Getting Things Done for Moms, Day 4

Oh the irony.  The week I’m writing about Getting Things Done for moms is the week I have 2 sick babies and can hardly get anything done. When my girls are sick, their separation anxiety is through the roof.  Most hours of the day I have at least one baby clinging to me. It’s nap time, so I’ll write while I can.

That’s exactly why I need this system to track of all the to-dos floating in my head (do laundry, end world hunger, etc.), so during my precious few baby-free hours of the day I can maximize my productivity. Or, I have the peace of mind to take a nap because I trust I’ve taken care of everything that’s important.

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. Managing my life in my GTD system gives me the freedom to do what I really want to do, love on my family.

Photo credit: Alana Donovan Photography

Day 4: Process. What’s the Next Action?

Last time we began processing our inbox and stopped at items that are actionable. Once you decide what the Action Step is, you have 3 options:

  • Do it, only if it takes less than 2 minutes.
  • Delegate it, if you’re not the best person to do the action.
  • Defer it, into your organization system for work to do later.

Do it.

If it takes less than 2 minutes, get it done. If it takes longer, delegate it or defer it. You may have an email from your sister asking if you’ll be at her daughter’s birthday party, shoot her a quick response, and delete it. Latest brochure from Toys R Us? Browse through it, clip the coupon for your coupon file, and chunk it.

The 2 minute rule is so you can gain momentum, and get things done. You’d be surprised how many items on your to-do list you can knock out in a 30 minute window.

If the thing is not important enough to be done, throw it away.

Email. The 2 minute rule is great for dumping your email. A lot of times you just need to read it for reference then either chunk it or file it. I file any email that I think I may need for reference in a “processed” folder and trash the rest. There’s no need to create folders or categories for my emails because today’s search tools are so efficient.

Uh oh, I’m stuck. So your refrigerator light bulb is out, you go to replace it and realize you don’t have the right size bulb. You’ll need to decide on a Next Action about getting it (“buy light bulb at store”), and either do, delegate, or defer it.

Delegate it.

Are you the best person to do this job? You may have “clean garage” in your inbox, but most of the items in the garage are actually your husband’s tools and lawn equipment. At this point you realize, he’s probably the best man for the job. Go ahead and email, or call him, or talk to him directly about it.

By the way, my husband and I constantly email each other requests. It’s the best way for us to communicate about every day things. Of course, big issues are handled by phone call or in person.

Now that you’ve handed it off, what to do you do with it? Add it to a “Waiting For” list. This is a list where you track items that are already in someone else’s court. Be sure to date the item, so you know how long you’ve waited for something. For instance, you may realize that refrigerator bulb needs to be special ordered. Go ahead and order it because that takes less than 2 minutes, and add it to your “Waiting For” list with today’s date. That’s helpful in case the bulb never comes in, you can call the store and say “well I ordered it on November 9. It should be here by now.”

Defer it

These are the items that will take longer than 2 minutes.  Fold the laundry. Go grocery shopping. File your income taxes. They will all end up on one of your Action Lists. Remember that latest ad from your favorite kids clothing store? Scan through it, then chunk it or reference if needed. If the next action is to go to make the purchase, place it on your @errands action list.

Huh? @errands?  What do you mean by that?  Well, that may be one of your Action Lists. A few of mine are @home, @home babies asleep, @PC, @errands, @work. @phone calls, Waiting For.  More on Actions Lists here.

Feel good about yourself! Especially if you knocked out your 2 minute tasks. Your inbox should be clear of all items except those that are deferred.


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

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