To Be Organised, Or Not To Be?

When I started in advertising, I was the most unorganised person in the agency. I still distinctly remember my first managers (thanks Rhoda and Les!) sitting me down and prioritising what I needed to do, looking at my workload and helping me sift through it. It was the same story at University and in Secondary School. I procrastinated until the cows came home. It showed in my output and results.

 My first day in advertising. Wish I still had that shirt.

My first day in advertising. Wish I still had that shirt.

The best thing I did, was implement a system. I watched how high-achievers at our agency created their to-do lists, I trialled different methods, and eventually, I found one that worked for me.

One of the things I had to come to grips with is that the to-do list will never end - in work or life, it’s a never-ending beast. Getting to zero is impossible, so I embraced that. It meant I was more focused and spent a ton less time in the office - as I knew what I needed to get done and when.

I really believe that what I’m writing about isn’t a time management system, but a space management system. Something that helps me feel more in control, less stressed and more focused. It’s less about productivity then it is mental health, keeping my mind clutter free.

The system I use is devised from a productivity consultant, David Allen, who is the author of a “space" management book called Getting Things Done. Which focusses on the art of stress-free productivity. At the core, it’s commonly referred to as the GTD Method. It’s something I’ve used for the past five years now and is a bible in Silicon Valley businesses.

The GTD Method has five steps:

1. Capture: everything that is on your mind. Things you need to do, ideas you have, reoccurring tasks, everything. Get it all down in a notebook. I tend to have one for my Personal life and one for my Work life.

2. Clarify: the things you need to do. Make them actionable. If there are things that can be done in five minutes, do them first, if you can delegate tasks, delegate them.

3. Organize: into category and priority. Sometimes I’ll take a highlighter and highlight the things that need to be done that day, then order them 1-5 based on priority. If there are just emails, I’ll put a little “e” next to them and batch them all together at once.

4. Engage: get to work. Use the Pomodoro Technique to help clear through your tasks. Be sure to remove distractions when trying to work on tough assignments.

5. Reflect: look over to see what is next, break things down further again. I like to do this at the start and end of the day, once to set my day and the next to see what I’ve accomplished.

A few extra tips I’ve picked up on the way are:

1. Plan the week ahead each Sunday or Monday. This is great for forward planning, knowing what is coming up. Sit with a coffee for 10 minutes in the morning.

2. Get it down on paper. People are tempted to use Apps, but I’d recommend paper. Not because we make (great) notebooks, but because science proves writing is more effective.

3. To-Do Lists are as much about getting things out of your head as they are about tracking tasks. Declutter your mind, it’ll help you sleep better and worry less.

What method do you use? Keen to hear about how other people manage their day to day tasks.

As always, feedback is welcome. You can send me an email directly. Any topics you'd like covered in the future? Let me know.

Have a lovely day,

Sam