"Getting Things Done" or "GTD" — an entire revolution in personal productivity spawned from a book by David Allen in 2001 — has been around for 13 years now. And while there are articles galore that discuss implementing Allen's methodology for both software and hardware tools, we wanted to give you an idea of how to follow GTD within Wrike.
We've actually tackled the topic in previous blog posts (GTD and Wrike overview and GTD and Wrike case study) but never before on video. So we asked our Customer Success Manager and resident GTD champion, Wenbo Liu, to share the best way to set up GTD using Wrike's features. The video is about 20 minutes long, so set aside a bit of time to watch. Meanwhile, we've highlighted the main points below.
Quick Review of GTD Basics
GTD is a personal task management methodology created because we tend to keep "stuff" in our heads — reminders, to-do items, wishes, plans — which takes up our finite memory and energy. It becomes distracting noise that fills our brain and makes us less productive. This often leads to forgetting urgent matters and anxiety about things falling through the cracks.
So one of the fundamental steps for GTD is capturing everything — the stuff in your head and the tasks that come at you from every direction — into a trustworthy system to eliminate anxiety. Allen calls the place where this stuff is collected an "inbox," though he originally meant a physical inbox alongside the virtual ones we use for email. From there, you need to organize the collected stuff in a way that makes sense for you so that tasks can be found easily. Then the next steps are to review your stuff periodically, and quite simply, do those tasks.
Only next actions
The other pillar of GTD is (as long as your capture system is working and stable) only worrying about the very next action — even in a complex, multi-step project. This is possible because the inbox of your system has already been processed and organized into the appropriate buckets to store all projects, reference materials, and data you need to move forward. End result: your action list only contains the next concrete step needed to push the project forward, not the next few.
Setting Up GTD Folders in Wrike
When you process and organize the items in your digital inbox, you need buckets to capture every single one. Buckets will help you find items easily. They will also aid in identifying which stage a task is in. Just a note here: this folder structure is only our suggestion. You need to test it with your workflow to see if it fits your style. You can always tweak it according to your needs.
The GTD folders:
Probably the most important folder to set up, this is the main collection spot where you do your brain dump. Once a day/week, come here and list all your ideas (even vague ones), reference notes, meeting notes, items to buy, places to see, movies to watch, dates to remember, and basically any commitment you MIGHT follow through. This is also a good spot to drop your receipts, important emails you want to keep, and loose odds and ends you're not sure you want to discard. At the end of every day, ensure that you empty out your inbox into their appropriate buckets (keep reading!) so that you begin the next day with a clear plan of what needs doing.
This folder is your bucket for the top 10-15 items that you are committed to doing for the week/day/month. If you're actively working on a project, place here only the NEXT ACTIONABLE STEP in that project instead of including all the steps in a project. Only next actions! You might even choose to include subfolders here (Daily tasks, Weekly tasks) for those repetitive items you need to do everyday or every week (e.g. buy milk, exercise, take a walk, clean out your inbox folder, etc.)
This folder falls somewhere in between the Action folder and the Someday/Maybe folder. You can use it to store the tasks or ideas that you want to do but aren't committed to doing immediately. However, items in here should typically have a deadline. For example: if you want to submit an application to speak at a convention, there is a hard deadline for speaker submissions. But if that deadline is 3 months down the line (therefore not a "next action" step), you might store it in the Tickler so you can handle it once the deadline is closer.
The Tickler is also a place to store your less important next actions so that the Action folder isn't 200 items deep -- which would be a psychological roadblock to your motivation and your productivity. Once your Action folder starts emptying out, you can move Tickler items over.
This bucket stores all the non-urgent, but still interesting things you may or may not do someday. Typically these are ideas — more like wishes — with no concrete due dates. You may have items in here such as "Learn Mandarin" or "Take the GMAT" or "Switch blog over to Wordpress." By reviewing this bucket every month or so, you can choose to move something to the Action folder or project folder in order to begin working on it. Or simply delete what you no longer have interest in.
More Helpful Folders to Facilitate GTD:
This folder is the holding place for all your reference materials. These aren't tasks to do, rather, they're materials you want or may need to refer to in the future. Store items such as:
- Instruction manuals (PDFs usually)
- Helpful articles
- Project archives (projects which are completed)
- Personal journal
- Logins and passwords
5. Project Folders
These folders are for multi-step projects. Any time you have something that involves more than 1 step, it's a good idea to give it its own folder. Why? Large projects such as "Redesign the home page" or "Set up the Affiliate System" can't be done in just one task. Create a place to hold all the relevant steps involved for easy review, then you can funnel the next actionable step to the Action folder as needed.
6. Status Tags
You can choose to implement several more folders based on status or context, for a more fine-tuned approach to tagging your tasks and picking what next to do. (Remember: folders in Wrike can be used as tags. You simply drag a folder onto a task in order to tag it with the name of the folder.)
If you examine your work style and find yourself doing part of your work in a location apart from the office, you may want to have a Location folder with subfolders such as "Grocery," "Commute," or "Home."
You could also have a folder for tagging your tasks based on the energy it requires: thus tags could include "high energy" and "low energy," or "heavy brain use," and "low brain use."
Alternatively you can have tags indicating whether a task is waiting for someone else's input ("dependent") or if it's waiting for your review, or even indicating length of time it may take to accomplish (e.g. 30 mins, 1 hour, 2 hours+).
Also download our free "GTD with Wrike" ebook for more help getting started!
Do you use GTD at work or home? How does it help you stay more productive? Let us know in the comments!