+ Projects dashboard template
Getting Things Done (or GTD for short) is a organization system that is far from new. Over 18 years after David Allen’s first book, many people have implement this method and use it around the world.
I discovered the GTD method on Kara’s blog (Boho Berry) through her GTD + bullet journal post. After a few months thinking about it, I finally bought a copy of the book and decided to implement the Getting Things Done principles in my bullet journal, changing some things in my organization system along the way.
A few words about Getting Things Done
The GTD method allows to manage actions efficiently to reach your goals. So it’s not really about time management. The focus is much more on project and tasks management, and how to define priorities in the flow of things that are requesting your attention.
It’s a personal organization method that can be used for any activities or projects in both personal and work areas. The Getting Things Done method relies on a task management process that is meant to help you set and maintain a simple and effective organization system.
If you don’t know the Getting Things Done method yet and haven’t been reading, I highly recommend you do so! This book has been a game changer in the way I get organized.
The Getting Things Done method has a lot in common with the Bullet Journal system: it’s a simple and down-to-earth method that helps to better prioritize and manage projects. Getting Things Done and Bullet Journal were meant to work side by side!
Getting Things Done + Bullet Journal
The GTD method suggest to go through a 5 steps process to set and maintain an effective organization system. These steps allow you to capture and clarify all the items that have your attention. An item can be a project, message, tasks lists, ideas… No matter how big or small, personal or professional.
To process all these items and set a structured organization system, the Getting Things Done method suggest to go through 5 steps:
- Capture: collect what’s have your attention
- Clarify: process what it means
- Organize: put it where it belongs
- Reflect: review your system frequently
- Engage: define the next action to take and simply do it
Reminder of the GTD process in my bullet journal.
To implement the GTD method in my bullet journal and adapt it to the way I organize my projects and tasks, I tweaked it a bit. So my very own process features 4 steps instead of 5:
- Organize and engage
You probably noticed that I changed the workflow too. It feels more logical for me that way, and it really reflects how I implemented the GTD method in my bullet journal. Now that you have an overview of the GTD process and my version of it, let’s dig deeper and detail the 4 steps one by one.
The goal of the “Capture” step in the GTD method is to collect all the items that have your attention: mails, texts, projects, commitments, ideas, small tasks… At the end of the capture step, you’re supposed to have all these items in one place so that you can process and organize them in a structured organization system.
This stage of the GTD process is not about creating categories or prioritizing everything. All the items are mixed up, no matter how important they are.
To capture all the items as they appear, I use 2 tools:
A mini notepad :
My mini notepad is my bullet journal sidekick. I use it exclusively when I’m on the go and don’t have my bullet journal on hands: it fits all my bags and I feel free to scribble in it in any situation. I’d like to say that it’s organized and features categories or dividers but it’s actually a big mess. I just write in it as needed. And that’s totally fine because it’s exactly what the “capturing” tool is supposed to look like according to the GTD method.
Bullet journal spreads
The second tool I use for capturing all the items that are asking for my attention is, of course, my bullet journal. I honestly consider that all my bullet journal spreads are part of this capturing process: my journal is the place where all my thoughts, projects and tasks end up. But there’s a kind of spread that is especially useful when it comes to collect all the “stuff”: I’m talking about the “braindump” pages. It’s simply a spread I use to create a non structured or organized list of all the things I need to handle or finish.
I use braindump spreads in my bullet journal to collect all the items that have my attention.
Once all the items that you need to handle are gathered in one place, it’s time to process them and decide what each of them means. In the Getting Things Done method, David Allen call this “clarify”.
Each item is processed and you get to decide if it actionable or not, and what to do with it depending on that : create a new entry in your bullet journal (task), start a new project, create a reference page or cut the item from your list.
The workflow suggested by David Allen in his book may seem a bit tedious when you go through it for the first time, because you’ll have a lot of items to process. But once your system is in its running phase, it doesn’t take more than several minutes per day to process new items.
The clarifying process in the GTD method by David Allen
For all the items I find actionable, I decide wether I need to create a new project or if I just have to decide on a next action. This is the goal of the next step: structure and engage.
