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GTD for homemakers

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  • GTD for homemakers

    I don't have a PalmPilot, Microsoft Outlook, or any other do-dad. Yet the system still works for me in my "office".

    In GTD, David said that even stay-at-home workers and homemakers could use his method, so I put it to the test. In reading the book, I equated office tasks to home tasks.

    I notice that I have some of the same problems as others have mentioned, such as figuring out how to sub-group projects and fighting the temptation to list more than one next action for a project at a time.

    One aspect of homemaking that isn't found in the corporate realm is handling the variability that comes with living in your office. Someone in a cubicle or even a private office has only a few ways for something to land in your inbox: telephone, mail, meeting, etc. At home, these avenues are present also, but add to that what you may see when you happen to glance into a room as you walk by. I've found that I have to keep my "inbox" (a small notebook) near me all the time to jot down tasks that suddenly come up and ideas.

    Another difference is that the office worker works all day and then stops, closes the books, and goes home. How does one handle always being at work? The inbox is always open.

    My biggest pothole is figuring out how to take care of daily tasks with unpredicable time requirements. Doing dishes takes more than two minutes and is more than one step, but good grief, I'm not going to put it on my Projects list. Has anyone had a similar experience in the corporate realm of daily tasks with unpredictable time requirements? How was it conquered?

  • #2
    Re: GTD for homemakers

    I am a homemaker but I also work 20 hours a week out of the house. It took me two hours to implement the methodology at work (I am a software engineer). I have about half a page of projects. At home, it took me a week to corral all my inputs. I have hundreds of projects and it is very complicated. I have two kids and a husband in medical school, and I also make quilts and knit (89 open loops here). I am still working to get the system functioning well at home. Though I have had great success so far, transforming the paper situation from utter dysfunctionality to useful productivity and closing many dozens of open loops, some of which were years old. I use lined looseleaf paper in one notebook to write down projects and next actions, pending, someday/maybe and other lists such as what to pack when I go to summer camp.

    What I did regarding the household tasks like washing dishes, watering plants, etc. was to create a tickler file and several index cards, each representing a daily or weekly task. I made the tickler file according to GTD and realized that I was going to have trouble looking at it, because when all was said and done there were only a few items in it for the entire year.

    So borrowing from Pam & Peggy the slob sisters (who recommend a tickler file for homemakers), I made index cards (large size) for washing dishes, starting the laundry, putting the laundry in the dryer, going to the post office, watering the plants, cleaning the refrigerator, and many other periodic cleaning tasks. At the end of each day I pull up the folder for the next day, take the index cards out, and as I do the job I put it in the tickler file on the next day I will have to do the job. If it's something like watering the plants or cleaning the refrigerator I write down the date of completion. That way, when the card comes up on a busy day, I can decide whether to defer it some more.

    The index cards sit in a little stack next to my postage scale, and I flip through them once or twice a day to make sure I'm on track with the daily necessities.

    This also helps me use the tickler file properly. This month produced one slip of paper, "donate old winter coats." If not for the daily use of the system because of the index cards, it would simply gather dust.

    My actions items related to projects, and individual one-step action items, are grouped by phone calls, non-paperwork home tasks, out-of-the-house errands, paperwork, and computer tasks. I have these items on paper lists. So the cards are virtual additions to the lists that I can reuse rather than write down a necessary action such as doing the dishes and cross it off the list morning and night.



    • #3

      Thanks for the great advice. The light is coming on. That was my problem. I thought I could do without the tickler file.

      How did you mesh the tickler file and the index cards? You said that using the tickler file straight from the book wasn't ideal because you only had a few items for the whole year. Instead, you have a stack of cards that you look at a couple times a day. So did you do away with the file folders altogether? How do you organize the index cards?




      • #4
        I have 31 folders (yellow) for the days of the month. I have twelve (green) for the months of the year. I have an additional 13 for the weeks of each quarter, because I subdivide my house into 13 sections so that I can focus on cleaning/organizing a different part of the house in depth each week. I use these 13 folders to hold cards for weekly tasks as well, though one "next week" folder could work just as well. They are in a narrow open file box, and behind them I have my folders for paperwork, pending, computer, errands, and someday/maybe, each of which go together with a list of next actions by context. Though usually the errands folder rides around with me in the car. I don't use the monthly folders for the index cards, probably because there's no job I do each month. Some of the weekly tasks end up being done once a month, but I give myself the option of reviewing the need for doing it weekly (for example "wash car"). I use the monthly folders for the original purpose of holding material that will be needed at a later date, or reminders like "donate old winter coats."

        Just as a side note, before I read "Getting Things Done" I had one inbox and several two-foot high stacks of paper. The inbox was crammed so full of stuff that I had to put it in sideways, and I even managed to get it to hold things on two levels. Stuff just sat in there and every so often I'd try to reorganize it, but it stayed in the inbox anyway.

        Back to the subject of daily tasks, I was thinking that a permanent list would be just as good, one for morning and one for evening, with the list of tasks that have to be done daily.

