This is how I combine GTD, Time Blocking, Deep Work & The One Thing for more Productivity and focus
In today’s fast-paced world, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the endless demands on our time and attention. However, with the right tools and strategies, you can increase your productivity, reduce stress, and achieve your goals.
In this article, I will show you how I combine the philosophies of Getting Things Done (GTD), Time Blocking, Deep Work, The One Thing, and High-Performance Habits to create a simple and effective system and routine for managing your time and focus and being more effective.
Before we begin, let me outline the problems that this routine will solve.
Here are the main problems that my clients wrestle with:
I do a lot but I feel like I don’t get a lot done
I am all over the place and at the end of the day, I feel totally overwhelmed but don't have the foggiest about what I actually did
I am easily distracted and can’t keep my mind on one task
I feel overwhelmed and stressed because I have so much to do and I don’t know where to start!
These are a few but not all of the issues that my clients struggle with and what you may also be familiar with.
On the other hand, my clients want:
✔️ To be more productive and get stuff done that matters
✔️ Have more time for themselves
✔️ Have more peace of mind
✔️ Feel in control and have more focus
✔️ Have a more focused mind.
As with all things that I do with my clients, I understood the struggle because I had lived the struggle but I had also found the solution.
One of my “gifts” is that I can synthesize something out of a bunch of different philosophies, that’s just how my mind works. My brain looks for relationships and connects them together. Therefore, the only thing I have to do is feed it information and at some point, an idea or inspiration comes out.
This is basically how the synthesizing process works.
When I chose to focus on productivity, I, therefore, started to read books on the subject, and listen to their podcast. I find that in an immensely powerful combination. Reading the book, and listening to interviews with the author gives it so much more depth and brings it alive.
These are the books that I have used to create my ultimate planning routine:
Getting Things Done by David Allen
Deep Work by Cal Newport
The One Thing by Gary Keller
and a bunch of books and resources by high-performance coach Robin Sharma.
Before I explain and detail my planning routine, let’s first briefly look at each of the philosophies explained in the abovementioned books.
Getting Things Done (GTD)
GTD is a productivity method developed by author and productivity expert David Allen. The central idea behind GTD is to get all of the “stuff” out of your head and onto paper or in a digital system.
He explains that a lot of our cognitive capacity is lost by having to simply remember things, and hold stuff in our heads. Dumping this in a container frees your mind to focus on what you are doing at the moment, instead of worrying about all the things you need to do later.
Time Blocking is a technique for scheduling your time based on the tasks you need to complete. This is where most To-do list fails. Normally, you probably capture your to-do’s on a list but nothing gets done unless they are on your calendar.
The famous quote “What get’s scheduled gets done “by Michale Hyat rings very true.
With Time Blocking you block specific time for each task and project. Not only, do you determine WHEN you are going to do it, but it also forces you to think about WHAT you specifically are going to do and HOW LONG you think it will take you to do it.
This makes your tasks much more actionable and makes you quickly realize whether or not you need to split something over a few days. Furthermore, because you have to think about how long a task takes, you will also be able to quickly see when you have the time to do it or how you have to adjust your schedule to accommodate.
Lastly, because you will know exactly what to do at a certain time, it helps you to avoid getting offtrack by distractions and stay focused on what you need to do. I promise you, if you were to only apply this part of the article, you will already see a rise in productivity and effectiveness.
The One Thing
The One Thing is a book by authors Gary Keller and Jay Papasan that encourages readers to focus on the most important task at hand. I call these tasks “High Impact Activities”.
In the book, they encourage you to think about what activities “move the needle” the most. These are your High Impact Activities and should be prioritized over everything else. If you combine this concept with the following concept of Deep Work, you are off to the races!
Deep Work is a concept popularized by author and professor Cal Newport that refers to the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task.
The idea behind Deep Work is that, in today’s world of constant distractions and interruptions, the ability to focus deeply on a task is becoming increasingly rare and valuable and we are losing a lot of time and mental energy by constantly switching tasks.
Instead, he argues, you need to actively block (where did we hear this before) time and determine what you are going to focus on (this should be, for example, your High Impact Activity).
If you do this in bouts of 90 minutes and avoid all distractions you will get much more done and do much better work. It is even said that by working like this, you will get easier in a flow state, a state of complete immersion in an activity where the focus is intense which leads to increased creativity and productivity.
Imagine scheduling multiple blocks of time to do Deep Work on your High Important Task, what it would do for your productivity!
Weekly Design Routine
Now that we have started to create a framework for how to schedule our time, you need a routine to actually implement it. I always say in my Web classes: A Framework without a routine is useless.
For this, I got my inspiration from Elite Performance Coach Robin Sharma and combined this with some other High-Performance Habits.
In one of his books (I can’t remember which) he explains how a Weekly Planning Routine can help you be more productive and focused. Each week, on a Sunday, you review your week and schedule all your major taks, and activities.
I elaborate on this by combining this routine with a Daily Reflection Routine and my planning methodology. I’ll explain in a minute what I mean by that.
Here is how it all comes together.
By combining all the abovementioned philosophies I have created a simple, effective system and dare I say it, a fun, way of managing your time and focus. Here is how I do it.
1) Set up a Mind Dump
First, you will need a system where you can “mind dump” all your to-do’s. It is important you have only one place where you keep this so throw away all your post-its, note apps, to-do-lists app, etc.
From now on, this is your master file. I use Trello Board because I can link this and 2-way sync it with Google Calendar, but you can use any app that has a Kanban view.
Create columns using the categories described in the book Getting Things Done. Mine are:
Focus Big Rocks
2) Create a Week Template
Next, use Time Blocking to schedule specific blocks of time for each task or project. But before you go scheduling everything, I recommend you do the following.
First, think about what tasks are your High Impact Activities.
Next, think about the best moments of the day to do those tasks. Schedule these as 90-minute Deep Work Blocks.
In addition to Deep Work Time schedule things like Exercise, Meetings, Checking Email, Studying, and even Time to do Nothing.
You have just created a template for your ideal week. This is a very powerful thinking exercise and it will act as a guiding principle for actually scheduling your week.
P.s. I recommend creating the above by creating a dedicated calendar in Google. This way, you can toggle it on or off when you are actually scheduling your week.
3) Create a planning routine
Each week, on Sundays, you plan and schedule your whole week. Besides scheduling your to-do’s, also schedule time for yourself, fun activities, reading, exercising, etc. If you are employed, this will be easier because all work-related tasks are during the day.
If you are freer in how you use your time, this is much more important because you have to actively schedule in time for other things than work. So don’t forget them.
Each day, start the day by reviewing the day ahead. Do this before you open your email or check your messages. You need to start the day on your terms, and you do this by first deciding what you want to do on this day.
Finish each day by reviewing your day. Check off all your to-do’s, and reschedule anything that needs rescheduling. Reflect on your wins, but also think about why you might not have done what you promised yourself.
This way each day turns into an opportunity to learn and grow. How cool is that!
There you have it! My complete planning routine.
By combining GTD, Time Blocking, and Deep Work, you can boost your productivity, reduce stress, and achieve your goals.
Start today, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a more productive, focused, and successful person.
Want to get this installed ASAP?
Do you need additional help? I can help you set this up in a minute and help you integrate this into your daily life.
Furthermore, I have templates that you can use that will help you implement what you just read. All you need to do is ask 😁