Power of GTD

I subscribe to the Productive Living Newsletter which is a David Allen Company monthly update on different Getting Things Done matters including regular food for thought from David Allen.

In March edition following sentence caught my eye:

The power of GTD® is in the basics—capturing, clarifying, organizing, reflecting, and engaging—completely and consistently applied.

SANG Conference Interview with David Allen

Continuing from my Mondays’s post I’m in the GTD refresh mode. Coincidentally GTD time has put up an interview with David Allen from SANG Conference in 2012. 

It’s very informal and easy going conversation about the GTD, it’s impact and some practical tips for implementation and keeping things current. 

The interview is an hour long but well worth the time.

Weekly Links: Evernote templates, short lists, unproductive truths, Tony Schwarz

Evernote template challenge

I’m big fan of Daniel’s work. He’s running an Evernote template contest now and you can win a yearly subscription to a Evernote’s Premium Account. Closing date 30.07.12.

ShortCal

Need to plan few days and send that list to someone? This is a very neat tool just for that purpose.

5 Common Time Management Truths That Can Make You Unproductive

Not every advice works for everyone, very often best productivity tips contradict one another.Timo posts interesting critique of some of the commonly referred productivity concepts.

How to clear your inbox, make decisions and generally get things done

The Washington post has an interview with David Allen about GTD and his work.

Video of Tony Schwartz at the 99% Conference

Excellent video from 99% Conference of Tony Schwarz talking about productivity, work misconceptions and making the most out of your creativity. Really worth 30min of your time.

Structure and productivity

Structure du pont Corneille

A while ago I was listening to and older podcast with David Allen where he made a very interesting observation. Very often we are building a very complex structures to support our productivity by adding layers of tags, applications et. In effect we tie ourselves up and put more pressure on maintaining this system. It becomes a drag.

Something that’s opposite should be true. A good productivity system should be light and flexible allowing to fit it into changing events and requirements.

Continuing with this thought focus on keeping your system just right and fit for a purpose. It’s very easy to spend few hours organizing everything in your system. Adding locations, tags, links, making sure everything is clearly laid out. But is such approach sustainable on daily basis? Probably not.

When you look at how people get organized more often than not everything they have is halfway done. They had some free time so they decided to organise something they meant  to do a long time ago. They put up a very nice looking structure of A-Z folders, marked with different colours and labels. After a while only half of the documents are done this way, the demands of the work took over and there is no longer a time to maintain this structure.
The same will happen with tasks. You can go full on with various application and fill every possible text box, tag, notes and links so then you can dice and slice actions, projects the way you want. After initial hurray stage this structure weighs your down and becomes a drag.

It becomes apparent that filling all the boxes and setting up all the tags and folders is too time consuming. You could do it when you had extra free time but it can’t be sustained in normal day when things are flying at speed of light.
Perhaps this is one of the reasons why a short lists of tasks is so effective. It’s simple, easy and serves as a great reference point.

To conclude the tools you use should support you enough to let you maintain the control of the day and be flexible to allow you to adjust to changing priorities. 

photo by zigazou76

Weekly Links for 22 August

A weekly collection of posts and articles about productivity, time management, tools and technology.

  1. Mind Like Monkey: It’s not that you don’t have the discipline—it’s that you don’t have the ritual
  2. Stop the Madness Before its too Late
  3. Why Working From Your Email Inbox Doesn’t Work
  4. 10 Realizations For Productivity & Pushing Ideas Forward
  5. Finding Time

If you have any interesting articles please share them in the comments section.

Structures and productivity

weird structure

I was listening to a recent podcast with David Allen where he mentioned very interesting element.  Many times we are building a lot very complex structures to support productivity
adding layers of tags, applications etc. In effect we limit ourselves and put more pressure to maintain this system. It becomes a drag. Whereas the opposite should be true. A good productivity system should be light and flexible allowing to fit you into changing events and requirements. You can listen to full episode here.

Continuing with this thought focus on keeping your system just right and fit for purpose.

When you have them, it’s very easy to spend few hours organizing everything in your system. Adding locations, tags, links. Making sure everything is clearly laid out. But is such approach sustainable on daily basis? Probably not.

