I’ve read the book from David Allen a couple of months ago and started to implement the methodology right away. For me it was rather easy to do this, as I already had the tools (mostly software) to create my lists and planning tables. I’ll describe a short version of this method, however I highly recommend that you read the book for detailed explanation and real life examples. If you would like to read more details on the software I use please read how to be efficient.
Get things off your mind so you can focus on the action which you’re actually doing. Your mind should not wander. This will help you to be in the flow.
This method is quite simple, however it might take a few weeks until you get used to it and build your own system. I’ll describe my way to do it, however create your own way to implement it in a way which makes most sense.
Collect your things which need your attention and put them in your inbox. For me this means a couple of things. I have an A3 sized inbox folder next to my desk, so any invoice, newspapers, letters, ads which I want to decide about later goes into this. For some time I had a box next to it for bigger items, this was cleaned already, so I don’t need it anymore.
I bet you already have an email inbox, so use it, however keep it empty. Read more about this: Declutter your e-mails: zero inbox method.
I have an inbox list in my trello planner. This is the first place where any new idea would go. So I never forget anything. If I have a project idea, if I need to call someone, take care of something however I didn’t decide what and when, it goes in here. Any time of the day when I have a new idea, I just pull out my phone and add the item to the inbox, so I’ll decide and take care of it later.
I have an inbox in my Evernote notebook tool, which is my default notebook.
Is it actionable? If yes:
Don’t need it? Throw it out.
Does the action take less than two minutes? Do it.
Want to do it in the next 1-2 months? Add it to the next actions list.
Does it need more than one action? Create a project, and add the first action to next actions list.
Want to do it later? Add to someday / maybe list
Is it time specific? Add it to your calendar. However please note that this only works if you actually trust your calendar and follow it properly. Don’t clog your calendar with tasks which are not day or time specific. Rather use your planner to take care of them.
If not actionable:
Don’t need it? Throw it out.
File it as reference:
For papers I have a folder, so I’ll just put the paper in the folder
For digital notes I have a reference folder (in Evernote) for each topic which interests me (ie: references travel, references writing). I do have a general reference folder which contains about 5-10 notes of actual topics. Ie. related to my next vacation etc.
For e-mail, I keep a reference folder as well, to keep the actually needed data at hand. Don’t collect more than 5-10 e-mails as it might be hard to find things later.
Tip: If a reference is no longer actual delete it. If you still want to be able to check it later, move it to your archive folder. You could keep a general archive in which you can use the search functionality (given it’s in electronic format), however it’s always a good idea to organise by topic.
Get things done (Do it!)
This is quite simple. You just get the first item in your next actions list and do it. Optionally you might create a short action list which should take less than 15 minutes.
More advanced scenarios: create separate lists for actions to be done at the computer or which can only be done at home (ie. cleaning rooms).
It’s quite important to review your system and lists every week. Review your projects, your action items. Remove anything what was done or what is outdated. Add new ideas and items. Clean all your inboxes. This might not be possible in the first few weeks, unless you can dedicate two three full days on it. Don’t worry, just do it one step at a time. The weekly review shouldn’t really take more than fifteen minutes.
Things to clean at least during weekly review
Downloads folder on your computer
Physical inbox folder / box
Clean reference files:
You might ask how this method will change your life. I had my concerns, however trust me, it’s working and it’s working extremely well. There was nothing in the past few months what I forgot. Also I can focus a lot more on the things which I need to focus on. Pair this method with waking up early and you’ll switch to a lot more efficient mode compared to your past.