GTD for Homemakers: What is Work, Anyway?

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31 Days to GTD for Homemakers & Homeschoolers This series, 31 Days to GTD for Homemakers, is all about putting into place effective routines and processes so that the routine administratiive details of life do not cause undo stress and we, as mothers in the heart of our homes, can peacefully and intentionally make good choices about what to do without feeling like we have a million details pulling us in a million directions at once.

Previous Post: Why GTD? Clarity and Peace in the Midst of Interruptions


One of the helpful aspects of Getting Things Done is that the author gives clear definitions to common words. No nebulous categories or terms here. He is all about putting clear, hard lines around each aspect he addresses.

  • Work is anything you have a commitment to make happen.

  • Work is anything you want or need to be different than it currently is.

  • A project is any desired result that requires more than one action step.

  • A project is any outcome you’re committed to achieving that will take more than one action step to complete.

  • A list is nothing more than a grouping of items with some similar characteristic.


Another term and paradigm clarification Allen offers is in regards to what it is that can actually be managed:

  • You can’t do projects, you do tasks.
  • You can’t manage time, information, or priorities; instead, you manage your actions.

One’s system, Allen asserts, must function on the level at which things actually happen and it must save more time and energy than is necessary to maintain it.

Types of Work

Allen breaks up any work we have available to do into 3 categories:

  • Doing predefined work (working off your task lists)
  • Doing work as it shows up (dealing with emergencies & “doing the next thing”)
  • Defining your work (brainstorming, planning, writing, organizing)

Any of these are valid types that all need to be done at one point or another. The trick is to not let one type expand to exclude any of the others. You are not dealing with life effectively if you try to suppress immediate needs because it’s not on your List of Things To Do. You are not managing effectively if, every day, emergencies preclude your accomplishing routine tasks on your list. And, you will not have predefined work to do if you don’t do some of that defining groundwork; yet, I know the temptation to block out real work needing to be done in favor of arranging words on paper instead.

Start your brain dump now with my free guide with prompts and instructions to get you decluttering your mind today!
Next: GTD for Homemakers: The Examined Life

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

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