Categories
Productivity

Juggling Ideas and Projects While Being Overwhelmed

My mind is full of projects and ideas. I’ve overloaded my task manager with pipe dreams and awesome (at least to me) projects that I’ll eventually get around to. But my heart sank when I planned to work on a project (or two or three or four) this week and I never got around to it. Life happens. The bills need to get paid, walk-in clients come in with new projects, the grass in the yard keeps growing, and my kid needs a new dress for the prom. I switch between taking care of my family to negotiating with a client and back to the single one-off tasks that piles up on my desk. This puts my projects on the back burner. It’s never easy trying to handle Life’s daily minutiae and still finding time to work on my Big Rock projects. But I soldier and try anyways.

I have a lot of ideas. Not all of them turn into a fully-developed project. Not all of these projects comes to completion. My task manager holds all of my projects but I was determined to do some spring cleaning and re-evaluate how I turned ideas into projects and projects into active work.

When I first read David Allen’s Getting Things Done, I thought I should have a big list of Someday/Maybe projects. This was a list of ideas and projects that I was inspired to work on. My first few mind sweeps created a huge swarm of projects. Some projects were brilliant ideas and others were just plain crazy. I had more projects than I could actually work on. I figured I could work on twenty projects like a bunch of balls being juggled in the air. It turned into a disaster. I got nothing done. I couldn’t remember which projects were actively being worked on, which projects were paused, and which projects were deferred to a future date. I set out to find a way to organize my ideas, on hold projects, and currently active projects.


Organizing my Ideas

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OmniFocus is my task manager of choice but any app is just as suitable. I organized my life into folders which represents the different Areas of Responsibilities. This allows me to organize different projects into different areas.

I have a separate folder called Ideas to R&D.


Ideas to R&D

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The Ideas to R&D folder holds a series of checklists (Single Actions Lists in OmniFocus terms) that acts as an inbox for new ideas I captured. They’re not fully developed projects yet, just ideas.

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I dedicate at least one hour every week to start fleshing out these ideas with various target goals, milestones, and next actions. When I develop it as far as I can, I’ll move the idea out of the Ideas folder and into one of my Areas of Responsibility as a project.


Review Monthly To Start A Project

I soon realized that my task manager can hold all of my projects but they won’t get worked on unless I schedule it on my calendar.

There are four actions i can take with my newly created projects:

  1. Pause the project.
  2. Schedule the project to start on a future date
  3. Start a project when a Waiting For event occurs
  4. Delegate the project to someone else.

Now, hold on a second!

Many projects don’t need to be started immediately. I can set the project status of an OmniFocus project to On Hold to pause it.

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In other task managers that do not have a project status, I can put it in a On Hold Projects folder or assign a On Hold tag to the project.

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If I am not working on a project, I pause it and will review it later for consideration.

Mark It On The Calendar!

Some projects can be scheduled to start on a particular day. I can’t start my Wedding Anniversary Dinner Date project until the date gets closer. In OmniFocus, I have the benefit of using the Defer Date to start a project on a future date. For task managers that don’t have a defer date, I’ll create an appointment a week before my anniversary to start the Wedding Anniversary Dinner Date project.

Wait For Me!

I wait for an event occur before starting a project. For example, I’ll wait for a sale to occur at my local hardware store to buy that awesome barbecue grill I’ve been lusting for. Waiting For is a popular tag that I use quite often. I check my Waiting For checklist once a week to see if an event occurs that can trigger a project. I’ll also wait for someone to return with a report for me to start on a project. This happens mostly when I’m waiting for a client to sign off on a sales contract before I can start.

Hey, Could You Help Me With This?

Delegating is not always possible but I’m always looking for a helping hand. I might not have the right skills or enough time to devote to a project. I’ll need to delegate a project off to someone else.


Active Projects

Many of my projects will start automatically because I have it deferred to start on a particular date. Some projects must be started immediately because of client/project requirements. But I also have a group of projects that remains on the back burner. I have control over my personal projects that I want to work. But I try to fit it into my day, week, and month.

In my life, I have Areas of Responsibility (folders) for Home, Work, Personal, and Family. I try to make sure I have anywhere from 0 to 3 active projects in each folder. If I have a lot of active of work projects, I might temporarily pause a family project. During the Christmas shopping season, my workplace is busy with Holiday customers and I put aside my home renovation project until the middle of January. I tell my kids that Daddy doesn’t have any time or energy to take care of the Christmas social functions but I’ve delegated that job to Mommy or Grandma. During Christmas, I might have 4 work projects, 0 personal projects, and 1 family project. After the Holiday Shopping season, I can rebalance my life and start to re-activate projects in different folders. I am learning not to overwhelm myself with too many projects.

Focus is a powerful tool. Instead of spinning 10 plates, I am only spinning 5 plates. Some projects will start automatically because it is deferred to start on a particular date. Other projects start when a client signs a contract. My back burner projects stays paused until I schedule them into the week. I balance my existing workload and adjust on a weekly basis.

I’m trying to overcome my natural compulsion to have too many active projects at one time. Work on a few projects to completion instead of keeping many projects in various states of incompletion.

I’m never out of ideas but I can exceed my personal bandwidth. Taking on too much workload leads to stress, anxiety, and overwhelm. I had a crazy year in 2019 with one emergency after another. I realized I had promised too much to too many people while trying to handle what I already have on my plate. These series of events caused me to think about my own workload and look for a solution to make time for my personal projects while dealing with Life’s daily challenges.


I Can’t Do Everything But I Can Schedule Something

My back burner projects will never get done unless I schedule them. I have an Ideas folder containing a list of all the possible project ideas I can think of. I develop them into projects that goes into different folders representing an Area of Responsibility. I put every new project on hold while I work on my existing projects. I review every week to pause existing projects and/or start a back burner project. Don’t overload myself with too many projects. Limit myself to a handful of projects. Focus is important in getting projects done. If I try to do everything, I get nothing done.

How do you juggle your projects? Have you ever had a sense of overwhelm? Do you review your current projects when you get overwhelmed? Share with us some of your ideas or questions about project overwhelm!

Categories
Productivity

Do you have your personal GTD Checklists ready?

Checklists has great power in the productivity world. Nearly every productivity book have their own lists and forms for you to work from. But have you created your own GTD Wiki? I wanted to gather up all of my GTD checklists into one place and create my own GTD workflow. Let’s see how.

I took much inspiration from David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology. But it is only a set of guidelines for you to follow. Each one of us has a unique set of circumstances that would make it difficult for one of the productivity authors to cover every issue that arises from our daily lives. Thus we start to take bits and pieces from other productivity systems to fill in the gaps where one methodology fails but another one can compensate. We try many productivity tips discovered through tweets, blog posts, Discourse forums, and books. We create our own Frankenstein workflow with bandages and duct tape. I’ve been guilty of this myself. I had a DEVONthink database full of tips and tricks, checklists, PDF forms, calendars, and ideas. Some worked. Some didn’t. Some pieces fit like a well-worn glove. Others are discarded when I can’t find a place for it.

This was the journey I took. Soon enough, I had way too many tips scattered in books, blog posts, and half-forgotten OmniOutliner documents. I had a junk drawer full of articles and posts saved in haphazard fashion. Finally, I took a hard look at my productivity workflow. I stripped everything and started from the beginning once again when my systems buckled under the strain of too many competing hacks. I took a basic shell of my GTD workflow and made a checklist of the different workflows. I took inspiration from David Allen’s book “Making It All Work” (MIAW)

Initially, I referred to the MIAW appendices whenever I needed to go through a workflow. But it didn’t feel “mine.” I decided to recreate the appendices in Apple Numbers and customized it to my workflow.

