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Stripped GTD: 3 Habits That Make You More Productive

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 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

    More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

    Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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