Getting Things Done – 05 – Taking control

This post is the fifth and last in a series of articles on the Getting Things Done (GTD) method and how to implement it.

At some point, when you have been working with GTD, or another organisational method for a while, that old “putting out fires” feeling of “never enough time” might come back. What should you do when that happens?

Stop everything and try to understand what’s going on There are several typical scenarios:

I have too much to do in one day.

Be less ambitious. Don’t plan too many tasks for the next day. Redefine your priorities.

I have to deal with too many interruptions. I can’t concentrate and get things done.

Shut your email for an hour or two and concentrate on the task in hand. Then schedule a time when you will focus on handling your emails. If that works, you can do it every day, i.e. only handle email at certain times of day. If you receive an urgent message and you don’t reply immediately, the person will probably call you. If you don’t get a call, then it wasn’t that urgent!

Don’t create emergency situations for yourself. Even if you need to be reactive, the sky will not fall in if you don’t reply within 15 minutes.

This forest fire was definitely not caused by you not replying immediately to a client email.

I have dozens of emails to send and projects to set up and I don’t know where to start.

Take a deep breath, then take a piece of paper and make a list of all the new tasks that have just landed in your inbox. Then do the task that will take you the least time, e.g. confirm receipt of an email. Cross it off the list and then do the task that will take the next least time etc. The hardest part is getting started. Taking the first small step, such as organising your thoughts on paper, gives you impetus.

With time, I have come to understand that it is precisely when you feel completely overwhelmed that you should take ten minutes to take stock and organise your thoughts and actions.

Don’t let yourself get snowed under. I am convinced that we are rarely completely snowed under. We are often the cause of our own panic. If you accept that certain tasks are not as important as others, that some emails can wait, that there are only so many hours in a day, then you will stay in control.

This series of articles on Getting Things Done is now complete. Don’t forget to add your comments! If you began at the end, then there’s nothing to stop you going back to the beginning and reading the whole (100% useful) series.

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