Truthfully, any app can hold your checklists. Find an app that you’re comfortable with. Just make sure that all the checklists are inside one app. Don’t have checklists in multiple apps.

Take time to create your own workflow. As life changes, adjust each sheet as needed. I do a quarterly checkup to see if I am skipping certain steps. I’ll delete those or try to change it to reflect how I perform a workflow. Add new steps as needed when your situation changes.

When I start my End-of-The-Day Daily Review, I go to my Daily Review sheet. I visit the Weekly Review sheet when I am in need of a weekly review. I have the Incompletion Trigger Lists when I need to do a mind sweep to completely empty my head.


My GTD checklist on my Mac

I can open the Numbers spreadsheet on my Mac and refer to it when I need to perform a workflow.

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My GTD checklist on my iPhone

Sometimes I’ll open it on my iPhone and refer to it while I’m working on my Mac. This is helpful when I have a smaller screen like the MacBook 12”. I place my iPhone next to my computer and refer my checklist on the phone.

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My GTD checklist on my iPad

I can also open my checklist on my iPad in a slideover panel. When I need to look at my checklist, I swipe from the right side of my iPad to show Numbers in the slideover panel. I can swipe away the slideover panel to hide it once again.


My GTD checklist in my notebook


The easiest way to gain access to your checklist is to just print it out and put it in a small binder. I have a Staples Discbound notebook that holds my notes and checklists in one convenient place. I don’t need to launch Apple Numbers to get to my checklists. It’s in my notebook and ready to use.

I can use either a Franklin-Covey Planner, a Discbound notebook, or any 3-ring binder to hold my checklists. There’s something magical about seeing a notebook with my checklists in physical form. I can flip through the pages easily if I need to switch between different checklists.

Keeping a checklist in an app that is available on the iPhone, iPad, and Mac ensures that I have easy access to them at all times. Keeping a physical notebook with the checklists also makes it a visible reminder that I have everything I need wherever I am.


🤔 Have you started your own GTD wiki yet? Invest a little time now in documenting your workflows. This will speed up workflows such as daily planning, creating projects, weekly review, and performing a mind sweep. Having a checklist on my Mac, iPhone, iPad, or notebook will speed up the GTD process. Customize the checklists to make it your own. Over time, the checklists will become automatic and you’ll be cycling through life quickly. You can finally create a cohesive GTD workflow and creating your own “Getting Things Done” book that works you.

I hope you’ll share some of your own results or comments about having one place for all your checklists has served you.

I share with you my Numbers GTD checklist. Convert it to another app such as OmniOutliner, Microsoft Word, Apple Notes, a mind map, or even a text file.

My personal GTD Checklist is actually heavily modified from the one I am providing in the link below. But this was the foundation of what I started off with. Make these checklists yours. Change it to fit your needs.

https://www.icloud.com/numbers/0WlZW_ycR5z5Dc9Cb6Cqhm44g#ERW_GTD_Checklist

Categories
Productivity

Jumping to a Higher Horizon of Focus in the Daily, Weekly, and Monthly Reviews

The GTD Review is the glue that keeps my system together. But it’s often a tough habit to adopt. I’ve been able to get a daily review going which takes care of my day-to-day needs. It took care of today’s fire and look ahead to tomorrow’s schedule But it didn’t cover anything past tomorrow. My daily reviews weren’t giving me a sense of direction and progress towards my goals.

I was finally ready to up my game and move to the Higher Horizons of Focus. I started my Daily Review in get control of my day. Next, I worked on improving my Weekly Review, Monthly, Quarterly, and Annual Review to move my path towards a purpose-filled life.


My Daily Review

My daily review currently includes:

  1. Clearing the inboxes in various apps and the physical in-tray.
  2. Reviewing any currently active (not someday/maybe) projects that I am working on this week.
  3. Reviewing the calendar to see tomorrow’s schedule.
  4. Reviewing any agenda items and waiting-for’s.
  5. Review any completed tasks and create followup tasks if needed.
  6. Planning tomorrow’s to-do list by choosing 1 Big Rock project and 3 MITs (Most Important Tasks).
  7. Journal any new thoughts, ideas, and how the day went. I record victories and things to work on.

To get to the next Kung Fu belt level, I had to construct my own GTD Weekly Review. The official GTD Weekly Review is a good starting point and is available here.


My Weekly Review

My current Weekly Review includes:

  1. Planning the Big Rock projects for next week.
  2. Look at next week’s calendar for any commitments.
  3. Review last week’s journal entries to mine for ideas and new projects.

I need to stay on top of my projects and checklists on a weekly basis. I plan my projects for the next week by balancing my calendar events with the various projects I want to work on.

Planning My Big Rocks for next week

I plot my days with the Daily Review to take care of the daily emergencies and barrage of workload coming my way. The Weekly Review is focused on specific goals for the week. These goals take form in the various active projects and Someday projects that fill up my task manager. I review all of my projects and choose three to six Big Rock projects to focus on.

Review next week’s calendar

It helps to plan ahead. I look at next week’s entries to see what lies ahead. I might have to start a new project or activate a project ahead of time to prepare for any events that will happen soon.

Mining for new project ideas in my journal

I like to review the past week’s journal entries to get a feel for how my week went. Oftentimes, I get new project ideas or suggestions on how to improve a current workflow or look for a change in mindset.


Monthly Review

I haven’t quite fleshed this review yet. I don’t do it often enough to flesh my Monthly Review yet. But I do have a few steps in place.

  1. Curate my projects
  2. Curate my checklists

Curate my projects

I look at my current smorgasbord of projects and evaluate their place in my life. Some projects may have stalled out and needs a little reboot. I rewrite the task description or break the next actions down a bit further to kickstart it. Or the project’s importance has degraded over time. Maybe my enthusiasm for a project has waned a bit. I can either defer a project to a future date when I have more time and energy to work on it. Or I can delete it if I feel like I’m spinning my wheels and not gaining traction.

Curate my checklists

I have some checklists that are daily or weekly routines. They might need some fine-tuning to reduce any needless friction. I also evaluate checklists that have single one-off tasks. I may have forgotten to check off a task or I no longer need to do it if I ignored it for too long.


Quarterly Review

This is a new realm that I am about to jump into soon. I don’t have anything here just yet but I do have some ideas.

  1. Use the 12 Week Year to choose goals and projects for the quarter.
  2. Review current projects to see if I am hitting my monthly milestones. Recalibrate my projects if I need to catch up or I need to redefine the goals to hit.

Annual Review

This is the big vision board stage. I sit down with my wife and evaluate what we’d like to work on for the next 12 months. We set our general directions here and brainstorm for projects that can bring us closer to our goals. We establish monthly milestones and re-evaluate during the quarterly and monthly reviews.


Climbing the Ladder to reach New Horizons of Focus

Each review (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annual) hits a different target.

The Annual Review sets out to plan my goals for the year. I create milestones and a vision of what I would like each quarter to look like.

The Monthly Review and Quarterly Review checks on my project statuses. Am I bogged down in a current project? Do I need to re-evaluate my workload and deactivate some projects so that other projects get started now? Can I delete or defer some projects that don’t contribute towards my current quarterly goals?

