Allen recommends grouping items according to the conditions under which they must be completed. It may be useful, for instance, to group errands together, so that if you’re out, you can refer to the list for other places you need to go. Similarly, if you have a regular meeting with your boss, it’s helpful to have an agenda with topics to cover.
With this foundation, I returned to set up my new bullet journal.
“Getting Things Done” and “The Bullet Journal Method” work well together, because the bullet journal’s flexibility allows for the type of ad hoc lists that Allen recommends. I created lists like “Calls” or “At Home” for tasks I couldn’t do anywhere else. My daily log, which is integral to the bullet journaling system and Carroll describes as “a catchall, designed to hold our thoughts until we’re ready to sort them out,” had always been my de facto to-do list in my previous bullet journaling attempts. Instead, it became a temporary holding space until these tasks, projects, ideas or reminders could be sorted into their appropriate lists or collections (or in my calendar).
O.K., now what?
In an ideal world, an app would feed me tasks like a Pez candy dispenser, one-by-one and only when I have the time and energy to do them. Instead, both Allen and Carroll insist on reflection and trusting your gut. Ugh. You mean I can’t just go on autopilot?
Both writers encourage engaging regularly with your tasks, projects and thoughts. “The goal is getting into the habit of checking in with yourself, asking small whys. Over time, you get better at answering these questions. You’re refining your beliefs, your values, your ability to spot your weaknesses and your strengths,” wrote Carroll.
I’m still new to this, so I can’t say that I’ve experienced “mind like water” or “flow” (Allen’s words) or any other euphemism for not feeling like your mind is spilling over with thoughts and ideas. But if, as Allen wrote, “The key is to feel as good about what you’re not doing as about what you are doing at that moment,” I guess I’ve achieved a certain kind of clarity.