I am one of those people that bought into the whole GTD (based on the bestselling book Getting Things Done by David Allen) thing. I like the whole concept of mind-as-water. Where things are not lurking at the back of your mind at all times – but are filed in some reliable and accessible system where you can get back to them and address them. Where the context of the task is just as important as the task itself. Where things are never too big because you can create projects and break them down into manageable tasks. Where the deep (oh so sweet) satisfaction of checking off things spurs greater productivity.
But for the longest time, I struggled with this – from an implementation standpoint. The book talks about using cards and folders to manage the system. Which is great if you live in the 1900s. But it seemed primitive to me in today’s world where we are always connected, always online, always digitally enabled. Alright – if you don’t own a smart phone, you might want to get one – you can thank me later.
One of the other things that I do, and recommend to everyone, is to maintain a journal to complement your productivity workflow. The reflective brain dump is a useful process as part of getting things done and I use my journal as a mechanism to reflect on the day and to identify things that I need to get done – and things I have achieved. This leads to clarity of mind, and a capture of actions that would otherwise slip through the cracks. I use Day One Classic (on my iOS devices) and Life Journal (on my Windows PC) to help me with this.
When I was at Dell, I took this course wherein they applied the whole GTD thing to Microsoft’s Outlook. It was absolutely fantastic – because most of us have email open all the time – and it is just easy to create tasks on the fly, schedule tasks and do daily reviews with great ease. And it worked great as long as I was at Dell – and using Microsoft Outlook. When I changed jobs, I was forced to use the abomination that is Lotus Notes (oh how I hate thee – but more on that later). So the whole GTD process broke down for me.
I started looking for ways by which I could get stuff out of my head and get back to GTD via some sort of replacement system. I struggled with various task management tools (at one point even using desktop sticky notes).
The thing is, for the GTD process to work for me, a few things are essential:
- The tool I use is ALWAYS available (online, offline, web, mobile)
- It should allow me to create items for follow up from email (UPDATE: this is now a premium feature – which saddens me as this was a critical feature that was downgraded)
- It should let me set up projects and break those down into tasks
- It should have the ability to establish due dates and reminders
- If necessary, it should let me collaborate with others
- An ability to help me file and tag things and also prioritize tasks
- Have a safe and reliable sync system across everywhere I used the tool
What really ended up working for me were 2 things – both with their pros and cons, of course – but both effective.
Evernote: If you have not signed up for it, please do yourself a favor and do it. It is a free tool (well – you CAN buy premium subscriptions if you want, but don’t have to) and has SO much value and in SO many different ways, that you’ll be thinking how you lived without it. (If you don’t mind, please use the link at the beginning of the paragraph – it gives both of us free Premium access for a limited period of time). Anyhoo – I am a big Evernote user, and I of course am always looking for ways I can get the most out of it. So I was ecstatic when I came across this web site that helps you GTD using Evernote. It is called The Secret Weapon. I am not going to spend too much time outlining what it does – since the site does a spectacular job of that by using easy to follow videos and the like. Evernote meets all of the criteria I listed above (and then some!) – and it works great to do what I need it to do. I do think that this is one of the (if not THE) best ways to implement GTD digitally for free.
Todoist: This is a very cool task list management system – if somewhat lightweight. The free version of the tool meets most of the criteria I listed above – and the rest of the criteria can be met if you sign up for their premium subscription. The ubiquity of the tool – and its sheer simplicity – lets you get up and running with task management in no time. I came across this post (Why I Left iCloud Reminders for Todoist) on Zite – and that’s when I started using it. Oh – and it has this feature called Karma – which is basically gamification of sorts whereby you earn Karma points for using Todoist – it just keeps things interesting. Give it a try – I think you will like it.
UPDATE: I have created a post about how I would implement Getting Things Done using Todoist.
Both tools have solid offline applications for Windows/Mac, browser plugins for most of the major browsers, and solid apps for iOS (which is what I use – but I think they have apps for Android as well). Like I said – ALWAYS available.
Oh – and if you want to kick it up another notch – check out IFTTT which allows you to do some super cool things with these tools. I might even do a dedicated post on this later…
So – tell me – how do you get things done? Do you have any other tools or systems that you use that you are so excited about that you would want to tell everyone about it? Let me know in the comments…