I use the Monthly Review to plan the next batch of tasks that will help me complete my Big Rock projects.

During the Weekly Review, I choose the small handful of Big Rocks to work on. I try to plan out time during the week to work on specific projects and ignore all the other projects waiting for me in my task manager. I squeeze these projects in between different calendar appointments and keep buffer time in the week to handle the daily onslaught of outside requests that come in via email, messaging, and walk-in customers.

The Daily Review is where I spend my time putting out the fires and try to bring make progress in a Big Rock that I want to work on today.

I’m slowly starting to master the different review levels. I had to take care of the Daily Review first. Master my day and then I can corral the week. When I can master the Weekly Review, I can step up to the Monthly Review and go upwards all the way to the Annual Review.

It wasn’t easy. I thought I could do the different review levels. But I found lost if I didn’t get the lower levels well thought out. I’m looking forward to fine-tuning my game. I have typically lived in the “now” and not worried too much about the future. But the more in control I have of “now”, the more I look a little further into the future. I’ve achieved yellow belt at the Weekly Review level. I can see the Monthly Review is within my reach and I’m practicing on it every month. I set my foundations so that I can get to the Quarterly Review and the Annual Review.

It’s the end of the year and I’m looking forward to having better vision with the different review levels. As a matter of fact, I’m printing out this post and using it as a checklist whenever I’m not sure what I’m doing during the different reviews.

Have you mastered your review game yet? Lay the foundations by creating your checklists for the Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Quarterly, and Annual Review? What do you need to review at these stages? Write them in a notebook and refer to it when you’re doing your next review!

Enjoy Life! Enjoy the Process! 👨‍🚀

Categories
Productivity

A Quick Collection of Keyboard Maestro Macros

I’ve used Keyboard Maestro to simplify my daily and weekly routines for a little over a year now. I thought I’d share some of my favorite macros that I’ve used on a daily and weekly basis.

Keyboard Maestro is a unique system-wide app available on MacOS that allows us to customize our computer and truly make it our own. It doesn’t take a programming degree to customize our Macs. It uses a series of actions that can mimic any keyboard or mouse interaction.

I’ve been interested in customizing my Mac to reduce friction whenever I use my Mac. Simplifying multi-steps processes can offload many tasks that I would normally have to do manually. Keyboard Maestro has been the biggest reason for my return from an iPad-oriented lifestyle into a multi-platform lifestyle where I can split my time equally between MacOS and iPadOS.

I don’t create a lot of macros or shortcuts. But when I do create a macro, I use it a lot. It’s not about amassing a large number of macros. It’s about customizing my apps to fit my work style. I might find an app not behaving exactly as I want it to. I could send an e-mail to Customer Service with a feature request. Or I can take matters into my own hands and create a macro that will mimic how I think the app should behave.

Here are a few routines that I’ve been using to speed up my workflow. These are just examples of the different types of routines I have encountered.


Arrange My App Windows Easily

There are times I want to arrange my app windows perfectly each time. I have a macro that opens my OmniFocus “Today” perspective on the left side and Fantastical’s Day view on the right side.

Original Number of steps: 7

  1. Open OmniFocus

  2. Switch to perspective showing all available actions

  3. Arrange window to desired size

  4. Open Fantastical

  5. Switch to Day View

  6. Arrange window to desired size

  7. Go to tomorrow

Now that I have my window arranged, I can drag-and-drop OmniFocus task into my Fantastical Day view to create a time block. This macro makes time blocking easy for me by automatically arranging my windows.

OmniFocus Fantastical Dashboard


Perform a repeated action

I love Things 3’s task view. OmniFocus can be overwhelming because I can see my left-side Sidebar, outline, and right-side inspector.

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I find this view helpful only when I’m in “planning” mode. I can tinker with all of my task details with the sidebar and inspector panels open. But it is quite distracting when I am in “action” mode. After I complete my planning session, I can hit a keyboard shortcut to switch between a “detailed” view and a “simplified” view.

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When I see OmniFocus in this simplified view, I know I am in action mode. All I see is my outline. This view reminds of Things 3’s streamlined view. I can work easily in here because I don’t need to tinker with task attributes. I can focus on the tasks presented in this list.

Original Number of steps: 4

  1. Hide or show the Toolbar

  2. Hide or show the Inspector

  3. Hide or show the Sidebar

  4. Resize the window

OmniFocus Toggle Simple to Detailed View


Automate A Daily Chore

As part of my daily planning sessions, I look at OmniFocus and choose three tasks as my Most Important Tasks (MITs) for the day. I created a macro that will automate this multi-step process. First, I highlight 3 tasks in OmniFocus and then hit my keyboard shortcut.

  1. Copy the tasks to the clipboard

  2. Open Apple Notes

  3. Hide OmniFocus

  4. Create a new note

  5. Paste clipboard contents holding my OmniFocus tasks

  6. Select all text in the note

  7. Change text style to Bulleted List

  8. Increase font size by 4 points

  9. Add descriptive text “My Most Important Tasks (MITs) for <date>”

MITs to Apple Notes

I like to use my task manager when I am curating my projects and checklists. Moving my tasks to an Apple Note keeps me from tinkering inside my task manager. If I need more information, the copied text are hyper-linked back to my task manager.


Create a Guided Checklist

I can create a guided checklist with prompts that remind me about the next step to take in a lengthy workflow such as the Mind Sweep. I took the GTD mindsweep and converted it into a Keyboard Maestro macro. The steps are very simple. Show a prompt with instructions. Open the appropriate app (calendar, CRM, task manager, notes taker) and go through the mind sweep. When I click on the Next button, I advance to the next step.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1brbWAwtrhvLuJKMt_Ut2xrnfGghfYF3W/view?usp=sharing


Other Examples

Customizing my Mac has never been easier. Automation is part of the process needed to simplify our workflows. I can spend 30 minutes to set up a macro that will save me time every day or week I use it. Some other macro ideas include:

  1. If I turn on my MacBook Pro and it logs on to my office wi-fi network, Keyboard Maestro will open up my task manager and show my office task list.
  2. If I connect a specific USB hard drive, it will copy a folder to the USB hard drive.
  3. Create text-based macros that will type in my address, today’s date, next Friday’s date, or create a text template for longer e-mail responses.
  4. If I launch Apple Mail, re-arrange the windows exactly as I want it.

I can offload multi-step processes to Keyboard Maestro. I can hit a keyboard shortcut or trigger a macro via floating palettes. I cut my time considerably by automating my routines. This is part of my “simplification” project for my productivity system.

I’ve explored many Discourse forums and see the common feature requests that my favorite app should have had this feature built-in because I paid a lot of more for it. That’s probably true but I am not willing to wait for the app developer to add features X, Y, and Z. I can customize my Mac and my apps to fit my work style easily. I spent a few nights watching Sparky’s Keyboard Maestro Field Guide and absorbed what I needed from it. Take control of your Mac. Invest a little time into adding one new macro a week. You’ll be happily using your Mac more frequently because you customized it with Keyboard Maestro and made your own little hot rod.

Download the Keyboard Maestro examples and adjust them to suit your preferences. Share some of your favorite Keyboard Maestro macros here or ask a question about Keyboard Maestro. I’d love to hear from you!

