It’s no surprise many online entrepreneurs search for advice on how to manage a business more efficiently. You may have heard the saying: If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail. And, it turns out the best way to manage your online course business better is by learning to plan better.
Productivity expert David Allen has been teaching entrepreneurs and CEOs how to manage their businesses stress-free for years with his Getting Things Done method. Although productivity and the measure of it is unique to each person, there are many things creators can learn from the GTD method to help reach their business goals in 2023.
What is the GTD method?
Getting Things Done or GTD method is a personal and work productivity method developed by expert David Allen. It’s been around since 2001, when he first published his book “Getting Things Done.” Since then, the method has been updated to fit the fast-paced world we live in today.
Many find the GTD method useful when managing all aspects of life, not only business. Its main focus is to have a clear system that allows you to control your tasks. The thing that separates the GTD method from other strategies is that it focuses on getting things off your mind in five easy steps:
- Capture: collect tasks from your mind onto the paper or digital notes.
- Clarify: immediately decide what you need to do to complete the task.
- Organize: sort your actionable tasks into systems that work.
- Reflect: always stay on track of your systems and clear your mind regularly.
- Engage: execute without a doubt.
Off the mind
We already know research shows that people who write down their goals are more likely to achieve them than people who don’t. But writing things down on paper or digital notes also has other benefits:
The brain is a complex and wonderful thing. It stores and processes information fast and efficiently, and it always works hard to remember. So, if you choose to skip writing down your goals and tasks, you’re giving your brain extra work to try and not forget about it.
The main benefit of the GTD method is minimizing the work your brain has to do when trying to remember everything. When you know that everything you need to do is safely organized, you will be able to enjoy your time off more.
Opens up space in your mind for other things
Every day we have a limited amount of “brain juice” or willpower to make decisions and do tasks we need to accomplish. This is the reason why some successful people swear by eating the same thing every day and wearing the same clothing. This is all in pursuit to minimize the amount of willpower needed on decision making.
The GTD method is an efficient way to help preserve precious decision-making energy. So, when you wake up in the morning, sit down to work, and have an action plan set up in front of you, you’ll be able to get to work without having to think about it. This way, you reserve energy for when it’s time to make decisions. Also, with not spending the energy on just planning, you’ll have more time and space in your mind for creativity.
Reduces chances of procrastination
The reason why people procrastinate is very simple. When you have something unpleasant to do, something that requires many steps and is due in the distant future, your brain wants to delay it. Because the GTD method allows you to plan and sort your business in advance, breaking daunting tasks into bite-size pieces reduces the chance of procrastination.
Just think about it: the difference between your stress levels when you have to “create a new online course to launch in March” rather than “write an outline for the first lesson in the new course” is massive.
The first one is more likely to cause you to delay the task because you don’t know where to start. Meanwhile, the latter option is measurable and actionable, which will make it easier for you to force yourself to sit down and complete it.
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Manage a business better in 2023 with the GTD method
Step 1: Create a system
Your first step in learning how to manage a business better will be to create an organizational system. In his book, Getting Things Done, David Allen proposes an efficient one. However, you can adapt it and change it to fit your needs better. The key here is to have a system that’s comfortable for you.
The key elements your organizational system should have:
- Projects: David Allen defines projects as “any desired result that can be accomplished within a year that requires more than one action step.”
- Trash: You need a place to put certain tasks and projects in when you deem them not a priority anymore.
- Someday/Maybe or Bucket List: Now, this is the section where you put things you someday would like to get to, but that are not important right now.
- Reference: You want to have a file where you keep all the articles, sources, course materials on hand for when you need to reference them.
- Waiting: This is a “folder” where you want to defer your tasks that have been assigned to your team or other people.
- Calendar: You want to have a calendar to mark appointments, interviews, meetings, and other things with a set time and date.
- Next Actions List: This is the section where you want to note the to-do tasks you need to accomplish when you have the time.
Your system can be physical, digital, or 50/50. For example, you might use Google Docs and create multiple spreadsheets to keep you in line. Or, opt for a simple notes app and create folders there to allow you to manage all of your workflows.
The key takeaway is to have an efficient management system that allows you to easily manage your tasks and projects in one place. So, you might want to spend some time experimenting with different variations to see which one works best for you.
Step 2: Evaluate your projects
Now, it’s time to sit down and capture all the incomplete tasks. For the most efficient evaluation, it’s best to focus one year in advance. However, sometimes there might be long-term projects that require your attention now, so figure out what works for you.
David Allen recommends setting aside a decent chunk of time for the “capturing” stage of his method. Surely, many incomplete tasks are taking up space in your mind. It might not be easy to get them all out on paper in one go. So, take your time with this step.
First, look at your immediate to-do list and business goals for next year. Then, write down everything else that comes to mind. Make sure to focus on listing actions instead of vague words like “grow podcast” or “release a new course.”
There is nothing wrong with these tasks, but they’re goals and not a to-do item. In this stage, you need to determine the most immediate step/action you need to take so you can sort them accordingly.
Step 3: Sort your tasks into folders
Now, once you have all of your tasks and action items in one place, it’s time to sit down and sort them into correct folders within your system. The GTD method suggests asking yourself, “Is this task actionable?” with every task.
If you answer with a “No,” you’ll want to put the task into one of the three folders:
- Trash: Maybe it’s something you’ll never get to, or that just doesn’t matter for your business anymore. Say goodbye.
- Someday/Maybe or Bucket List: Things like “open up a merch store” and other “nice things to have someday” should go here.
- Reference: If you have course material, information on certain topics you will need in the future, sort them all into this folder.
If you answer with a “Yes,” then you’ll want to put the items into one of the other folders:
- Projects: If an item/task has more than one step to accomplish, you’ll want to put it in this folder and later come back to it to break it down.
- Waiting: Tasks like “send the lesson video to Mike for edits” or “ask Serena to schedule social media posts for new launch” go into this folder.
- Calendar: If you have interviews with local newspapers, podcast appearances, or team meetings and know the dates, put them into your calendar directly.
- Next Actions List: Lastly, all the items/tasks like “write an outline for the new lesson” or “do the tax prep for next year” should go into this folder.
By the end of this step, you’ll have a solid system with all actions and items put in their right places. Hopefully, your mind is already clearer, and you’ve got more space for creative thinking and stress-free life.
Step 4: Have your system on hand
No system that teaches how to manage a business will be effective if you don’t have it on hand at all times. Always refer back to your system to remember what needs to be done.
It’s easy to do if everything is digital. When you start your day, simply open up your spreadsheets, note app, or Notion, and reflect on what needs to be done that day. This action will become a habit with time, and you won’t even need to think about it.
Step 5: Reflect on your system
The next step in your journey of how to manage a business efficiently is to always reflect on your system. Keeping up with your new system is crucial for it to be effective long term. The Getting Things Done method stresses the importance of consistency: “All of your Projects, active project plans, and Next Actions, Agendas, Waiting For and even Someday/Maybe lists should be reviewed once a week.”
Get into a habit of marking down the items/actions instead of keeping them on your mind. Then, remember to sort them into proper folders within your system immediately. All of this work will allow you to keep your mind clear from distractions and ensure that you’re working towards your goals without losing sleep.
Step 6: Execute without a doubt
While planning is crucial for success, execution is the backbone of it. With the new system in place, you’ll be able to execute and get things done without much stress and procrastination.
All of your goals and projects are broken down into bite-size pieces that are achievable and measurable. When all of them are organizable, your mind can be clear from distractions. Then, you’re ready to focus on execution and creative thinking to help your business be more efficient in the next year.