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Sharpen Your GTD Chops by Teaching Others

Sharpen Your GTD Chops by Teaching Others
Knife

For all of my high-minded pimping of this GTD stuff, I have to admit that I’m still very new to it. The fact is, I only read the book for the first time about 5 months ago and here I am spouting off like I wrote it. Having said all that, I do feel that I’ve got a pretty thorough understanding of how the system should work. Why is that? Well, being the zealot I am for certain things, I wasn’t halfway through the book before I started preaching the truths it contained to friends and family. And, as most folks who have any sort of instructional role in life will tell you, teaching something almost always leads to a clearer, deeper understanding of the subject on the part of the teacher.

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So many of you might be thinking to yourself “Sir! I’ve only just read the book! I’m not even consistent with my weekly review!”. Let me tell you a little story that might help assuage your timidity a bit:

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My father was a lawyer. And judging by his hourly rate, a pretty good one (though I don’t know from good lawyers, personally). He used to always tell me stories about when he was a student in law school, and there’s one that’s always stuck out in my mind. Apparently it’s fairly common for upper-level law students (or recent graduates) to teach certain introductory courses to other law students, which is what he did. Now, most of the material he would teach he’d either never learned or had learned many years before and mostly forgotten. So to remedy this, he’d read one chapter ahead of the students he was teaching! The beauty of it is that, as far as I know, they never knew the difference.

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This isn’t to say that anybody can teach anything if they’re simply good at communicating things in a way that people understand, but possessing that capability certainly helps. Besides, anybody who’s telling others the beauty of GTD will probably begin most of their sentences with “Well, this is explained pretty thoroughly in the book, but…”. No, the real value for you as a teacher of GTD is the “for-instances” you’ll get from your “pupils”. Like, a friend might give you an idea of his and ask you to translate it into a GTD “project” (2 or more physical actions with a well-defined outcome). This has happened to me many, many times. And most of the time, the answer is fairly obvious – but sometimes it isn’t. You’ll actually have to apply what you know about GTD to a foreign situation. And it’s things like that which will give you a clearer understanding of the core principles.

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Please understand that I’m not suggesting everybody put down the GTD book and go stand on a street corner with a cardboard sign that reads “Will Manage Projects for Food”. But I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with suggesting GTD to friends and family, or offering to help them out if they have questions about the process. The more experience you have with creating projects and defining outcomes (even if you’re not going to be the one doing the actual work), the better off you’ll be when trying to figure out how to turn that IRS audit notice and Aunt Matilda’s tea invitation into functional projects with executable next actions.

Clearly, the book is the unequivocal authority on GTD, but the knowledge and experience you gain by helping others out will go a long way in augmenting what you learned from the book.

Brett Kelly is a husband, father, computer programmer and coffee snob living in Southern California. Visit his blog, The Cranking Widgets Blog (or subscribe) for more of his wordy insight into GTD and practical productivity tips.

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

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Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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