Categories
Productivity

A quick peek inside the Getting Things Done Workbook

GTD Workbook: A Brief Summary

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The new Getting Things Done Workbook was just released and I hesitated buying it. I didn’t know what I would be getting. Oh, I don’t need a workbook to do GTD. I’m pretty good at it. I’ve already read Getting Things Done, Making It All Work, and Getting Things Done for Teens, and Ready For Anything. But somehow this book occupies a different niche.


How To Use The Book

The book blurb states that this workbook is…

An accessible, practical, step-by-step how-to guide that supplements Getting Things Done by providing the details, the how-to’s, and the practices to apply GTD more fully and easily in daily life.

The book is concise and offers a few things the other GTD books don’t have:

  • Insights – Stories from the GTD community with tips, tricks, and quotes.
  • Deep Dives – Detailed examples of each of the ten GTD moves.
  • FAQs – Some Frequently Asked Questions answered by the GTD community.
  • Progress Tracker – Track your progress as you work your way through the checklists to ensure you haven’t missed a step.
  • Checklists – A quick checklist that gives instructions on what to work on next. Check them off as needed.

Whenever I needed to perform a tuneup of my GTD habits. I reached for my well-worn copy of GTD and go through it to see if I needed to brush up on a workflow I’ve become sloppy in. Now, I can go through a quick checklist in the GTD Workbook and improve my GTD practices. This book is compact at 224 pages long. Its short length allows me to get right to the heart of my workflow. There’s no need to wade through the sometimes dry style that the other GTD books have.


Assessing My Current GTD Status

Determine your place in GTD mastery by rating yourself on a quick 15 question survey. You’ll need to know where you are now before you can figure out what is the next action to work on. Whether you’re a beginner or near the top, there is always room for improvement. I’ve found several areas where I see room to grow and solidify my GTD practices.

There are five GTD steps with two to three moves in each step. Go through each step and its corresponding moves. Check them off as you continue your GTD tuneup.


Step 1 : Capturing

  • Move 1: Capture all incoming items into your inbox
  • Move 2: Choosing a capture tool
  • Move 3: Do a Mind Sweep

Master the art of capturing by performing these three moves. If you don’t capture what’s on your mind, you’ll lose it. Gather all those loose papers, books, blog posts, appointment cards, and anything else that is on your mind.


Step 2: Clarifying

  • Move 4: Get in-tray to empty
  • Move 5: Get emails to zero

Gain control of your life and move inbox items by doing any 2 minute tasks as well as delegating or differing tasks. Use the Clarifying checklist to move inbox items into your task manager, calendar, general reference, or trash.


Step 3: Organizing

  • Move 6: Create a Next Action list and other Lists
  • Move 7: Keep Track of Your Projects on One List
  • Move 8: Create Folders to Stay Organized

Organize your miscellaneous next actions into projects and Next Action lists, Waiting For list, and Someday/Maybe lists. Create folders to store any physical documents and digital files.


Step 4: Reflecting

  • Move 9: Do a GTD Weekly Review
  • Move 10: Do a Daily Review

Keep your system up-to-date with a daily review and a weekly review. If your system is not fresh, you won’t trust it anymore because it no longer reflects reality. This step gives us confidence that we have a trusted system we can rely on.


Step 5: Engaging

  • Perform a daily review each morning or night before by checking you calendar and next action lists.
  • Clarify today’s inbox items and organize them into the proper lists on a daily basis.
  • Determine the correct next action to work on now based on context, time available, energy available, and priority.

After all the planning and reviewing is done, it’s time to get to work. You will be confident knowing what you want to do every day.


The Summary

We may have read the GTD book multiple times but we can always find something to improve. Instead of reading the GTD book, use the GTD Workbook to speed up the GTD tune-up. It is loaded with tips and observations from GTD practitioners to give us a jumpstart when we feel stuck. The checklists offered inside gives us a guided tour through the GTD workflow.

I’m thinking of the workbook as my personal coach to keep me on track. It guides me like my gym coach. In David Allen’s ultimate GTD app, there was an overall theme of having his ultimate dream app guide him in the GTD principles. This book is the next best thing to having a personal session with a licensed GTD coach. Keep it on your desk when you feel the need to get a walkthrough some of the steps in capturing, clarifying, organizing, engaging, and reflecting. It’s well worth the price of admission.

Categories
Productivity

Handling Interruptions and Making Space for Work

It feels like I never have enough time in the day for my MITs (Most Important Tasks) to get done. I"m trying time blocking, streaks, saying no to outside disruptions. I’m still exploring ways to deal with interruptions and getting back on track with Work Interrupted.


Dealing with Interruptions

I’ve read articles where I can put on headphones to signal to others that I’m not available just doesn’t seem to work when my wife comes into the room and absolutely needs this or that done. The same thing happens with customers. I can’t say no at this stage of my career. One day, I’ll finally become more cemented in my career and finances and I’ll be ready to say no whenever I want to. Some folks will say "it’s time to just put your foot down and say no." Well, I can’t say no to my supervisor most of the time. I could get away with sometimes saying no but not all the time.


Time Blocking has been a mess for me

Time blocking hasn’t worked quite right. I’m resigned to the idea of just making sure I get one MIT done in the morning and one MIT done in the afternoon. I’m starting to work on my morning frog earlier in the morning and work on the afternoon frog in the middle of the afternoon instead of the end of the day. It’s hard to work on an afternoon frog immediately after lunch. I’m drowsy after lunch and just need to unwind. Perhaps I’ll look into my diet plans and what I eat at noon to help with this. Or I should just take a mid-day nap for 30 minutes and get back into the flow.


Time Shifting My Time Block

My scheduled time blocks are becoming more flexible. I’ll consider this "time shifting." Oftentimes, I will pause my work when an interruption occurs. Afterwards, I’ll often decide to just call it a day on my original work when I am no longer in the flow or in the mood. It’s been hard for me to restart my work when I might have other more interesting tasks to work on.

I’m slowly accepting the idea that my work doesn’t have to occur exactly its designated time. I can just move it forward just a little. I don’t want to push it too late in the day and I won’t have time to work on my original project.

If I don’t get back to it, I’ll have to mark it is an MIT for tomorrow morning. I used to get uptight about not finishing something today. But I’ve learned "that’s life." I’ll let it go and return back tomorrow.


Leaving Bread Crumbs To Return Back To Work

One idea I’ve been using to great effect is the idea of marking my place in my work before dealing with the interruption. I take a sticky note and write down where I’m at with my work. and what is the next action I need to take when I return back to my work. I place that sticky note on my computer monitor and switch focus from my computer work to my customer. When I return, it will take me a couple of minutes to return to where I left off. I can resume my train of thought and continue onward with my original work.


Getting My Motor Started

Together with leaving a bread crumb trail, My frustration comes from just getting started. Getting into the starting blocks is difficult because I feel like I’m starting over again. I’ve been using the Due app to nag me every 30 minutes to return to my original work. If I get interrupted, I’ll pull out my iPhone and talk to Siri:

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I love using the Due app because it will nag me every 30 minutes until I dismiss it.

Alternatively, I can use the Apple Reminders app:

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I can snooze the reminder for another hour or mark the reminder as completed.

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I’ve also taken to using my Apple Watch and set a 15 minute timer as a trigger to return back to my original work.

I switch between using the Due app (with its persistent repeating reminders) or just set a timer on my Apple Watch or iPhone to remind me to get back to work. I just need a trigger (any kind of trigger) to nudge me back to my original work plans. Otherwise, I’m more prone to visiting Twitter or my Netflix queue.


