Can David Allen’s Getting Things Done Really Help You Get More Done?

Can David Allen’s Getting Things Done Really Help You Get More Done?

Getting Things Done

This is Week 20 of a Year of Living Productively

This week I tested Getting Things Done. {affiliate link} I put all my tasks into a trusted system and labeled them according to priority, context, time, and energy required. Many of them were associated with a project as well. Scroll to the bottom of last week’s post to see my plan.

How Getting Things Done Saved My Sanity This Week

  • Writing everything down gave me peace of mind. I was at a place where I had a lot of things rolling around in my head and it really was a relief to write them all down and then process them.
  • A weekly review gave me added peace of mind. For the first time, I looked at IQTell‘s Weekly Review option which has checkboxes for all aspects of it, including considering higher level goals. When I tried GTD many years ago, this was the piece that I was missing.
  • Working by context streamlined my work. I was in a low-energy state with iPhone in hand, so I looked up tasks I could do with my phone. Turns out something I dreaded (cleaning up my mangled address book) was easy and enjoyable. I also had lots of tasks that needed doing in our outside office. I realized I was putting those off because I didn’t want to interrupt my flow to go out there. Once I had a nice list of things to accomplish there, I was ready to get to work.
  • Made me think about limiting my work to just each project’s next action. As a blogger, I have dozens of ways to improve my blog on my task list. I realized I was trying to work on them all at once instead of focusing on the one with the most impact before moving on to the others.

How Getting Things Done Made Me Crazy This Week

  • Didn’t give me a short list of things to do today. Only things you absolutely must do on a certain day are supposed to go on a calendar. For that reason, I didn’t date a task unless it was vitally time sensitive. Within just a few days, I couldn’t stand wading through a long list of tasks, even within priorities or contexts. I have developed a habit of dating tasks I want to at least consider doing on a given day. I started dating them and was fine.
  • The mind like water didn’t last. If I write down absolutely everything I want or need to do, I eventually become more stressed. I feel (and rightly so) that there is no way I will ever get to it all (GTD or not). Before I wouldn’t write things down that I knew I didn’t need to attend to any time soon or that I would be reminded of naturally. I think this may be the difference in me using GTD at home versus in a traditional work environment. GTD also offers no simple test for determining that you’re taking too much on. The notion is that sometime, you’ll get it all done. If you can’t do it now, just put it in Someday/Maybe. Just label it and you’ll get to it. I think that’s my problem anyway, so GTD didn’t help.
  • No routines. GTD doesn’t talk about the importance of routines. At first, I kept up my routines as usual because they work for me. But soon I found myself thinking I should get right to my next actions and maybe I could skip the routines. Of course, that didn’t work! Then I had other problems.

Did Getting Things Done Really Help Me Get More Done?

In a limited sense, yes. Specifically, I was able to get more of my context-specific tasks done and they were things I had procrastinated on. I noticed that I don’t think about tasks this way much. I didn’t use energy or time as a way of working on tasks at all, for example. That’s a matter of not having the habit and also giving GTD such a short test. Some readers have pointed out that I can’t possibly assess the full value of an approach in one week’s time. I think that’s a valid concern with several approaches, GTD being one of them. However, I have begun to identify key factors in enabling me to be the most productive and in this case, I recognize that not having a short list of tasks to work from each day does not work for me. If it works for you, please continue using it. I will continue assigning some contexts to my tasks and doing a weekly review.

**UPDATE**

I don’t use contexts at all in my work. I also schedule everything in opposition to David Allen’s advice and it works beautifully for me.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Productivity Approach I’ll Be Using for Week 21

This week I’ll be testing time blocking. Specifically I’ll be using the approach from The 12 Week Year: Get More Done in 12 Weeks than Others Do in 12 Months {affiliate link}. Specifically, I’ll be scheduling time to work on my goals, handle unplanned activities, and to play.

The concept. Stephanie Vozza of Entrepreneur calls time blocking a productivity power tool.

Rather than trying to tackle tasks in a willy-nilly fashion, time is set aside to ensure that you address the work you rarely get to–the work that will take your business, your career, or your life to the next level. The 12 Week Year calls these Strategic Blocks. They are “a three-hour block of uninterrupted time that is scheduled into each week. During this block you accept no phone calls, no faxes, no emails, not visitors, no anything. Instead, you focus all of your energy on preplanned tasks–your strategic and money-making activities.”