Structure and engage
In the GTD method, David Allen is describing the ideal structure for a GTD organization system. The structure is pretty simple and doesn’t involve a lot of different tools which is perfect for me. I still have personalized it a bit to make it work with my existing organization system, including my bullet journal.
I use my bullet journal to craft my daily tasks list and engage.
In the GTD method, the information is structured depending on its nature.
Each item, if it doesn’t end in trash is supposed to enter the organization system.
Once I’m sure the item is actionable, the next step I need to take is to figure if I should turn it into a task or a project.
In the GTD method, the difference between a task and a project is key. A task is basically a stand-alone action: you just need to take this action to see results and reach your goal. An example of a task could be “buy bread”. On the other side, a project involves several actions to reach the final goal. For instance “new blog post” is considered a project in the GTD method: I’ll need to handle several tasks (such as writing the post, translating it, taking pics…) before I see the final result.
My organization system is composed of 2 tools : a project management table, and my bullet journal.
The project management table is basically where I structure everything and my bullet journal helps me engage.
All the items that require my attention are therefore spread between these 2 tools.
Project management table
As its name suggests it, my project management table helps me structure my running projects. It also holds all the “maybe one day” projects. I simply have 2 different tabs for the 2 categories. It also happens that some tasks end up in my project management table: it’s the case for tasks that aren’t time sensitive or if my schedule is already pretty busy. In that last case, I use my project management table to schedule the task.
My project management table is a Google spreadsheet. But an analog table can do the job as well. If you want to try having a project management table with pen and paper, I suggest you keep it on a monthly basis. I’ve been using my bullet journal for project management for a long time before I decided to go digital for more flexibility.
Most of the “next action” go directly in my bullet journal. I usually log them in my weekly or daily to-do lists. If my to-do list is already long enough, I tend to put the task in my project management table, unless it’s super urgent and needs to be done ASAP. My bullet journal is also the place where I store all the “reference” items: contacts, addresses, blog stuff like image sizes…
In order to maintain the efficiency of my organization system, I need to keep it up to date. That’s the aim of the forth and last step of my GTD process : reflect.
The reflect phase consists in regularly reviewing all the items stored in the GTD organization system, in order to update it. I do that reflection work at least once a week for the tasks and once a month for all the projects and maybe-one-day items. I usually review my system as I create my weekly and monthly logs in my bullet journal.
My monthly review focuses on managing my projects. The goal of this monthly reflection is to define new goals, and to update my projects list. For this monthly review, I rely on my projects management table, and then migrate key information to my bullet journal. Here’s my monthly review checklist to give you a better idea of what I do during this monthly check-in.
- maybe one day review, migration to “current” tab as needed
- monthly goals setting and creating new projects as requested
- finished projects closing
- open tasks review and migration
- Monthly log set-up in my bullet journal (calendar + projects list)
Weekly review with my bullet journal and computer to access my projects dashboard.
My weekly review helps me stay on track and keep me accountable for the “next actions” I decide in my project management table. I usually spend 20 minutes each week (sunday or monday morning) to define the “next action” for each running project, and migrate all the items that have remained open in my bullet journal. During this weekly review, I:
- review the “current” tab of my projects management table
- define the “next actions” for each one of them
- create my weekly log in my bullet journal
- migrate all the relevant items (tasks and projects) in my bullet journal
- migrate all the tasks that have remained open in my previous weekly log in my bullet journal
My GTD + Bullet journal system is pretty simple and works wonders so far. I feel in total control of my projects and the items I forgot are decreasing with time. The GTD method and the bullet journal system are a perfect match. They work great together. If you want to dig deeper into how you could implement the GTD method in your own bullet journal, you should definitely star by reading David Allen’s book. And don’t forget to visit the blog in the following weeks, I’ll soon release a second post on this topic!
Project management dashboard template
I received tons of e-mails asking me to share it just after my mid-year organization system post. So here it is!
I just added the template to create a projects management dashboard to the Freebies Library.
To create your own projects dashboard, head over the Library, and click the link to open the template. Copy the table and paste it in your Google or Excel spreadsheet. You can also simply create a copy of it if your a Google Drive user. In any case, make sure not to make any change on the shared template !
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