There are just two things to be clear about before we begin. Thing one: read the book. I get frustrated when people say, “I’m planning on buying the book, but until then how do I…” Crikey, it’s $15! And free at the library (though you’re really gonna want your own copy) No excuses here—either buy it and read it, or quit talking about it. (man, that sounds grumpy) Thing two: weekly review (pdf) is not optional. There’s a guy on one of the GTD groups whose signature file says something like, “If you’re not doing the weekly review, you’re not Getting Things Done.” He’s right, it’s critical (believe me, I’ve missed it enough to know just how critical it is).
That said, getting started is pretty easy. Here’s what you need (note, this is my way. If you’ve got some heretofore undiscovered way to get started with GTD, by all means drop it in the comments, or write it up and trackback):
- one day (if you’re lucky, one “vertical” (aka, do-nothing-else) day will do it)
- stack of blank paper (standard printer paper is fine)
- physical inbox
- stack of manila folders
- A-Z accordian file [optional—this is just my version of a 43 folder tickler]
- labeler [optional, but really nice to have]
Put everything (I said everything) in your inbox. Sticky notes. Random reports. Old magazines. The folded up banner from last year’s job fair. Okay, the actual banner doesn’t need to go—just write “job fair banner behind the door” on one of your blank sheets of paper and put it in the inbox. Anything that is currently not where it belongs goes in the inbox, either physically, or representationally on paper.
Done piling up the inbox? Now, starting at the top of your inbox, take the first thing out and process it. There are lots of models around to help you process your stuff—here’s the official ‘advanced’ model (pdf). Basically, you take each thing out of your inbox and figure out if it’s trash or if it’s to be kept. If it’s trash, toss it. If it’s to be kept you gotta figure out if it’s actionable or if it’s reference material. If it’s reference material, put it in a manila folder, label the folder and put it away. If it’s actionable, figure out if it can be done in two minutes or if it’ll take longer. If it can be done in two minutes, do it. If it’ll take longer, put it in a list for later.
Them’s the basics. There is much, much more GTD-fu to be learned and customized. Read the book, read the blogs (and DACo blogs), read the forums (also: here and here and here). Maybe keep an eye on the del.icio.us tag. Ask questions, figure it out, tweak to your liking. But don’t over-tweak. You really can tweak too much. You know you’re doing it right when you’ve got nothing on your mind, including how you can tweak it. Go watch Rosa—she’s blogging her start up process.