Getting Things Done Step #5- Do

This is the most rewarding, fun, awesome, exciting, scary, procrastinated, life changing step of the GTD process. How can it be so many things all wrapped up into one? This is where all your pre-work comes into action. You actually have to DO what you captured, organized, and clarified. It should be very easy since everything is clear now, but, and this is a big but, you will actively resist doing your lists. Why is this? Let’s look at some reasons.

You are Scared of Success- Wait what?! You might be thinking that makes no sense, but we would venture to say that success is scary because you start asking yourself what if questions and think of what if scenarios. What if this works like I intended? What if this creates more work? What if I have to do something now I don’t want to do? What if I have do something I have never done before? What if completing this one next action leads to many more next actions? Sorry for all of the examples, but when you start to really look at the reasons you don’t take action, it might be because you are afraid of what might happen next. Let’s say you have a big project or opportunity that you know if you complete will bring you recognition and help your company out. You are familiar with the project and what is required of it, but maybe there are a few things that you are not experienced in. Will you let those few things hold you back? You know if you do this project great things will come out of it, but even though you have next actions and a deadline defined, you still resist doing the work.

Photo by Tertia van Rensburg on Unsplash

Resistance- This goes hand in hand with the above point, but there is something that is always trying to pull you away from what is the most important thing to be doing. One of the most rewarding parts of the GTD system is that you are basically trying to fight off resistance as much as you can. When you eliminate distractions and start utilizing your pockets of time and contexts better, things should be easier for you to get started on. Resistance tells you if it is not perfect there is no way you can ship something or move a project forward. What your mindset should be is, here is what I need/want to do, am I making forward progress? Any progress forward is positive.

What Does Doing Look Like in GTD? This probably has a different meaning for different individuals, but we would say reviewing your next action lists, contexts, and folders (work & personal for example) is the best start. You created this whole system, why not put it to good use? A lot of times if you are stressed or keep putting off a project/task, it probably means your next action is not properly defined. For instance “Plan Trip” is not a good next action. What does it mean? What do you actually need to do? Here are some sample next actions to help you get started doing.

  • Look at schedule for available dates 
  • Contact family to see if those dates work with them
  • Build draft budget for trip to manage expenses
  • Research online for airfare rates
  • Research online for hotel rates

These are just some ideas to get your mind going. If it isn’t clear, you will resistance and no to want to do your task.

Doing Will Change Your Life- Too often we stay stagnant and are afraid of change. When you have everything set in a GTD system you can be sure of two things. 1, you will probably be doing things you have never done before because all of the easy tasks will get done and 2, you will always know that there is something for you to do. This can be scary and stressful because the easy wins/projects you had before may be gone in a few months or year of using GTD which means you will now be working on things that are not urgent and don’t feel as important as before, but are probably even more important. Having the feeling of always knowing there is something to be done in an organized way, not a fire to put out, is a different kind of feeling. The way most people operate is they wait until something external forces them to take action and then they get “focused” and complete the task. This is great for short term gain and excitement, but terrible for long term success. This approach to working mostly focuses on shallow tasks. It doesn’t maximize your time and resources. When you have done the first 4 steps of GTD and you make it here, after awhile, you have the time and knowledge you need to work on bigger tasks that might be off in your future, but you know are thinking of them. Where do I want to be in 5 years? How I am spending my time? Can I start saving for retirement? We could give countless examples.

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

Once you really “get” GTD and your system is up and running, after awhile those fire drill tasks go away. After awhile you start to think long term vs short term. After awhile you may look at your list with low energy, but still move a project forward because there is something easy for you to do. That is the true power of GTD. It is forcing you to think big and plan ahead. To not let anything fall through the cracks. To be on top of everything going on in your life. You will make mistakes. You will fall off of the wagon, but it is a journey of continuous learning and improvement. It makes change easier because you can plan and prepare for it. GTD has changed our lives over here because we learned what is important. We received piece of mind from taking our mind out of remembering tasks so it could focus and process bigger ideas/concepts. We hope it will do the same for you!

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One comment

  1. Thanks John. The GTD process has helped me a lot. I am a great idea generator, but GTD has helped me focus and get things done.

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