I used to think about the word “busy” as a positive word. I would come home from work, my wife would ask me how my day was, and I would reply, “Busy,” like it was a good thing.
Busy implied that I was always on the go. I was never short of things to do. I worked hard and filled with as many tasks as possible.
And then I thought about it. Many of those things were true, but I didn’t necessarily get a lot done.
Here’s how I fixed that.
Busy vs. Productive
Busy meant I was constantly moving from one meeting to another, one email to another, or one project to another. But, it didn’t always mean I was getting a lot done.
It simply meant that I was busy.
My time was always being used, but not in the most efficient way possible. For instance, on really busy days, I would come home, have dinner, and continue to work until bedtime because I still had a list of tasks to finish.
When I reflected on that, I realized that “busy” was not what I should be striving for. Busy was not the goal.
What I needed was to be productive.
These two words might sound like they mean the same thing, but in reality, they are very different. Productivity has a purpose. Busyness, not so much. Busyness borders on chaos, and nobody needs that in their life.
To be more productive, I needed a system.
Getting to Know Getting Things Done
The system I settled on is based on a book by David Allen called Getting Things Done: The Art of Stree-Free Productivity.
Getting Things Done (GTD) is a productivity system developed for the corporate world, but it has since expanded to become flexible enough for anyone to use.
Getting Things Done can be used by CEOs, stay-at-home dads, school teachers, office workers, and just about anyone who wants to try it.
The essence of GTD is built around one key concept. Your brain was not designed to hold all the open loops in your life.
We all have open loops. They are the tasks you try to hold in your head because you don’t want to forget to do them.
They range from the mundane to the must-dos. Examples include the prep work you need to do before your team meeting next week, the groceries you need to pick up on the way home, the client you need to call on Friday, and the streaming service that you keep forgetting to cancel.
All of these will drive you insane if you let them because your brain just wasn’t designed to store and remember these tasks.
This is where GTD comes in. It’s a system that was designed to do just that.
When everything is safely stored in a system that you trust, your brain is freed up for more creative endeavors.
Getting Things Done Digitally
At work, we use Google Workspace as our productivity platform.
GTD can be applied to any number of digital tools, but if you can make it fit the ones you are already using, there will be less friction when you try to make it an integral part of your daily workflow.
With that in mind, I used what I knew about the core Google apps to develop a completely digital system.
No pens. No paper. Everything is in the cloud.
GTD doesn’t have to be a paperless system. It began as a purely analog system with paper notebooks, filing cabinets, and manila folders. However, the advantages of a purely digital system are that you can access it anywhere, at any time, and on any device.
For me, that flexibility is priceless.
Google’s GTD Apps in Action
So, where do you start? Email seems like as good a place as any. Most of us have to deal with it daily, and as email clients go, Gmail is about as ubiquitous as they come.
Here’s how to better organize Gmail using the central tenants of GTD:
Next, you need a good task manager. This will help you keep track of your to-do list. For that, you will want to use Google Tasks.
It’s not the best task manager, but it’s a good task manager, and it integrates well with Google’s other apps. Here’s how to set it up for GTD:
When you need to be in the right place at the right time, Google Calendar can help make that happen. But do you know what should and should not be on your calendar?
Find out how to make the best of that precious free time below:
Are you overwhelmed by the amount of digital data you have? Organizing Google Drive will make it much easier to find what you need. Follow these easy steps to get it back into shape.
Last but not least, you will need a place for notetaking and curating resources from the web. Google Keep is the answer to this problem.
You can use Getting Things Done to organize all your GTD reference materials inside Google Keep. Here’s how:
Get Organized, Stay Organized
With a little bit of effort and a positive outlook, GTD is a great way to bring some order to the chaotic elements in your life.
It’s a system with some very defined structures, but it’s also flexible enough that you can take the best parts and modify them to fit your needs. And I would encourage you to do just that.
The Google Workspace apps might lack some of the more advanced features of more dedicated apps, but they make up for that with the connections they make with each other. Few third-party apps can match that.
Are you ready to become more productive? If so, it’s time to say goodbye to busy. It’s time to start getting things done.