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Consider Trying a Stripped-Down Version of Getting Things Done


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Getting Things Done—GTD to most of its fans—is a productivity method designed to keep you both focused and relaxed by teaching you how to better work through your to-do lists and tasks. It is an excellent choice for lawyers who would like to spend more time working on things and less time thinking about working on things. It takes a little getting used to, but the beauty of the system is that you can adopt only some of its tenets rather than going all in—though there’s certainly nothing wrong with going all in.

At its most stripped-down, GTD has some simple components that you can easily integrate into your daily life. First, you need an inbox—both a virtual email one and a real-world physical one. That’s where you gather your information and your to-dos throughout the day. Resist the temptation to process your inbox in fits and starts. Instead, treat it as storage until you have time to process it to zero. When you have time to process your inbox in full, you can put things in three “buckets”: (1) Do Now; (2) Waiting (what you’ve delegated); (3) Later (what you’ve deferred). Anything in your inbox that can be processed in two minutes—literally two minutes—you should do right away. Knock out those emails that only require a two-line response, for example.

Next, the key to moving through your remaining tasks efficiently is to treat each action as a discrete task that makes up part of a project. Rather than putting “Prep for Johnson client meeting” as your next action, break it down into all the steps you will take to complete that action, which could be things like “re-read Johnson deposition” or “get conference room scheduled.”

One of the best things about a stripped-down GTD system like this is that it requires no fancy software or expensive notebooks. You can track everything in your email inbox, on notecards, or however you find it convenient to capture and store information. You don’t even need to think of it as a productivity system if you don’t want to. All you need to do is commit to capturing and processing, and you might see increased organization and productivity.