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GTD Insight #12: Clean-Edge Living

Sarah wakes up 15 minutes later than she wanted to.  The baby is crying and Tim, her older child needs to get ready for school.  Bob, Sarah's husband has already left for work and leaves a note that says, "Hon, don't forget to get a birthday gift for Clark.  Tomorrow is his big day."  More stress.  30 minutes later, with baby in tow and Tim partially ready for school, Sarah heads out the door, only to realize that the bus has already come and she must drive Tim, yet again to school.

Does this sound like anyone you know?

Look at Sarah's demands: childcare, waking up late, a husband's requests, clothing, busing, parenting.  Not an easy plate to maintain and yet a reality for so many folks.  What could she have done differently to minimize her stress?

  • Get more rest. By going to bed earlier the night before, Sarah would ensure that the following morning, at the very least, would leave her feeling rested.

  • Practice a morning ritual as if it was religion. Getting up at the same time eases stress and provides what Stephen Covey calls the "private victory"

  • Prepare clothing the night before. By taking 5 minutes to lay out clothing, iron wrinkled clothing and hanging things where you want them to be, the morning can run that much smoother.

  • Use an on-line calendar to remind you of gifting ideas and deadlines. With such free and easy tools like Google Calendar, anyone can remember a holiday or deadline before it happens.


What Sarah is experiencing is the polar opposite of what GTD practitioners call "clean edges".  What is a clean edge?  An aspect of a system which keeps things in check and allows you to function at a more productive level.

Examples of clean edge productivity:

  1. A voice mailbox that is checked regularly and doesn't leave 15 messages in "in".

  2. An email in-box which gets to zero regularly and is a tool/resource rather than a constant annoyance.

  3. Social commitments which work for you and are reasonable.  A clean edge is not rushing from one social event to the next, barely connecting with any one on a deep human level.

  4. Physical space which is uncluttered and organized.  Excess 'junk' is tossed regularly or donated to charity.

  5. List systems which capture "errands", "someday maybe" and whatever else comes into your mind.  I recently added an "items to buy" list which is handy because whenever I seem to be in a store and need something, I forget what I needed, etc.


Why not practice a clean-edge philosophy starting today? Better yet, why not put it into practice?  Like Sarah, I am confident that your mornings will be less stressful as well as the rest of the day.

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