How to Plan Then Execute Goals with Getting Things Done by David Allen: Free Downloadable Poster

As artists, when we’re setting our daily, monthly, and years goals it can be a pain to figure out where to start. Maybe you’ve read the book Getting Things Done by David Allen and looking for a refresher. Maybe this is entirely new to you.

Either way, the Get It Done downloadable poster pdf is the perfect way to get your goals in motion.

Making decisions can be daunting, here’s a Choose Your Own Adventure style strategy for making it less stressful:

Get It Done Process Poster: Based on the Book Getting Things Done

Get It Done Process Poster: Based on the Book Getting Things Done

Capture: Write down anything and everything related your goals.

Keep an ongoing list as you live your life. “Do laundry.” “Answer Joan’s email.” “Talk to Tim about the Johnson Report.”

Capturing is key to the Getting Things Done method. There are tons of list apps for any technology platform. Everyone has their favorites. If you’re a paper and pencil kind of person, that’s always an option too. Capture thoughts as you work to keep them out of your mind. If you have a thought on how you get your ideas down, please share in the comments.

Is it actionable? As you decide whether a task is actionable, try to think of the smallest practical task. Think of a task in a way that’s big enough that you’re not wasting time listing the baby steps. And yet not so large as to make the task overwhelming.

“Write the Johnson Report” would be a great project, not a task.

Smaller tasks make up a project when a goal is too big to be a single task. What’s needed for your report? Who do you need to talk to? Think your goal out as much as you possibly can. For any task that tasks less than two minutes or so, just knock it out and cross the item off your list right way.

Smaller tasks make up a project when a goal is too big to be a single task. What’s needed for your report? Who do you need to talk to? Think your goal out as much as you possibly can. For any task that tasks less than two minutes or so, just knock it out and cross the item off your list right way. If an item is not now actionable, then:

Forget it: If the idea is something that would be nice and at the same time does not need to get done, is it best to forget it completely?

Maybe you don’t need to talk to Tim about the report after all. His insights would be nice to have and still are not completely necessary. Drop the idea from your list. You might also change your original task at this point. Perhaps you’ll just email Tim thanking him for offering to talk your idea through. Let him know that due to time constraints you’re going to give it a go and if a stall happens you’ll check in.

You might also change your original task at this point. Perhaps you’ll just email Tim thanking him for offering to talk your idea through. Let him know that due to time constraints you’re going to give it a go and if a stall happens you’ll check in.

Someday/Maybe List: For tasks that are so low priority that you’d like to revisit them later and have no clear or necessary deadline, add them here. Perhaps you’re okay with a messy desk for a while. Someday you’ll organize things and for now, you can live with it.

Reference: Save the thought for reference. Perhaps this bit of information you captured isn’t necessarily something you need to act on. If the idea appears useful for your tasks, save the thought in a place that’ll you’ll be able to find it quickly. Many of my reference ideas end up being useful when I’m writing blog posts and emails

Right away? If the idea is an actionable task, the next question is whether a task must be done by you.

If so, if it’s possible and necessary to do right away. This means that it’s a high priority task! Add the task to your “To Do/Action List” as a top priority. If the task is not necessarily a top priority task, consider your options:

Someday/Maybe List: See above. Send the task back up to the maybe not today and maybe not tomorrow list!

Delegate: Is this task better suited for someone else?

That coworker who’s playing solitaire might want to feel useful. This also could refer to hiring a temp, freelance, or full-time employee if no one is around. If you can afford a housekeeper, you might delegate some of your cleaning. We live in a service economy, don’t feel as if you must do it all! Schedule a time to follow-up and let those you delegate tasks know that you are available

Schedule It: Add the task to your calendar. Today’s lower priority might be tomorrow’s number one task!

This is also great for tasks that are better suited for certain days. Save that discussion for your weekly team meeting or quarterly review if it makes more sense. Call back your mom when you’re having a less busy day or during lunch.