When you look at how people get organized more often than not everything they have is halfway done. They had some free time, so they decided to organise something they mean to do a long time ago. They put a very nice looking structure of A-Z folders, marked with different colours and labels. After a while only half of the documents are done this way, the demands of the daily work took over and there is no longer any time to maintain this structure.
The same will happen with tasks. You can go full on with application like Omnifocus or Thinkingrock  or Remember the Milk and fill every possible text box, add connections, notes and links, then you can dice and slice actions, projects the way you want.

After initial hurray stage this structure weighs you down and becomes a drag. It becomes apparent that filling all the boxes and putting all the tags and folders is too time consuming. It can’t be sustained in normal day when things are flying at the speed of light.
Perhaps this is one of the reasons why a short list of daily tasks is so effective. It’s simple, easy, flexible and becomes great reference point for your progress throughout the day.

To conclude, tools you use should support enough to let you maintain the control of the day yet they should be light easy to use so that they don’t become a drag.

Photo by: Aislinn Ritchie

Weekly links for 27th of June

A weekly collection of posts and articles about productivity, time management, tools and technology.

  1. My secret to becoming more Producteev …
  2. Making It All Work
  3. Episode 48: The Magic of Thinking BIG
  4. 15 Useful Project Management Tools – Smashing Magazine
  5. Steve Leveen: A Tabula Rasa Is Peace of Mind :: Articles :: The 99 Percent

If you have any interesting articles please share them in the comments section.

Productivity a video series

I’ve been going through some of my archives and I stumbled upon couple very interesting videos about personal productivity, GTD, self management. So I decided to share some of the best finds in this up coming series.

When I watched those videos initially there was always something worth picking up and implementing. Sometimes it was a small bit other times it was drastic and complete change to the way I’ve been working. Either way it was always worth spending sometime on it.

I’m starting with a classic. It’s David Allen talking to Google employees in 2007. Although it’s four years old I still find it useful. Enjoy.

If you can’t see the video here is the link to original YouTube source.

Weekly links for 16th of May

A collection of posts and articles about productivity, time management, tools and technology.

  1. Organize Your Business – chrisbrogan.com 
  2. 40 Excellent Web Apps Every Freelance Designer Should Use
  3. Rules for SuperFocus – Blog – Get Everything Done
  4. The Elusive Inventory of Your Projects – James Fallows – Business – The Atlantic
  5. Let the empty heads lead « Leadership Freak

If you have any interesting articles please share them in the comments section.

Weekly links 9th of May

A collection of posts and articles about productivity, time management, tools and technology.

  1. Five Best Time-Tracking via Lifehacker
  2. 10 Awesome Videos On Idea Execution & The Creative Process via The99percent
  3. Being More Productive  via Harvard Business Review
  4. 10 Ways to Stop Multitasking & Be More Effective  via PickTheBrain
  5. Why the 80/20 Rule Could Make You Less Productive via DragosRoua.com

If you have any interesting articles please share them in the comments section.

GTD Project Series: Natural planning model

IMAG0063Do you have projects that are stale and not going anywhere? Do you have new great idea but not sure how to implement it?
In the series of upcoming post I’ll cover various elements of running projects using GTD methodology and hopefully help you finding a good solution.

Taking on any project without a plan is a recipe for disaster. With dozens of other things coming your way and no plan to refer to it’s easy to lose a track, purpose and direction of any task.

David Allen in his Getting Things Done book outlines a five phase model called natural planning model.As you will see below many of the steps are simple common sense. Unfortunately often times we forget about them and search for new ways to get on track rather than really get back on it.

For most of us planning happens in our head quickly and effectively. Actually we barely notice it. However it’s worth to examine what are the stages of planning process.

Purpose and Principles

This is first and second step of the planning process. It’s about finding an answer to question “why do I/we do it”. It’s about defining what the purpose of the project is. It’s very simple but powerful question that brings clarity and direction to any project or endeavour. Getting this question straight acts as catalyst in defining following:

  • success – if you know what done looks like you can then tell when project has been successfully finished.
  • decisions– knowing why you do what you do makes the decision process a whole lot easier.
  • resource allocation – there is never enough resources available, there are time limits, people limits, budgetary limits. Having clear picture of why let you find best ways to use available resources and align them in most effective ways.
  • keeps your motivation – it’s not uncommon that we do things on autopilot, never knowing why we do it. “We always did that” you can often hear. Clarifying with your co-workers and employees why they do the project helps them better understand it and make the effort rather than slog through it.
  • clarity & focus – it’s so easy to be distracted by feature creep, by adding new services, options, variations. You could always change something even by a tiny bit. In the end the project starts to drag on and on without end on horizon. Setting the why straight will get you focused on the core functionality of a product or service.
  • more options – this is a paradox but defining purpose brings focus on one side and permits for greater creativity for designing the how element.

