Skip to main content

Get Out Of The Whirlwind! Learn How To Finally Get Things Done.

By June 8, 2015October 29th, 2017Podcast, Ralph and Carol Lynn
Get Out Of The Whirlwind! Learn How To Finally Get Things Done.

This Episode Is Quite Handsome And Delicious

Mondays we typically don’t have a guest so even though Mike Brooks (the Handsome and Delicious) makes an appearance, we’re not counting him as a guest.

Actually, he’s here because today we’re talking GTD (Getting Things Done) and since he has been trying to implement it he wanted to hang out and talk with us.

If you need to get stuff done and find yourself thwarted, behind the eight ball, putting out fires, up against a wall, [choose your own harried cliché], then you may find a lot of value in learning more about GTD and hearing what Mike’s challenges are, too.

But First!

Before we get into GTD we need your help. The peerless Tammie Rampley, #SuperFred supreme and maker of the most awesome custom purses and bags on the planet, is entered into a contest hosted by Quickbooks to win an ad for her business during the next Super Bowl.

How does she win?

Our votes!

We’ve bookmarked the page and hope that you will vote for her, too. It’s easy as pie – no registration, no need to share your name or email. Just click a button and go.

You can vote once every 24 hours, which is why we’ve bookmarked the page, and we love her so much that we’re going to click that button every day.

If you can vote once, that would be awesome. If you can pop by and vote a few times, that would be SuperFred awesome.

Imagine… a SuperFred at the Super Bowl!

One More Thing…

Our friend Téa Silvestre of the Story Bistro is hosting her 2nd annual Storytelling Soiree this August 8 and 9 in Portland, Oregon. It’s two days of fun, food and learning. By all accounts last year’s event was a brilliant success so if you need help telling the story of your business, this could be the event for you.

Learn more about it here and if you decide to sign up you can use the Super Secret Super Special SuperFred code RIVERAPAL25 to get 25% off the ticket price. But hurry because you have to sign up by July 1 to get the discount.

Plus a SuperFred Shout Out

We learned recently that our good friend Jason T. Wiser of On Track Tips took a spill from his bike and broke his collarbone. He ended up needing surgery so part of his bone could be replaced with a plate.

In true Murphy’s Law fashion, the plate wasn’t available and needed to be ordered so he had to wait days before the replacement.

And then – grab a tissue, you’ll need it – in a stroke of unrelated fate, an elderly woman fell and broke her collarbone and needed the same plate. So Jason, being the truly amazing person that he is, gave up his plate so the elderly woman could have her surgery immediately.

He ended up having to wait even longer for his.


He’s doing ok now and we hope he’s up and about quickly, but man. THAT’S a story. And a heck of a guy.

And Now… Getting Things Done

Bet you wouldn’t mind voting for Tammie… but you already have a billion things to remember.

Bet you might like a trip to Portland for a little storytelling… but you can’t swing two days away from the office.

Bet you’d like to do a lot of things, including spend less time working, less time stressing and more just getting stuff done so you can get on with your life.

Here’s the funny thing about that… you can.

If Ralph Can Do It, Anyone Can.

Hey, they’re his words. And as the wife who loves him so very much, I can [ahem] vouch for the fact that he is a little [ahem] scattered. And crazy. And [ahem] sometimes I can ask him to do something on a Monday and then ask him again on a Tuesday and then ask him again a week later and then just decide to do it myself because… ARGH!

But here’s the miraculous thing. Once he adopted GTD he not only managed to get stuff done but even do it on time and not freak out because he had too much to do.

He Also Got To Inbox Zero.

It’s not just a mythical creature like the Flying Spaghetti Monster and Santa Claus (hey, Santa Claus is totally real!)

Inbox Zero is a thing that can be achieved and we’ve got proof: a listener sent us a really nice email after listening to Ralph’s recent post about Inbox Zero and told us how it helped her deal with an organizational nightmare of her own.

The result? She got to Inbox Zero.

Does It Require Chanting And Sacrificial Virgins?

Nope. It may actually be something both much simpler and much worse: discipline.

In fact, that’s what Mike Brooks says he struggles with the most, and that’s just sitting down and doing it.

