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4 Productivity Tips to Maximize Your GTD Efforts

Productivity is a sticky business. As a rule, the personal investment someone has in the quality and quantity of their output is, well, personal — tons of variables, from the role you have in an organization to the value you place on other elements of your life, are going to invariably impact productivity. And that can get really stressful, really fast.

Enter the notion of panic-free productivity. Most often referred to as GTD (Getting Things Done), the term was coined by executive coach David Allen. The idea here is to increase the number of useful tasks performed while staying calm and collected about it — not something most people are typically good at. Here are 4 ways to get the most out of the GTD method and hit your deadlines, without fearing for your blood pressure.

1. First Things First: Understand the Philosophy

GTD includes five stages of working: collection, processing, organization, review, and action. Collection is all about gathering anything and everything that might be relevant to what you’re working on; processing deals with vetting what you’ve collected to determine if it’s obviously useful, potentially useful, or not likely to be implemented. Organization, of course, involves creating a project plan around those items. The review process has its own sub-steps to keep you fully on top of your tasks, and finally, the action stage gets you moving on completing your daily to-dos. Get the details here.

2. Get Your Apps in a Row

Today’s productivity-focused worker is pretty heavily dependent on technology, and that means apps. From email to time and task-management, mobility is imperative to capitalizing on the GTD method, especially for those of us that work from home or travel frequently. That said, one of the overarching principles of GTD is finding balance and streamlining your workflow — if you have four different calendar apps that repeat information, you’re basically insuring over-saturation, unnecessary distraction, and task repetition. Check out our list of must-have productivity apps to see what works best for you.

3. Don’t Use Your Brain (…as a Storage Facility)

However much pride you take in your cognitive abilities, the fact of the matter is that all memories that exist in the human mind’s database are comprised of images and information from several different regions of the brain. So, trying to remember a single task without some type of fail-safe — like a calendar reminder or to-do list — would be similar to writing down different actions for a single task on multiple sticky notes, in the hopes that you could later gather them all together and make sense of what you’re supposed to do.

4. Do or Do Not, There is No Thinking About Doing

It’s inherent in the acronym: GTD is all about action. Actionable items, taking steps, and moving forward, upholding the notion that taking action leaves less time for mulling over the idea of doing stuff. Says Intel engineer Melissa Gregg, “[GTD] transforms the volatility of contemporary living into actionable steps that provide a better pace and orientation for our encounters with time and things.” In other words, the process removes ambiguity and unnecessary redundancy, generating a workflow that almost forces productivity by its very design. Check out this infographic to get a visual of what a GTD workflow should look like.

When you incorporate GTD into your everyday life, you should find that you’re always feeling productive. You choose what to focus on and stick with it, which isn’t easy in a world where multi-tasking is considered a vital skill. And while most of us will find that implementing this system means scrapping a lot of bad habits, GTD pioneer David Allen insists that the advantages are absolutely worth it. “It’s one of the more instructive things to realize about these practices; we’re not born doing them,” he says. “You didn’t hop out of the womb going, ‘Hi, what am I trying to accomplish? What’s the next step? And who’s doing it? If you ever learn the martial arts, you’ll find that the basic moves feel very unnatural and very awkward. Once you do them 1,000 times, you’ll see that’s the best way to manifest the highest amount of power with the least amount of effort.”