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Mark Forster productivity

This is Week 19 of a Year of Living Productively

This week I tested Mark Forster’s Ultimate Time Management System. I used a paper list of things I wanted to accomplish in the next two weeks. I worked the old list in any way I wanted, but had to continue through the newly added list of tasks, having to return to the old list when the end of the new list was reached. Scroll to the bottom of last week’s post for more details.

How the Ultimate Time Management System Saved My Sanity This Week

  • Had me focused on accomplishing “old” tasks. I’ve mentioned before how much I like a closed list of tasks. I found myself very motivated to cross off to-do’s that have been languishing in favor of the new shiny tasks I added.
  • Gave me an overview of how quickly tasks add up. Adding tasks to IQTell can shield me from the sheer number of them. Not so with a paper list.
  • No complicated rules. I really didn’t feel hampered in any way as I did what I felt needed doing.

How the Ultimate Time Management System Made Me Crazy This Week

  • I resisted adding new tasks to the list. Instead of writing them down and seeing my list grow (and potentially keeping myself from doing what I wanted to do), I just DID the new shiny things. A big part of the problem was having a paper list. The list was in one part of the house and I was in another. Why bother finding it to write down a new task when you can just do it? That was my philosophy this week anyway. Unlike DIT, the system offers no clues that you are taking on too much work.
  • The closed list was too large. On Mark’s forum, Seraphim, mentioned using a one-week time frame for the old list. I think that would have helped a lot. Doing a two-week test made me feel like there was no way I could finish the old list, so I gave up.
  • Things fell through the cracks. Every day, I put a dot in front of the tasks I really needed to accomplish that day. That helped. But I found myself missing things anyway, because I wasn’t using my Due Today IQtell list.
  • No big picture. There was such a large mishmash of tasks and projects on the list with no prioritization, that I felt disoriented. Reading the whole list every day was time-consuming and anxiety-provoking.

Did the Ultimate Time Management System Help Me Get More Done?

At first, yes. But after several days, the motivation to finish the old list disappeared. I think a week’s list of things you think you can realistically do might have been more effective. The rules didn’t help me with procrastination, but that’s most likely because I got nowhere near the end of the old list.


I honestly don’t worry about old lists of tasks anymore. I look through my list of tasks on ToDoist and choose one per area during my weekly planning session. I often delete tasks that have become irrelevant at that time.

Getting Things Done

The Productivity Approach I’ll Be Using for Week 20

This week I’ll be testing David Allen’s Getting Things Done. I’ll be using IQTell to collect everything I need to do. I’ll be organizing my tasks by priority (I use Must, Should, Could), context (iPhone, errand, etc.), and by time and energy required. Tasks will be sorted into appropriate projects. Rather than Someday/Maybe, tasks will be given a date to consider them in the future. Why? Have you seen Pinterest? That’s my Someday/Maybe list. The notion that I could review all of my Someday/Maybe’s every week during a review is just funny.

The concept. David Allen‘s primary goal seems to be not just helping people get things done, but to have peace of mind while doing so. He points out that unless we put all of our potential tasks into a “trusted system” (that we know will keep us from forgetting the important stuff), we will continue to be anxious about them. A weekly review is done of everything on our plates (paper inboxes, meeting notes, project support files, etc.), allowing tasks to be trashed, filed, done (if less than 2 minutes – though he mentions situations for which this time varies), delegated, or deferred (put on calendar or into a task list). He suggested this weekly review take place on Friday so the weekend can be peaceful, but any day that works is acceptable.

Projects are worked on in terms of Next Actions — the next physical action you can take to move the project forward. The idea is that we often resist work because we haven’t made the steps required clear. “Plan birthday party” might have a Next Action of “Make a list of potential dates.”

Much criticism has been made of David’s concept of working according to context in our age of smart phones and ubiquitous computers that enable us to do so much. However, rereading the book surprised me that context is just one way David says we can choose to actually do the work. Once all tasks are in your system (paper or digital), you may be working completely around your calendar (e.g., meetings) or you could choose to work by priority (nothing about GTD prohibits Eat That Frog, for example), time required (I have 15 minutes before I have to leave) or energy level (at the end of the day, you may want to read, listen to podcasts, or watch videos, for example).

If you’d like to join me this week, here’s what you do. Read this summary of Getting Things Done. You’ll see there is more to the philosophy than I’ve mentioned. Choose a system to collect your to-do’s. Any inexpensive office store planner would do the trick.  Besides IQTell, here is a list of free sites for managing GTD digitally. This infographic may help you in organizing your work after collecting it. Then get things done!

Click here to see how my week of contexts in GTD went.

Are you on Pinterest? Follow my Organization and Productivity board.

If you’ve tried Mark Forster’s Ultimate Time Management System to increase your productivity, please vote in the poll below.

Here are the links to the productivity hacks I’ve tried so far:

A Year of Living Productively

Week 1: Paper To-Do List

Week 2: Covey’s Quadrants

Week 3: Routines

Week 4: Paper Planner

Week 5: SMEMA

Week 6: Guilt Hour

Week 7: Envision Ideal Day

Week 8: Do it Tomorrow

Week 9: Pomodoro

Week 10: Time Warrior

Week 11: Scheduling

Week 12: The Repeat Test

Week 13: Personal Kanban

Week 14: Eat That Frog

Week 15: Vacation

Week 16: David Seah’s 7:15AM Ritual

Week 17: Another Simple and Effective Method

Week 18: Daily/Weekly/Monthly To-Do List