Scheduling is a very powerful tool! I always schedule haircuts, dentist appointments, get-togethers with friends,  and anything else I can! Also schedule reminders and conversations. I like to check in at some point before meetings to make sure that it’s still a good date. Also, schedule a time to check your tasks. At work, I like to do a quick check in the morning and after lunch.

Waiting List: If you’re waiting for a response, for files, or any other information then the Waiting List is where you’ll want to keep such tasks.

When you reach a certain point where a Waiting List item becomes more critical, add it to your schedule. Wait and if you don’t hear back from Cindy in a week, you can schedule a follow up email. This is a powerful place to keep items that need some attention eventually, and that you can forget about for now.

Organize: There are many ways to organize all of your information.

Calendars, lists, and apps are all popular goal trackers. Decide on rules keep these categories separate. You’ll be able to find clear answers as you work and keep moving. Always know what your highest priority task is! If you don’t, go back through the above steps.

Get it done! Work through your tasks in order of priority, one tiny step at a time.

If thoughts pop into your head, capture them. Feel free to get back to that idea later unless you’re sure the thought is more important than what you’re doing. What steps add to your creative process? Let’s talk about your goals in the comments!

Get It Done: Download the Free Poster as a PDF

How to Plan and Execute Your Goals: Free Downloadable

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.

Artists Don’t Want to Work for Free, Facebook isn’t Email, and Secrets Behind Viral Hits

Artists Don’t Need Your Exposure

@forexposure_txt is a Twitter account of quotes from artists who were expected to work for free. Too many people don’t value art. Artist Ryan Estrada posts real quotes from real people who think we need to work for exposure. Especially now in the internet age, exposure is incredibly easy to get for anyone for free. My networking guide post contains better ideas for promoting your work and making healthy relationships as an artist.

I respond by explaining in detail how I design. I drew for years as a child. Educate others kindly that creating is truly difficult work. I’ve worked as a designer the moment I turned 18, while also studying Fine Art (and classical piano). I learned to love studying computer programs and reading books on design and productivity. Slowly putting that knowledge to use every day. Spent the last 17 years learning techniques from many amazing colleagues. That said when others (even clients) are excited to tackle a design project I encourage them to do so. If they can stick with it and do it themselves, good for them!

Facebook isn’t email

Most people don’t even see your posts. The FB algorithm shows only what they think will keep you on FB. All of your friends are hidden.

“I learned a real profound lesson with the Inside news app. You can get 500,000 people to download an app, but only 1 percent or less will use it a day. And then I realized, I took the same information that was in the app, I emailed it to the same audience and 40, 50, 60 percent opened it every day.” Jason Calacanis on Recode Media Podcast

On the user end, email is super easy to control. You own it. Most email programs make it easy for users to sort email automatically, search, and surface content when you want it.

Hit Makers make content popular, not viral sharing

Viral sharing is over rated. Tracking memes and “viral content”, analytics discussed in the new book Hit Makers show that they stay within small circles until famous hit makers and influences get involved. Distribution is more similar to traditional broadcast media than you think. And most people find out about content through the big broadcasters promoting.

“Facebook initially went ‘viral,’ not by building a product that every person might share with five other people, like a disease, but by using networks that existed. They digitized the Harvard network that existed, and the Ivy League networks that already existed.” Derek Thompson, Atlantic Senior Editor

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.

How do you organize your ideas? 5 Steps

In today’s Q&A Monday, methods for organizing your ideas that make it so much more convenient to act:

How do you store your ideas to be organised and easily accessible to use as raw material in different projects?
Anonymous (via Quora)

I find ways to make storing ideas fun and rewarding. I have little “rules” that help it feel like a game. The basic outline of my system includes sketching, lists and a calendar. I keep as little in my brain as possible. Delegate remembering any thoughts and ideas to the system.

Getting Things Done

I’m a big fan of Getting Things Done by David Allen and base some organization ideas on that. One of the main ideas of Getting Things Done is to write down anything you think of. Then put it in a place where you can remember it. The other principal is separating an actionable task from reference material. Actionable items are broken down into small tasks and included on project task lists.

