This is part 2 of 3 of our How to get organized series of posts, inspired by reading Getting Things Done. There were three points David Allen made in the book that totally rocked my world. Each of them is interesting enough to get its own post.
Point #1 was: get your to-do list out of your head.
We filled an entire coffee table full of post-it notes, and since then we’ve helped three friends figure out a good process for doing it themselves. They used poster board instead of a table, though. That was pretty smart. I wish we had thought to do that. (;
So now you’ve got a coffee table or poster board full of post-it notes, and all your to-do items are out of your head. That’s a great start! The next step is to turn your brainsplosion into a pretty tree.
Organize your post-its based on what goal they help you achieve. Organize them based on which things you need to do first before you can work on other things. Sort them based on when you want or need to get them done. I like to build a tree, a pretty dependency tree. It starts with the next thing to do, and then grows down (I’m a computer scientist, my trees grow down) and branches out into the new things that I can do after I finish those prerequisites. But however you do it, do it in a way that makes sense to you, not to me. This will be useful for step three (coming up tomorrow!).
Now that you have a pretty tree or spiral or matrix or whatever organizational layout works for you, we’re going to take our tree and plant it firmly in the ground.
To do this, all you need to do is ask yourself the following four words:
“What’s the next action?”
These four words will completely change the way you organize your life.
So, we’re looking at our pretty tree of post-its, and on some of the branches we have stuff like:
- book signing
- spend more quality time with Kyeli
- blog posts
- launch website
…and so on. For each one of these items, ask yourself the question “What’s the next action?”
For book signing the next action was “Call Book People about the book signing: Return Rebecca’s call at 512-xxx-xxxx”.
For spend more quality time with Kyeli the next action was “Talk with Kyeli about our schedules and about what we each feel is quality time.”
For blog posts the next action was “Set up a daily reminder to make a blog post.”
For launch website the next action was “Schedule a meeting with Kyeli and Megan to discuss what we need to do to launch the website.” No, “schedule” isn’t an action. Even better: “Email Megan and talk to Kyeli to pick a time for a meeting to discuss what we need to do to launch the website.” “Email” is a much more concrete action than “schedule”.
Now check out the revised version of the to-do list:
- Call Book People about the book signing: Return Rebecca’s call at 512-xxx-xxxx
- Talk with Kyeli about our schedules and about what we each feel is quality time
- Set up a daily reminder to make a blog post
- Email Megan and talk to Kyeli to pick a time for a meeting to discuss what we need to do to launch the website
I don’t know about you, but I feel a lot better about the second version of the to-do list. I can imagine myself staring at the first one, thinking about how daunting it feels and how vague and intimidating it is. I can imagine myself flailing, thinking over and over again, “Website launch? Yeah, let’s do that. It’s going to be big and complicated. Spend more quality time with Kyeli? Yeah, that’s a really good idea. Let’s do that.” I’m thinking round and round in circles, but I’m not getting anything done because it seems too overwhelming. Maybe I’ll make a blog post, but then I’ll forget to blog tomorrow.
The second to-do list is concrete. It’s full of things that I can do. I can call this number. I can talk to Kyeli. I can set this thing up. I can send this email. No worries, no stress! Then when I complete that item, I ask myself again, “What’s the next action to complete this task?” Then I add that next action to the list.
In summary, here are the two things you do after you have a brainsplosion of post-it notes all over your coffee table. You turn your brainsplosion into a pretty tree, organized and sorted however makes sense to you, and then you plant your tree in the ground by asking yourself “What’s the next action?”
Enjoy your pretty tree! (: