María Alcaraz

What is GTD?

Increase your work productivity using the GTD method, the best method for freelance professionals.

GTD stands for Getting Things Done, a system aimed at helping you organize your work as a freelance professional and balance it with your daily life.

If you had never heard about that system before, this may sound weird to you. Nevertheless, it is more popular than you may think. For freelance professionals, especially those that are starting out, time may be more valuable than gold, you know what I mean.

You have no boss telling you when to come and go, no schedule that clearly states when you should stop working, and your work may take on time that should be devoted to your leisure: this time should be for you to relax.

Another relevant factor besides time management involves the way work is organized. Sometimes we realize we have too much work to do, and we try to do it all at once and end up not finishing any of the things we have been devoting time to.

Here’s where GTD comes into play, a system that will help you solve all this problems. I’d better say this is not just a system, but a working method that enables you to improve personal productivity. In this case we will be using it to thrive at work.

Getting Things Done

David Allen created this personal method, and he has been giving conferences on what it is and why it works. Using GTD as a personal method, the goal you should set for yourself will be the following: doing as many tasks as possible for a given period of time.

The tasks should always be prioritized: the most important come first, and the rest go listed in descending order. In order to achieve this goal, GTD will help you perform a change of habits in your daily life and in the way you work, which will enable you to improve your performance as a freelance professional and have more time available to relax.

GTD is divided into 5 main stages you will need to follow if you are to apply the method to your life in a comprehensive manner.

1. Getting everything together

Group all the documents and tools you need to do your work in a given zone. Besides, write down all the ideas that keep coming to your mind on how to do your job. This stage is about keeping everything together in the same place so that you don’t forget anything and you don’t need to waste your time moving to and fro in order to perform a single task.

In order to move all the information to the same place, I would advise you to use a small container, a box or a filing cabinet.

2. Processing

In this step you will need to think over and understand all the information you managed to get together in the first GTD stage. You may do the following in this step: first do the tasks that require a short time only, so that you may get rid of them at once. I would recommend you to divide the rest into two files: a personal one and a professional one, as GTD does not tell work apart from personal life.

3. Organizing

Scheduling time for tasks depending on their importance will be helpful. It’s also a good idea to set tasks apart depending on how much work is left to be done on them. That is, if you just started them and still need time to work on them or else if you may finish them immediately.

It would be a good idea to create 3 different folders: one for the tasks that may be finished at once, one for the tasks that may take some more time and one for the “to do” tasks, that is, those tasks you can’t start tackling before a third party initiates the process.

For instance, if you are waiting for an answer to a proposal you sent to a client or supplier.

4. Checking

This is probably the most tiresome stage in the whole process (that’s just my opinion), but you will need to perform it more than once a day if you want to keep up to date. In short, this involves checking that tasks have not changed their state.

For instance, if a supplier has already provided an answer regarding your proposal, you may upgrade the task from the “to do” folder to the folder from the “tasks to be tackled at once”, provided that the task may be accomplished in a short time.

5. Acting

Once all the previous organization and setting actions have been performed, you need to act on them and put them to work. Using idle periods to catch up on actions to be done is a great opportunity to make the most of your time (e.g. when you need to wait for a long time, you may do tasks that involve phone calling).

Does it really work?

Few technology gadgets are required to apply GTD. What’s more, if you prefer pen and paper, you will only need a pen. Nevertheless, depending on the type of professional activity you develop, writing by hand may be much more tiresome.

If you decide to choose more modern tools, such as a computer, you will have more management resources, and this will provide you with some advantages.

E-mail and folders are several of the most traditional resources when it comes to organizing tasks. However, technology has moved forward so fast in the last few years that you will also be able to find tools that make it even easier for you to manage your professional activities.

A good example of that would be the business management tools available in the cloud, which will be a wonderful complement to GTD.

Here you may see the difference between managing your tasks using pen and paper and doing so with a cloud-based business management software that enables you to set up several automatic alarms and reminders.

Apart from that, the main goal of the GTD is organizing tasks as much as possible, but without devoting to it more than the strictly required time. In some cases, pen and paper will be enough, whereas some others will require technology.

Be that as it may, you will be able to adapt GTD to your resources in order to put your daily life and your professional activities in order.

As always, I would like to encourage you to join the discussion and leave your opinion or questions in the “comments” section.

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