When setting up a new project I try to spend couple minute figuring out why I want to do it and what do I expect to deliver. Just to give you an example. I’m planning a weekend trip to London which is a gift for my wife’s birthday. Why am I doing this, first you give her the gift I promised, then to spend some quality time visiting museums, galleries etc.

Vision/Outcome

Where the Purpose and Principles describe the “why” the third element of the process is focused on defining “what”.

It’s about creating a clear picture of the success, the end state where a project is deemed finished. To make that picture more real try to see the success, smell it, feel it.

vision provides actual blueprint of the final result

Seeing yourself completing the project allows brain to create and discover new ideas, information and connections that are stored on subconscious level. Often times that lack of knowledge of how to do things is holding us back and we hope that someone will tell us what to do. Developing the skill of visioning we can bridge the gap of how by letting our creativity to do the job.

The result of outcome visioning can be a single line statement or paragraph and more. It all depends on your needs and the project you want to tackle.

Three steps of clarifying the outcome:

– view the project from beyond the end date

– envision WILD SUCCESS, total completion

– capture all features, elements, qualities of the image.

Going back to my London trip example the successful trip will be having spent 3 days enjoying the culture, sights, food and atmosphere.

Brainstorming

At this stage you know the answers to what and to why so it’s time to figure out the how.

This process is designed to allow you to fill all the blanks between where you are and where you want to get.

Brainstorming is a fantastic exercise that lets your creativity to go wild; all you have to do it note all the ideas.
Completing this in a group setting is really good as people have different experiences, knowledge, views and may contribute things you wouldn’t have come up with.

Let them flow out of your head for as long as necessary. Don’t judge or analyse go for the quantity not quality.

There are plenty of tools that can help you with brainstorming. Many people use text files and mind maps on their computer. My preference is pen and paper but I also swap it for a mind map.

Again I will use the London trip as example. As with any trip there is a lot consider, flights, time off at work, accommodation, transport, opening hours, money, places to see etc. I will jot down all these items and then use them to create a more concrete plan.

Organising

Once you’ve emptied your head you will start notice that natural order emerges. You will start to see patterns, sequences, connections between all those ‘random’ thoughts.

You can start with identifying larger parts and key elements. Than you can drill down to see if there are any sub-tasks or deadlines or other details that need to be added. The level of granularity will depend on you preferences but you should aim at creating a small enough chunks that you’re comfortable to complete in a single sitting.Once you finish organising process you will have a complete project plan.

I usually do it in a mind map or text outliner on my computer as I like the visual effects and ease of manipulating. But to be honest anything will work if you prefer pen and paper you’ll as well.

Next Actions

The final step of the planning is to decide on next actions that need to be taken to make things happen. This is a critical stage where your commitment to completion of the project is tested. There is no point in planning if you’re not intending to take any action.

When scanning your project plan for things to do you’re most likely to come across three categories of tasks:

  • working on the steps – basically this is an actual thing to do like: read a book, email John, call Mike.
  • doing more planning – sometimes you are still not 100% clear about the project, it’s plan etc. In such case you need to spend little more time fleshing things until you’re happy that you’ve captured everything.
  • waiting for someone – some actions will belong to other people, so before you can move forward with anything you need to get an approval, receive a quote etc. For larger projects, parts of it are allocated to groups of people or outsourced and they become responsible for all next steps.

This is a basic overview of the workflow. Each time you’re facing a large task that can’t be fishing in one go try break it down in to smaller pieces. Setting up a project plan and action lists will help you keep track of things and make progress when possible.

Next week I will look at some of the tools that can assist you in managing projects.

GTD Series: Part 3 Do

This is a last part of GTD series describing basic elements of Getting Things Done workflow. Part 1 and Part 2 are available.

