Organise Me: Become a Productivity Ninja

By Andrea McArthur

Are you crazy busy and feel like you need more time? Oh my goodness that is how I feel at least half of every week. Upon complaining about my constant faux busyness to my flatmate he introduced me to a new system for becoming productive – GTD the acronym for Getting Things Done, a phrase that will revolutionise your productivity and your life (both work and personal). Written by David Allen, GTD has become a best-seller. After developing a simple model for getting results Allen now coaches, consults, speaks, and writes about the topic of stress-free productivity.

The basic idea behind GTD is to be "meaningfully engaged" and present in the moment with the one task at hand. That task or action could be a project, a client meeting or simply watching a movie.

In response to being asked how you gain focus and control over your thoughts, David says, "Keep anything potentially meaningful out of your head, sooner rather than later decide what it means and what you’re going to do about it, and park those results in some trusted place that some part of you knows you’ll look at the right time and the right place, and trust your intuitive judgments about what to do. That’s all it is.”

I urge you to make the time to watch David Allens recent TedX Talk on “The art of stress-free productivity is a martial art.”, it will get you thinking and clarifying your thoughts.

For us creative types, often our goal is to be more creative. It only takes a moment to have a creative thought but as David explains if you're already in a creative mess you have no freedom to use your creative energy. Apparently an average person has between 30 to 100 thoughts and un-actioned projects in mind at any one time. Now imagine how relaxed and how clear your thoughts would be if you weren't thinking about these projects? You would be elevated to the position of 'Captain and Commander'.


Image source: Getting Things Done by David Allen.

To get to be your own Captain and Commander, Allen steps you through the action model of GTD in his book. Here are a couple of key steps to get you interested:

Write everything down. Get your thoughts and To Do List out of your head and onto paper.

Understand the purpose. Decide the outcome that you are committed to finish and by doing so create a project.

Process it once. Set up the right categories for your lists.

  • A "Projects" list
  • Project support material
  • Calendared actions and information
  • "Next Actions" lists
  • A "Waiting For" list
  • Reference material
  • A "Someday/Maybe" list

Map your next action. Think of your To Do List as actual actions. In order to finalise the project what is the next actionable step?

Review. Trust the model and review your "maps" or categorised lists once a week.

For such a basic model GTD can feel very awkward at first. You are required to think differently and set up a system for gathering your thoughts. However, after starting the process myself I already feel lighter and I am looking forward to taking on next year with a system in place. For more on the author of GTD visit

 Andrea McArthur has a passion for all things visual and a soft spot for organisation. Type is her true love and goes weak at the knees over beautiful design. Andrea works as a freelance graphic designer in Brisbane by day and lectures in graphic design by night. You will find her sharing design related goodness via @andyjane_mc