Getting Things Done for Moms, Day 2

Dealing with kids, household, pets, and most importantly spending quality time numero uno husband can be a challenge. How can we get it all done? In this series, I’m implementing David Allen’s Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-free Productivity (GTD) method to my new mommy-life. This system was my lifesaver in my corporate life, now I’m taking these same principles to the home front.


Day 2: Collection – Capturing all the stuff in your head, house and car

Today, we’re going to clear our head, and eventually process it into a trusted system so we don’t have to keep it in our head. Our goal here is to get into the state of “mind like water”.

In karate there is an image that’s used to define the position of perfect readiness: “mind like water.” Imagine throwing a pebble into a still pond. How does the water respond? The answer is totally appropriate to the force and mass of the input; then it returns to calm. It doesn’t overreact or underreact. (Allen, GTD, pp. 10-11)

“Mind like water” means we don’t overreact or underreact to our issues in life and allow them to control us. We respond appropriately to our e-mail, children, husbands, coupons, housework and not allow the pressure of handling it all to cause us to explode or respond inappropriately. In my case that’s having a crying meltdown or saying some nasty words to my loved ones.

You’ll need a block of time for this one. It can take anywhere from 1 to 6 hours depending on how much capturing you want to do.

  1. Get your inbox. I have 2 inboxes, a physical inbox plus my email inbox.
  2. Clear your purse. I start with my wallet, and start sorting through all the little pieces of paper I’ve saved. If it’s a business card, drop it in your inbox. Coupons, paper clip them together, drop it in. Tickets to a show, drop it in. You’ll find that as we continue the collection process you’ll think of other projects. Get an 8.5×11 piece of paper and write each task on one piece of paper. Toss what you can.
  3. Clear your phone. Anything on your phone that you need to respond to? Texts, voice mails, you need to return, voice mails to answer? Write each phone call or actionable message down on a separate piece of paper.
  4. Process your desktop and counter tops. What do you have sitting on your desk? This could be stacks of mail, notes from a sermon, notes from daycare. What’s sitting on the kitchen counter that needs to be done? A toy that needs new batteries? Fridge light bulb is out? Put in the inbox.
  5. Desk drawers. Now go through your drawers, one by one. Is there anything actionable? Anything that doesn’t belong? If the answer is yes, write a sticky note on it and what you need to do, and place it in your inbox.
  6. Collect large items. What to do with items too big to fit in the inbox? For instance, I have a box full of high school stuff that I need to sort through. Write “sort through high school box” down on a piece of paper, and drop it in your inbox.
  7. Existing To-do Lists. You may already have some to-do lists. Go ahead and toss those in your inbox too.
  8. Inside the Cabinets. What’s hiding in there? Anything broken that needs to be fixed? Old restaurant menus that could be tossed? If a certain cabinet seems to daunting, make that a project and put it in your inbox.
  9. Floors, Walls, Shelves. Anything on the fridge that needs action? A shower invitation? What about your shelves? Any books that could be donated? Instructions to assemble baby items? Stacks of stuff on the floor? Just bring them close to your inbox and we’ll tackle it next.
  10. Empty your head. David Allen calls this the “mind sweep.” Put on to paper any to-dos you have floating in your head. These are things like “clean out the fridge”, “plan date night”, “call Grandma”, “end world hunger.” One idea, task, or project per piece of paper. If you prefer, send yourself an email. I title mine with “to-do” and list one project per email. This will be pretty random, and it may take between 20 minutes to an hour to complete.

You’re on your way! Collecting your stuff is the first step to taking control of what you need to get done. It feels so good to get something out of your head and onto paper. There’s no way you can remember all the tasks in your head. If you write it down and place it in a trusted system, you can get back to it whenever you want. You rule your stuff, rather than your stuff ruling you.

Resist the urge to re-organize. You may be tempted to purge and organize your home. If that’s you, go ahead and break it down into projects, write them down on your piece of paper, and drop it in your inbox. This will be stuff, like “clean office closet”, “clean out garage.”

Whoa, this is a lot, you may be thinking. If you are like me, your inbox is probably overflowing. No worries, your stuff isn’t going to stay in your inbox. We’re going to get to processing all these piles of paper and gadgets next.


Resources: I use the web based app toodledo to organize my action lists. I can access it anytime on my phone as well.

For more on GTD, go to David Allen’s site. I strongly recommend reading his book  Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-free Productivity. It’s the best resource on implementing this method.

Getting Things Done for a New Mom
Day 1: The Tools You’ll Need
Day 2: Collection. Capturing All the Stuff in Your Head
Day 3: Process. The Work Flow
Day 4: Process. What’s the Next Action
Day 5: Organizing Your Buckets
Day 6: Weekly Review

4 thoughts on “Getting Things Done for Moms, Day 2

    • I totally can relate! That’s what got me on this system in the first place. I let “what I want to do” instead of what I need to do” dictate me. lol! I’m so ADD. 🙂

  1. Me too. I have to set me a time limit, otherwhise I would get lost in the “re-organizing”-organizing… 😉 It’s a great post! Thank you for reminding me to go through my inboxes, drawers, cabinets… (will do on Monday).

  2. Wow! I never thought of all those things as part of capturing. Definitely see what you mean, though. Haven’t cleaned my purse in almost 2 months and it’s definitely hiding some things that should be captured. Thanks so much for this list!

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