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.

Principles

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.)

Method

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.