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Book Review: David Allen’s “Making It All Work” (Part 2 of 3)

Book Review: David Allen’s “Making It All Work” (Part 2 of 3)

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    Note: I decided that I’d better make this three parts instead of the originally-planned two. Allen’s work is, of course, central to the whole field of personal productivity, so it’s worth really diving into it. Don’t miss Part 1 here.

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    At the center of Making It All Work is a renewed emphasis on control — effectively managing the work in your life — and perspective — aligning your work with your greater life goals and purpose. Allen lays these out along two axes, control and perspective, developing a set of four quadrants that are surprisingly resonant with Stephen Covey’s urgent/important quadrants (urgent = low control, important = high perspective). For Allen, the ideal place to be is one where you have a great deal of control and a great deal of perspective — that is, where you’re working as efficiently as possible on tasks of great importance and with minimal stress.

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    Getting Control

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      The control axis in Making It All Work essentially rehashes and expands the core GTD methodology from Allen’s earlier work, with some slight changes in terminology” Capture, Clarify, Organize, Reflect, and Engage. Considering that this territory is already well covered in his earlier work, it might be surprising that Allen devotes 125 pages to it here — but as it is the main doable part of GTD, the part that you can set the book down and apply immediately, it seems worthwhile to revisit it. And Allen’s thinking has evolved somewhat, especially in the “Do” (“Engage”) part, where he devotes much more attention (thus addressing a big criticism of GTD, that it spends a lot of time helping us prepare to do stuff but stops just at the point where we actually do do stuff).

      GTD is noted for its simplicity, and it’s the simplicity of this part of it that earns it the most adherents and yields the greatest tangible benefit. To start GTD, you walk through the 5 steps: capture, clarify, organize, reflect, engage. To maintain your system, you do the same: capture, clarify, organize, reflect, engage. To get back on track after the inevitable slip-ups: capture, clarify, organize, reflect, engage.

      • Capture: GTD is all about attention, and capture is all about, in Allen’s words, “paying attention to whatever has your attention.” Our minds are imperfect, and unfortunately not in predictable ways. We will forget things that are of utmost importance (like our wedding anniversary), and obsess over trivial matters (like remembering to pick up milk on the way home). Capture functions at two levels — both the thorough “mindsweep” when we get started with GTD and again during each weekly review, where we inventory every possible thing that has our attention, no matter how significant or minor, and the incidental capture of fleeting thoughts so that we can get them into our system without seriously interrupting whatever task we’re currently focusing on.
      • Clarify: Capture is meant to be indiscriminatory — if it has your attention, you capture it. Calrification is the process of deciding what to do with the “stuff” you’ve captured. This is the stage of processing your inbox, going over meeting notes and letters, sorting all the notes in your Moleskine. The first question to ask is, “Is it actionable?” If it is, then you determine what action needs to be taken (create a next action, start a new project, defer to someone else) and add that to the relevant list or your calendar. If it isn’t actionable, you need to decide if it’s reference material to be filed away, something to mull over and defer until later (which means it goes into your tickler file), or nothing at all (and can be tossed).
      • Organize: Organization is at the heart of the “system” part of GTD — it’s where all your next actions, projects, goals, reference materials, and so on are kept and made available. Allen outlines 6 categories of “things” that need organizing:
        1. Outcomes: High-level personal statements like your vision of yourself in 5-10 years, your principles, a list of your areas of focus, and low-level functional material like your projects list.
        2. Actions: The lists and other material that drive your daily activities, including your next actions sorted by context (e.g. @home, @office), your “waiting for” list to remind you of work deferred to others, and your calendar detailing what needs to get done when.
        3. Incubating: Projects and actions that you aren’t ready or willing to take on at the moment, or that you’re not sure you want to take on at all. These go on your “someday/maybe” list.
        4. Support: All your planning documents and collateral material that are needed to work on your active projects.
        5. Reference: All documents, research material, articles, and other stuff that is not needed for current projects but which may prove useful for future projects.
        6. Trash: Everything that doesn’t have a place in your life right now.
      • Reflect: Called “Review” in Allen’s earlier books, the new term reflects a more active and creative approach to looking over existing commitments and generating new project and ideas. The key is still the Weekly Review, a regular “time out” from the hustle of day-to-day work in order to bring your system up to date and look forward into the future.
      • Engaging: The selection and execution of tasks from your next action lists in the appropriate context. What’s new here is Allen’s head-on approach to priorities. For Allen, the entire purpose of all the other stages is so that at any given moment, you can focus fully on the one task that, given where you’re at and the time available to you, is the single most important thing you could be doing right now. The work of defining, scheduling, assessing, and preparing for the actual action is already taken care of — leaving you free from moment to moment to pursue the particular action that is most appropriate for that moment.

