GTD for Homemakers: An Effective Next-Actions List

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31 Days to GTD for Homemakers & Homeschoolers

31 Days to GTD for Homemakers will spend the month of October focusing on reducing stress and creating effective solutions to better manage realities of life at home. Mothers are the shapers of home atmosphere and home culture; keeping the mundane details under control allows us to direct our attention to what matters.

Previous Post: The Types of Lists to Keep

Managing Tasks on the Fly

Many productivity or time management strategies involve deciding what your priorities are and ranking your tasks according to your priority. However, in Getting Things Done David Allen challenges that advice:

You shouldn’t bother to create some external structuring of the priorities on your lists that you’ll then have to rearrange or rewrite as things change. Attempting to impose such scaffolding has been a big source of frustration in many people’s organizing. You’ll be prioritizing more intuitively as you see the whole list, against quite a number of shifting variables.

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I think this advice works well with a mother’s lifestyle. After all, when thinking about the big picture, we’d hardly ever put “Wash the dishes” as a high-priority task. Yet it does need to be done. Allen’s method lets you rank your priorities on the fly and do what is best in the moment you are in. The goal is for you to be in control of your self. The lists keep the mundane tamed so you can look it all over with a calm and calculated eye and “do the next thing” that needs to be done.

A well-kept next-actions list prevents situations like beginning to wash the dishes, getting everything all set and wet and sudsy, then realizing out of the blue, “I have overdue library books!” “I needed to pay the bills today!” “I said I’d call ____ about ____!” and feeling like you have to do that more urgent or higher-priority thing right now before you forget again.

When you can calmly review all things you are responsible for doing, you can make a judgment call and feel confident in your choice.

Of course and unfortunately, simply having the lists doesn’t actually make you in control of yourself.

After you have those lists, you still actually have to do those things, and you still might not even want to. No system is a key to self-control and discipline. I know. I’ve tried. And so far all my systems have crashed and burned under my lack of self mastery. If the system controls you, you are its slave and you and everyone around you will suffer for it.

In refusing the be my systems’ slaves, I have also refused to be my own master. So my desires and my laziness become master instead.

How do you usually think about your different types of task? By context? By energy requirements? By some other categorization all your own? Use it! The set of subcategories that work best will be the ones you already function in. The additional functionality that comes by writing that way of thinking down will be more than if you try to adopt someone else’s categorization. So, what sorts of things do you do? What groupings make sense to you? Create those lists — just headings on paper (or on screen) for now.

No matter what your style, however, be sure that everything on your mind is written down instead.

declutteryourheademail

Mystie’s book, Declutter Your Head will walk you through the process of clearing your head and organizing your home so you can take calm, intentional action. Also available on kindle.

GTD® and Getting Things Done® are registered trademarks of the David Allen Company.

Next: GTD for Homemakers: Maintaining Project Lists

13 Responses

  1. Clare
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    I hate making phone calls too!

    I’m really enjoying this series, thank you. I told DH about it and he just laughed. I don’t think he’s ever made a list in his life. I asked him what he did and he said “I have a rough idea of what I need to do and I just get on with it.” Now that’s a short self help book ;-)

  2. Keli Holly
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    Hi! Enjoying the series! Can you tell me what app that is above?

    Thanks!

    • Mystie Winckler
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      That’s Remember the Milk’s app: rememberthemilk.com

      It is a free service with free apps, but paid premium members have a few more features. I’ve been using the free version for years now!

      • Keli Holly
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        Thank you!

  3. Krysti Schey
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    I have an app I really like for my lists. It’s called Paperless. I tried out quite a few before settling on this one. It was $1.99 and worth every penny I think :) I use it somewhat as a log of various things as well. I have about 40 “home/life” lists and also a list for each of my students (I teach piano). It helps me to keep organized, to remember certain things for the future, etc. I still keep a written list though as well, for more immediate and urgent tasks that come up during my week.

    • Mystie Winckler
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      Thanks for sharing, Krysti! I’ll have to look into that one; I hadn’t heard of it. :)

  4. Rhonda
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    I was searching for the best task management/ productivity that helps me incorporate GTD principles (those work well for me). I’m homemaker, freelancer, and mom of three young children, and I’m excited to find this. Looking forward to going back through this series, and now very interested in Remember the Milk. Thank you!

    – Rhonda Franz
    Managing Editor, parentingsquad.com

    • Mystie Winckler
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      Welcome, Rhonda! I hope you find the series helpful!

  5. Robin
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    Hi Mystie – I found your blog a couple of days ago when searching for GTD related things… I read the entire series and thoroughly enjoyed. Thank you!!

    I have a question… thought maybe you could help get me “unstuck”. I’m currently trying to process 6 pages collected from the mind dump I did over the weekend. I’m developing my Next Action Lists, etc. (Your blog has helped move me along in that process, btw!!) I’m probably over analyzing this but one thing on my list is to clean out my bedside nightstand. What list does this go on? It’s not really a project…but it would definitely take me longer than 2 minutes to do(otherwise it would have already been done).

    Any suggestions?

    Thanks so much for your work – I love your blogs!
    Robin in Oklahoma

    • Mystie Winckler
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      Ah, yes, my lists fill up with tasks like that! One-time housekeeping/decluttering jobs. I’d put it on a project list for “organizing” or “housecleaning” or just by itself on your next actions to-do list.

      As far as actually doing it goes, you could also break it into mini 2-minute sessions. Commit to doing something to make it better every time you go into your room or at least once or twice a day. By the end of the week it will look loads better without ever having required any dedicated time.

      • Robin
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        wonderful suggestions! thanks so much for your response :)

  6. Helen
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    Hi! Like Robin, I have just read your whole series, having come across a reference to it on some other blog. I’m already a big fan of GTD and have been using it for a number of years, but it was still incredibly useful to read your overview, especially with its home-making slant.
    Thanks for all your hard work. I wish you all the best with implementing GTD and making it work well for you and your family.