How to get organized, part one: coffee table + post-it notes = business plan!

I just read Getting Things Done, and it was pretty awesome. A lot of the techniques David Allen advocates are paper-based, and Kyeli and I have a mostly electronic office. Also, I don’t think we need the level of organization and detail of the full GTD system. I think that would be overkill. However, there were three points he made in the book that totally rocked my world. Each of them is interesting enough to get its own post. Here’s #1:

Get your to-do list out of your head.

When your to-do list is in your head, it creates what he calls open loops. Open loops are niggly distracty things where your brain will randomly yell at you “Hey! Remember the milk!” And if you’re not at the grocery store, that’s totally useless, distracting, and annoying. Sometimes my brain will even wake me up in the middle of the night reminding me of some stupid open loop, like an idea for a blog post. (:

So, Kyeli and I got our to-do list out of our heads and onto our coffee table.

We made blocks of post-its for each subplan of the Usual Error Project: Book, Blog, DVDs, Website, and Workshops. We also added two more blocks of post-its for Money (the green ones) and House, since those open loops were stressing us out a lot and we wanted to get them out of our heads.

Apologies that the text is too small to read; Kyeli’s camera was too low-res. We’ll post about our business plan in detail later; transparency is very important to us. But for now you’ll have to wait. (;

The most important step for each block of post-its was to ask “Is there anything else we can think of about this topic, anything at all?” and think about that for several minutes before moving on to the next topic. The reason this step is super important is because it allows your brain to close all its open loops. It lets you stop worrying about whether you’ve forgotten something.

Everything you could possibly think of is now on the coffee table, so you can let go of your worries.

This worked fabulously for me, but Kyeli felt more stressed after covering the coffee table in post-its than she had felt before. Seeing all our to-do items in living color made her feel overwhelmed and anxious — a feeling of “you have all these things, why are you not doing them right now?!” Kyeli’s anxiety wasn’t relieved until the next phase of the project, which we will tell you all about… in the next post in this series.

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