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Why You Can’t Get Things Done (It’s All About the Ritual)

Why You Can’t Get Things Done (It’s All About the Ritual)

    So, you have studied the GTD system for months or years and you still can’t get things done? That obviously makes you a failure, right? Not exactly.

    One of the biggest problems that GTD practitioners face is that the don’t have a GTD ritual to keep themselves in the GTD mindset. You must keep a GTD ritual to make sure that your systems are clean, you have a clear focus of work and what needs done, and to know when you are taking on too much work (or not enough).

    Here are the keys to keeping a GTD ritual so you can finally get some stuff done.

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    Weekly or daily review

    If your GTD system is your entire life and brain put in one place, then the weekly review is the glue that holds it all together. GTD nerds tend to obsess with their taxonomies, project organization, what tools to use, etc. The sad truth is that it’s all for naught if you don’t review your projects and actions at least every week.

    Make sure to block out around 30 minutes to do your weekly review. If that is too much, or if you have some fast moving projects at the moment, then a daily review may be better. Whatever you choose, just remember to review.

    Hone your projects list

    Even David Allen says that one of the most important lists that you can create is your list of active projects. Right now in my OmniFocus database I have 55 active projects (that is 55 things that aren’t done that require more than 1 action to complete). Some of these are ongoing while others will be finished within a few weeks to a few months.

    The secret is just to have a list. This list will give you a good idea of how much time you have in your life and what is on your plate as well as help you know what you should be acting on at any given time.

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    Review your Horizons of Focus

    If you haven’t identified your Horizons of Focus, check out this article on how to do it. If you have identified your Horizons of Focus you need to review them regularly. Many GTD practitioners will create a nice list of the important things in their lives, but won’t take the time to go back and review them to see if their projects and actions reflect the areas they have identified to be important. Without this type of ritual, you run the chance of doing things that someone else thinks your should be doing, rather than what you know you should be doing to further your goals.

    Also, reviewing these horizons will help keep your focus on the things that are important to you and help you overcome taking trips down endless rat holes.

    Read Getting Things Done, again

    If you haven’t [picked up the book](https://www.amazon.com/dp/0142000280?tag=s7621-20–20] yet, what are you doing reading this article? If you have the book, then read it again. I suggest reading it at least twice a year so you can get back to the basics.

    Listen to some GTD talks, again

    There are some really great podcasts that the David Allen Company has provided for free. They range in topics from setting up systems and best practices of the 5 phases of GTD to how to plan projects and how to actually make intuitive choices in the “doing” phase.

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    While some of the GTD audio products that you can buy from David Allen Co. seem a little bit overpriced, I have found that they can be helpful. But, in all practicality, there is a lot of great stuff in the free podcast library that will help you get things done.

    Set dates to review your tool selection

    Rather than obsess about GTD tools and which tool are the best for your personal system, pick one that meets your current needs, stop fiddling with it, and then set a date in the future on your calendar (at least 6 months out) to look into tools again. When you look into new tools you will have a better perspective of what you need and don’t need in a GTD tool.

    By planning to review GTD tools in the future, you set yourself up to use your tool rather than it use you. This will help you focus on “doing” and less on the toolset that you use.

    Start a GTD group

    Something that I found to be a good experience as well as a great way to keep my system up to date was to find some like minded people that use GTD and start a mini discussion group. Most of the time this is quite informal but it at least has me revisit the core practices of the system on a regular basis.

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    You can also join the GTD forums to reach out to other GTD practitioners.

    Do

    The only way to get things done with a ritual is to make sure that you are actually doing everyday. If your system is fresh and organized, you should be able to open a context list and rifle through each next action. The ritual of “doing” is the most important one and the one that we sometimes forget to spend the most time on.

    (Photo credit: productivity or motivation via Shutterstock)

    More by this author

    CM Smith

    A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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    Last Updated on September 15, 2020

    7 Helpful Reminders When You Want to Make Big Life Changes

    7 Helpful Reminders When You Want to Make Big Life Changes

    Overcoming fear and making life changes is hard. It’s even harder when it’s a big change—breaking up with someone you love, leaving your old job, starting your own business, or hundreds of other difficult choices.

    Even if it’s obvious that making a big change will be beneficial, it can be tough. Our mind wants to stay where it’s comfortable, which means doing the same things we’ve always done[1].

    We worry: how do we know if we’re making the right decision? We wish we knew more. How do we make a decision without all of the necessary information?

