how to get "back on the wagon"


Seems I have slipped yet again: stopped journaling, writing lists, using in-baskets or letting the in-basket go unprocessed. I moved on things that couldn't be ignored but have not made the most of my time. I am busy so it seems I get fouled up when I am overwhelmed and have a lot to do. Does anyone have tips I think this is important for me to get through this challenge in order to continue on with GTD. I have been very tired as well, so my energy level and enthusiasm has been low so things that I can let slide I do let slide. Any tips, strategies, words of caution to help me tame this beast?


Put your half-assed lists away for later processing or reference. Then, start with a blank sheet. Start. Do something. Every time you did something, enter the Next Action where you want to continue into your list. Then also add the project itself to the Projects List. After that make sure your Project Support Materials for that particular project are in order. Proceed in that manner, adding one project at a time and only after your worked on it for a while.

Note, this will hinder your state of "mind like water" at the beginning, but I think the cost is worthwhile, because you'll end up with a truly current system and the positive from that will make up for it.

Stephen Dewitt

Do a Weekly Review. David says it’s one of the best ways to get back on the wagon.

Yes and following this up, one of the most important things I've ever done for staying on the wagon is finding a time of the week (or actually for me smaller periods each day) where doing the review feels natural and doesn't require much will power (in terms of appropriate energy level, enthusiasm etc) - also if it's hard giving yourself a treat that you only have during those times can help - regular reviews really are key but fitting them in / prioritising them when you're overwhelmed takes a lot of conviction that they are worthwhile over more obviously urgent things - this has only come for me from years of not doing them, and ending up where you're at now time and again.

Good luck!


Do a Weekly Review. David says it’s one of the best ways to get back on the wagon.

@kelstarrising: I was going to suggest the same thing. No, really, honest! If I'm thinking along the same lines as you about GTD, that makes me feel good. :)

@Tombo: I'd add one thing: during those times when I've been off the GTD wagon for a while it often required a lengthy review (a few hours or more) to really get back on track. But there isn't always time for what's ideal, and I've learned that any amount of review is better than none. So if a complete review isn't feasible, don't let that be a barrier to doing what you can in the time you have.
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I have been very tired as well, so my energy level and enthusiasm has been low so things that I can let slide I do let slide.

Here's another suggestion: lower your standards for awhile until you're feeling 100%. I'm serious. You may need to re-think how much you can do. A weekly review will help with that. It'll give you a chance to shunt some things to Someday/Maybe so your lists feel more realistic.


Any tips, strategies, words of caution to help me tame this beast?
Use the guided weekly review webinar to start fresh.

Dump eveything you cannot handle right now into someday maybe. If it's paper label a folder someday/maybe, if it's electronic create a file folder in your system and just dump stuff in there.

Triage uour inboxes by cherry picking the urgent/critical things and dumping the rest into backlog to be dealt with later and plan spending 10-15 minutes each day processing backlog.

GTD should be easy to handle even in stress, low energy, when sick etc. If it isn't then you need modify your system to handle those situations. System mods are not easy to start when you are having problems so don't worry about that yet just add a someday/maybe item to be "develop simple GTD workflow I can use" as a project for later.

Cut yourself some slack, things slide for everyone.

Right now my paper inbox is again overflowing and my e-mail inbox is at over 30 unprocessed messages. We've had a major project that has taken every daylight hour for the past 2 days. 1 more day to go and then I can recover and get back on track. I already blocked out 4 hours on my calendar just to try to process all my inboxes. It will probably take me 4-5 days to get back up to date. Part of that is going to be ratehr large weekly review that I expect to take about 6 hours over 3-4 days. As stuff comes in I am triaging and only dealing with the absolutely time critical things. Everything else is just being added to "In" for later.

Mark Jantzen

Second Kelly's weekly review suggestion!

Another way is to pick a single project or thing that is bugging you. Do a big brain dump or mind map on everything to do with that thing. What's wild success? What's in your way? Etc. Capture it all. Then write out a description of the project and the VERY next action to move toward success.

Or, put that thing on Someday Maybe. :)

Then give yourself a break because you're doing GTD. The rest is a matter of volume.


What I have realized over the past couple of years is that it is really about consistency. If I am not consistent with the weekly review for let's say 2 - 3 weeks, I fall off the wagon.

I have fallen so often of the wagon that I have an "If I fall off the wagon" list :D

If I fall off the wagon, that is because I am stressed out or lacking energy. So first I do things to increase my energy

- Go to the gym
- Meditate
- Look at project and next action lists. Clear done things up. That's a motivation bonus. (30 minutes)
- Don't look at my inbasked for now. Because probably there are 150+ things and I won't feel like processing that.

So this approach works really good for me. First increasing energy via working out + spiritual relief -> after that clean done things up. That's enough for the day and the next day, tackle your inboxes.