Then the only habit I have to really have is to check the lists or calendar. It’s a lot more freeform then it may sound, basically just write things down. I have designed this “Choose Your Own Adventure” style Getting Things Done cheat sheet that I’ve hung up at my desk at work:

The system shown here helps with my graphic design work as I decide how to accomplish all of my daily priorities. At the same time, when thoughts drift to personal tasks and ideas that could be distracting I can quickly make a note on my shopping list.

I keep a Google Tasks app on my phone to keep lists of various thoughts, quotes, links to articles I’ve found. It’s a pretty simple system with some basic categories like painting ideas and quotes. Within each category, a lot of what is captured is in random order.

Step 1: Brainstorm using a trigger list

A trigger list is a short list of keywords that helps with brainstorming even more thoughts. It reminds me to write down ideas I may not have written yet: Boss, Painting, Bills, Important Dates, Weekly Events, Projects, Unfinished tasks. The words themselves jog memories. I jot down any and all thoughts that come to mind when reading my list. Then organize them into the above systems

Sketch when you can

How do you organize your ideas? 5 StepsSketching and doodling is one fun way I really get ideas to paper. I scribble sketches. I really like cheap spiral notebooks. I have sketchbooks where I move up to a different level of finished artwork and design. The cheapness of the notebooks helps me feel less precious and anxious about whatever I’m putting down.

A study published in Applied Cognitive Psychology found that doodlers remember more than nondoodlers when told to tediously delivered information (via Participants had to listen to a fake voicemail filled with rambling information. We’ve all had to do this at some point. Even after they were removed from their papers, doodlers were able to retain more details. The researchers conclude that doodling helps focus and prevents daydreaming.

Step 2: Sort Reference Material and Inspiration

For any thought or idea that isn’t related directly to an action, task, or project I keep on lists by various category.  Joan Rivers was known to use index cards to store every joke, as she explained in the documentary “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work”. She would type each on index cards and file them by the subject of the joke. If it’s an idea related to landscape paintings, I have a list for that. I keep lists of quotes, articles, and all kinds of thoughts.

Blogging and social media can help!

As Austin Kleon wrote in his book Steal Like An Artist, “Do good work and put it where people can see it”. I’ll often write a short blog post combining ideas from various articles, studies, and inspiration. That way they’re available for me when I need it. Often times others will have new points which help with my creative process.

Pinterest is a nice tool for storing inspiration. Anything inspirinh me on the web gets pinned. I also use it to search for visuals. For anything that has an image associated with it gets pinned.

Step 3: Keeping lists of actions

Project Lists

When I have decided on a project, I sift through the lists and put the items in an priority order. For example, if I’ve decided to paint any tasks involved in making the painting  onto my task list. You’d be surprised how much putting things in a single place can create inspiration and motivation. It really makes difficult and complex tasks suddenly feel easy

Actions include sketching out thumbnails, working out any drawings, and finally any ideas that might work through the painting. It’s almost magical how separating references from actual tasks helps me to focus. Suddenly it becomes convenient and easy since I have a clear next step to take.

A lot of procrastination happens when I don’t have a clear direction. I dread having to think through a project after each step. Figuring out the whole scope within 15 seconds of typing makes it all go by really quickly

Someday Maybe Lists

It’s also worth while to set aside ideas that aren’t happening any time soon. It’s a relief to let them go here. When you have free time, having a bunch of ideas that might suddenly become possible or appealing is also a life saver.

Context lists

Another type of organizational tool I use is having lists based on location or context. This could be “When I’m on my computer”, which I’ll abbreviate @computer. This would have lists reminding me to read a website, pay a bill, or order art supplies from Amazon. Other examples of contexts: Home, Car, Work, Bathroom, TV, Microsoft Word, During Monday’s Meeting.