Getting things done diagram(DIY Planner)

Last element of GTD workflow is the Do. The whole purpose of previous stages, collecting, processing, organising is to allow a worker to make better choices about the stuff he or she is going to do. Planning things out intends to give more confidence that you know what’s going on around you and that you can make a confident choice about next thing to do.
Many people would expect that systems like GTD will spit out exactly what do to next, however they can only provide a list of choices. The ultimate decision is intuitive call that the next action is a good choice.

4 Criteria Model

To assist with making better choices David Allen outlined a four criteria model for deciding next actions.

  • Context – There is limited amount of actions you could do anywhere. Being in the right place, having access to right tools will determine what you can do. If you’re out and about there is no point to look at your @home list for things to action. Your focus should be on Errands or to buy lists. 
  • Time – The amount of time available to you will determine your choices. If you have 15min in between meetings, than this limits what you can do and means that you won’t be looking at complex actions. You will rather look for some quick kills, maybe refer to your read & review stack of papers and tackle couple items there.
  • Energy – Human body has peak and low energy periods during any day and throughout a year. Being in high energy period means that you can do complex and intensive work. You can get sufficient amount of focus to complete high value tasks. On the other hand you might feel exhausted and tired so you would look for something simple and easy.  
  • Priority -  having considered all the above criteria you need to look at what’s most important. Which of you actions that you could possibly complete give you biggest return. The decision is very intuitive and based solely on your own judgment.
     

3 Types of work

To assist you with determining what’s more important David Allen refers to additional two models.
First looks at the different types of work we do and second focuses on establishing how your actions fit into your life, goals, plans etc.
When doing any sort of work you could be looking at one of the three elements:

  • predefined work – this is where you check you list and do whatever you’ve planned to do. During your weekly or daily review you can determine what’s important and needs to be done and this will be a basis of your day.
  • as it show up work – this is where you’re focusing on the incoming items and do them as they arrive. As almost every day brings unexpected it’s necessary to leave some time for such items. However if you allow to work only on those items and ignore your list that means they were more important that the next actions and projects you’ve plans.
  • defining your work – this is last element where you are engaged making sure your system is up to date and complete. In this stage of work you look at processing your inboxes, defining your schedule and next action list.

6 Levels

All your actions and activities for part of a bigger thing. They should allow us to move into the ultimate direction of purposeful life, a life which gives you a feeling of accomplishment. This is where a 6 level model for reviewing your work comes in play. It’s takes a form of altitudes which represent different forms of goals, plans, dreams, visions and allows your to check how well your actions are aligned with above element.

  • Runway – all your current next actions.
  • 10,000 feet – your projects
  • 20,000 feet – areas of responsibility
  • 30,000 feet – short term goals (1-3 years
  • 40,000 feet – long term goals (4-6 years)
  • 50,000 feet – life purpose.

Although all this may look overly complicated the process happens in your head in a fraction of a second. If you know your schedule you know that you have 15min to next meeting so you can try to find something quick to do. Assessment of your situation will happen instantly you won’t be rethinking every criteria individually.

These models should serve you in selecting the right actions and making better more aligned plans. Not all will be used on daily basis. The 4 criteria model is the most likely to be used and the 6 level model works best during planning and review sessions where things need to be thought through.
There is a myriad of factors which contribute to making a right decision. Ultimately if the actions you’ve completed make you feel good than you’ve made right choices.

Weekly links for 11th of December

A collection of posts and articles about productivity, time management, tools and technology.

  1. David Allen talks about avoiding burnout

  2. One Big Reason Why You Don’t Have Work-life Balance

  3. How Will You Use The Limited Time You Have?

  4. Making It All Work – From Getting Things Done to Making It All Work

  5. Update: Evernote 4.1 for Windows

If you have any interesting articles please share them in the comments section.

Two Getting Things Done presentations

Due to major surge of stuff at work and few other commitments I haven’t managed to prepare my weekly post. Instead I decide to link to two Getting Things Done  presentations by David Allen.

Both are very informative and provide good insights into the GTD methodology, staying productive and keeping healthy relationship between work and life.

Frist video is a 2008 presentation to Google employees.

 

David Allen’s Google GTD presentation

 

Second presentation is from 2010 DO Lectures conference.

 

http://www.thedolectures.com/media/video/EmbeddableHowiesPlayerApplication.swf

Do Lectures 2010 – David Allen – Watch more Videos at Vodpod.