Most people consider Getting Things Done® (GTD®) a personal development experience. The name itself portends a boost in personal productivity. And yet Getting Things Done is not simply about getting more things done—although it does deliver on that promise. It’s about getting more of the right things done by changing the way you interact with your priorities, should-dos, need-to-dos, and even want- or hope-to-dos.
It’s this promise that hooks people in the beginning, but the benefits aren’t solely confined to individual performance enhancement. When GTD is adopted and fully implemented, its benefits extend to those around the individual practitioner. It changes the way the person engages with their own “to-dos,” and, because of that, it changes the way others engage with that person. Over time, it brings about an inside-out transformation. Here’s how.
GTD principles and practices are based on what we do when in the “productive state.” It helps you look inside to understand exactly what to-dos you are trying to manage in your head. It helps you get clarity about what those things mean to you and the effort required to complete them. It helps you organize these things so you can remember them when you need to, and not before. And it helps you ensure you spend time and effort on your highest priorities given your circumstances.
These practices result in more focused attention on your pressing to-dos, better management of time (more time actually doing than worrying about what needs to be done), a feeling of balance between work and life, and time to spend on higher priorities that normally would get pushed aside in favor of urgent tasks. This all naturally follows from looking inside oneself and making appropriate adjustments.
One of the unintended benefits, however, is that when you become clear on what you will and won’t work on, what your priorities are, and how you’ll spend your time, that information gets communicated out to others. They begin to get the message that when you commit to something, you intend to give it the attention it deserves. This communication starts from the moment you Capture things effectively, in which you communicate “I care about doing a good job on this.” It continues when others see you take time to determine Next Actions, which communicates “I intend to follow through with this.” And as you might imagine, when people consistently get these messages, they start to see and interact with you differently.
While you’ll experience many of these inside-out benefits as a natural result of adopting and practicing GTD, there are some things you can do to accelerate their realization.
First, think big, but start small. To fully implement all of GTD into your daily and weekly routines requires time. So, while adopting GTD is your goal, the best place to start is with one skill. Work it into your daily routine until you have a two-week span where you consistently use your new skills. Then add another skill to what you’re already doing. Soon, you’ll be experiencing the inside-out benefits of GTD.
Telegraph your moves. I worked with a manager not long ago who was very skilled at this. She would tell people what she was about to do and then do it. And it was mostly around behavioral expectations. She would say things like, “I’ll review all the ideas we captured tomorrow and drop you an email about what items I can fit into the current workload and which ones will require outside support.” In doing this she established trust and a sense of mutual purpose. People didn’t have to guess at what to expect, or when to expect it.
Activate team support. Take time to talk with your teammates, and perhaps others in the organization, about your GTD system. Ask for their support as you transition to a more efficient and effective way of interacting. For example, one of my colleagues uses email as his primary capture tool. One time, during a meeting, he asked those present to send him all requests via email. He said it was ok to chat about a task in the hallway or breakroom, but that a follow-up email would ensure it got the appropriate attention from him.
When you consistently send these messages, you provide others with information about how to interact with you as well as what to expect in your work. It’s a two-fer—it benefits you and the people around you.
That’s the inside-out benefit that’s waiting for you and your team.