It’s true. You have to be willing to do the work. But if you are, it really is almost magic.

The 5 (Not So Magical) Steps Of GTD

We’re not GTD experts or trainers. There are plenty of those. But we are definite GTD converts so we’d like to share the basics with you and hopefully inspire you to check it out for yourself.

Step 1: Capture

Repeat after me: my brain is a not a hard drive.

If you’re hanging out trying to remember stuff, like what you have to do, what you have to do next, where you need to go, what you need to buy… stop it!

Your brain is super good at being creative and getting your job done. What it’s not good at is remembering stuff.

The first thing you need to do is a “brain dump” so you get everything – and we mean everything – out of your head and into some sort of collection bucket. That can be as simple as a piece of paper or any app of your choosing.

We like Omnifocus.

Don’t organize them.

Don’t think about them.

Don’t schedule them.

Don’t plan them.

Just empty your head.

Need cat litter? Write it down. Have to write a report for a client? Write it down. Forgot to buy your mom a birthday card? Write it down. From work to personal, think MacBeth: OUT, damned stuff, OUT! (Points for being a literature geek.)

Step 2: Clarify

During this phase you ask yourself this one question about each item on your list: Is it actionable?

There are only two possible answers: yes or no.

If it’s a well… I kind of have to…

Then it’s a NO.

If it’s a well, one of these days I should…

Then it’s a NO.

If it’s an I don’t know right now but…

Then it’s a NO.

If it’s not a definitive yes then it’s a no.

Now look at your “no” list and decide what to do with those things. You have options!

If they are not important, are not helping you, are not making you money, moving you forward or otherwise contributing to your life then trash them. You don’t actually have to do everything your brain thinks of!

If they’re ideas you have half baked or that you want to do maybe someday, incubate them. Let them sit but don’t put them into your actionable list yet.

If they’re reference material, store them. You know those bookmarks and notes and articles and things you might need? Keep them, but get them out of your brain and inbox and off your to do list.

Great! You’re only left with the “yes” pile now.

What to do?

You’ve got options here, too.

First, decide whether you can do it in under 2 minutes (or under 1 or under 5, whatever works for you).

If you can, just do it. Get it out of your life before it becomes a big thing or before all the little things start to add up.

Next, decide if it’s something you can delegate. Sometimes you just have to let go and keep your brain focused on things that only you can do.

Then, defer. If there is anything actionable that doesn’t need to be done now, defer it to a later date. Call it sanctioned procrastination. The difference is you’re putting it off on purpose.

Finally, decide what the desired outcome of each actionable item is. Use verbs. “A website” is not an outcome. “Launch my new website” is an outcome.

At the end of a project you should be able to decide whether you have achieved the outcome.

Step 3: Organize

This is the part where you take all your actionable items and organize them into projects. Remember, a project starts with a verb so you can decide whether or not you have achieved your desired result.

A project can be as small as one item!

Step 4: Reflect

Once a week, look at everything from a big-picture perspective. Look at your inbox. Look at your projects, your action items, things you deferred or delegated.

See if there is anything you can change to be better. Get a handle on where you are in the flow and where you’re going.

Step 5: Engage

Believe it or not, this is the part, five steps later, where you actually get stuff done. Yes, this is the part where you work!

It probably sounds like a lot of work just to get to work, but once you set your system up then you’ll be able to do more in less time and stop running around putting out fires.

Lots Of Mistakes

I’ll be the first to admit, this system took me a while to “get”. I tried, I failed, I went back to my to do lists and project management apps and notebooks.

I did it wrong.

At first, I set up my projects as clients. So I had a project called “Acme Corp.”

But what was I doing for Acme Corp?

Well, I had to build their website. And we were designing their logo. And we had to set up their social accounts.

So really, that’s three projects with three different outcomes.

At first, I tried to figure out the “how” before I got past the “what”. Trying to brain dump and figure stuff out at the same time is a recipe for frustration. Dump, then do.

At first, I would ignore those two-minute things because really, they were so small. I could do them whenever. And I had much more important things to do. Except then the one thing that I could have done in 30 seconds sat on my desk for two months. And even though it wasn’t really important, it nagged at my brain taking up space there when it should have just been done.

