The beauty of Getting Things Done methodology is that it can be used with any tool whether it’s a paper notebook or digital application sitting on your laptop or mobile phone.
In the center of GTD sits a workflow model which helps you deal with incoming information, requests, ideas and task. This model is based on the following five stages:
It’s a very simple process, yet very powerful as it allows you to make decisions about the things that enter your space and whether you are willing to do them and if so when. As I rely on this model on daily basis I thought I would share how my current task manager of choice Remember the Milk helps me apply it on daily basis.
Capturing ideas, thoughts, tasks, requests etc is the basic element of well functioning GTD implementation. All the things that have your attention should be routed into an Inbox for later review and assessment. David Allen says:”Your mind is for having ideas not for holding them”. Remember the Milk offers a multiple ways of capturing your information
- use the input panel on the web
- use bookmarklet to quickly capture ideas in your browser
- on the go use smartphone app and the new task widget (Android only)
- send emails to RTM using subject line to define the task
- send tasks via Twitter using @rtm account.
These options allow me to capture information very quickly and efficiently regardless of where I’m or do and have it in a single place waiting for me to process it.
Processing is the stage where you need to decide whether the things you’ve captured are still worth pursuing, should you delete them or put it of for later. This is important stage as not everything you captured will be completed. Having ideas does not mean we need to pursue them all. This state allows to weed out things that we don’t want to spend our time on. Processing focuses on determining whether I want to accomplish the task or idea that I’ve captured. If the answer is “NO” I delete the task or move it to someday maybe list for later consideration. If the answer is “YES” it means the task enters my system permanently and at this moment I apply things like tags, due dates, time estimate, list name etc. These elements will define the context of the task like @home, @computer or the location in the static lists that I use. Adding all these elements means that the organising stage is very easy and almost automated.
There is so much flexibility there that I could spend months discussing different ways you can organise the tasks using Remember the Milk. Best approach is to keep this simple and relevant and build up from there. For me organising tasks very easy and I heavily rely on smart list which effectively act as a self organising mechanism. Let me explain. I use a static list to manage my areas of focus and at this moment use two list. This is the only time I have to manually assign tasks to a specific list.
For my context, project and waiting for lists I rely on smart list. These list are dynamically generated list that display tasks based on the selected criteria. So if at the processing stage I add tag @computer then my context list “@Computer” will display that task too. Simple no dragging and dropping no moving around etc. Relying on smart list reduces a lot of friction and steps necessary to make sure that my list are up to date and include all items. I also have a “no tag” list which shows me items which don’t have a tag, this is little security net so I can pick up on lost items.
Once you’re tasks are nicely organised it is time to review the relevant list and pick few things that you really want to put your attention on. I have a special list called MIT (thanks Jason Womack) which I update on almost daily basis. The list will include my critical tasks for a given day or a week. The process of adding items is simple, I scan my list and assign selected task a priority level 1 which mean any item of this type will be added to the MIT list. If all planned items are done I look through my context and pick something from the relevant one.
For the doing phase make sure you have easy access to your Remember the Milk account and pick the first task you planned for today. To make sure I get to seem them I have RTM pinned in my browser and a widget set on my phone to display these. Then all it’s left is to do the work.
RTM is so powerful that you can create a very complex list structures and workflows which will involve a lot of steps. My preference it to keep things simple and as close to GTD model as possible while still retaining some of my personal preferences. From experience I can tell that the more elaborate structure/system the less likely you will be able to sustain it. Keep it as simple as you can it will pay off.