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Dates and GTD – Everything You Need to Know

Dates and GTD – Everything You Need to Know

    I have been a GTD fanboy for around 3 and a half years now and with that has come trying all different types of systems over the years. Yet, over that time I have also slowly come to realize that it isn’t about the tools you use, not in the slightest. What GTD is about is understanding the process and actually using your system to get more things done in work and life.

    One of the aspects of GTD that I have had the hardest time with is the idea of dates; be it start dates, due dates, milestones, whatever. In GTD, Mr. Allen doesn’t speak of date information related to actions very much other than the brief discussion of giving yourself a hard landscape by ways of your calendar. So, to that end, let’s take a look at the wide-world of dates and GTD, and how they can be used within your system.

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    Start Dates

    Quoting Merlin Mann regarding start dates:

    “Start dates are ace. Start dates are a way of punting stuff into the future.”

    I couldn’t agree more. Start dates allow you to plan your actions and projects effectively while keeping things that aren’t that important or time sensitive out of your hair for the time being. This allows you to concentrate on the stuff that really matters at the moment without being bogged down by tasks and projects that are in your system but aren’t due for weeks or even months down the road.

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    Because of the awesomeness of start dates I can no longer go back to a system that doesn’t support start dates as a field for a task or project. The two apps that come to mind that do this well are Toodledo and OmniFocus, but I’m sure there are at least a dozen more. If you have a ton of actions on your lists you should definitely consider using start dates to get them out of the way so you can concentrate on current actions and projects.

    “Fake” Due Dates

    Ever have self-talk like this regarding projects?

    “Let’s see. I have a report due by the end of the month and have at least 10 actions that go with it. I’m waiting to hear back from John, get the notes from the meeting, summarize the notes, make an outline, etc. So, by next week I should have have the notes summarized and the outline completed. I’ll give that due date of 2/27/11.”

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    The above is a good example of “fake due dates”; these are arbitrary dates that you set up for actions within a project that are due before the actual due date project. In my experience these types of due dates don’t work. What they tend to do is allow procrastinators procrastinate more, because when they see due dates they push everything back to the last minute.

    Here is a much better approach; instead of giving all your project actions fake due dates, make sure that your actions are “highly doable”, meaning that they are something that can be done within 10 to 25 minutes. This will help a project move a long much faster. What you may find is that you get more done than you would have giving all these actions fake due dates.

    Real Due Dates

    Real due dates are the actual due date of an action or project. These type of dates are usually put on us by project manager types or are set by yourself as the date that projects or actions are to be completed.

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    When I receive a due date for a school project or assignment at work I always add it to the action or the project and try very hard to avoid the fake due date syndrome I spoke of above. Sometimes in my project notes I will give myself milestones saying that if by such-and-such date I have a certain number of actions done then I am on track, otherwise I need to clear my back log of tasks to consider myself to be on time. This works well as it doesn’t clog my system with fake due dates, yet still allows me to check my progress on actions and projects related to dates.

    The Hard Landscape

      The hard landscape that Mr. Allen talks about is the idea of putting things on your calendar that have to be done on that particular day or time (think meetings, actions that can only be done on a single date or time, or reminders for that day or time). This is a sacred place and shouldn’t be cluttered with things that don’t have a hard due date or actions that you’d think you’d like to get done on a certain date.

      I will admit though, if I do have a long standing project that has a hard due date, I put in on my calendar as an all day event. Be it “right or wrong” per GTD, I don’t really care. What this has done for me is put things into perspective during my weekly review of actions and projects allowing me to see when large projects or certain actions are due at a glance of the calendar. Other than these hard due dates, the calendar is hands off for anything other than what was mentioned above.

      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 September 24, 2020

      17 Ways Learn New Skills Faster and Enjoy the Process

      17 Ways Learn New Skills Faster and Enjoy the Process

      In the movie The Matrix, everyone was intrigued with the ability that Neo and his friends possessed to learn new skills in a matter of seconds. With the incredible rise in technology today, the rapid learning in the movie is becoming much more of a reality than you realize.

