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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 November 5, 2019

    How to Cultivate Continuous Learning to Stay Competitive

    How to Cultivate Continuous Learning to Stay Competitive

    Assuming the public school system didn’t crush your soul, learning is a great activity. It expands your viewpoint. It gives you new knowledge you can use to improve your life. It is important for your personal growth. Even if you discount the worldly benefits, the act of learning can be a source of enjoyment.

    “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” — Mark Twain

    But in a busy world, it can often be hard to fit in time to learn anything that isn’t essential. The only things learned are those that need to be. Everything beyond that is considered frivolous. Even those who do appreciate the practice of lifelong learning, can find it difficult to make the effort.

    Here are some tips for installing the habit of continuous learning:

    1. Always Have a Book

    It doesn’t matter if it takes you a year or a week to read a book. Always strive to have a book that you are reading through, and take it with you so you can read it when you have time.

    Just by shaving off a few minutes in-between activities in my day I can read about a book per week. That’s at least fifty each year.

    2. Keep a “To-Learn” List

    We all have to-do lists. These are the tasks we need to accomplish. Try to also have a “to-learn” list. On it you can write ideas for new areas of study.

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    Maybe you would like to take up a new language, learn a skill or read the collective works of Shakespeare. Whatever motivates you, write it down.

    3. Get More Intellectual Friends

    Start spending more time with people who think. Not just people who are smart, but people who actually invest much of their time in learning new skills. Their habits will rub off on you.

    Even better, they will probably share some of their knowledge with you.

    4. Guided Thinking

    Albert Einstein once said,

    “Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.”

    Simply studying the wisdom of others isn’t enough, you have to think through ideas yourself. Spend time journaling, meditating or contemplating over ideas you have learned.

    5. Put it Into Practice

    Skill based learning is useless if it isn’t applied. Reading a book on C++ isn’t the same thing as writing a program. Studying painting isn’t the same as picking up a brush.

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    If your knowledge can be applied, put it into practice.

    In this information age, we’re all exposed to a lot of information, it’s important to re-learn how to learn so as to put the knowledge into practice.

    6. Teach Others

    You learn what you teach. If you have an outlet of communicating ideas to others, you are more likely to solidify that learning.

    Start a blog, mentor someone or even discuss ideas with a friend.

    7. Clean Your Input

    Some forms of learning are easy to digest, but often lack substance.

    I make a point of regularly cleaning out my feed reader for blogs I subscribe to. Great blogs can be a powerful source of new ideas. But every few months, I realize I’m collecting posts from blogs that I am simply skimming.

    Every few months, purify your input to save time and focus on what counts.

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    8. Learn in Groups

    Lifelong learning doesn’t mean condemning yourself to a stack of dusty textbooks. Join organizations that teach skills.

    Workshops and group learning events can make educating yourself a fun, social experience.

    9. Unlearn Assumptions

    You can’t add water to a full cup. I always try to maintain a distance away from any idea. Too many convictions simply mean too few paths for new ideas.

    Actively seek out information that contradicts your worldview.

    Our minds can’t be trusted, but this is what we can do about it to be wiser.

    10. Find Jobs that Encourage Learning

    Pick a career that encourages continual learning. If you are in a job that doesn’t have much intellectual freedom, consider switching to one that does.

    Don’t spend forty hours of your week in a job that doesn’t challenge you.

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    11. Start a Project

    Set out to do something you don’t know how. Forced learning in this way can be fun and challenging.

    If you don’t know anything about computers, try building one. If you consider yourself a horrible artist, try a painting.

    12. Follow Your Intuition

    Lifelong learning is like wandering through the wilderness. You can’t be sure what to expect and there isn’t always an end goal in mind.

    Letting your intuition guide you can make self-education more enjoyable. Most of our lives have been broken down to completely logical decisions, that making choices on a whim has been stamped out.

    13. The Morning Fifteen

    Productive people always wake up early. Use the first fifteen minutes of your morning as a period for education.

    If you find yourself too groggy, you might want to wait a short time. Just don’t put it off later in the day where urgent activities will push it out of the way.

    14. Reap the Rewards

    Learn information you can use. Understanding the basics of programming allows me to handle projects that other people would require outside help. Meeting a situation that makes use of your educational efforts can be a source of pride.

    15. Make Learning a Priority

    Few external forces are going to persuade you to learn. The desire has to come from within. Once you decide you want to make lifelong learning a habit, it is up to you to make it a priority in your life.

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    Featured photo credit: Paul Schafer via unsplash.com

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