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Stripped GTD: 3 Habits That Make You More Productive

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Stripped GTD: 3 Habits That Make You More Productive

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    David Allen’s Getting Things Done has been a huge help to me as I’ve created processes and systems for many of the things I do, be it writing, other work, or just budgeting my time so I can spend more of it doing the things I love.

    The problem with GTD, the snag I’ve hit time and time again trying to implement its practices, is that it’s just so darn complicated. I need 43 folders, multiple inboxes, a bunch of project lists, next action lists, and a whole lot more. That might work for some people, but for me it just became over-complicated.

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    In actual implementation, I’ve either adapted or ignored most of the GTD tools and practices. The habits GTD teaches, however, are a different story – they’ve taught me a great deal, and helped me become far more productive. Three habits in particular – Mind Like Water, Defer, and Review – have worked magic on me as an entrepreneur, employee, and person.

    Whether you want to call it GTD or something else, these are three habits that will immediately and irreversibly make you more productive.

    Mind Like Water

    Write everything down. That’s the first step of GTD, and the first step of any good productivity system. Studies have shown that the human brain can only handle seven things at a time, but most of us need to deal with far more than that. Get them out of your brain, and into a system you trust. I use Evernote for this purpose, but you can use anything – a computer, a notebook, receipts, a chisel – as long as it’s easy to use, simple to add to, and accessible to you later.

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    Don’t trust your brain, or your memory – they’ll both fail you. Write everything that’s taking up space in your brain down. You’ll remember it better later, and free your brain to think about new things.

    Defer

    “Defer” is one of the actions GTD says to consider for any given thing that crosses your path. Don’t do it now, but don’t forget about it – just put it off for a little while. In my own life, I’ve found deferring to be hugely useful, because for the most part I never end up doing those things anyway. A lot more comes into our workflow than needs to, and seeing if the world ends because I don’t do something immediately is a good reality check for me.

    My standard practice now is this: unless I’m absolutely sure I need to do it, I defer it. I come back to it later, and often find that it never needed my attention in the first place – all of a sudden that’s one thing off my plate. I’ve found that a lot of my time was spent on things that were somewhat useful, but mostly just served to make me feel better about doing them. Now I just put those things off, and get to the things I need to and want to do. If I’ve got time, I get to the other stuff – usually just to discover I didn’t need to do it in the first place.

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    Review

    This is the big one – the one practice I think everyone who’s trying to be more productive and more aware of what they’re doing should adopt. Review everything, on a scheduled interval. I do it once a week; others do it daily.

    Reviewing means go through your calendar, and figure out what’s coming that you need to deal with. Go through all your Inboxes (email, physical, voicemail, etc.) and clear them out. Go through your task list – what do you have time for in the near future?

    Also, take a look back at the time since your last review. What drained your time? What added the most value? What’d you miss or do poorly that could have been avoided? This kind of review helps you fix your system, as well as prepare you better for what’s coming and keep you from total overwhelm in any realm of your work – after all, that overwhelmed feeling is a one-way ticket out of productivity.

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    By writing everything down, not doing most of it, and always keeping tabs on what’s happened and what’s coming, I’m constantly in a position where I feel like I know what’s going on. I know what I have to do, I know when I’ve got time to do it, and I’m pretty sure I’m not missing anything important. Without all the fancy tools and procedures, I’m already feeling ready to take on the world.

    What other habits are important to being more productive?

    Photo: jcraveiro

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    Last Updated on November 18, 2020

    15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It)

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    15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It)

    It’s okay, you can finally admit it. It’s been two months since you’ve seen the inside of the gym. Getting sick, family crisis, overtime at work and school papers that needed to get finished all kept you for exercising. Now, the question is: how do you start again?
    Once you have an exercise habit, it becomes automatic. You just go to the gym, there is no force involved. But after a month, two months or possibly a year off, it can be hard to get started again. Here are some tips to climb back on that treadmill after you’ve fallen off.

    1. Don’t Break the Habit – The easiest way to keep things going is simply not to stop. Avoid long breaks in exercising or rebuilding the habit will take some effort. This may be advice a little too late for some people. But if you have an exercise habit going, don’t drop it at the first sign of trouble.
    2. Reward Showing Up – Woody Allen once said that, “Half of life is showing up.” I’d argue that 90% of making a habit is just making the effort to get there. You can worry about your weight, amount of laps you run or the amount you can bench press later.
    3. Commit for Thirty Days – Make a commitment to go every day (even just for 20 minutes) for one month. This will solidify the exercise habit. By making a commitment you also take pressure off yourself in the first weeks back of deciding whether to go.
    4. Make it Fun – If you don’t enjoy yourself at the gym, it is going to be hard to keep it a habit. There are thousands of ways you can move your body and exercise, so don’t give up if you’ve decided lifting weights or doing crunches isn’t for you. Many large fitness centers will offer a range of programs that can suit your tastes.
    5. Schedule During Quiet Hours – Don’t put exercise time in a place where it will easily be pushed aside by something more important. Right after work or first thing in the morning are often good places to put it. Lunch-hour workouts might be too easy to skip if work demands start mounting.
    6. Get a Buddy – Grab a friend to join you. Having a social aspect to exercising can boost your commitment to the exercise habit.
    7. X Your Calendar – One person I know has the habit of drawing a red “X” through any day on the calendar he goes to the gym. The benefit of this is it quickly shows how long it has been since you’ve gone to the gym. Keeping a steady amount of X’s on your calendar is an easy way to motivate yourself.
    8. Enjoyment Before Effort – After you finish any work out, ask yourself what parts you enjoyed and what parts you did not. As a rule, the enjoyable aspects of your workout will get done and the rest will be avoided. By focusing on how you can make workouts more enjoyable, you can make sure you want to keep going to the gym.
    9. Create a Ritual – Your workout routine should become so ingrained that it becomes a ritual. This means that the time of day, place or cue automatically starts you towards grabbing your bag and heading out. If your workout times are completely random, it will be harder to benefit from the momentum of a ritual.
    10. Stress Relief – What do you do when your stressed? Chances are it isn’t running. But exercise can be a great way to relieve stress, releasing endorphin which will improve your mood. The next time you feel stressed or tired, try doing an exercise you enjoy. When stress relief is linked to exercise, it is easy to regain the habit even after a leave of absence.
    11. Measure Fitness – Weight isn’t always the best number to track. Increase in muscle can offset decreases in fat so the scale doesn’t change even if your body is. But fitness improvements are a great way to stay motivated. Recording simple numbers such as the number of push-ups, sit-ups or speed you can run can help you see that the exercise is making you stronger and faster.
    12. Habits First, Equipment Later – Fancy equipment doesn’t create a habit for exercise. Despite this, some people still believe that buying a thousand dollar machine will make up for their inactivity. It won’t. Start building the exercise habit first, only afterwards should you worry about having a personal gym.
    13. Isolate Your Weakness – If falling off the exercise wagon is a common occurrence for you, find out why. Do you not enjoy exercising? Is it a lack of time? Is it feeling self-conscious at the gym? Is it a lack of fitness know-how? As soon as you can isolate your weakness, you can make steps to improve the situation.
    14. Start Small – Trying to run fifteen miles your first workout isn’t a good way to build a habit. Work below your capacity for the first few weeks to build the habit. Otherwise you might scare yourself off after a brutal workout.
    15. Go for Yourself, Not to Impress – Going to the gym with the only goal of looking great is like starting a business with only the goal to make money. The effort can’t justify the results. But if you go to the gym to push yourself, gain energy and have a good time, then you can keep going even when results are slow.

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