GTD for Homemakers: Collect Your Thoughts

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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 administrative 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: Avoiding “I Ought”: Intentional Decisions Banish Vague Guilt

Write Down Everything

Time to begin the list making!

After all, most business productivity books full of justifications for being a compulsive list-maker. So, let’s get crackin’!

Start a list of everything that is on your mind, everything that is not as it should be.

Yes, everything.

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“This includes,” David Allen writes in Getting Things Done, “those things on which you’ve done everything you’re going to do except acknowledge that you’re finished with them.” The term we shall use for these incomplete items are “open loops.”

Make this list as complete as possible. Getting Things Done includes 4 pages of idea-triggers to help you get everything on your mind onto paper. If it pops into your head, write it down, no matter its importance. You’ll process it later. First, you simply collect.

Walk around your house, open every cupboard and drawer. Anytime “I should” or “I want to” or “I wonder” pops into your head, write it down. When you process, you can decide if you really should do anything or not. Right now you are simply gathering.

If you don’t get everything out of your head and onto paper (or a physical thing into a physical inbox), then “it’s like trying to play pinball on a machine that has big holes in the table, so the balls keep falling out: there’s little motivation to keep playing the game.” Your system is unreliable if there are still things you are managing outside the system; it isn’t whole and you won’t get as much payoff out of it, so the motivation to keep on top of it will decline.

Allen suggests using a piece of paper or index card for each separate item so that later processing of all these items will be simpler. I used a notebook and had at least 20 items on each page and 4-5 pages of notes when I spent a mere hour doing this. I added more gradually over the course of a couple weeks. So I would recommend dedicating one of those 15-cent spiral-bound notebooks you probably bought too many of in August and keep it at hand for the next couple weeks, spending 15-60 minute chunks brainstorming lists and open loops whenever you can carve out a chunk of time.

After all, dedicating an entire hour, much less an entire day, to open-loop collecting is fairly unrealistic for the mother of small children!

Check out this video I made with tips for doing a complete brain dump!

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.

7 Responses

  1. Krysti Schey
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    Can you give a few examples of things on your list? Are you sorting them into categories or just dumping thoughts right now? I am enjoying this series a bunch!! Thank you!!

    • Mystie Winckler
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      At this point the goal is just to get it onto paper, just brain-dumping. The next step is categorizing and sorting and purging.

      Some of the things on my list include everything from “replace kitchen light bulb” to “create master household supplies list” to “invite x over for coffee” to “file school papers” to “have kids clean under their beds.” :) Any and every random “I should do…” that comes to your head as you walk around your house, even if it’s something you’re not likely to actually take action on anytime soon. There’ll be a place even for those ideas later on.

      Right now, if it pops into your head, put it to paper. :)

      Thanks for reading!

  2. Krysti Schey
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    Great!!! That is very helpful thank you.

  3. Christian
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    How did you know I bought too many of those notebooks last month? :)

  4. Elaine
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    Wow you must have it more together than I do… those tiny little note books are for children… this isn’t child’s play and this is going to take a very long time. I’m suddenly happy that the Lord down sized us a couple years ago. A three bed-room 14 x 66 mobile home is much easier to do this with than a four bedroom two story house with an attic, basement, and a garage. This may take a few days… weeks, and about twice that much prayer… here we go

    • Mystie Winckler
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      Ha, Elaine. :) I wrote this series after going through the process two times, in addition to moving twice, and it took me nearly a year. :) The 31 day summary is only how many days I wrote about it, not at all how long it will take to do. I think a year is a good time frame for the whole project. :)

      Yes, a smaller house with less stuff can simplify life quite a bit!

      • Elaine
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        Simplifying with 7 people at home makes it interesting too…. Thank you so much Mystie, I was starting to think this was going to be a year long project. :)