Step 4: Schedule what you can on your calendars

Some ideas belong in the realm of scheduling. If you can schedule it, then schedule it. Setting simple reminders of days that would be great to sketch help me get on track. Google Calendar let’s me set phone notifications, so I don’t even need to actively check for most things

Perhaps I have an idea to do plein aire painting. Not very useful in the winter. I could leave a note on my calendar reminding myself not to waste the summer and look back into this. Having a loose plan of your day, week, or year is a really amazing way to spark creativity

Step 5: Forget the rest

In a recent episode of her podcast Happier, habits researcher Gretchen Rubin suggests to instead not organize and get rid of clutter. Some ideas may never happen or won’t be useful. Learn when to let them go as your going through this whole process. If any ideas are timely or have a shelf life, make that clear in your system.

Readers, how do you organize your thoughts and ideas?

How do you organize your ideas? 5 Steps



Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.

What habits help you be creative? 3 Strategies

Today’s Q&A Monday explores creative habits:

“What habits help you be more creative?”
Anonymous (via Quora)

Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin, a book on habit change

Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin

To focus on creativity I have several habit strategies including:

  1. Act creatively now or as soon as possible
  2. Make habits convenient helps
  3. Change the external circumstances.

I find audiobooks and podcasts to be an incredibly inspiring habit. Listening to other creatives and being exposed to their work. That helps me want to create work of my own. Many audiobooks are free online via my local library. If your library offers this, I can’t recommend it enough.

I recently listened to the “Happier at Home” by researcher Gretchen Rubin in which she focuses on changing her habits one step at a time. She makes her decisions based on her research into the science of human behavior.

1. Act creatively now

Don’t let life get in the way or life will always be in the way. Learn to face the fears that keep you from acting. In  Happier at Home, Rubin discusses how easy it is to plan and difficult it can be to act. If we let it be difficult. “It’s so easy to wish that we’d made an effort in the past, so that we’d happily be enjoying the benefit now, but when now is the time when that effort must be made, as it always is, that prospect is much less inviting.”

“The future depends on what you do today.”
Mahatma Gandhi

So having a habit of focus on how can I be my most creative self right now in this moment. We’ll imagine that after if we clean our house, do our errands, and plan our project that at that point we’ll finally have energy. Of course, after that’s all done we just want to rest. New errands will prop up and we’ll be on a never-ending cycle.

“You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.”
C.G. Jung

One procrastination study found that people creating retirement plans in terms of DAYS plan to start saving 4 times sooner compared to when thinking in months or years.We tend to attend to our present. We trust that we will handle needs in the future. This is demonstrated by a procrastination study published in Psychological Science. By framing future events as days instead of months or years, they helped participants perceive future events as more imminent. Those studied who were presented retirement in terms of days would estimate planning 4 times sooner.

2. Make your habits convenient

David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, has a solution. Make creativity a priority for right now by setting smaller activities and sticking to them. Rather than “cleaning” and “drawing”, decide that you’ll do a specific small tasks:

  • “I’ll fill a piece of paper thumbnails in 30 minutes.”
  • “I’ll load the dishwasher.”
  • “Pick a thumbnail to draw a more detailed piece.”
  • “I’ll run to the store and pick up a specific list of items.”

Note how each task is as specific and least sprawling as possible. I’ve found this method useful and less stressful for many situations. Small tasks are less overwhelming and more convenient. Gretchen Rubin refers to this as the “Strategy of Convenience”: “70 percent of long-term gym memberships are mostly unused, but a dog needs walking every day.”

Setting priorities is key here for me. It is important that I get that dishwasher loaded. It’s very important that I make it to the store. It’s also important that I find ways to be creative as often as possible. Breaking life into small and manageable tasks makes finding balance that much easier.

“I firmly believe that everyone deserves to live within walking distance of either beauty or convenience, if not both.” Victoria Moran

Living within Baltimore City makes many errands and event very convenient. My gym is even close by and I stick with the group classes because that let’s them determine the schedule. Letting go and allowing external forces to control certain aspects of my life is just embracing the inevitable. I can’t control many or most things, so I might as well make a conscious choice to focus on what to let go of.

