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Why You Can’t Get Things Done (It’s All About the Ritual)

Why You Can’t Get Things Done (It’s All About the Ritual)

    So, you have studied the GTD system for months or years and you still can’t get things done? That obviously makes you a failure, right? Not exactly.

    One of the biggest problems that GTD practitioners face is that the don’t have a GTD ritual to keep themselves in the GTD mindset. You must keep a GTD ritual to make sure that your systems are clean, you have a clear focus of work and what needs done, and to know when you are taking on too much work (or not enough).

    Here are the keys to keeping a GTD ritual so you can finally get some stuff done.

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    Weekly or daily review

    If your GTD system is your entire life and brain put in one place, then the weekly review is the glue that holds it all together. GTD nerds tend to obsess with their taxonomies, project organization, what tools to use, etc. The sad truth is that it’s all for naught if you don’t review your projects and actions at least every week.

    Make sure to block out around 30 minutes to do your weekly review. If that is too much, or if you have some fast moving projects at the moment, then a daily review may be better. Whatever you choose, just remember to review.

    Hone your projects list

    Even David Allen says that one of the most important lists that you can create is your list of active projects. Right now in my OmniFocus database I have 55 active projects (that is 55 things that aren’t done that require more than 1 action to complete). Some of these are ongoing while others will be finished within a few weeks to a few months.

    The secret is just to have a list. This list will give you a good idea of how much time you have in your life and what is on your plate as well as help you know what you should be acting on at any given time.

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    Review your Horizons of Focus

    If you haven’t identified your Horizons of Focus, check out this article on how to do it. If you have identified your Horizons of Focus you need to review them regularly. Many GTD practitioners will create a nice list of the important things in their lives, but won’t take the time to go back and review them to see if their projects and actions reflect the areas they have identified to be important. Without this type of ritual, you run the chance of doing things that someone else thinks your should be doing, rather than what you know you should be doing to further your goals.

    Also, reviewing these horizons will help keep your focus on the things that are important to you and help you overcome taking trips down endless rat holes.

    Read Getting Things Done, again

    If you haven’t [picked up the book](https://www.amazon.com/dp/0142000280?tag=s7621-20–20] yet, what are you doing reading this article? If you have the book, then read it again. I suggest reading it at least twice a year so you can get back to the basics.

    Listen to some GTD talks, again

    There are some really great podcasts that the David Allen Company has provided for free. They range in topics from setting up systems and best practices of the 5 phases of GTD to how to plan projects and how to actually make intuitive choices in the “doing” phase.

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    While some of the GTD audio products that you can buy from David Allen Co. seem a little bit overpriced, I have found that they can be helpful. But, in all practicality, there is a lot of great stuff in the free podcast library that will help you get things done.

    Set dates to review your tool selection

    Rather than obsess about GTD tools and which tool are the best for your personal system, pick one that meets your current needs, stop fiddling with it, and then set a date in the future on your calendar (at least 6 months out) to look into tools again. When you look into new tools you will have a better perspective of what you need and don’t need in a GTD tool.

    By planning to review GTD tools in the future, you set yourself up to use your tool rather than it use you. This will help you focus on “doing” and less on the toolset that you use.

    Start a GTD group

    Something that I found to be a good experience as well as a great way to keep my system up to date was to find some like minded people that use GTD and start a mini discussion group. Most of the time this is quite informal but it at least has me revisit the core practices of the system on a regular basis.

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    You can also join the GTD forums to reach out to other GTD practitioners.

    Do

    The only way to get things done with a ritual is to make sure that you are actually doing everyday. If your system is fresh and organized, you should be able to open a context list and rifle through each next action. The ritual of “doing” is the most important one and the one that we sometimes forget to spend the most time on.

    (Photo credit: productivity or motivation via Shutterstock)

    More by this author

    CM Smith

    A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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    Last Updated on November 12, 2020

    What Is Speed Reading and How to Successfully Learn It

    What Is Speed Reading and How to Successfully Learn It

    You have so many books waiting for your attention, but you just don’t have enough time! Don’t you wish you could read faster without compromising your knowledge intake? This is where a valuable learning technique comes to the rescue: speed reading.

