We’ve already addressed White Belt productivity. In the early days of learning the Getting Things Done® workflow, one starts out learning the basic habits of emptying one’s head whenever there is a new thought or idea, having one inbox where things get collected and processed one item at-a-time, and working through some pre-defined work filed away in the appropriate folders (e.g., Actionable, Waiting For, Read-Review, Tickler, etc.). Today we address the second level: Yellow Belt Productivity. Once you have mastered the basic habits of collection and processing, you will gradually begin to trust that what you are collecting is going to a place where you’ll be reminded about it at the proper time. That increased confidence will result in an increased quantity of things you collect into your trusted system. Since you now remember to capture your ideas more frequently, you will start to collect more and more of them. With less in your head will come a greater clarity of mind. Suddenly your mind is free to think about whole inventories of things you still need to make decisions about but just haven’t yet. You’ll remember that box in the garage or the things you plan to do next time you’re in a particular city. As David Allen says,
“The better you get, the better you’d better get.”
This is where your newly acquired skills of collection and processing get challenged by increasingly more stuff. Do you have what it takes to handle even more?
It’s one thing when your Inbox is filled with less than an inch of paperwork to process; it’s quite another when you’ve got four to five inches of stuff to get through—one item at-a-time! Having achieved White Belt Productivity, you have the competence and practice of getting your inbox to empty. But to get to the next level, your tolerance level has to increase such that you know you can crank through a few inches of stuff, get it defined, processed, and put in the appropriate place in your system to be reminded about it later. Over time, you realize that the perceived estimated time you think it will take to crank through a few inches of material in your inbox is just an illusion: It will take significantly less time for you to get through it. But overcoming that initial misperception—moving from “I’m overwhelmed by that pile of stuff” to “Give me just a second”—takes some time to develop. Operating at Yellow Belt Productivity means you have set new records in the number of things you’ve collected into your system and broken new records on the number of items you’ve processed out of your inbox in one sitting. If you have moved from dread to excitement at the prospect of blazing through a pile-high inbox or a few hundred emails, congratulate yourself. You’re now operating at the level of Yellow Belt Productivity.