Getting Things Done
So you’ve done your brain dump and gathered everything that wasn’t where it belonged… now what? Now the goal is to Step 2) CLARIFY everything, to get to the bottom of the list. Now that doesn’t mean we have to do everything that we just wrote down; it means that we have to identify each item, decide what it is, what it means, and what we’re going to do with it.
The first step is to decide if your items are considered actionable. Ask yourself, is this something that requires you to take action? If the answer is no, then it has 3 possible piles to go in. This is step 3) ORGANIZATION– the easiest one is trash–something you no longer need, second a someday/maybe pile–something that you’d like to look at in the future (mine covers everything from learning new skills like knitting to financial goals to trips I want to take to things for my house and my family), and finally a reference pile–things you need (mine includes user manuals, warranties, legal documents, reference materials for projects I’m working on, etc). When I went through this step I put anything that required an action in 1 pile while organizing those that did not because I found that since no further action was required after deciding which category they fall in it was the best use of my time. My trash pile got thrown away, my reference pile was put into a gallon ziplock while I found the best folder system to hold it, and my someday/maybe pile was transferred onto a list separated into different categories (trips, financial, family, house, etc.). This is the easiest way for my brain to process that kind of information, rather than looking at a long list.
When deciding if an item is a project the key is to have a time frame in mind. For me any action item that has 2+ steps and I want to complete in a 2-3 month time frame is a project; any items that will take longer than that get moved to my Someday/Maybe list. This allows me to have a streamlined list of projects to focus on, rather than get bogged down in a never ending list.
One of the most important Must Do’s of clarifying is that nothing goes back to the inbox. The goal is to empty the inbox completely and have everything set into a category that you are going to deal with. If you keep putting things back in the inbox your brain won’t trust the system you’re trying to work with and it won’t free up the space you are trying to.