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GTD Refresh, Part 6: Decisiveness

GTD Refresh, Part 6: Decisiveness

Decisiveness

    For the last several months, I’ve been slowly rebuilding a more-or-less by-the-book GTD system. I’ve done elements of GTD for years, but things over the last year have gotten too complicated and my hope is that implementing the whole GTD system as close to Allen’s vision as possible will help me balance two quite different careers with the rest of my life.

    I had intended my next “GTD Refresh” post to be about reaching”Inbox Zero”. Allen advocates keeping an empty email inbox for the same reason he advocates processing your physical inbox down to empty every day – if your inbox isn’t a place where you trust yourself to get the information you need and is instead simply a place to store things that could very well be important, you’ll never be able to relax and trust your entire system. Everything in your inbox represents a potential task or project that you are not doing – and you don’t even know what it is.

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    Well, by that thinking, I’ve got maybe a thousand things I should be working on, because that’s how many emails were in my inbox last week. After a few hours clearing out unread newsletters, there are still nearly 700 emails in my inbox. Clearly, that’s not good.

    Well, I’m working on it, and I’ll report back when the job is done. In the meantime, though, I’ve realized something else important, and it’s that realization I intend to share with you today: the importance of decisiveness.

    Decisiveness is what “Inbox Zero” is really  about, after all. An empty inbox can be an assurance that you don’t have unrecognized work you should be working on, but more than that, it’s a sign that you’ve defined that work and decided what to do about it. Every message that sits in my inbox, then, is a little piece of undefinition.

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    Defining your work is at the core of the GTD method. Whether the work comes in the form of an email, a project on your someday/maybe list, a conversation with a friend, or a random observation when you walk into your house at night, identifying something as a thing to do, and committing yourself to the doing of it is key.

    NOT the Decider :-(

    Decision-making, as it happens, is really hard. Our brains just aren’t well-suited to the task. For example, while we’re quite good at deciding between a clearly good option and a clearly bad status quo, we’re quite bad at deciding between two clearly good options and a clearly bad status quo – often remaining in the bad status quo in order to avoid having to choose.

    Similarly, when confronted with two things that are both clearly good but difficult to compare, and a third thing that is like one of the first two but clearly inferior, we almost always choose the superior thing that’s like the inferior one. Somehow, the inferior thing makes it’s superior look superior not just to the one like it but to the thing unlike it. (Let me clear that up: consider a new Porsche, a new Lexus, and a somewhat battered used Porsche. We’ll almost always choose the new Porsche, even if the Lexus might serve our needs better.)

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    If it’s hard to decide between clearly defined options, how much harder is it to decide what to do when the options aren’t defined at all? And if we often settle for what we already have to avoid having to choose between two better options, how much easier must it be to settle when there are none?

    That’s why defining the work is important, and that’s why an empty inbox is important – because the only way to get there is to force yourself to define the work and decide what to do about it for every email that crosses your virtual transom. And if you can do that for email, you can do it no matter how the work comes to you. And if you can do that, then you’ll be as productive as a Very Productive Person indeed.

    As for me, my backlog of emails suggests that I’m not much of a decision-maker, and that’s got me worried. Since I doubt I can do the 0-to-60 transformation to Master Decider, I’m going to try to keep one simple resolution: from now on, I make a decision about every email. That should serve me well when I finally get my inbox down to zero, but I’m not going to wait until I get there.

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    Hopefully, this small change will help make me more decisive in other areas, which should make a big difference as I refresh my GTD system and further commit to a more productive, stress-free life.

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    Last Updated on March 30, 2020

    20 Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity

    20 Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity

    Are you usually punctual or late? Do you finish things within the time you stipulate? Do you hand in your reports/work on time? Are you able to accomplish what you want to do before deadlines? Are you a good time manager?

    If your answer is “no” to any of the questions above, that means you’re not managing your time as well as you want. Here are 20 time management tips to help you manage time better:

    1. Create a Daily Plan

    Plan your day before it unfolds. Do it in the morning or even better, the night before you sleep. The plan gives you a good overview of how the day will pan out. That way, you don’t get caught off guard. Your job for the day is to stick to the plan as best as possible.

    2. Peg a Time Limit to Each Task

    Be clear that you need to finish X task by 10am, Y task by 3pm, and Z item by 5:30pm. This prevents your work from dragging on and eating into time reserved for other activities.

    3. Use a Calendar

    Having a calendar is the most fundamental step to managing your daily activities. If you use outlook or lotus notes, calendar come as part of your mailing software.

    I use it. It’s even better if you can sync your calendar to your mobile phone and other hardwares you use – that way, you can access your schedule no matter where you are. Here’re the 10 Best Calendar Apps to Stay on Track .

