With all of the above in mind, let’s simplify things and create a five-step program for getting good at Getting Things Done:
Create a daily practice structure. Have a simple plan for practicing Getting Things Done — 1) a morning prioritization session; 2) a couple of daily focus sessions; 3) uncertainty meditation when you’re feeling fear, doubt, uncertainty and discomfort; and 4) a review at the end of the day to iterate and improve. Give this plan to someone else, and commit to reporting to them every day for a week. Then commit to updating them weekly after that, telling them your successes, obstacles and how you’ll adjust for the coming week. This daily structure plus accountability will help you get better over the coming weeks.
A morning task list session. This is part of your daily practice structure mentioned above, as are all of the items below. Basically, just spend 5-10 minutes going over your task list, and picking the tasks you want to focus on today. Keep it short, so you aren’t tempted to skip it. Look over what tasks are on your list, and move 3 important tasks and 3 admin tasks to your Today list (or whatever number works for you). This is the time to check your calendar to see if there are any appointments to account for. Basically, it’s a short planning and prioritization session, so you know what to focus on for today. Related skill: add things to your task list and calendar when you think of them!
Focus sessions. Use this to tackle the items on your Today list. Three important tasks on your today list? Pick the first one first (no putting it off!), and do a focus session with it. It might be a tough task, so just do 10-20 minutes of the task, as tiny a start as you can. In this way, you’re practicing starting and staying focused. Take a break when your timer goes off (after 15 minutes, let’s say), walk around, stretch. Then do another focus session, finishing the task if you can, or moving on to the next one if you are done with the first task. You can do the same kind of thing for less important tasks — a focus session for processing your email inbox or paying bills, for example.
Uncertainty meditation. This is a bit trickier to remember, but I believe you can do it if you put a visual reminder around you (like a little note to yourself) … basically, any time you’re feeling like shutting down, procrastinating, distracting yourself, etc. … notice that you’re feeling uncertainty. Then pause and do a meditation for just a few moments: drop your awareness into your body, notice the physical feelings of the uncertainty, open your heart to feeling it, notice that you’re OK in the middle of uncertainty, and stay with it with gentleness and friendliness for just a little longer. This kind of practice will transform your relationship with uncertainty, fear and discomfort — you won’t get rid of them (that’s not the goal), but will train yourself to be OK in the middle of them, without needing to run, avoid, shut down, control, exit or complain. That’s huge, and worth a little practice
Review: To iterate & improve. Each day, take 10 minutes to review how your day went. How did you do with your structure? Did you do your morning task list session? Your focus sessions? Your uncertainty meditation? Make a few notes, about what victories you had, what got in the way, how you can adjust going forward. If you have an accountability partner, send them a few lines with that review. Doing a short weekly review is a good idea too. These reviews serve as a way to understand what works for you and what patterns get in the way, and to adjust so that you’re constantly getting better and better over time.
Expand: Over time, the focus sessions, uncertainty meditation and other structure will get easier. Then try practicing some of the other skills above, including embracing the Shitty First Draft, taking full responsibility, working and communicating open-heartedly with others, improving your structure as needed.
OK! This little handbook, if put into practice, will take you a long way to getting better at Getting Stuff Done. But you have to put it into practice. Get an accountability partner so you don’t neglect the practice.
Take action. Enjoy the process. Be mindful in the middle of the chaos of your day. And don’t forget to appreciate the miracle of the day you’ve been given.