      In the next and (hopefully) last part of this review, we’ll look at the other axis, perspective. Allen’s take on perspective is centered around the Horizons of Focus (10,000 feet, 20,000 feet, etc.) that he introduced in Getting Things Done, but which here are described in far greater depth than before. We’ll begin in the next post where we end in this one, with action, the “runway” level where doing occurs. See you then!

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      Last Updated on August 6, 2020

      35 Top Productivity Apps for iPhone (2020 Updated)

      35 Top Productivity Apps for iPhone (2020 Updated)

      Over the years here at Lifehack, we’ve discussed plenty of apps that you can use to improve your overall productivity.

      There are certain ones that many of our contributors and editors (past and present) have adopted over the long-term — there are always the stalwarts that stick around. But there are also new apps that crop up every day, adding more and more depth to the app category.

      Some of the apps are incredibly plain and simple, while others are more robust and offer more features than you can shake a stick at. And everyone has the one they prefer.

      It’s been our job (and still is our job) to keep abreast of all of the productivity-type apps out there. As a result — and as a bit of a refresher — we’ve put together a list of 35 best productivity apps for iPhone (all categorized based on their functions) to provide you with an all-in-one resource for you.

      For Getting Things Done

      1. OmniFocus

      This app is, while pricey, considered to be one of the (if not the) most robust and full-featured productivity apps on the market.

      Download it here.

        2. Forest

        Train yourself to put your phone down and stay focused on the task at hand by playing with this planting game. It’s fun and will help you achieve more.

        Download it here.

          3. Things

          Another robust choice, this app is a favorite amongst “productivityists”.[1]

          Download it here.

             

             

            4. Any.Do

            A beautiful-looking app that is both easy on the eyes and your wallet.

            Download it here.

              5. PocketLife Calendar

              This calendar app is specifically designed to be stylish and super easy-to-use. You can organize your life easily with different modern features.

              Download it here.

                6. Asana

                We’ve covered Asana here at Lifehack

                , and it is being actively developed by a strong team committed to making collaborative task management a more efficient and effective experience.

                Download it here.

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                  7. ToDoist

                  This app keeps track of everything – from simple errands to your most important projects – so you can get it all done and enjoy more peace of mind along the way.

                  Download it here.

                     

                     

                    8. Calendars 5

                    This calendar app focuses on events that help you to keep track of upcoming events and tasks easily. It has everything you need to organize, track, and complete your to-dos.

                    Download it here.

                      9. Clear – Tasks, Reminders & To-Do Lists

                      A fun and innovative list-making app that relies on swiping and pinching to make things happen. Clear created a lot of buzz when it launched, and might be the perfect to-do list gateway app for many.

                      Download it here.

                        10. Due

                        A robust reminders app that lets you store and maintain reminders of all types. It’s replaced Reminders for me when it comes to the basics, and it’s worth a look if you want to keep the mundane stuff out of your head and cluttering your mind.

                        Download it here.

                          11. Checkmark 2

                          I use this app

                          for location-based reminders (such as groceries I need to get or single items I need to pick up from various locations). Checkmark is simple to use and valuable addition to my productivity arsenal.

                          Download it here.

                            12. TeuxDeux

                            Created by Tina Roth Eisenberg and Fictive Kin — TeuxDeux is simple and incredibly stellar in terms of design. If you like lists (including the popular “Someday Bucket”) and want to associate dates with tasks, then TeuxDeux will be right up your alley.

                            Download it here.

                               

                               

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                              13. Nirvana

                              For the GTD enthusiasts, there’s Nirvana. Straight from the source: “Nirvana frees your mind to focus on actually getting things done. If you’ve had enough of generic to-do lists, it’s time for Nirvana.”

                              Download it here.

                                14. Priorities

                                An elegant-looking task management app that has received decent reviews,[2] this could be the one for you if you’re not a fan of OmniFocus or Things — especially if you need (or want) to share tasks with others.

                                Download it here.

                                  For Building Habits

                                  15. Productive

                                  With this app, you can plan your habits with an easy-to-use interface, schedule habits for any time of the day, set smart reminders for each time of the day, and stay on track with useful feedback. This app is perfect for anyone who wants to build a habit that sticks.

                                  Download it here.