        However, I'm still using these cards. I have about eight yellow cards for morning jobs (empty dishwasher, get kid #1 ready, get kid #2 ready, clean up the kitchen and playroom, make the lunches, start laundry, put laundry in dryer, etc.) Then I have several pink cards for possible out-of-the house errands that I do on a weekly basis, some more often, some less (post office, dump, grocery shop). Then there are purple cards for house jobs (water plants, clean refrigerator, practice flute...I had to put that somewhere). I have green cards for GTD jobs (empty inbox, do paperwork, do computer tasks, weekly review). Then there are blue cards for evening tasks (wash dishes, pick up toys, put kids to bed, fold laundry).

        In addition I have the quarterly tasks on cards too (they are all in the purple house task category). This week is garage week, so I have cards that say, "sweep garage," "get rid of junk in garage," etc. If I decide not to do any of those things this week I will just put the card back in the folder for week 1 of next quarter. Or else I will do the job and write the date on the card to remember when I did it last. This week I'm actually going to sweep the garage because I didn't do it last quarter.

        I don't do this system perfectly, however I have been doing it for at least two full quarters now because I can see dates on the index cards from April this year. So it's useful at least for me.

        This morning I pulled out a lot of errand cards from today's folder and put them into Thursday's folder because I won't do them today and don't need to. For example, I don't need to go to the dump today or the grocery store. I have way more household task cards than I'm going to do, but I'll choose one or two, review them at the end of the day and put the ones that didn't get done into tomorrow's folder.

        This is on top of looking at the context lists. I did one computer task today, telling myself I had to do it if I was going to log on and post things to the list. When I log off I'm going to do a partial in-depth review of my project list. I've been stuck in the action part of the system, and I think looking at some of the projects in terms of higher-level objectives (areas of responsibility and goals) will help. I went to the Boston seminar and it was a good jump start.



        • #5

          Checkout the website

          She's got a great system for home management (Based on the SHE - Pam & Peggy) System. Her control journal and Zone cleaning methods are great. The Weekly Plan, Morning Routine and Evening Routine are excellent ways to manage the Dishes, laundry etc. It doesn't exactly mesh with David's system, but it can help with the daily routines of managing a home. I'm a Payroll SHE (Sidetracked Home Executive)working up to 40+ Hours a week including many evening meetings and out of town conventions. I really needed help with a structure for managing the routines of household management.

          You should find some very good help at this website.
          Don't forget to check out the She shouldn't section - you'll laugh out loud.



          • #6

            Thanks! This morning, in fact, my walking buddy gave me the SHE book to look at. I'm on page 3 and laughing already.

            The book I started with, and that seems to be very similar to Pam and Peggy's, is The Messie Manual by Sandra Felton. She helped me to understand what I was doing and what kind of Messie I am. That helped, because now I know what I need to do to fix it. It's worked so far. (What a milestone when my friend came to my apartment and said, "Auntie Kate's house, always so clean," (or something to that effect) to her son.)

            I'm looking forward to seeing that website. Any other advice is greatly appreciated.



            • #7
              Integrating GTD with FLYing

              I've been trying to follow FLY Lady ( for about a year. Just starting GTD. If anyone has successfully integrated the two, please share your ideas!


              • #8
                I hope to start the fly lady system this week. I have just about all of it set up.

                I quit doing the GTD until I could do the two together. I realized that wasn't the best idea. I borrowed the GTD book from the library two months ago and returned it today. It was overdue. How about that.

                So, I'm ready to take off into success again. Let you know how it goes.



                • #9
                  Re: Integrating GTD with FLYing

                  Originally posted by volunteer4ever
                  I've been trying to follow FLY Lady ( for about a year. Just starting GTD. If anyone has successfully integrated the two, please share your ideas!
                  I've been following flylady for about three years now.

                  I don't think it overlaps all that much with GTD. Flylady is much more oriented towards the action step, and recurring tasks.

                  I used to use her control journal, but after a while I wasn't looking at it anymore. I switched to the cards that I described above rather than her e-mail reminders, because they give me more flexibility. Neither the cards nor the control journal are strictly GTD methods, however the cards merge very nicely with the tickler file. The cards are a flylady precursor.

                  What I used most effectively from flylady was to have a morning and evening routine in place. I had a list of daily tasks for the morning and a list for the evening. So these are things you don't have to put into the GTD system, either in the context specific next action lists or on a calendar. Both GTD and flylady stress the importance of keeping a calendar correctly.

                  GTD helped me understand how to manage paperwork and more. Flylady just told me when to do paperwork, and for how long.



                  • #10
                    Well, I said I'd let you know how it worked. I spent so much time organizing and playing with index cards that I didn't do a whole lot of housekeeping. I just needed to get up and do it instead of analyzing it to death.

                    I also realized that if I can't maintain a one bedroom apartment (I don't work and have no kids), I have a serious laziness problem to deal with.

                    However, I don't think that all that I've learned is a waste. It may be quite useful to me in the coming years.



                    • #11
                      Thanks for sharing, Kate. As the primary home manager in my busy household , I'm always interested in hearing how different systems have worked for others.

                      Now that you have your cards and tickler file made up, you shouldn't need to spend any more time on analysis.

                      The trouble with having lots of reoccurring tasks is there is no lasting sense of completion. This chips away at motivation. You may benefit from another trick FlyLady recommends...set the timer for 15 minutes and do what you can. This trick helps to defeat both procrastination and perfectionism and keeps you focused. HTH!