Mike struggles, too. He’s stuck in a chicken-and-egg situation where he feels that if only he could get organized he’d have time to reflect. But if only he reflected, he could get organized. I feel his pain. As I continue to learn and implement this system, my “stuff” list is still a bit of a mess. But I suggested we accept the mess and spend a few minutes each day working toward a better system. You can’t learn and change everything overnight.

Get An Accountability Buddy

Finally, we decide that all this sounds great but sometimes you need a boot in the behind. That’s why we’re designating time together (Mike, Ralph and I) to bran dump and reflect. We’d love to have you join us virtually so if you’re learning GTD, give us a shout and let’s keep each other on track.

Your Marketing Action Item

From Mike: Looks like Mike wants to keep your inbox full because he’s got a few!

First, listen to the Nuclear Chowder podcast episode 85 to find out why your marketing isn’t working.

Then, queue up the Road to TED podcast, which he co-hosts with Dino Dogan of Triberr to hear about how people who are NOT public speakers prepare themselves for some major public speaking gigs.

Of course, he says, go learn more about GTD. He’s on board!

And last, share your ideas for getting him to be more self-disciplined. Do you have any tips, tricks or ideas that keep you on track even when you’re doing stuff you kind of don’t want to be doing?

From Ralph: More work! This time it’s an either/or (or if you’re feeling super motivated, both!)

One: Go to and check out GTD Connect. Sign up for a month and take advantage of all the great resources and trainings they have there.

Two: Sign up for a free trial at Besides being an amazing learning resource, you can catch David Allen himself, creator of the GTD system, giving a 40-minute session on GTD.

From Carol Lynn: Before you get started doing any GTDing at all, choose your collection method. Try something – notebooks, paper, index cards, apps, whatever. Find something that works for you, that you can use consistently wherever you are. And don’t get stuck on any one idea. If you love paper and that works great for a while but then not so much, leave it behind and find an app. Just keep your stuff in one place as much as possible and make sure it’s a place you’re happy with.


We’ve given you a lot of links and resources here but we wanted you to know that these are not sponsored or affiliate links. Everything we’re sharing is because we think it can in some way help you and your business. Of course, if David Allen or anyone else wants to pay us a billion dollars to mention them, we’ll take it!

Links & Resources

Where To Listen




Podcast RSS

Subscribe below to be notified whenever we publish new content and to stay in the loop on new podcasts and resources.

Photo courtesy of: “TNW Con EU15-David Allen – 4” by Vera de KokOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • You’re NOT heartless, Ralph, you’re pragmatic (and persistent and perfunctory and perfect). 🙂

    As a long time medical professional, I must say Jason Wiser is a hero — a selfless hero. Few patients would offer their clavicle plate to someone else who’s waiting in the [surgery] wings. WOW. Just wow.

    Voted for Tammie (of course!) and shared her contest entry across the web. Wishing her and Trampleedesigns loads of luck!

    • That’s a lot of P’s!

      Also, clavicle plate! I should have probably learned that term before attempting to explain it. But yes, that was pretty amazing. Next time I’ll consult with you before talking medical stuff 🙂

      I’ve voted every day so far. I don’t know what the odds are but HOW COOL would that be? Thank you for voting and sharing!

      • Are you kidding?! It would be cooler than cool if Tammie wins that spot! I’ll certainly do my part. Heck, it takes all of a few seconds to cast a daily vote. It’s the least we can do to show our support. 🙂

        There are three or four companies that manufacture clavicle plates. Jason shouldn’t have had to wait at all. They’re readily available. I’m curious to learn why the O.R. couldn’t get one right away for him. Hmm … makes me wonder.

        You noticed all the P’s. Just one of my many quirks. 😉

  • You guys are so awesome to me… :).. I love you allll…

    GTD, is my miracle, and I sure needed one. The fact that this came along right now, when I was looking down the barrel of this whole email, website, boutique thing is perfect. Every time I stick something in the right place, it is as if it takes a load off. I absolutely love it.. Thank you so much for taking the time to explain it and share it in a way that will help all of us..

    • GTD has been pretty awesome for me too as long as I keep up with it! It’s very easy to slack or fall back into bad habits and then things start to get messy again. My new motto: love your inbox!