Yes, the Due app can be annoying but it’s saved my butt numerous times. I think that a 30 minute snooze is enough time for a nagging notification to appear without overly irritating me. I might think about doing 15 or 20 minutes next to see how much nagging I can handle. Everyone’s tolerance is different so 30 minutes sounds like a good compromise.


Falling off the bandwagon on a daily basis is a part of life. Getting back on the bandwagon more quickly is the part I’m trying to master. Interruptions often derails my original plans and I’m always looking for ways to get back on the saddle again. Have you encountered your own difficulties in getting back to work after dealing with an interruption? Have you just had trouble getting started on that project that’s pestering you and you’re just procrastinating? Hit me up with a reply and tell me how you’ve dealt with distractions.

Categories
Productivity

David Allen’s GTD App Review

Part 2

In Part 1 of my reflections on David Allen’s ultimate GTD app, I went through the first page of his feature wish list.

At the GTD Summit 2019 event, David Allen attempted to explain what he wanted.

Ultimate GTD App

Reality sets in because the organizations we work for will have different technology infrastructures. One organization might be centered around the Google Suite services. Others might be revolving around Dropbox, the Apple Mac/iOS ecosystem, Windows operating system, or the Android environment. With so many competing ecosystems, it will be near-impossible to find a single GTD app that can integrate well with all of them.

I don’t think there will ever be one ultimate app that will do everything. It’s more about adopting the many habits and mastering the tools that can get us close to mastering GTD or any productivity system.

Let’s go through the list and check off which line items you have a workflow for. This is food for thought. What workflows do I want to implement? Are there any workflows I can improve on?


Page 2. Initial/Current View (The Startup Screen) and Page 3. Initial Screen

image|646x500

image|646x500

These two pages show an overall view of our GTD workflow. They will be explored next.


Page 4. Capturing To My Inbox

image|646x500 Do I have a process for capturing to my inbox? A trigger list is helpful in exploring any items that I wanna to capture. Here is the official GTD Mind Sweep Incomplete Triggers list. Customize this list to fit my needs.


Page 5. Inbox Processing

image|646x500 Do I have a workflow to process my inbox? List down the steps I need to properly organize any inbox items into my projects, checklists, and someday/maybe lists. The above picture illustrates GTD steps to processing my inbox.


Page 6. Creating New Projects

image|646x500 Do I have a template or workflow for project creation? I enjoy using a text expansion macro to create my project templates. Defining a project is a habit that often gets skipped over and I go direct to listing my next actions. Sometimes I need to remember if the project aligns with my personal goals or the objectives of the organization I work for.

I have started to explore more project creation in mind map form. Here is an example of a mind map to help me visualize my projects in its initial stage.

image|494x500

I brainstorm to capture tasks and ideas in the Unprocessed Notes node. Then I group various tasks into different phase nodes. Breaking up a large project into various phases or sub-projects aids in keeping it more manageable.


Page 7. Projects

image|646x500 Do I have a task manager or analog workflow that is capable of storing my projects and its associated tasks? Apple Reminders is a great app for managing a small project but I’ll need to turn to a higher level app such as Things, Todoist, 2Do, or OmniFocus to handle more complicated projects.


Page 8. Next Actions

image|646x500 Do I have a workflow to take next actions from my various projects and checklists to create a Today’s Task list? I also need an Errands list if I’m going out shopping. Or I need a list of miscellaneous House tasks that needs to be taken care of.

Flagging a task or tagging a task with the Today tag might be helpful. I personally look at my task manager list of all available actions and write down 3-5 tasks into my Bullet Journal (BuJo).


Page 9. Persons

image|646x500

Do I have a workflow for keeping tracking of any outstanding Waiting-For’s or agenda items from people I need to talk to? A Contact Relationship Manager (CRM) or my task manager can do fulfill this requirement for me. Sometimes, I’ll just have a page in my BuJo for a person that I frequently interact with.


Page 10. Someday/Maybe

image|646x500 Do I have a workflow for tracking any projects that I want to put on the back burner? Many projects do not need to be worked on right now. I want to keep track of it but I don’t need to see it in Today’s Agenda items to work on. I need to put a project on hold by setting it to start on a future date or assign a date to review a Someday project.

Maybe projects are random ideas that I haven’t fully fleshed out into full projects yet. I might not have the necessary resources or information required to brainstorm about it. But it is something to think about at a later ideal

I keep my Someday projects separate from Maybe projects. I will definitely work on a Someday project in the future. A Maybe project is still in the incubation stage and needs further exploration. I have a checklist of different ideas such as:

  • House ideas to R&D

  • Professional ideas to R&D

  • Vacations ideas to R&D


Page 11. Tickler

image|646x500 Do I have a workflow to remind me about any events, appointments, or a due project? My workflow tools should have the ability to notify me of an upcoming appointment or a task that will be due in the next 2 hours. Thankfully, a digital calendar can be set to ding us at any time. My Apple Watch buzzes when something I wanted to track will happen.

Otherwise, I do try to adopt the habit of checking my BuJo at least once an hour to remind myself of any incoming events I need to be aware of.


Page 12. Meetings

image|646x500 Do I have a workflow or template to handle meeting notes? A text expansion macro or document template is helpful to make sure I’m always ready to take notes during a meeting. Then I make a mind map to help me summarize what happened. I’ll grab any next actions or waiting for’s that will come out of a meeting.


Page 13. Communication

image|646x500,100% Do I have a checklist to remind me about any forms of communication that needs to happen? This list includes any emails, phone calls, faxes, and letters that needs to be delivered. I think this also ties in closely with Page 9. Persons. I’m either waiting for something from someone or I need to communicate with a person or organization.

I’m thinking of e-mail apps (Apple Mail, Spark, Airmail, Newton), social media apps (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter), or video chat (Facetime, Skype) as possible apps that can link with my task manager, calendar, and CRM.


Page 14. Areas of Focus and Page 15. Projects

image|646x500 image|646x500 Do I have an established structure for my Areas of Focus? I need a task manager that can group my projects into folders. These folders represent Areas of Focus or Responsibilities that I am tracking.

Alternatively, I have sections in a 3-ring binder that separated by divider pages. Each section represents an Area of Focus. I slip in my project pages inside when I need to capture items.


Page 16. Reference Lists

image|646x500 I am looking at Allen’s page about Reference Lists and am unsure of what he truly wants. Maybe he wants a text expansion macro that can create blank reference lists to print out? Or a PDF editor to create templates for his use? The world still revolves around papers and creating blank forms is still essential.

Allen lists books here. Maybe he is referring to keeping resources in easily accessible locations such as a notebook app (DEVONthink, Evernote) or putting everything into a cloud drive such as Dropbox, iCloud, or Google Drive?


Page 17. Weekly Debriefing (The Weekly Review)

image|646x500 Do I have a workflow to review my projects and checklists? I want to make sure my projects and checklists are always up-to-date. I set a time to review a variety of projects and checklists.

  • Mondays – Routine Tasks

  • Tuesdays – One-off tasks for my Work, Personal, House, and Family

  • Wednesdays – Any currently active work projects

  • Thursdays – Any currently active personal projects

  • End of the Month – Any projects that are on hold or on Someday status.

Some projects such as the Christmas shopping list don’t need to be reviewed on a weekly basis. I put an all-day appointment in my calendar for these ticklers.