    Speed reading is the top skill to learn in 2020. Read on to find out all about this amazing technique!

    What Is Speed Reading?

    On average, an adult can read somewhere between 200 to 300 words per minute. With speed reading skills, you can read much fasteraround 1500 words per minute.[1] Yes, that sounds impossible, but it’s true.

    In order to understand how this skill works, you first need to know how the reading process works inside a human’s brain.

    The Reading Process

    The first step is for the eyes to look at a word. This “fixation” on every word takes around 0.25 seconds.

    Next, you start moving your eyes to the following word. It takes 0.1 seconds for the brain to move from one word to the next. This is called “saccade.”

    Usually, you take in 4-5 words in your head, or a sentence, at once. After all the fixations and saccades, the brain goes over the entire phrase again in order to process the meaning. This takes around half a second.

    All in all, this means average people read 200 to 300 words in a minute.

    Speeding up the Process

    The concept of speed reading is to speed up this process by at least 5 times. Since the saccade period cannot be shortened any further, speed reading emphasizes quicker fixations.

    To accomplish this, scientists recommend that the reader skips the sub-vocalization: when the readers actually say the word in their mind, even when reading silently.

    Basically, speed reading is the technique of only seeing the words instead of speaking them silently.

    Do not confuse this with skimming. When a reader skims through a text, they skip the parts that their brain considers to be unnecessary. You may skip important information in this process, and skimming does not allow the brain to retain what has been read.

    Why Speed Read?

    Speed reading is not just quick, but it’s also effective. This skill saves a lot of of time without sacrificing information.

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    Also, it has been proven to improve memory. The brain’s performance improves during speed reading, which allows the reader to remember more information than before[2].

    Since speed reading stabilizes the brain, the information is processed faster and more efficiently.

    Believe it or not, this technique leads to improved focus, too. As the brain receives a lot of information during speed reading, there is far less chance of distraction. The brain focuses solely on the job at hand.

    Since the brain is, after all, a muscle, the process of speed reading acts as an exercise. Just like the rest of your muscles, your brain needs exercise to grow stronger, too.

    A focused brain means improved logical thinking. As your brain gets used to receiving and organizing so much information so quickly, your thinking process will become faster. As soon as a problem is thrown at you, your brain will quickly put two and two together. You will be able to retrieve stored information, figure out correlations, and come up with new solutions, all within seconds!

    Still not convinced? Read 10 Reasons Why You Should Learn Speed Reading

    Greater Benefits

    With a healthier brain, you can expect better things in other parts of your life, too. A boost in self-esteem is just one of them.

    As you begin to understand information at a faster pace, you will also begin to figure out more opportunities all around you.

    With the ability to deeply understand information in a shorter period of time, your confidence levels will quickly grow.

    Moreover, all the aforementioned benefits will relieve you of stress. With all these advantages, your emotional well-being will be healthier than ever. You’ll feel less stress since your brain will learn to tackle problems efficiently. Speed reading will lead to a relaxed, tension-free lifestyle!

    How to Learn to Speed Read

    Speed reading is a superpower. Fortunately, unlike other superpowers, this one can be learned!

    There are different techniques that can be used to master this skill. Opt for the one that best suits your learning style.

    1. The Pointer Method

    The person who is credited for popularizing speed reading, Evelyn Wood, came up with the pointer method. It is a simple technique in which the reader uses their index finger to slide across the text that they’re reading.

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    As the finger moves, the brain coherently moves along with it. It is an effective technique to keep the eyes focused where the finger goes without causing any distraction.

    Readers have a tendency to back-skip. The pointer method prevents this from happening, thereby saving at least half the reading time.

    2. The Scanning Method

    In this technique, the reader’s eyes move along one part of the page only. This can be the left or right side of the text but is usually the center since that is the most convenient.

