mind, or your mind will fire you and take the job back.
Kelly Forrister is a senior coach & seminar presenter with the David Allen Company