The Weekly Review is the secret sauce that makes any productivity system click. Once I adopted this essential habit into my productivity workflow, life flows more smoothly.


Page 18. Coaching Messages and Page 19. Coaching Models

image|646x500 image|646x500 I don’t know of any app that will truly hold your hand when I’m going through my workflows. I do have a Keyboard Maestro macro group that coaches me through my Daily Review workflow.

I use an OmniOutliner outline that I refer to when I’m doing my monthly review. I like checklists a lot. Atul Gawande wrote a book exploring the idea of using checklists for nearly everything in my life.

The Checklist Manifesto

If I have a checklist, I won’t be skipping any steps and assuming that my projects and checklists are up-to-date.

The checklist becomes my coach. As a matter of fact, this post is a checklist for me to fine-tune my system.


Create your own ultimate GTD workflow

What works for me might not work for you. I created a checklist from David Allen’s GTD app wish list and looked for workflows, tools, and apps that will help me get to a well-oiled machine that is humming on all eight cylinders.

Some other productivity systems that I have incorporated into my own personal system includes:

Michael Hyatt – Free to Focus and the Full Focus Planner

J.D. Meier – Getting Results the Agile Way

Leo Babauta – Zen To Done

Ryder Carroll – The Bullet Journal

Find your own productivity workflow. Create a system that includes habits and tools that facilitates your needs as a remote worker. What works for you? Diagnose areas that have provided some friction. Look for something that works for you.

Some workflows that have been created are presented here:

@bkruisdijk shows how he uses OmniFocus, DEVONthink, Drafts, Shortcuts, Keyboard Maestro, Fantastical, Apple Mail, and TextExpander to create his own ultimate GTD app.

David Allen’s killer GTD app system brought into practice

@Kourosh reflects upon his GTD workflow and explores how he was able to use his methodology described in his book Creating Flow with OmniFocus..

Realizing the GTD Dream App

Take your time developing the different checklists and workflows needed. Test it in your daily life for a few weeks before moving on to the next workflow. Then share your own workflow by creating a new post. We can learn much from each other.

Enjoy!

Categories
Productivity

Forget about the Ultimate GTD App; Create Your Ultimate GTD Workflow

It’s not about the apps. It’s about the workflow.

Freedom is a debilitating condition that affects me as a Remote Worker. I’m crippled with the freedom to do anything I want. I could ignore the phone calls and binge on my Netflix queue. I can put up the “Gone Fishing” sign on the front door and take my kids out to the beach. I need to have structure in my life to ensure that I can keep my business running. The first step was to find a productivity system that provides structure. The first productivity system I truly looked into was GTD. It’s been a lifesaver for me. I found OmniFocus as the app to use to implement my GTD workflow. It wasn’t pretty in the beginning but I eventually got OmniFocus clicking after two years. I didn’t have all the workflows clicking quite yet but I eventually got there.

I was intrigued when I heard that David Allen released his vision of the ultimate GTD app at the 2019 GTD summit:

Easiest Hard Rule to Follow

Despite valiant efforts, Allen reports that he got close but the technology and user awareness about GTD wasn’t ready yet. Here’s a quote from a January 2019 Medium blog post:

"I spent 3 years looking at intentional software with Charles Simonyi and his team. These are the people that built Office, Excel…they were looking at whether or not our technology can actually build something that wasn’t out there yet. The answer is no. The technology might be there already, but there’s no market for it. Most people don’t even keep stuff in their head, why do you think they’ll need it."

David Allen admits that GTD can take up to two years to truly understand and master.

"What they don’t realize is that it is a methodology, and not a technology. It’s a thought process.” That thought process takes some time to master, around two years according to Allen."

I’m not a mindreader but Allen probably thought that if there was one GTD app that incorporates AI (Artificial Intelligence) and coach me through the GTD workflow.

This isn’t a quest to look for the perfect GTD app. This is a journey to get new GTD practitioners a way adopt a GTD workflow.

I don’t know if one single GTD app will be able to do everything. Everyone’s needs will be different. I am an advocate of implementing the GTD system with tools I am comfortable with. I implement GTD concepts with apps that facilitates my workflow.

I took a look at David Allen’s 19 page proposal of his dream GTD app. I realized that it looks more like a series of habits, workflows, and checklists. Instead of requesting my favorite task manager app developer to include Features X, Y, and Z, I should look at collecting the various tools and apps that will help me create my own workflow. The technology is available to everybody but it takes some elbow grease to glue it all together.

I sat down with pen and paper and walked my way through Allen’s dream GTD features. I’ll be looking at different pages over the next few weeks in an attempt to decipher what Allen wanted.


1. Features

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Default Debriefing process

This is the habit of checking my checklists weekly to keep my life current. I schedule a time block to review next week’s commitments, appointments, active projects, administrative tasks, and routine tasks to stay current.

The Weekly Review is an essential building block to keep my checklists, projects, and task up-to-date.


Customize List Sorting

I need to have an app that will keep my projects and tasks sorted. I need an app capable of sorting my tasks and projects into bite-sized views. I might have a saved search list for a variety of contexts:

  1. Home tasks

  2. Office Tasks

  3. All phone calls

  4. A due soon list that shows any upcoming tasks that will be due in the next 7 days.

  5. Errands

  6. Agenda items to talk about with my wife and kids

Using tags can help with grouping similar tasks for me to work on. A task manager should have the ability to create saved searches to show a list of commonly reviewed search criteria.


Cross Reference Projects to related actions, waiting for’s, reference, people, dates, meetings, etc.

The introduction of URL schemes can help link tasks in my task manager to calendar events or notes in my notebook can facilitate this need. Here are two examples of URL schemes to go to a specific view in my task manager:

omnifocus:///inbox

omnifocus:///perspective/Bills


Decision-Making and Organizing Expert System built in

Allen might be thinking about creating a digital assistant that will be able to automatically categorize our tasks into different Areas of Focus (House, Work, Personal, Family) or checklists (packing list for trips, birthday presents list). Or is he thinking about a digital assistant that can prioritize and help us with making decisions about what is the perfect next action I could work on right now?


Global Search

MacOS’s Spotlight feature allows me to search my computer for nearly everything I need. My internet search engine is just one tap away from accessing the world’s archives of blog posts, articles, and reference material. My task manager’s search feature is also capable to grouping a variety of tasks together for my review. Everything (or almost everything) is just a few keystrokes away.


Gateway to all other software (while processing)

I’m not sure what Allen means by this? I can switch between apps easily. My iPad has split-screen capabilities to let me look at two apps side-by-side.

Many apps are now capable of “talking” to each other with internal APIs such as URL schemes and AppleScript dictionaries. They send information between each other and scripts can be written to speed up a repeated process.


Allow free-flowing thinking while tracking toward closure

This feature sounds like the perfect spot for apps such as an outliner or mind mapper to come into play. Use free form thinking to brainstorm goals and projects. These can be translated into real projects inside the task manager app.


Rules-based customizing (eg. Every AA flight scheduled, schedule 72 hour upgrade)

It is possible to use tools such Zapier or IFTTT.com (If-This-Then-That) to create rules-based customizing. If I get an email from my airline company about an upcoming flight, it should be possible to have Zapier or IFTTT automatically schedule a flight upgrade. This all depends on whether the web site has the necessary APIs to facilitate communication.