    Instead of pacing through the entire text from left to right, the vision shifts from top to bottom.

    This method involves fixation on keywords, such as names, figures, or other specific terms. By doing so, the saccade time is minimized.

    3. Perceptual Expansion

    Generally, a reader focuses on one word at a time. This technique, on the other hand, encourages the brain to read a chunk of words together. In doing so, this method increases the reader’s peripheral vision.

    Here’s the thing: even though the fixation time remains the same with perceptual expansion, the number of words that the eyes fixate on increases.

    Basically, the brain receives 5 times more information within the same amount of time.

    This technique is the hardest to master and takes the most time to learn. You’ll need help from speed reading tools in order to practice the perceptual expansion method.

    However, once you master it, this technique will offer you the fastest reading pace with the maximum knowledge intake.

    The Best Speed Reading Apps

    The easiest tool to aid any process in any part of life these days is your smartphone.

    You can use mobile applications to learn speed reading on the go. It has been proven that regularly practicing speed reading is the fastest way to learn this skill.[3]

    Here are a few great options to look into:

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    1. Reedy

    If you own an Android smartphone, you can download Reedy to your mobile. Otherwise, get the Chrome extension on your laptop to enjoy speed reading with Reedy.

    This app trains readers to read faster by displaying words one by one on the screen. Instead of having to go through lines or long texts, Reedy prepares the user to focus on one word at a time.

    Although this isn’t an effective method to learn speed reading long texts, it is a great way to start.

    2. ReadMe!

    Whether you’re an android or iOS user, you can take advantage of the ReadMe! application. This app even comes with some e-book options to practice speed reading on.

    Start by choosing your desired font size, color, layout, etc. Other than that, there are different reading modes for the user to choose from.

     

    If you want to practice reading sentence by sentence or in short paragraphs, you can choose the focused reading mode.

    The beeline reader mode changes the color of the text to guide the eye to read from the beginning to the end at a certain pace.

    Lastly, there is the spritz mode in which the app focuses on chunks of words at once. This controls the reader’s peripheral vision. However, this mode is not fully available in the free version of the app.

    3. Spreeder

    Spreeder is available on both iOS and Android. However, users may also gain benefits from Spreeder’s website. This application lets the reader paste in any text that they would like to speed read.

    Starting off at a rather low speed, the app flashes words one by one. Gradually, as the user becomes more comfortable, the speed increases.

    Slowly, the user is trained to speed read without having to skip any words.

    This app is different from the rest because it tracks the user’s reading improvements, recording the overall reading time and speed.

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    The Controversy Surrounding Speed Reading

    Truthfully, speed reading does sound too good to be true. It’s hard to believe that it is humanly possible to attain such a fast pace without compromising the quality of information you receive.

    Perhaps as a result, there are people who do not trust the process of speed reading. They believe that when you read through a text at such a high speed, speed readers cannot develop good comprehension.

    It is true that speed reading will be of no use if you do not understand the text you’re reading, no matter how quickly you did it.

    Similarly, if you were to read slowly and still not retain or understand the information you read, that would be useless, too.

    However, there are a few factors to consider here. When reading at a normal pace, there is enough time in between every step of the process for the brain to get distracted.

    Conversely, speed reading leaves behind no time for the brain to focus on something else. It is unlike skimming. No part of the text is skipped, which means that the brain receives every single bit of information.

    If you’re still not convinced, take a look at this video to learn about reading faster:

    Conclusion

    Keeping all of this in mind, speed reading cannot be labeled a hoax or a failure. Science has backed up this technique, and numerous readers have been using this skill to improve their learning ability and reading comprehension, even when reading for pleasure.

    At the end of the day, it is your decision whether or not you want to trust this process.

    However, if you decide to take advantage of the opportunities speed reading provides, you will find a world of possibilities opening up to you.

    We live in a fast-paced world. Consuming information faster will help you keep up with that pace and find further success.

    More on How to Read Faster

    Featured photo credit: Blaz Photo via unsplash.com

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