David Allen is one of my favorite time management authors. His book Getting Things Done (GTD) is about developing a personal productivity system.
Your unique productivity system will enable you to do what you need to get done, not just what someone else thinks you should do. GTD is not about how much you can do, it’s about what you can stop doing. It’s like Newton’s first law of motion: an object at rest tends to remain at rest unless acted upon by an outside force. The same rule applies when we are not acting on our goals or dreams; they tend to remain dormant until they are acted upon by some outside force, such as our deliberate actions or our subconscious minds bringing ideas to our conscious minds.
Do it now! The 2-Minute Rule
If a task takes less than 2 minutes to complete, do it now. If it takes longer than 2 minutes, put it in your unique production system and work it within that system.
If you don’t have a unique production system, or if you don’t want to use the one outlined in the book, that’s fine, too! It’s just important that you DO something with the tasks so they don’t get lost in your brain.
Leaving those tasks unattended is a form of self-betrayal.
Your unique system...
Your unique system should be:
Unique to you. Your system must be tailored to the way you work and the kind of work you do. The more specific it is, the better. For example, if you’re a writer and love working from home but also like to go out once in a while, then maybe your system would be as follows:
When at home or in a public space, I use my laptop or desktop computer with headphones, listening to classical music.
GTD is not about personal productivity. It’s about personal integrity.
The goal of personal productivity isn’t to increase your output. The goal is to increase your effectiveness. The way we improve effectiveness is by practicing self-discipline and self-management (the two key components of GTD).
For example, if you are reading your email and a quick response is needed, write it immediately.
Or if you have an idea for a blog post and need to get it down before you forget it, do so right away.
Or if you think about sending a text to a friend whose spouse is going into surgery that day, do it right away.
If you are like me, something in your mind tells you that you should do it right away or else face guilt and condemnation later. Who wants to feel that?
We all know what it’s like to be in a situation where we feel a strong impulse to do something immediately. Too many times we get distracted by another task, or interrupted by someone, and we forget to take action on our idea.
Many of my best ideas come in the shower. I’ve heard others feel this, too. Why? There is no one to distract me. My creative mind gets unlocked. This occasionally happens during morning meditations connected to physical fitness.
Develop your personal task list.
When the family or ministry ideas come, I note them on my task list on Asana (asana.com). If the task can be done in less than 2 minutes, I do it. If the task requires more than 2 minutes and requires multiple steps to complete, I put it on my task list for a later time.
Nothing is too big or too small for my task list. My task list includes “honey do” items, and highly strategic ministry tasks. I love seeing all of my tasks in one location.
Overall, the more I get out of my head and into my unique system, the better!
How many of your kingdom-expanding ideas were lost because you failed to act upon them, or at least put the idea somewhere to be acted upon later?
The Holy Spirit speaks to your conscious mind connected to God’s Word.
The Holy Spirit is God’s voice to you. The Holy Spirit is the one who speaks to your conscious mind. How do you know it is the Holy Spirit speaking to you? Whenever the thing you are being asked to do spreads God’s love to your family, colleagues or neighbors in word or deed.
So, when I hear an “impulse to act” in my head, I know it’s from God because it tells me things like:
You should write the email, send the text, or make a call right away. Why? The act will bring glory to God!
Write a note to your children, calendar a date with your daughter, or calendar a time to write the next chapter in my book. Why? The act spreads God’s love to others.
In short, the 2-minute rule is a great way to keep yourself focused on what’s important. The idea is simple: if you can complete any task within 2 minutes, do it immediately. This will keep you from becoming overwhelmed. You will clear away the mental clutter that accumulates when there are too many things going on around you at once. If it takes longer than 2 minutes for something to be completed, put it into your unique system to be completed later! Watch your effectiveness in ministry skyrocket for the glory of God!