Season 2: Unlocking productivity

David Allen Author, Speaker, Creator of the Getting Things Done Methodology

4 simple tips to keep your mind organized and efficient  

Stress-free productivity is something most people aspire to. And why not? It’s a good way to run your business. Being able to move things around into different categories and priority levels means you create clear space in your mind to think and focus on what really matters in the present moment.  

Over the years, I’ve said the phrase “your head is a terrible office” many times, mainly because it’s true. If you keep all your to-do lists in your head, they’re in the wrong place – you’ll end up either giving something more attention than it deserves or not as much attention as it deserves.  

Bite-sized tips to take control 

This is what my first book was really all about – helping people get perspective and create clear mental space to achieve stress-free productivity in business – and life. I wrote it in 2001 to describe what I’d learned in my 25 years up to that point. Since then, it’s gone on to become a bestseller all over the world.  

So while the Getting Things Done methodology is in my blood – I definitely practise what I preach – for a newcomer, it can look like a lot to take in and maybe even a bit daunting. To help you get started, I’ve created some bite-sized tips to free up your mind and think about the bigger things.  

Some of these techniques are based on the primary GTD principles: capture, clarify, organise, reflect, and engage. Other tips are designed to help empty your head for a quick productivity win in busy or uncertain times. With dedication, they’ll help you gain some perspective, give you the head space to think, create, and do, and control your productivity.  

  1. Use a capture tool

Whether you’re at your desk, in a meeting, or anywhere else, use a pen and paper as I do or a note, voice memo or recording app on your smartphone – whatever works best for you – to capture ideas, thoughts, or actionable tasks as they happen. But rather than leave them there, move them to an appropriate list for review so you know what to do with them.  

  1. Review your lists

Gather all your notes, voice memos, or recordings you’ve made and process them, marking off everything you’ve completed, and put together a “next step” list. You can do this daily, every other day, or even weekly, but keeping on top of it in a business world where things can change quickly will help you work smarter.   

  1. Organise your inbox

For many, inbox zero rarely happens. But by taking a few logical steps and creating some extra folders, it’s easier than you think. First, what’s the email about and is it actionable? If “no,” you can decide to delete it or file it for reference. If “yes,” you can either deal with it there and then, delegate it, or defer it to a later time.   

  1. Stick to the two-minute rule

When you’re busy, there are plenty of small tasks you might put off precisely because they’re small. This is especially true of emails. So with any task that can be reviewed, actioned, completed, and out of your head within two minutes of where you are right now, just do it. Why? Because it will take you longer than two minutes to clarify, organize, and review it than it would to do it in the first place.   

Engage differently for better productivity 

Business can be tough. Any small action you can take to stay productive and make your job easier can help you keep on track, giving you the clear head space you need to work and focus on your business rather than in it.   

So while your world may not change dramatically when you use all or even some of these tips, it will change how you engage with that world to give yourself a stress-free, productive business.