Maybe one day, we’ll see our Apple HomePod, Google Assistant, or Amazon Echo get close to assisting us with this feature. For now, tools such as Siri Shortcuts, AppleScript, Keyboard Maestro, IFTTT, and Zapier are at the forefront of giving us rules-based customizing.


Print any views in any hard-copy format (by meeting, person, dates, project, etc.) / Generates complete hard-copy systems with up-to-the-second lists + data

I love printing hard copies of my projects and tasks. I put my printouts on my clipboard and get ready to work without returning back to my iPhone, iPad, or Mac.

Printing is not a strength of many task managers. OmniFocus doesn’t have great print formatting capabilities but I can export my tasks out as a TaskPaper text document and then run an AppleScript to format it for my needs and insert it into Apple Pages.


Tag any file/location/activities -> in-basket to ensure later closure [or make any note]

The wording isn’t very clear. I suspect this feature requires a quick entry screen or capturing method to easily enter in tasks for later inbox processing.

Siri has been a very capable capturing mechanism to record any new ideas that may pop into my head at any time. Drafts is another capable app that can send text to my task manager as well. Another popular feature would be an e-mail address to send any task or file attachment to my inbox. Apps such a Evernote, Things, and OmniFocus have this feature now.


Alarm

Notifications are an important part of many tasks and projects. I have notifications set for my Start/Defer date/time and another notification for the due date/time.


That was just the first page of David Allen’s mockup! Next week, I’ll dive deeper into some of his GTD app wish list. Here’s what’s coming next:

  1. Initial/Current View

  2. Initial App Screen

  3. Inbox Processing

  4. Project Creation

  5. Project Engagement

  6. Next Actions

  7. Persons

  8. Someday/Maybe

  9. Tickler

  10. Meetings

  11. Communication

  12. Areas of Focus

  13. Reference Lists

  14. Weekly Debriefing

  15. Coaching Messages

  16. Coaching Models

If we break down his feature wishlist, we could review what we want from our digital devices. Then find the tools to fill out our GTD repertoire.


Do you have a productivity system or workflow that can handle most (if not all) of these GTD building blocks?

It’s not the app that we should be chasing. It’s the workflows that we should be building. The apps are tools that will help us create the workflows that remote workers (and non-remote workers) use in our daily lives❗️

(Part 2 continues this conversation)

Categories
Productivity

The Best 2 Minutes Of My Life

It takes just 2 minutes to get supercharged. I’ve been looking for the magic sauce that will do three things:

  1. Get started building a habit.

  2. Start a Big Rock project I’ve been resisting.

  3. Clear away those small annoying tasks that clutters my task list.

All I needed was just 2 minutes.


Clearing my inbox with the 2-minute rule

GTD’s 2-minute rule has been a tricky beast for me to master. If I am processing my inbox and encounter a task that takes two minutes or less to do, I should just do it. Entering it into my task manager may add overhead and friction when my task list slowly grows heavy with a long list of 2-minute tasks. But I think I’m OK with that.

I get distracted when I stop my inbox processing and proceed to do this “small” task. If I encounter a 2-minute task like "collect all the coins from between the sofa cushions,” I walk over to my sofa and collect all the coins. But then I realize that the magazines on the coffee table are outdated and I should toss them out. Next, I see dust bunnies under the coffee table and I run over to the kitchen to grab a rag to eliminate the dust bunnies. Then I see a whole list of other 2-minute tasks that starts rolling in. In the heat of the moment, I’ll completely forget about processing my inbox.

I do get a long list of 2-minute tasks that starts to clutter up my daily action list but I have an idea to combat that. But first, I’ll look at how I view inbox processing and clearing out my 2-minute tasks.

Planning Mode vs Action Mode

One of my main tenets in my productivity system is to either go into Planning Mode or into Action Mode.

Planning Mode is a mindset where I do nothing but plan. I go into my Mad Scientist phase and start reviewing my projects. I brainstorm new ideas into projects as well as delegate, delete, or defer existing projects. I don’t do anything with them but planning. I do my daily review and weekly review to set the next day’s MITs (Most Important Tasks) and Big Rock to focus on.

Action Mode is where the real work happens. I stay out of my task manager and just work on my short list of tasks I chose the day before. I am cranking away at my tasks and projects. I don’t get distracted back into doing more planning and dreaming up new projects. Going into Planning Mode does not help me complete my projects. Staying in Action Mode does.

Inbox processing is part of my Planning Process. The 2-minute rule is an Action Process. Clearing out my inbox requires me to stay in Planning Mode. If I do encounter a 2-minute task, I can assign a tag such as 2min or set the estimated duration of my task.

image|271x275

I don’t work on any 2-minute tasks while I am still processing my inbox. I just keep going to the next inbox item. After I finish my inbox processing, I can exit Planning Mode and enter into Action Mode. I start a new time block of 10-30 minutes and knock out as many 2-minute tasks that I have assigned. Batching all of my 2-minute tasks allows me to stay in Action Mode. I’ve never liked working on a 2-minute task while I am still processing my inbox.

Batching My 2-Minute Tasks

I love working on my Big Rock projects but I also need to spend time working on all those annoying 2-minute tasks that clutters up my task list. I can’t ignore them but I can set aside time to work on them. I devote a time block that will chip away at these 2-minute tasks so I can get back to working on my Big Rocks.

When I finish processing my inbox, I schedule a time block to work on a whole batch of 2-minute tasks. I create a smart list or custom perspective that look for any task that is less than 5 minutes long:

image|492x214

Or I can look for any tasks that have the 2min tag assigned:

image|488x213

I schedule a time block in my calendar and work on a batch of 2-minute tasks:

image|245x391

I visit my smart list with all my 2-minute tasks and just churn away until the time block finishes or I finish my last 2-minute task.

These 2-minute tasks start to clutter my task list. They’re small but annoying. I don’t like to do a series of 2-minute tasks sprinkled throughout the day. Completing a time block that holds all of my 2-minute tasks lets me run the table and get back to doing the Deep Work as Charles Duuhig likes to call it. Working on a Big Rock project (or Deep Work) and then switching to a 2-minute gets me out of my flow. Dedicate 15-60 minutes every day to work on 2-minute tasks will clear the day for me to get back into meaningful work in my Big Rocks.


Two Minutes To Start A Habit

James Clear’s Atomic Habits uses the 2-minute rule to help create new habits. Sometimes starting a habit is the hardest thing to do. One way to start habit is to commit 2 minutes to the first step. Perhaps it’s 2 minutes to start a run on the stationary bike or the treadmill. Or it’s 2 minutes to just organize my desk at the end of the day. If I start the first 2-minute task, I get on a roll and decide to just keep going. It all starts in the first two minutes.


Two Minutes To Start A Project

There are times when I am faced with a project that intimidates me. I procrastinate and try to save it for later. Many times, I didn’t break down the next action into something that is manageable. If I’m stuck on a Big Rock’s next action, break it down so that it takes only 2 minutes. This is the same idea with the 2-minute habit rule. If my next action is Write up big essay about macroeconomics in the 21st century, that would be a vaguely written task. Instead, I can retitle the next action to Create first topic sentence for macronomics essay in the 21st century. This retitled task should take approximately 2 minutes and is much easier to accomplish.


Break The 2-Minute Rule

I don’t always need to set a 2-minute rule guideline. I can be flexible and change a task to 5 minutes in length. Not all small tasks are 2 minutes or less. I can batch together a series of 5-minute tasks to work on. Or I work on a series of tasks that will take 10 minutes. The number of minutes is up to you. Be flexible and decide what your threshold is.


