Getting Things Done for Moms, Day 5

I’m a naturally scatterbrained, type A wanna-be woman on a quest to be a better woman. It’s hard to do anything more than mother 2 little one year olds. Of course it’s a joy raising them, but I need more free moments to get things done like let’s say, cook dinner or take a shower.

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 mommy-life with GTD gives me the freedom to do what I really want to do, love on my family.


Day 5: Organizing your Buckets

If you’ve been following along processing your inbox, you’re going to have a pile of “pending” actions that need to be organized. These are the longer than 2 minute jobs that will end up in buckets or Next Action lists.

Resist the urge to prioritize. Your priorities will change with your life demands, and then you’ll be stuck with a system where you constantly have to reorganize things. If you stick with the habit of a Weekly Review (coming soon), you’ll be assured that you are handling exactly what you want when you want.

Your Calendar
When you were processing your inbox, you may have had a to-do called “schedule doctor’s appointment.” Since that took 2 minutes or less, you went ahead and did that, and now the only thing left is to write it on your calendar.

Calendar items that are time or day-specific. “12:00 – 1:00 lunch with Mary”, or a day-specific “Call Mom to wish her happy birthday.”

Resist the urge to calendar items that you think must get done that day. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck constantly shifting those items to the next day when other actions take priority. Keep your calendar sacred for only things that have to be done on that day.

Action Lists: Soon-As-Possible Actions by Context
Ah, we’ve arrived at my favorite part of GTD. This is where you organize your to-do’s by the context required by that action. For instance, sending an email must be done on a computer, so you’ll add it to @computer list. Dropping off the dry-cleaning will go on @errands list.

It doesn’t matter where you keep your lists. Pen and paper will do just fine. I like to keep mine in a nifty app called toodledo. There are more tools out there; OutlookOmnifocus for you mac users. (If I only had a mac!) Use what works for you.

I have over 80 action items waiting for me whenever I’d like to get to them. One action item @home is “organize baby pictures.” I might not ever get to it, but the important thing is that it is out of my head and on paper. So, i’m not thinking to myself, “what was it that I wanted to do?” I can look at my list and decide what I want. I control my stuff, not my stuff controls me.

Remember your plan to clean the garage? You’re next action item is to talk to your husband about it. You can place it on an @Agenda item with your husband’s name. I keep a constant @Agenda item for my husband that lists all the things we need to discuss. So the next time we have a child-free moment, I just grab my handy list.

Here are sample Next Action Lists. You’ll find some of these useful for you.

  • @phone. Got an hour long car-ride? Take out your @phone list and start returning calls. Write the person’s name, phone number, and a little reminder of what you want to talk about. If it’s more than a few items, place them on your Agenda list.
  • @computer. Anything you need to do online like email, order something off of Amazon. Of course now a days, you can do these on your phone too, so you could change it @Internet if you prefer.
  • @errands. Anything you need to do that requires you to commute. Shopping. Post office. Dry cleaners. Returning borrowed stuff to your friend.
  • @office. You may use this for anything that requires an Internet connection, or anything you need to do in your office.  Some people modifiy this to anything they do at their physical work office.
  • @home. Things that can only be done at home. I modified my list to @home-babies asleep or @home-babies awake because there are only things I can do while they are resting.
  • @agenda. This is your topic list to bring up the next time you meet with someone. Works great with your spouse to talk about your next vacation or busines partner to talk about new ideas.
  • @read. This is a list of anything you need to read that may take more than 2 minutes. It’s nice to have these handy if you are waiting at the dentist office. I take advantage of RSS readers on my phone, or print out emails and keep them in my purse to read when I’m waiting on someone.
  • Waiting For. Don’t forget this cruicial list. These are reminders to follow-up items you have delegated. Be sure to note the date you delegated it. I give myself a deadline for when I need to follow-up. For instance, I’m “waiting for my mom to tell me her plans for the holidays.” I’ll need to follow-up with her in about 2 weeks as we make our plans.
  • Someday/Maybe. These are things you’d like to do, maybe. Like countries you want to visit, an art class you’d like to take. You’ll review this list every once in awhile to decide if it’s time to make it active or just forget about it.

The cool thing about your Next Actions List is that you make it work for you. When I was planning my wedding, I had a short term Next Action List called @wedding list.

The most important thing to remember is to list your Action Item by context to where you will be you when you “do” the action. So, the next time you sit at your laptop, pull up your handy @computer list and start working away.

Congratulations! Your well on your way to getting things done! Next time, we’ll look at how to do a Weekly Review to assure you are handling exactly what you want when you want.


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 5

  1. If you’d like a tool for managing your time and projects, you can use this web-application inspired by David Allen’s GTD:

    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, and a calendar.
    Syncs with Evernote and Google Calendar, and also comes with mobile version, and Android and iPhone apps.

    • Thanks so much for the suggestion! I can’t believe I missed one. I tend to google ‘Omnifocus for windows users’ every 6 months and haven’t come across GTDagenda. I’m going to try the free version this week to see how I like it.

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