                                    16. Habitica: Gamified Taskmanager

                                    You can complete tasks and build habits in a more fun way with this app. Input your Habits, your Daily goals, and your To-Do list, and then create a custom avatar. Check off tasks to level up your avatar and unlock features such as armor, pets, skills, and even quests.

                                    Download it here.

                                      17. Streaks

                                      This app follows the model of the popular “don’t break the chain method” in that you use the app to track how you are donig in the pursuit of your goal. Great for goal-setting — and an easy and elegant interface to boot.

                                      Download it here.

                                        18. Remember The Milk

                                        Another popular to-do list app, Remember The Milk has a huge following. It has plenty to offer, including the ability to share tasks with others.

                                        Download it here.

                                          19. Day One Journal

                                          When it comes to journaling, nothing really beats Day One. Its latest update added a slew of features that will make you want to start making journaling a habit.

                                          Download it here.

                                            For Files Organization

                                            20. Evernote

                                            Touted as the world’s most widely-used productivity app, Evernote is an be used simply as a notetaking app or can be customized to be your GTD app of choice — among other things.

                                            Download it here.

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                                              21. Pocket

                                              You can save an article, video, or link you want to read or watch later to Pocket from anywhere including your computer, Safari, email, and your favorite apps like Facebook, Twitter, Flipboard, and Feedly.

                                              Download it here.

                                                22. Sync.Me

                                                This app identifies unknown phone calls, warns you from annoying spam calls, and adds a caller picture to your contacts from Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

                                                Download it here.

                                                  23. Droplr

                                                  One of the most popular file-sharing apps out there today. Straight from the source: “Stay productive on the go. Droplr for iPhone keeps you in sync and makes sharing on the iPhone natural.”

                                                  Download it here.

                                                    24. Dropbox

                                                    Before iCloud, there was Dropbox. And there still is Dropbox, which is still widely used by both Mac and PC users all over the globe. It’s like having a flash drive on your iPhone. A must-have.

                                                    Download it here.

                                                       

                                                      For Working Smarter

                                                      25. Captio

                                                      A simple capture tool. Straight from the developers: “It’s simple. Open Captio and start typing. When you’re done, hit Send. The note is immediately delivered to your email inbox.”

                                                      Download it here.

                                                        26. Drafts

                                                        A tremendous capture tool that allows for simple capture, followed by sending items to various applications such as OmniFocus, Things, and more.

                                                        Download it here.

                                                          27. NoteShelf 2

                                                          This is a perfect note-taking app for you. You can take beautiful handwritten notes, type, annotate PDFs, record audio & create lists. You can organize them into categories or groups.

                                                          Download it here.

                                                            28. Doodle

                                                            This app links directly with the Doodle service, which is one that allows you to plan and organize meetings far more efficiently and effectively. Lifehack contributor Steve Dotto has written about Doodle more in-depth here.

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                                                            Download it here.

                                                              29. TextExpander (Legacy)

                                                              I have saved countless hours of time with TextExpander, and despite its inability to be as robust on iOS as it is on the Mac, it is still a worthy app to have in your arsenal.

                                                              Download it here.

                                                                30. Launch Center Pro

                                                                A quick launcher for the iPhone that doesn’t just launch an app…with some of them it can do much more. This app saves you time by launching complex actions in a single tap.

                                                                Download it here.

                                                                  31. GoodReader

                                                                  This may seem to be an odd one to make this list, but here are plenty of reasons why it is here with this article.

                                                                  Download it here.

                                                                    32. LogMeIn

                                                                    Want to be able to control your Mac from wherever you are? Then get this app.

                                                                    Download it here.

                                                                      For Improving Security

                                                                      33. 1Password

                                                                      There is simply no better password manager out there. I’ve even put together a 1Password Emergency Kit worth looking at here.

                                                                      Download it here.

                                                                        34. LastPass Password Manager

                                                                        You can store passwords and logins, create online shopping profiles, generate strong passwords, track personal information in photo and audio notes.

                                                                        All you have to do is remember your LastPass master password, and LastPass auto-fills web browser and app logins for you.

                                                                        Download it here.

                                                                          35. Truecaller

                                                                          Identify and block spammers, search for unknown numbers, and call friends easily with this app. With a community-based spam list from over 250 million users, you’ll need this app.

                                                                          Download it here.

                                                                            There are plenty of other options out there (and we’ve heard from readers in the past as to what they enjoyed using), but these 40 are among the best.

                                                                            Featured photo credit: William Hook via unsplash.com

                                                                            Reference

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