Getting To The Finish Line 2 Minutes At A Time

My ambitious Big Rock projects, life-improving habits, and the small mountain of micro tasks in my task manager can be whittled away starting with just two minutes. Do you have a bunch of stuck projects, an avalanche of micro tasks, or habits that you want to make progress on? Two minutes is all you need.

What have you done to get your projects, habits, and micro tasks moving towards completion? Reply in this post or create a new post!

Categories
Productivity

Don’t Wait Until The Weekly Review. Just Review Now!

Pivoting from the Weekly Review to Multiple Reviews

The classic GTD Weekly Review has been a cornerstone of the GTD system. But it’s been a troublesome beast for many practitioners. When I started GTD and attempted to do the weekly review, I set aside a Sunday afternoon to do it. Three hours later, I was spent. It was not something I looked forward to do every Sunday afternoon. I started loathing the weekly review. Here is a short podcast from the official GTD podcast regarding the weekly review:

The Power of the GTD Weekly Review

The weekly review is a popular subject. Here are some Guild topics that dealt with the weekly review:

Weekly Review on the Community

The main purpose of the weekly review is to get your task manager up-to-date. Trust is important and if I can’t trust my task manager, I won’t look at it. So much can change in just one day. New events occur and renders a task obsolete or change the direction of a current project. Performing a review will bring my database back to reality and regain my trust. My anxiety drops and I can get back to focusing on my current work.

I sensed a lot of anxiety building up throughout the week because I couldn’t wait for my weekly review to come every Sunday afternoon. Breaking up the weekly review into multiple reviews with different levels of focus gives me a sense of calm. Every project, task list, or checklist needs to be reviewed at different frequency cycles. Instead of one big three hour weekly review on Sunday afternoons, I’ll break that three hours into digestible chunks of 15 minutes throughout the week.


When Do I Need To Review?

I review as often as I need to.

The General Rule: The more frequently a checklist or project changes, the more frequently I should review it.

If a checklist is fairly dormant (packing checklist, spring cleaning), I can review it on an infrequent basis such as once a month, once every quarter, or longer.


Schedule the review

Reserving a time block into my schedule ensures that I’m going to get to it. The [Due app] has been my go-to app to remind me to work on a daily review. It prompts me once every 30 minutes until I eventually mark it as done.

Time flies and I don’t realize it’s 4:30 pm until the Due app notifies me from my iPhone and Apple Watch. When I hear the familiar Due chime, it’s time to start wrapping up today’s work and go into my daily shutdown routine. You’ll find your own suitable time for shutdown. Some folks might be too exhausted at the end of the day to think clearly. Perhaps a small 15 minute time block right before dinner or after dinner would be better. I’ve learned to pace myself (especially late in the afternoon) and try to get ready for my review time.

At my local bank, the bank closes its doors at 4:00 pm. This gives the bank employees one hour to go through their shutdown routine. They review their work and reconcile anything that happened today. This is an example of reserving time at the end of the day to get some quality review at time.

The Due app has reinforced my daily review. At US$4.99, this app has paid itself over many times. There are other options including your smartphone’s built-in alarm app or other apps available at your favorite online app store.


Just 15 minutes a day

Depending on the number of projects and list to review, my typical review period takes 15-30 minutes. I found myself disgruntled if I have to spend more than an hour doing a review. Trying to do one weekly review for 3 hours was soul crushing and not something I looked forward to.

If I schedule a 15 minute time block to work on a different part of the review, I’ll eventually catch up with my backlog. Not everything has to be reviewed every week. It’s not about getting to Inbox Zero or doing a full review. It’s about chipping away at the review process and get up-to-date on the important stuff. Keeping my system at manageable size and knowing that the most important projects, tasks, and checklists are up-to-date is enough for me to trust my system.


Create A Review Checklist

One way to keep track of everything is to create a checklist of everything that needs to be reviewed. Create a schedule for every line item that is up for review.

Projects that I am actively engaged in right now (usually a Big Rock project that has a due date in the very near future) or checklists that changes daily or semi-daily will need to be reviewed once a day or every 2-4 days. Currently, I have a house renovation project that’s been keeping me busy. I have to check with the contractor every day to see if I need to buy new construction materials. If this project was dormant, I would have checked on it once a month to see if I want to start it. But now that it’s started, my review cycle becomes daily because there’s always something going that changes the project scope.

Here is a list of general review cycles I might look at:

  1. Currently active projects (Big Rocks) (every 1-3 days)
  2. On Hold projects (Someday/Maybe) (once a week to once every month)
  3. Inboxes from e-mail, social media, apps (Drafts, Ulysses, Bear) (daily)
  4. Deadlines (Due projects and tasks) (once a day to once a week)
  5. Calendar (daily)
  6. Action Lists for different Areas of Focus (home, work, church, community) (every 1-7 days)

If you need to be kept aware of anything in your life, it should belong in your review checklist. Then review each list as needed.


Daily

Planning for tomorrow is an essential part of my plan to start off the next day with a running start. I usually spend 10-15 minutes at the end of each day doing an end-of-day review. When the morning comes, I am already in action mode and don’t need to drag out my daily planning. I can get immediately start on my daily frog to eat. I look at my Action Lists and my currently active projects for tasks to work on.

I look at my Action Lists quite frequently. I have my Office Action List which contains single one-off tasks that gets updated daily. I need to review the Office Action List more frequently than something like my Homeowners Association Action List. The Homeowners Association list doesn’t get updated frequently but I do peek at it once a week to see if I want to start work on something in that list.

In addition to my single one-off tasks from the Action Lists, I’ll schedule a 60-90 minute time block to make progress in a currently active project. If I can complete at least 2-3 tasks from a project each day, I can make significant progress until the end of the week.


Weekly

I look at my projects list to see what I need to focus on next week and what to put on the backburner. I have a handful of projects that I am working on each week. The Someday/Maybe projects are not considered when I go to the daily review. I look at currently active projects and see if I need to put it on hold for a while or consider revising the next actions within. Sometimes the next actions may not be inline with reality. Perhaps I need to break it down into small next actions or I can delegate them to someone else who can more capably complete the next action?

After choosing my 3-5 Big Rocks, I’ll print them out and place them next to my desk calendar. I have the active projects I want to work on and the next group of actions to work on.


Monthly, Quarterly, Annually

This is where I reach for my goals. I look for any quarterly goals or long-term plans that I want to make progress on. I also go back to my Someday/Maybe projects to see if there is anything in there that can help get me closer to my goals.

I also review my currently active Big Rock projects and see if I need to course-correct myself to get closer to my goals. In these long-range plans, I’ve found that I can set sail in a general direction and then course-correct over time. I might drift off-course by a degree or two but then incrementally get back going in the right direction. Experience has taught me that I can get a sense of where I’m going and if I’m hitting my monthly or quarterly targets. I often revisit projects and goals with my wife and work partners when I feel like I am going off course.

I have a mind map to keep me on my flight plan. My Vision mind map holds the various projects that will contribute to creating projects that will get me to the next milestone.


Do you do your weekly review? Or even a daily review? What does look like? Do you like to do one big weekly review or do you break it up into mini reviews throughout the week and month? Share your thoughts by commenting below or create your own post at the Productivity Guild!