    Find out more tips about how to use calendar for better time management here: How to Use a Calendar to Create Time and Space

    4. Use an Organizer

    An organizer helps you to be on top of everything in your life. It’s your central tool to organize information, to-do lists, projects, and other miscellaneous items.

    These Top 15 Time Management Apps and Tools can help you organize better, pick one that fits your needs.

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    5. Know Your Deadlines

    When do you need to finish your tasks? Mark the deadlines out clearly in your calendar and organizer so you know when you need to finish them.

    But make sure you don’t make these 10 Common Mistakes When Setting Deadlines.

    6. Learn to Say “No”

    Don’t take on more than you can handle. For the distractions that come in when you’re doing other things, give a firm no. Or defer it to a later period.

    Leo Babauta, the founder of Zen Habits has some great insights on how to say no: The Gentle Art of Saying No

    7. Target to Be Early

    When you target to be on time, you’ll either be on time or late. Most of the times you’ll be late. However, if you target to be early, you’ll most likely be on time.

    For appointments, strive to be early. For your deadlines, submit them earlier than required.

    Learn from these tips about how to prepare yourself to be early, instead of just in time.

    8. Time Box Your Activities

    This means restricting your work to X amount of time. Why time boxing is good for you? Here’re 10 reasons why you should start time-boxing.

    You can also read more about how to do time boxing here: Get What Matters Done by Scheduling Time Blocks

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    9. Have a Clock Visibly Placed Before You

    Sometimes we are so engrossed in our work that we lose track of time. Having a huge clock in front of you will keep you aware of the time at the moment.

    10. Set Reminders 15 Minutes Before

    Most calendars have a reminder function. If you have an important meeting to attend, set that alarm 15 minutes before.

    You can learn more about how reminders help you remember everything in this article: The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

    11. Focus

    Are you multi-tasking so much that you’re just not getting anything done? If so, focus on just one key task at one time. Multitasking is bad for you.

    Close off all the applications you aren’t using. Close off the tabs in your browser that are taking away your attention. Focus solely on what you’re doing. You’ll be more efficient that way.

    Lifehack’s CEO has written a definitive guide on how to focus, learn the tips: How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

    12. Block out Distractions

    What’s distracting you in your work? Instant messages? Phone ringing? Text messages popping in?

    I hardly ever use chat nowadays. The only times when I log on is when I’m not intending to do any work. Otherwise it gets very distracting.

    When I’m doing important work, I also switch off my phone. Calls during this time are recorded and I contact them afterward if it’s something important. This helps me concentrate better.

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    Find more tips on how to minimize distractions to achieve more in How to Minimize Distraction to Get Things Done

    13. Track Your Time Spent

    When you start to track your time, you’re more aware of how you spend your time. For example, you can set a simple countdown timer to make sure that you finish a task within a period of time, say 30 minutes or 1 hour. The time pressure can push you to stay focused and work more efficiently.

    You can find more time tracking apps here and pick one that works for you.

    14. Don’t Fuss About Unimportant Details

    You’re never get everything done in exactly the way you want. Trying to do so is being ineffective.

    Trying to be perfect does you more harm than good, learn here about how perfectionism kills your productivity and how to ditch the perfectionism mindset.

    15. Prioritize

    Since you can’t do everything, learn to prioritize the important and let go of the rest.

    Apply the 80/20 principle which is a key principle in prioritization. You can also take up this technique to prioritize everything on your plate: How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

    16. Delegate

    If there are things that can be better done by others or things that are not so important, consider delegating. This takes a load off and you can focus on the important tasks.

    When you delegate some of your work, you free up your time and achieve more. Learn about how to effectively delegate works in this guide: How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

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    17. Batch Similar Tasks Together

    For related work, batch them together.

    For example, my work can be categorized into these core groups:

    1. writing (articles, my upcoming book)
    2. coaching
    3. workshop development
    4. business development
    5. administrative

    I batch all the related tasks together so there’s synergy. If I need to make calls, I allocate a time slot to make all my calls. It really streamlines the process.

    18. Eliminate Your Time Wasters

    What takes your time away your work? Facebook? Twitter? Email checking? Stop checking them so often.

    One thing you can do is make it hard to check them – remove them from your browser quick links / bookmarks and stuff them in a hard to access bookmarks folder. Replace your browser bookmarks with important work-related sites.

    While you’ll still checking FB/Twitter no doubt, you’ll find it’s a lower frequency than before.

    19. Cut off When You Need To

    The number one reason why things overrun is because you don’t cut off when you have to.

    Don’t be afraid to intercept in meetings or draw a line to cut-off. Otherwise, there’s never going to be an end and you’ll just eat into the time for later.

    20. Leave Buffer Time In-Between

    Don’t pack everything closely together. Leave a 5-10 minute buffer time in between each tasks. This helps you wrap up the previous task and start off on the next one.

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    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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