Planning Session 3 – Clear out!

I can’t stand clutter. Organised desk, organised mind, I say. Clutter is almost a reflection of one’s state of mind. It certainly rang true for me last year. At a point of total chaos, my study area reflected much what I was thinking and feeling about the (more than) plateful I had going on.

Well, planning session three, for me, was to attack my study area with utmost brutality. I simply could not begin another year with remnants scattered about the place. I was determined to head into this year with increased clarity and freedom in my mind.

I can tell you it was liberating. I felt the weight of last year’s workload and items I had neglected come off my shoulders. Now I want to spend time in my study. I have set up my area with what I need handy, according to how I like to work.

I’m a big fan of ‘Getting Things Done’ and I highly recommend grabbing a copy of the book, or you can even download a bunch of helpful PDFs from David Allen’s website for free to get you started.

First of all, emptying inboxes had to begin with identifying all inboxes. Where do all the ideas, tasks, filing, readings, etc end up?
My inboxes: –

  • Google Reader (I have Instapaper too, but I’ve created an RSS feed from my ‘Unread’ folder to my Google Reader)
  • Evernote
  • (physical) In-Tray
  • Gmail
  • University (study) email
  • Task manager
  • Twitter favourites

Next, is to go through each of these inboxes and process EVERYTHING.

  1. Determine what the item is.
  2. Decide what needs to happen with it.
  3. If the item requires an action, or a series of actions, either enter into the task manager or write it down. Place a note on a post it and stick on the physical item.

DO NOT place anything back where it was before.

For physical items, such as scanning to do or statements to file, I grouped items into piles of similar tasks. I have a ‘To Action’ folder, a ‘To file’ folder and an ‘Inspiration’ folder on my project files rack for the physical items (courtesy of Kikki K). The key outcome of this process was each item’s next action was determined. When I go to my ‘To Action’ folder now, I don’t need to think about what items are or what needs to be done. I can just DO IT! A similar system can be applied to email inboxes and Evernote. I now ‘clip’ items directly to an ‘Inbox’ notebook and ‘empty’ this notebook on a weekly basis as part of my review. I also now use the task manager ‘Things’ and am finding the tagging function useful to apply contexts to my tasks. If a task doesn’t need to be completed immediately, I enter the task into my inbox in ‘Things’, then apply scheduling and tags, file into a project, at my weekly review. The most important thing here is the task’s entry into the system.

After the initial clear out, getting rid of stuff I didn’t require anymore (I must say a shredder was very helpful!), I then had a look at all the items needing to be actioned. As a general rule, if an action took less than two minutes, it got done right there.

I don’t employ every part of the GTD system, just bits and pieces integrated into my existing system of organising myself. Part of implementing GTD is being able to trust the system. If systems and consistent processes can be put into place, then I believe you can trust items to be captured and dealt with more effectively. When setting up a system, it is important inboxes are handy and easy to process.

Here are some other tips and hints to clearing out and planning: –
Getting Things Done FAQ by zenhabits
Get all inboxes to zero, and have fewer inboxes by zenhabits
5 Ways GTD helps you achieve your goals by zenhabits
7 Steps to achieving your goals by Alexandra Samuel

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