I have a Choose Your Own Adventure-style free downloadable flowchart based on the Getting Things Done principles. With a little preparation, you can set yourself up for conveniece

3. Change the external circumstances

Most of our current behaviors are incredibly well-practiced and fairly automatic, according to a study on intentions published in Psychological Bulletin. Students were most likely to change their daily habits by transferring to a different university compared to a control group.

“There’s just one way to radically change your behavior: radically change your environment.” Dr. B.J. Fogg, Director of Stanford Persuasive Lab

If you’re the kind of person who is motivated by external goals, then find ways to set them. Explore and test ways to collaborate, interact, and include others. Create your best work and share what you create. You might figure out all of your friends birthdays and plan make birthday cards.

If you need something more concrete, take a class. Craigslist is useful for finding art shows, classes and related events. I’ve found many free events related to art and culture on in the events sections of Yelp and Facebook.

Make a habit of volunteering

Volunteering also presents excellent opportunities to both be creative and to be inspired. You’ll meet other artists and creatives, see their work and hopefully do something good for your community.

“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.” Barack Obama

Putting yourself in the position to really have to tackle your goals. Volunteering whether directly related to my work also helps me structure my time and creates a feeling of overall well being, which is always a good thing!

Sites like will help you get involved in local arts programs. Research by the University of Exeter Medical School reported on WebMD used data from over 40 published papers related to volunteering and happiness. They found that volunteers were less susceptible to depression and more satisfied with their lives. Volunteers were also at a 20% less risk of death than non-volunteers.

Readers, what habits help you be more creative? Add your answer in the comments.

What habits help you be creative? 3 Strategies

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.

Enjoy the creative process: 3 ways to find focus

1. Play well with others

Social and group contexts contribute significantly to the creative process, according to Harvard Business Review. Users, customers, and audiences play an important role especially in commercial fields like graphic design. Companies and individuals must learn from internal and external influences. Workers are more motivated by challenge than financial incentives and salary.

“Strange is our situation here upon earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to a divine purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: That we are here for the sake of others…for the countless unknown souls with whose fate we are connected by a bond of sympathy. Many times a day, I realize how much my outer and inner life is built upon the labors of people, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received and am still receiving.”
Albert Einstein

How do we create group environments that encourage creativity? Open brainstorming sessions where all ideas are encouraged are one key tactic for unleashing creativity at work discussed by Boland Jones, CEO of PGi. It’s important to actively discourage negativity in these meetings. Write down every idea in a place that everyone can see them.

2. Follow your passion

Passion is key to creativity and helping us enjoy the challenge or working through the rough parts. You’ll have higher quality results and more of them if you love what you do, according to music coach Mike Monday. He suggests find ways to delegate the parts you don’t like. For example, an artist might have an agent to do their marketing or a graphic designer might have a book keeper to handle the gritty financial details. Your audience, fans, and clients can be informed of what you will and won’t do. Clients can be asked to do deep proofreading of your graphic design work, for example, leaving you to concentrate on the design.

“Some women choose to follow men, and some women choose to follow their dreams. If you’re wondering which way to go, remember that your career will never wake up and tell you that it doesn’t love you anymore.”
Lady Gaga

3. Choose to be happy

It may sound quaint that happiness is a choice, however there is scientific evidence that a positive attitude is achievable there choice.  One experiment in the Journal of Positive Psychology found that trying to be happier changes mood levels. We can examine our thoughts to find positive truths. We can practice gratitude and focus on improving various skills to create more positive situations as we work.

“Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”
Abraham Lincoln

Only 10% of our long-term happiness is external, as Professor Javy W. Galindo wrote for Time Magazine. Research shows that how we think and what we choose to think about is what ultimately determines our happiness. Rather than look for the negative aspects of our lives and relive past problems, we can redirect our thinking toward what is going right and channel that into our creative process.

How to enjoy the creative process: 3 ways to find focus



Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.