GTD Cheatsheet: Processing Your Stuff

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Ahh, here comes the rewarding part. We’ve brushed up on the learning curve associated with becoming familiar with the workflow. We’ve got all of our stuff collected. Now we’re ready to plow through our huge mound of collected stuff and get to done! This post is pretty simple, as it will just remind us of the groundrules laid out by David Allen himself.

Let me preface this post with a quick flashback of the lovely workflow diagram.

gtd processing

All we’re going to be doing is going through each item in our collection one by one, processing it with the workflow. It’s pretty simple, but there are some things you should definitely remember.

Everything is Equal

It’s easy to pick out the stuff we want to do first, get all of that done, and then start working on the less-desirable items in our collections. This is called “Emergency Scanning”. Bad idea.

You want to always start “top down” when you process. The goal isn’t getting the most important item processed, it’s getting everything processed. We want all of those open loops taken care of, not just the most important ones. When you pick and choose what you want to process, it’s no longer processing. It’s grazing. And you’re not a cow, are you? :)

Once you establish a habit of sitting down and going through everything (and I mean everything) that’s taking over you brain’s processing power, you’ll have a tremendously freeing experience.

One at a time

GTD Cheatsheet series: Processing your stuffWhoa cowboy! Only tackle one task at a time. It’s easy to get into the mindset of taking on a section of your stack, but that can be very dangerous. Let’s say you get interrupted while you’re processing. If you have multiple things being sorted at once, you’re likely to lose your place when you start back up again.

Try putting everything in a single stack, and only working on the very top item on your list at a time. That way if you do get interrupted (remember, try to have as little of these as possible), you can just come back to that one item.

Never put things back IN

As you’re processing, you’ll realize that some things are ambiguous as to where they go right off the bat. For example, say you have something that you’ll want to work on in a few weeks. Place the item in a “Someday/Maybe” list, or a tickler file (tee-hee), ANYTHING but leaving it in the inbox. Talk about a depressing concept: The inbox that always stays full. You’ll never lose that nagging feeling of always having some work to do.

This coincides with the concept of only dealing with one thing at a time. By taking care of one item only, you’re ensuring that it is fully processed, and fully completed. That is what makes the GTD concept so satisfying. The physical act of completing something.

You’ll notice that the more you work on processing your “inboxes” (or collections), you’ll become faster and faster at getting to the bottom of the pile. Just like any learned skill, it takes practice. You’ll get the hang of it grasshopper, it just make take a few passes at it.

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