So you’ve read Part 1. You’ve been a good little capturer. But now it’s time to actually get something done.
Let’s get all those items you’ve captured into some kind of task-management system so you can actually do them.
You want me to do what, again?
You’ve most likely captured a task at a pretty basic level. For instance:
Schedule meeting with district tech person to discuss teacher blogs Plan new teacher lunch for next Friday Call Jeff’s mom about his lousy attendance Email superintendent about idea for saving $1.5 million Buy filters for my son’s aquarium
One of the first things you’ll notice is that I try to begin all of my captured items with action words. Schedule, plan, call, email, buy. It’s a lot easier to see what you have to do when you can see what you have to do. Writing “Jeff – attendance” doesn’t tell me what it is that I need to actually do. Nor does “teacher blogs.”
Fleshing it out.
So you’ve got some input items, but clearly they lack substance. So the next thing to do when I get a minute is to enter these items from wherever they were captured into my task-management system. Right now, that’s Things from Cutured Code, but you could use anything that works for you. Dan Meyer uses a Google Spreadsheet, Patrick Rhone loves his notebooks, some enjoy using 3×5 cards or the Hipster PDA, and still others are attached to homebrew, paper-based systems.
Whatever your pleasure, it’s time to get your action items where they belong. I’m not a strict drinker of the GTD Kool-Aid so this is what I’ve found that works for me. I have three basic places where I do things: Home, Work, and Shopping. So look at the most logical place for each item and put it on the appropriate list — real or virtual.
As you’re putting them in the correct list (GTD die-hards would call these “contexts” — and most folks have far more than I), you also need to make sure you don’t have any multi-step items masquerading as action items. For instance, “Plan new teacher lunch for next Friday,” is not a “do-able” item. It probably has some other things that go along with it like “Check availability of conference room,” “Call restaurant and order food,” “Send invite to teachers and principal,” and “Print and copy agenda.” Once all those things are done, you will be able to check off that item. I (and others) refer to any action that has multiple steps as a “project.” I usually have several of these going at any one time.
Get on with it.
So you’ve captured everything, decided the specific actions you need to take, and identified multiple-step items as projects. Then you’ve placed them in the context where they’re most likely to be completed. Sounds simple, right? But in practice it takes some discipline to religiously capture everything and process it into the right list.
Making ubiquitous capture and efficient processing a part of your daily routine should help you make maximum use of your time at work, allowing you to plow through the drudgery and leaving time for the stuff you really want to be doing while you’re there.