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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 October 15, 2019

    How to Plan Your Life Goals and Actually Achieve Them in 7 Simple Steps

    How to Plan Your Life Goals and Actually Achieve Them in 7 Simple Steps

    Where do you want to be 5 years from now, 10 years from now, or even this time next year? These places are your goal destinations and although you might know that you don’t want to be standing still in the same place as you are now, it’s not always easy to identify what your real goals are.

    Many people think that setting a goal destination is having a dream that is there in the far distant future but will never be attained. This proves to be a self-fulfilling prophesy because of two things:

    Firstly, that the goal isn’t specifically defined enough in the first place; and secondly, it remains a remote dream waiting for action which is never taken.

    Defining your goal destination is something that you need to take some time to think carefully about. The following steps on how to plan your life goals should get you started on a journey to your destination:

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    1. Make a list of your goal destinations

    Goal destinations are the things that are important to you. Another word for them would be ambitions, but ambitions sound like something which outside of your grasp, whereas goal destinations are certainly achievable if you are willing to put in the effort working towards them.

    So what do you really want to do with your life? What are the main things that you would like to accomplish with your life? What is it that you would really regret not doing if you suddenly found you had a limited amount of time left on the earth?

    Each of these things is a goal. Define each goal destination in one sentence.

    If any of these goals is a stepping stone to another one of the goals, take it off this list as it isn’t a goal destination.

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    2. Think about the time frame to have the goal accomplished

    This is where the 5 year, 10 year, next year plan comes into it.

    Some goals will have a “shelf life” because of age, health, finance, etc, whereas others will be up to you as to when you would like to achieve them by.

    3. Write down your goals clearly

    Write each goal destination at the top of a new piece of paper.

    For each goal, write down what is it that you need and don’t have now that will allow you achieve that goal. This could be some kind of education, career change, finance, a new skill, etc. Any “stepping stone” goals you removed will fit into this exercise. If any of these smaller “goals” have sub-goals, go through the same process with these so that you have precise action points to work with.

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    4. Write down what you need to do for each goal

    Under each item listed, write down the things that you will need to do in order to complete each of the steps required to complete the goal. 

    These items will become a check-list. They are a tangible way of checking how you are progressing towards reaching your goal destinations. A record of your success!

    5. Write down your timeframe with specific and realistic dates

    Using the time frames you created, on each goal destination sheet write down the year in which you will complete the goal by.

    For any goal which has no fixed completion date, think about when you would like to have accomplished it by and use that as your destination date.

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    Work within the time frames for each goal destination, make a note of realistic dates by which you will complete each of the small steps.

    6. Schedule your to-dos

    Now take an overview of all your goal destinations and make a schedule of what you need to do this week, this month, this year – in order to progress along the road towards your goal destinations.

    Write these action points on a schedule so that you have definite dates on which to do things.

    7. Review your progress

    At the end of the year, review what you have done this year, mark things off the check-lists for each goal destination and write up the schedule with the action points you need for the next year.

    Although it may take you several years to, for example, get the promotion you desire because you first need to get the MBA which means getting a job with more money to allow you to finance a part-time degree course, you will ultimately be successful in achieving your goal destination because you have planned out not only what you want, but how to get it, and have been pro-active towards achieving it.

    Featured photo credit: Debby Hudson via unsplash.com

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