How I Get Things Done Part II: My System

how-i-get-things-done-seriesNow, we’re starting to get into the meat and potatoes of this series of posts. The introduction of this three-part series covered what I need to track and what my needs are for a to-do and productivity management system. The first main post covered the productivity methods I’ve tried and what I’ve taken from them (Brian Tracy, Stephen Covey, Julie Morgenstern, and David Allen). The last post in the series will cover the “doing” part of my productivity system. This post is about the system itself.

Step 1: I Set SMART Goals for Each Area of My Life

I’ll write another post soon getting into the specifics of SMART goal-setting, but here is the quick “I’m-part-of-another-article” rundown on what “SMART” goals are:

  • Specific – It’s not enough to say “I want to be successful.” Be specific and detailed.
  • Measurable – How will I know when the goal is reached if I can’t measure it?
  • Actionable – “I want to be successful” isn’t actionable. There needs to be a clear line of actions available for meeting the goal.
  • Realistic – “I want $10,000,000 dollars in my bank account by the end of the week” is not very realistic (at least not for me).
  • Time-bound – “Someday it would be nice to be rich” also won’t cut it.

So what’s a good SMART goal? That’s going to depend on you and your circumstances. Here’s an example of one of mine under “education”: “Read one book on professional development a month for the next twelve months.”

Before you read on, write down your different roles/life-areas. Set a couple of SMART goals in each area.

Step 2: Get All of the “Stuff” Gathered

I like to use a combination of OneNote, Outlook, a physical inbox, and physical notebooks. Even though we moved a few months ago, we’re still in the process of (slowly) unpacking all of our belongings. This is because when we moved across the country from California, we got rid of a lot of things like our bookshelves, file cabinets, and my giant desk. So, setting things back up beyond the basic immediate needs has taken a while. We want to get it done right the first time.

Why am I telling you this? Because “stuff” doesn’t just mean emails you need to act on, files you need to finish, bills to pay, and people to call. It’s also files to handle, conferences that are coming up, things you need to purchase and more. In fact, sometimes, gathering all of the “stuff is often a project in and of itself.using-onenote-to-track-all-of-the-stuff

I capture all of my “stuff” on a today page in OneNote. I create a page with today’s date, then I type in things as they come to my mind. I send emails I need to track over to OneNote, and I indent them under the date they refer to. I then delete dates where all the information has been acted on or filed away. This keeps my OneNote inbox nice and tidy, and it gives me a place to put everything.

When I’m out and about, I’m not much a fan of typing stuff in on my phone. I could record myself a memo on it, but instead, I just pull out a notebook I carry everywhere with me and write down my idea, my “oh yeah, I need to…” or my “Hey that book would be awesome to read.”

As to the physical “stuff” that needs to be collected, all of that goes into an inbox on my desk. Bills, files, reminder notes, etc. go in there to be processed.

I also – and this is key – go through a trigger list when first collecting all the “stuff” and when doing my weekly review (more on that in the third post) to be sure I’m not missing anything I should be remembering or keeping track of.

Here’s the nice thing about all of this – I don’t lose ideas. I don’t lose track of “Oh that needs to be done” thoughts. They all get captured, gathered, and taken care of. That means that rather than spending brain power trying to remember all the “stuff,” I can instead spend my brain power on more important things – like getting all that stuff done. There are many trigger lists out there, this is the one I use the most. Over time, you will find it helpful to build one that covers triggers most specific to your needs.

Please continue to the next page to continue reading about the system I use to get things done.

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