Rather than lose time recovering from interruptions, time is set aside to deal with those timely, but not urgent requests and issues. The 12 Week Year calls these Buffer Blocks designed to deal with low-value activities. “For some, one 30-minute buffer block a day is sufficient, while for others, two separate one-hour blocks may be necessary. The power of buffer blocks comes from grouping together activities that tend to be unproductive so that you can increase your efficiency in dealing with them and take greater control over the rest of your day.” The people who need your attention can know they will have it during buffer time. I plan to have “office hours” twice a day so my family can have my full attention.

Finally, time is also carved out for leisure. The 12 Week Year calls these Breakout Blocks. “An effective breakout block is at least three-hours long and spent on things other than work. It is time scheduled away from your business during normal business hours that you will use to refresh and reinvigorate your mind, so that when you return to work, you can engage with more focus and energy.” I think “normal business hours” could be interpreted loosely or you could be fired! The point is to have guilt-free time to do anything you want to do to be refreshed.

If you’d like to join me this week, here’s what you do. Read this article on time blocking. Decide what strategic activities you will work on for the week and schedule a three-hour block to address it. Determine how to eliminate interruptions. Then schedule one to two buffer blocks per day. Finally, schedule your Breakout Block of three hours for the week. Use it to do things you’d like to do guilt free. The rest of the time can be spent doing work as usual.

Click here to see how my week of time blocking went.

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

If you’ve tried Getting Things Done 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

Week 19: Ultimate Time Management System

 

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Can Mark Forster’s Ultimate Time Management System Help You Get More Done?

Can Mark Forster’s Ultimate Time Management System Help You Get More Done?

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.

**UPDATE**

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

 

 

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Can A Daily/Weekly/Monthly To Do List Help You Get More Done?

Can A Daily/Weekly/Monthly To Do List Help You Get More Done?

Weekly to do list invincibleinc.com

This is Week 18 of a Year of Living Productively

This week I tested Agota Bialobzeskyte’s Daily/Weekly/Monthly To-Do List. I kept a paper list for weekly and monthly tasks and used IQtell to manage my daily tasks. Scroll to the end of last week’s post for more details.

How A Daily/Weekly/Monthly To-Do List Saved My Sanity This Week

  • Kept me from being surprised by important tasks. I don’t have a regular routine of reviewing the upcoming month or week and I absolutely loved this aspect of the system.
  • Gave me a sense of control. Because I checked every source of tasks (paper inbox, backlog, calendar) before making my lists, I felt on top of my work.

How A Daily/Weekly/Monthly To-Do List Made Me Crazy This Week

  • Lists were too big. While I really don’t like rules that limit me to an arbitrary number of tasks, I also didn’t like that I was allowed to have a huge weekly list. I think I had half my month’s list on this week’s list. Each day’s list was so large as well that the motivation to complete it just wasn’t there. I never came close to finishing a day’s list or the list for the week.
  • Closed nature of the lists was confusing. We had a discussion in the comments about what to do with tasks that came up. I suggested that it made sense to replace one of the tasks on the list with a new one. But the list was so big, it really didn’t matter.
  • I had low energy. Unfortunately, I’m still not brimming with excess energy. I didn’t have it in me to really dive in and do many of the tasks on my list–especially because the lists were large. However, my summer project list continues to motivate me! There’s a lesson in there somewhere that I need to reflect on.

Did A Daily/Weekly/Monthly Help Me Get More Done?

No. But I really like the exercise of planning a week and a month in advance. If I hadn’t attempted to get a year’s worth of work done in a week, I think it would have worked.

**UPDATE**

This is one of the most popular posts in this series and I understand why. I have been just as interested in having a daily/weekly/monthly to-do list. I don’t use this one. I posted on a better daily/weekly/monthly to-do list and my 1-Thing To-Do List is the only list of this type I use consistently.

The Productivity Approach I’ll Be Using for Week 19

Mark Forster productivity

This week I’ll be testing Mark Forster’s Ultimate Time Management System. (I’ll wait while you chuckle.) Mark is developing methods of time management faster than I can test them and I’m running out of pictures to use (this is not this particular approach pictured). I continue to test Mark’s methods because they’re unique and my traffic always goes up when I do. I’ll begin with a closed paper list of OLD tasks to accomplish–what I’d like to complete in the next couple of weeks. Old tasks continue to be worked on and are re-added to the old list until they’re complete. New tasks go on the new paper list. When the old list is finished, the new list becomes the old list. Got it?

