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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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    Published on January 27, 2020

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