Join David Allen for an in-depth discussion in this video Organizing where things belong, part of Getting Things Done.
Well, now that you have may have captured the things that have your attention, and clarified what they mean, and then done some two-minute actions, and delegated some things and now have some action you need to do, that moves us to the third step, which is organizing. And organizing really means that I now have decided what this means, so I'm just need to park it where those kind of things go. So we mentioned these categories before in the clarify stage. For instance, if there's no action on it, and you don't need to keep it, obviously then that's trash.
So that's the organization of trash. That's your, you know, pretty self evident. There are some things you say no, no action now, but I want to reassess this later. That's the category called incubate. You could use a couple of different tools or ways to incubate that. You could use a tickler file or a brain forward file that's a perpetual file where you could kind of mail something to yourself and it shows up later on. Or you could put triggers in your calendar. That could give you a little reminder about, okay, hey, is it time to think about this. Your mom's birthday is coming up in three weeks. You want to do something about that. You could put a little reminder in your calendar for that.
And then reference material. Boy, there's just tons of ways you can organize reference material. You just want to keep it simple and make sure that it's cleaned regularly and that it's functional for you. Now, the actionable things, that's where, hey there's next actions on these and we also have projects. That's a critical piece of organizing, is what do I need to be reminded of and how do I orient myself, and basically lists are, for the most part, all you need there. And at the level of actions, there's a few different kind of categories that you'll find useful. Once you've determined what the next action is, if it can't be done in two minutes and you have to do it, you have a choice of parking it on your calendar if it's something that has to be done specifically to a day or a time.
That's what calendars are for. Most of your actions however are not calendared actions, they're to be done as soon as you can do them, in and around the events on your calendar. And that's where next-actions list come into play. The next-actions list most people have 30, 40, 50, some times 100 of those next-actions. Stuff to do at the computer. Stuff to, calls to make things to talk to people about, et cetera. And there's some fairly standard categories that people have found very useful for those next-actions. You could put it all on one list if you wanted to, but that might be a little overwhelming if you're sitting and seeing all of those at one time.
So people have found organizing them by context to be very useful. For instance, if I need a phone to take the action as a call I need to make, put that on the list called calls. If you need to be at your computer, or you need to be at home to do the action, or you need to be at your office, those become some contacts, so you could create an at-office list, or an at-phone list, or an at-computer list. And those are ways to kind of simplify your list. Because if I'm not at home I don't need to look at that. A common one is errands, I need to go out for errands and so I would have that there. Another category, by the way, that's very important, especially if you work with a lot of other people is agendas.
And agendas I'm sure you've kept a folder from time to time to go over with people in a meeting. Here's all the things I want to go over with them. So that becomes an important sort of context, at my spouse or at my boss. Or when I'm with my system. Here's what I want to go over. So you've got several kind of options there about actions. Don't make it too complex. Put it all in one place, and then start to sort it just based upon your own experience. Customize it for yourself. A really key element there, or a key list to add in along with your actions are the waiting-fors.
So you do need a waiting-for category. That's really important. So down at the ground level, you've got calendar. You've got your next actions, perhaps organized by context. And you have your waiting-for list. Another really important list to have is your projects list. The projects would be the things that you came up with when you clarified, oh, give mom a birthday party, or I need to increase my bank credit line, or I need to finalize all of my, you know, doctor's appointments or my checkup that big checkup that I need this year. So those would be the things that we would call projects. Great to have that list, very powerful, very important list for keeping yourself oriented.
And then control on a week to week basis to be able to see a little bit larger picture of the things that you've got going on that are incomplete. So those are the basic, of, of getting organized. Non actionable stuff, pretty simple. And the actionable items, not that complex. It's a bit more sophisticated than just a simple to-do list. Because now we've decided what these things mean. And it's a lot easier to then be able to navigate day to day, hour to hour. Being able to work off your action list, to see your calendar, I've got some time. And here's all the other options about what to work with.
NEW for 2015: In an exclusive bonus chapter, David Allen answers some of the most frequently asked questions he receives about Getting Things Done, including why GTD is different and how it can scale for larger teams and organizations.
Skill Level Beginner
Q: This course was updated on 1/02/2015. What changed?
A: We added 45 minutes of new content in the Bonus Interview chapter. Learn why Getting Things Done is different from other productivity improvement methods, and how it can work for you, your family, and your team.