Tag Archives: productivity

Some notes on GTD

I started this post on December 15, 2008. I’ve mostly kept it intact and simply published it for the sake of getting it out there. It’s not nearly as sprawling as I initially intended; you’re welcome.

Remember the Milk is one of my favorite websites.1 Keeping a list of tasks, keeping it simple, and keeping it current are ways I manage my life. It’s nothing super profound or super important for me, but a list of tasks keeps me from becoming overwhelmed.


My basis for task management is GTD. Merlin Mann summarized it quite well, and I still think of his four-year-old article when discussing GTD:

Basically, you make your stuff into real, actionable items or things you can just get rid of. Everything you keep has a clear reason for being in your life at any given moment—both now and well into the future. This gives you an amazing kind of confidence that a) nothing gets lost and b) you always understand what’s on or off your plate.

Obviously it’s great for professionals where you’re more or less paid for being productive, but I’ve found the principles to be very useful for my own personal life as well. (I’ve found that it goes very well with Inbox Zero—incidentally also by Merlin Mann—which basically prescribes that it’s not worth your time to waste it on email, and that your goal should be speedy mail management and an empty inbox.)


So I’ve been convinced about these GTD techniques for a few years. Here are a few ways I’ve attempted to implement them:

  • Tiddlyspot: A host that offers free Tiddlywikis, Tiddlyspot showcases a few “flavors”, two of which are geared to GTD usage. Quite useful, easy to get used to, but only really usable on the internet and from a computer. And way too fiddly for my taste.
  • Remember The Milk: It shouldn’t surprise you at this point that I use Remember The Milk2, but I’ve been using them for two years. RTM’s services are its strength; you can access your tasks wherever you are—on your computer, phone, in your Gmail, etc.—and be reminded of what you have to do.

Sorry this post doesn’t have a great finish; like I said, I’m pretty much publishing it as-is, and I don’t have anything profound to say at the end of this. Let me know if you’d like my thoughts on something else. :)

  1. I work there now, but didn’t when I started this post.
  2. Uh, hello, I work there, remember?

Merlin Mann on Priorities

Mud Rooms, Red Letters, and Real Priorities | 43 Folders

Making something a BIG RED TOP TOP BIG HIGHEST #1 PRIORITY changes nothing but text styling. If it were really important, it’d already be done. Period. Think about it.

Example. When my daughter falls down and screams, I don’t ask her to wait while I grab a list to determine which of seven notional levels of “priority” I should assign to her need for instantaneous care and affection. Everything stops, and she gets taken care of. Conversely — and this is really the important part — everything else in the universe can wait.

Day One Buddhism.

Because, once you see what’s really there — once you know about an idea or a thing or a person or whatever that you’d reject 10,000 other things to protect and nurture — you’ve found your priority. And, consequently, you’ve discovered a bunch of other things that aren’t allowed to be priorities any more. Even in spirit.

After reading David Allen’s book, the whole idea of prioritizing tasks makes little sense to me.1 I love the way Merlin Mann puts it; effective, memorable writing that sticks with me better than Allen’s.

  1. The same could be said for due dates, at least the way most people seem to (over)use them.

The internet and your attention

You are busy. You have many demands on your time and attention. Never, under any conditions, hesitate to ignore anyone or anything that’s not making good use of your attention. Ever.

The ever-insightful Merlin Mann. The first thing I did was to stop following him on Twitter; he asked for it. :)

I suppose this also means I should focus my RSS reading on things that will help me learn, will enlighten me, or a selective set of quality distractions (because—let’s face it—I will read Dinosaur Comics).

I also think that Facebook fits in here somewhere—their lack of RSS meaning I just shouldn’t bother visiting their site perhaps?—but in general, I do think that a lot of the social sites are the chief computer distraction for me (and I’m guessing Merlin too, as he brought it up).

Anything else I should consider? I’m a sucker for good reading online, on a variety of topics, but I also recognize the need to limit oneself.