Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Organized Mommy's Guide to Getting Things Done

Are important things in your life always slipping through the cracks? Are you always doing things half-baked at the last minute because you didn't have time to properly prepare for them? Do you feel like you are running around managing crisis after crisis - reacting to situations - rather than acting out of purpose and intention? That sounds really stressful!

There are lots of self-help books out there that purport to tell you how to magically gain control of your life. Systems of productivity that promise to make you into a lean-mean-task-doing machine. The problem with many of these systems is that they are not aimed at moms. So it's often difficult to see how to apply these systems, often geared toward corporate workers, to your everyday life.

I've mentioned before that I'm a long time fan of Getting Things Done -- David Allen's system for personal productivity (otherwise known as GTD). I started using this system in 1999, and I would not want to live without it. I find that with a few different tweaks, it works equally well for my fast-paced corporate life as well as my (hopefully) more relaxed family and personal life.

Some things I love about GTD:
* Organize everything from mundane tasks to large sweeping projects within one place.
* Be able to make a plan for today and know that the most important things are getting done.
* Make constant, steady progress on large projects that seem daunting and un-doable.
* Put whimsical someday/maybe tasks on my list and not have them clutter my daily flow, yet actually have a chance of doing them someday.
* Think of something I need to do 1 year from today, and know that it will get done.
* Manage my email inbox so that it rarely grows beyond 1 screen.
* Manage my and my family's calendar so that my husband and I don't both schedule late work meetings so that there is no one to pick up the kids at daycare.

In a series of upcoming posts, I will describe my approach to GTD, and specifically how I apply it to my personal life as a mom. I will also describe how I use free online tools to implement each portion of the GTD method (like Gmail, Gcal, and Toodledo). These are tools that are available to everyone, even those of us who don't have a corporate IT department and MS Outlook.

This is the how-to manual for becoming an Organized Mommy yourself! Are you ready? Great!

But first, some background reading:

I highly recommend that you read the book. But, assuming you don't have the time, then you can read the very good summary of GTD on Wikipedia.

I really like Zen Habits' take on GTD. Here are some articles to get you started:
Zen To Done
A Beginner's Guide to GTD

Finally, you can jump over to Merlin Mann's blog 43folders, which has a great intro article on GTD, but be warned, it's mostly written for tech geeks. (See what I mean about being difficult to apply for moms?)

Here are the topics I will be writing about in the coming weeks:

* GTD your task list (Toodledo)
* GTD your inbox (Gmail)
* GTD your family calendar (Gcal)
* GTD your online blog and news reading (Newsgator or GoogleReader)
* Going mobile. Doing all of this on your mobile phone.
* Using recurring tasks to accomplish vague or long term personal goals
* Simplify your filing system

I don't think there is a magic bullet out there for becoming organized (sorry!). But, the GTD system is the best thing I've found in this arena. I think the system is flexible enough to be customized to suit individual needs, yet it is structured enough to actually work. Most importantly, I know that if I just follow the system, nothing will slip through the cracks. That, to me, is incredibly stress-relieving!

I hope that by showing you how I use GTD, I can make it more real and accessible to you. I would really love to help you on your way to being more organized and less stressed about your life. To live from a place of purpose and intention rather than stress and reaction.

What are your biggest personal organization challenges? Tasks, email, calendar, or something else? What have you tried, and what did or didn't work for you? Have you found a system that works? Please share in the comments!

If you want to get instant updates of the articles in this series, feel free to subscribe below. (It's free!)


  1. GTD is a great methodology - and it makes just so much common sense. I like how it is clear about the commitments you do have to make in order to make it work for you. Being organized does require some investment in time and honesty. Looking forward to your review.

  2. @Andy - I'm glad to have a GTD fan reading! I hope I do it justice. You will have to chime in if I don't. :-)

  3. If you'd like a tool for managing your time and projects, you can use this application inspired by David Allen's GTD:

    You can use it to manage and prioritize your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, schedules and a calendar.
    A mobile version is available too.

  4. I feel totally intimidated by the concept of a mom who doesn't drown in stresses from lack of organization everyday. I have decided to take some serious action in my life about these things. But I realized that My Mother didn't teach me "standards" for mothering and being the home administrator. She did well herself, but the example really wasn't ebough. Thanks for this blog, it's like a reference for great ideas. I Dugg it.


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