Getting Things Done, which often goes by 'GTD', is a great path to success.
If you are consistently doing the things you love to do and/or need to do, you will be happier. And being happy is the best definition of success. Effectively managing your time is the key.
The Getting Things Done method of time management put forth by David Allen in his book of the same name can help with this. It has become so popular that there are whole websites devoted to it and lots of task management software that propose to follow GTD.
Effective time management does not mean you need to be a clock watcher. Or fill up every moment with 'constructive' activities. But you do need to be aware of what you are doing and focus on those tasks that improve your life. And improving your life just might mean sitting on the beach instead of putting in extra hours on the job.
Keeping a to do list has always been the most recommended method of time management. But list management can be a real problem. It has always been my biggest stumbling block.
I hate written lists. I kept losing them. I wouldn't keep them up to date. I specially hated re-writing them when they got messy. And that happens when you start accomplishing the items on the list.
That was a double edged sword. I loved getting things done, but hated re-writing the list.
Then I learned about David Allen and his book "Getting Things Done". I read it thinking, "Yah, Yah , Yah. Keep written lists. Everyone knows that".
There's more to GTD strategy than that. The main concepts connected with me, but scared me too.
Everything goes on the list? Yes, it makes sense not to clutter your mind, but that list would be huge. Wouldn't that make it much to big to handle effectively? Using a computer program makes it manageable and much easier.
The hardest thing for the GTD task management system is also the most powerful. Every item must have or be a 'Next Action' task.
We tend to put vague things on our list like 'create sales forecast', 'build deck', or make Halloween costume. These are not a 'next action'.
They may be the 'next project' but the 'next action' would be something much smaller and more detailed like 'get last years sales figures for each product', 'call Bob to get his sales estimates', 'measure area for deck', 'buy material for costume'.
Contexts are very useful for task management. A context is the place or circumstance under which a task can be performed. Keeping 'pick up milk' separate from 'meet with Tracy on proposal' and from 'call for doctor's appointment' helps to keep things from becoming overwhelming or lost in the crowd.
It's also easier to pick out a task when you are in the proper context for it. If you are going to run errands, it's useful to have tasks you can do while out running around, listed under that context.
Having 'pick up material for costume' on the same list as 'cash check at bank' and 'pick up dry cleaning' helps by your not having to make a special trip just for the costume.
I tried many different applications that are available as freeware or shareware, I just searched on "GTD Software".
There is an officially recommended GTD plug-in for Microsoft Outlook. I didn't look into it because I don't use Outlook at home and it costs $60.
Thinkingrock suits me best. It's a single list that I can display using various filters that are maintained on separate tabs. And it's a free 'open source' software.
I have 2 tabs that are context based, one for while I'm at work and one for at home. Both tabs have things that can be done in only those contexts and those tasks that can be done in either place, like make phone calls or work on a computer.
I also have a shopping context. I keep running shopping lists for each of the places I shop most: groceries and home improvement stores.
Thinkingrock is also portable. I keep it on a flash drive that I take back and forth from work to home. I can also use it on a laptop when I don't have a network or Internet connection like on a train or plane. It is totally self contained except for some Java support that you probably have loaded already anyway.
I often enter an initial thought that becomes a project when I review it for 'next action'. For example, 'create flower garden' becomes a project. Tasks under that project include: measure garden area; research flowers; choose flowers; design layout.
When I complete a task to a project, I review the project to determine the 'next action'. Every project must ALWAYS have a 'next action' until the project is complete.
Even if that is waiting on someone else, I make a task of it noting who I'm waiting on, what I'm waiting for them to do and when I should check back with them. It saves me from having to try to remember "What's happening with this again?" This is very helpful in GTD.
One thing that is not mentioned much in time management advice, including GTD, is that you need to also make sure you put things on the list that make you happy, not just things to check off. If you love golf, make sure you can do it on occasion. If swimming or reading a murder mystery give you pleasure, put them on the list. Don't go years without doing the things you enjoy because you are too busy. Make sure they get on the list too.
If you're unhappy because you spend all your time doing stuff you don't like, GTD won't help much. But that's where priorities come in and that's next in Managing Priorities
How have you implemented GTD?
There are many ways to Implement GTD. How have you done it? Do you use software? if so, which one and why? Share it!
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