The concept. Mark has created rules for task management that create a closed list of old tasks–encouraging us to finish those tasks we least want to do. The new list is used as a break from these tasks. These are the current things that often pull our attention away from the less flashy things. The rule is that wherever you start working on the new list, you can’t work backward. In other words, if you choose task #5, you can go on to task #6 and later, but not #1-4. When you reach the end of the new list (having either worked on tasks or decided you don’t want to do them), you return to working on the old list. This is so you don’t get to stay on the latest and greatest tasks too long.

If you’d like to join me this week, here’s what you do. Read Mark’s blog post and his explanations to commenters to follow. Make a list of tasks you’d like to accomplish in the next two weeks. Choose any task to work on for as long as you like. If it’s finished, cross it off and work another task. If you’re not finished, cross it off and re-enter it on the old list. As new tasks come up, add them to the new list. You can begin working on the new list whenever you like, according to the rule mentioned above.

To see how my week with the Ultimate Time Management System went, click here.

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

If you’ve tried the Daily/Weekly/Monthly To-Do List 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

 

 

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Can Another Simple and Effective Method Help You Get More Done?

Can Another Simple and Effective Method Help You Get More Done?

Another Simple Effective Method

This is Week 17 of a Year of Living Productively

This week I tested Another Simple and Effective Method of Mark Forster’s. I kept a paper task list, crossed off a task all the way across the page, and then did a task from each of the newly created sections of the list and so on. Scroll to the end of last week’s post for details.

How Another Simple and Effective Method of Mark Forster’s Saved My Sanity This Week

  • Had me excited to get things done. I don’t test a method unless I really think there’s a potential for it increasing my productivity and this was no different. I began the week very motivated.

How Another Simple and Effective Method of Mark Forster’s Made Me Crazy This Week

  • Couldn’t find the tasks. I made a list of 90+ tasks. That probably isn’t the best approach to take with this method. I frequently had to do tasks regardless of where they were on the list because they became urgent. I couldn’t find them then and it made the system super confusing once I did.
  • Open task list. One of the things I’ve learned thus far is that I function better using a closed list (one in which no new tasks can be added). I found myself feeling very resistant to adding tasks to the end of the list. I wanted a list that kept shrinking. I disliked this aspect of the approach so much, that I quit using it halfway through the week.
  • Competing interests. I haven’t been feeling well this week. (I know I keep mentioning this without explaining. When I have an answer, I will be sharing on the blog. Until then, know that I’m pretty sure what the problem is and it’s treatable.) When I don’t feel well, I tend to do the must-do’s only and I don’t want to mess with an approach like this one. Finally, I’m finding that I’m extremely motivated by my summer project list. After the critical issues, I haven’t wanted to do much of anything else but my weekly project. I have been in single focus mode and I suspect that I function best this way most of the time.

Did Another Simple and Effective Method Help Me Get More Done?

No. The open nature of the list and my circumstances this week didn’t work for me. Your mileage may vary.

**UPDATE**

I not only don’t use this approach, but I have had no desire to use a mammoth list of tasks to get things done for a long time.

Weekly to do list invincibleinc.com

The Productivity Approach I’ll Be Using for Week 18

This week I’ll be testing Agota Bialobzeskyte’s Daily/Weekly/Monthly To-Do List. I’ll begin with a closed list of monthly tasks to accomplish. I’ll base my closed weekly list of tasks on it and my daily list of tasks from the weekly list.

The concept. Agota has a problem with infinite to-do lists just like I do. She bases her approach on Scott Young‘s (who doesn’t use a monthly list). By not being allowed to add more tasks to the lists when they’re complete, you get a real feeling of accomplishment. By looking ahead for a month, you’re including tasks other than what’s right in front of you–enabling you to work ahead. Doing so enables one to feel on top of things.

If you’d like to join me this week, here’s what you do. Read Agota’s guest post on Productive Superdad, taking note of the FAQs at the end. Choose a means of making your lists. I’ll be using paper for the monthly and weekly goals and will have digital daily lists that I will print out. Create your weekly list by drawing from your monthly list. Each day (either the night before or morning of), create your daily list based on your weekly list. Cross off tasks as you do them. Like the list above? It’s not perfectly suited for this, but you can download it here.

Click here to see how my week with a daily/weekly/monthly to-do list went.

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

If you’ve tried Another Simple and Effective Method 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

 

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