I want to rule my stuff and not let my stuff rule me. I have 2 sick babies this week, and boy is it tough to manage my marriage, home, and family because my sweet girls take priority over all (except you Hubbie).
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 3: Process. The Work Flow
Goal: Getting to Inbox Zero! Today, you are processing your stuff it into a trusted system so you don’t have to keep it in your head. You’re not necessarily doing the work, but deciding what you want to do with it. You are going to rule your stuff rather than your stuff ruling you.
David Allen’s process looks like this. “When you have finished processing , you will have
- trashed what you don’t need;
- completed any less-than-two minute actions;
- handed off to others anything that can be delegated;
- sorted into your own organizing system reminders of actions that require more than two minutes; and
- identified any larger commitments (projects) you now have. ” (GTD, ch.6)
Work Flow. Here’s the GTD workflow diagram for processing. I strongly recommend you purchase the GTD book and read chapter 6. It will be a tremendous help for you.
- Start with the top item in your inbox.
- Process one item at time.
- Don’t put anything back in your inbox.
- Process does not mean “work on.”
Resist the urge to emergency scan. You may be tempted to scan your inbox for items that you need to take care of now. That’s letting your stuff rule you, not processing. Exceptions will arise like an emergency email about one of your children. That’s okay. You’re appropriately giving the matter the energy it needs. Resist the urge scan, and get into the habit of taking one item at a time so you can get to the bottom of your inbox. Getting to Inbox zero is your goal.
Is it Actionable? You’re going to start with one item at a time and decide what to do with it.
- Yes. If there’s something you need to do like send an email to your husband.
- No. These are the easy ones. You’ll either (1) trash them, (2) incubate them, (3) file them for reference.
Trash. You’ve probalby tossed stuff in your collection process. I personally love purging. A clean house and email inbox feels like laying in a hammock with my eyes closed, hearing the gentle peaceful sound of wind russling through the leaves. Ahhh. What to do with all those emails? File them, or delete them. Your pick. Just get them out of your inbox if no action is required. Be realistic about your space. Keep as much as you want.
Incubate.These are items that make you think, “I don’t have anything to do now, but maybe later. ” This may be a flier for the Christmas concert that’s 4 weeks away, and you’re not sure yet if you even want to attend. It could also be a coupon for a grill that your husband has been eyeing. You haven’t decided if you can afford it, plus his birthday is months away. What to do with these? You may: (I’ll explain these in later posts)
- Write them on a “Someday/Maybe: list
- Put them on your calendar or in a “tickler” file
Reference. This is stuff you want to keep like owners manuals. Although I recommend tossing these because you can find everything online these days. These tend to pile up in your random “junk” drawers because your filing system is inadequate. More details on a personal filing system later, but resist the urge to create a “to be filed” pile. Grab your handy labeler, make a folder for it, and file it.
Ok, it’s Actionable…What is it?
This is where you’ll spend the most of your time. You’ll need to decide what needs to be done with the “thing.” So, this is where your “Next Actions” list begin. This means what is the next physical, visible activity that is needed to complete the situation.
Huh? It’s really simple, but can be complex as it happens so fast in your head. So let’s say your top item in your inbox is
- Plan date night
Determining the Next Action will look like this. …Is Hubbie free Friday night? He is, but I really need to make sure we have a baby sitter first. So, I should…
- Call Mary re babysitting Friday night
The Action Step needs to be the absolute next physical thing to do. These are physical visible activities. So, “plan Jenny’s shower” is not the next action because it’s not descriptive of the physical behavior. How do you plan a shower? Well, it could be done with a phone call or an email, but to whom? This is where you decide. If you don’t now, then you are going to have to deal with it later. You want to get to “mind like water” where you’re only using the appropriately requried energy on this matter. An item flows through once, and you deal with it. Once.
What to do with Jenny’s shower? …I know Sally and Mary are good friends with Jenny, so I should email them and ask if them if they want to co-host with me. But, I don’t know their email addresses, so I really need to ask Jenny for their email addresses. There’s your next Action Item
- Email Jenny for Sally and Mary’s email addresses
“Until you know what the next physical action is, there’s still more thinking required before anything can happen” (David Allen, GTD, ch.6)
Once you decide what the Action Step is. You have 3 options:
- Do it, only if it takes less than 2 minutes. So you can go ahead and email Jenny for those addresses.
- Delegate it, if you’re not the best person to do the action.
- Defer it, into your organization system for work to do later. Place that grill coupon in your “tickler file” on your husband’s birthday month.
You are processing! You are sorting through your stuff and clearing out your inbox. Good job. Next we’re going to break down the Next Actions. This where your organization system starts to look really impressive.
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
Awesome tip about avoiding the “emergency scan” of your email. I am borderline obsessed with organization, so I definitely appreciate this post & can’t wait to read more in this series!
A clean house and email inbox feels like laying in a hammock with my eyes closed, hearing the gentle peaceful sound of wind russling through the leaves.” Absolutely! I feel the same way. Great post! (And I’m so sorry to hear that your girls are sick. 😦 I hope they feel better really soon.)