    We feel stuck. How do we get past fear and move forward with that thing we want to do?

    Well, I certainly don’t have all the answers, but here are 7 things to remember when you want to move forward and make positive life changes.

    1. You’ll Never Have All the Information

    We often avoid making important decisions because we want more information before we make a tough call.

    Yes, it’s certainly true that you need to do your research, but if you’re waiting for the crystal clear answer to come to you, then you’re going to be waiting a long time. As humans, we are curious creatures, and our need for information can be paralyzing.

    Life is a series of guesses, mistakes, and revisions. Make the best decision you can at the time and continue to move forward. This also means learning to listen to and trust your intuition. Here’s how.

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    2. Have the Courage to Trust Yourself

    We make all sorts of excuses for not making important life changes, but the limiting belief that often underlies many of them is that we don’t trust ourselves to do the right thing.

    We think that if we get into a new situation, we won’t know what to do or how to react. We’re worried that the uncharted territory of the future will be too much for us to handle.

    Give yourself more credit than that.

    You’ve dealt with unexpected changes before, right? And when your car got a flat tire on the way to work, how did that end up? Or when you were unexpectedly dumped?

    In the end, you were fine.

    Humans are amazingly adaptable, and your whole life has been helping you develop skills to face unexpected challenges.

    Have enough courage to trust yourself. No matter what happens, you’ll figure out a way to make it work.

    3. What’s the Worst That Could Happen?

    Like jealousy, most of your fears are created in your own head.

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    When you actually sit down and think about the worst case scenario, you’ll realize that there are actually very few risks that you can’t recover from.

    Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Once you realize the worst isn’t that bad, you’ll be ready to crush it.

    When you’re preparing to make a big life change, write down all of the things you’re afraid of. Are you afraid of failing? Of looking silly? Of losing money? Of being unhappy?

    Then, address each fear by writing down ways you can overcome them. For example, if you’re afraid of losing money, can you take a few months to save up a safety net?

    4. It’s Just as Much About the Process as It Is About the Result

    We’re so wrapped up in results when we think about major life changes. We worry that if we start out towards a big goal, then we might not make it to the finish line.

    However, you’re allowed to change your mind. And failing will only help you learn what not to do next time.

    Furthermore, just because you don’t reach the final goal doesn’t mean you failed. You chose the goal in the first place, but you’re allowed to alter it if you find that the goal isn’t working out the way you hoped. Failure is not a destination, and neither is success.

    Enjoy the process of moving forward[2].

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    5. Continue to Pursue Opportunity

    If you’re on the fence about a big decision, then you might be worried about getting locked into a position that you can’t escape from.

    Think about it a different way. New choices rarely limit your options.

    In fact, new pursuits often open up even more opportunities. One of the best things about going after important goals with passion is that they open up chances and options that you never could have expected in the beginning.

    If you pursue the interesting opportunities that arise along the path to your goal, then you can be sure that you’ll always have choices.

    6. Effort Matters, So Use It

    It sounds simple, but one of the big reasons we don’t make life changes is because we don’t try. And we don’t try because then it’s easy to make excuses for why we don’t get what we want.

    Flunked that test? Are you stupid? “Of course I’m not stupid. I just didn’t study. I would have gotten an A if I actually studied.”

    Stuck in a job you hate? Why haven’t you found a new job yet? “Well, I haven’t really tried to get a new job. I could totally ace that interview if I wanted.”

    Why do we make excuses like these to ourselves? It’s because if we try and fail, then we just failed. But if we don’t try, we can chalk it up to laziness.

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    Get over it. Failure happens to everyone.

    And the funny thing is, if you actually try—because it’s pretty clear that most people aren’t trying—then you’ll win a lot more than you think.

    7. Start With Something Manageable

    You can’t climb Everest if you don’t try hiking beforehand.

    Maybe applying for your dream job seems intimidating right now. What can you start with today?

    Can you talk to someone who already has that position and see what they think makes them successful? Can you improve your skills so you meet one of the qualifications? Can you take a free online course to expand your resume?

    Maybe you’re not quite ready for a long-term relationship, but you know you want to start dating. Could you try asking out a mutual friend? Can you go out more with friends to practice your communication skills and meet new people?

    You don’t need to be a world changer today; you just need to make small life changes in your own world.

    More Tips to Help You Make Life Changes

    Featured photo credit: Victor Rodriguez via unsplash.com

    Reference

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