      The current generation has access to more knowledge and information than any before it. Through the internet, we are able to access all sorts of knowledge to answer almost every conceivable question. To become smarter, it’s more about the ability to learn faster, rather than being a natural born genius.

      Here are 17 ways to kickstart your Matrix-style learning experience in a short amount of time.

      1. Deconstruct and Reverse Engineer

      Break down the skill that you want to learn into little pieces and learn techniques to master an isolated portion. The small pieces will come together to make up the whole skill.

      For example, when you’re learning to play the guitar, learn how to press down a chord pattern with your fingers first without even trying to strum the chord. Once you are able to change between a couple of chord patterns, then add the strumming.

      2. Use the Pareto Principle

      Use the Pareto Principle, which is also known as the 80 20 rule. Identify the 20% of the work that will give you 80% of the results. Find out more about the 80 20 rule here: What Is the 80 20 Rule (And How to Use It to Boost Productivity)

      Take learning a new language for example. It does not take long to realize that some words pop up over and over again as you’re learning. You can do a quick search for “most commonly used French words,” for example, and begin to learn them first before adding on the rest.

      3. Make Stakes

      Establish some sort of punishment for not learning the skill that you are seeking. There are sites available that allow you to make a donation toward a charity you absolutely hate if you do not meet your goals. Or you can place a bet with a friend to light that fire under you.

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      However, keep in mind that several studies have shown that rewards tend to be more motivating than punishment[1].

      4. Record Yourself

      Seeing yourself on video is a great way to learn from your mistakes and identify areas that you need to improve. This is very effective for any musicians, actors, speakers, performers, and dancers.

      5. Join a Group

      There are huge benefits to learning in a group. Not only are you able to learn from others but you’ll be encouraged to make progress together. Whether it’s a chess club, a mastermind group, or an online meet-up group, get connected with other like-minded individuals.

      6. Time Travel

      Visit the library. Although everything is moving more and more online, there are still such things called libraries.

      Whether it’s a municipal library or your university library, you will be amazed at some of the books available there that are not accessible online. Specifically, look for the hidden treasures and wisdom contained in the really old books.

      7. Be a Chameleon

      When you want to learn new skills, imitate your biggest idol. Watch a video and learn from seeing someone else do it. Participate in mimicry and copy what you see.

      Studies have shown that, apart from learning,[2]

      “Mimicry is an effective tool not only to create ties and social relationships, but also for maintaining them.”

      Visual learning is a great way to speed up the learning process. YouTube has thousands of videos on almost every topic available.

      8. Focus

      Follow one course until success! It’s easy to get distracted, to throw in the towel, or to become interested in the next great thing and ditch what you initially set out to do.

      Ditch the whole idea of multitasking, as it has been shown to be detrimental and unproductive Simply focus on the one new skill at hand until you get it done.

      9. Visualize

      The mind has great difficulty distinguishing between what is real and what is imagined. That is why athletes practice mentally seeing their success before attempting the real thing[3].

      Visualize yourself achieving your new skill and each step that you need to make to see results. This is an important skill to help when you’re learning the basics or breaking a bad habit.

      Take a look at this article to learn how to do so: How to Become a Person Who Can Visualize Results

      10. Find a Mentor

      Success leaves clues. The best short cut to become an expert is to find an expert and not have to make the mistakes that they have made.

      Finding out what NOT to do from the expert will fast-track your learning when you want to learn new skills. It is a huge win to have them personally walk you through what needs to be done. Reach out and send an email to them.

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      If you need help learning how to find a mentor, check out this article.

      11. Sleep on It

      Practice your new skill within four hours of going to sleep.

      Josh Kaufman, author of The Personal MBA, is a noted rapid learning expert. He says that any practice done within this time frame causes your brain to embed the learning more rapidly into its neural pathways. Your memory and motor-mechanics are ingrained at a quicker level.

      12. Use the 20-Hour Rule

      Along with that tip, Kaufman also suggests 20 as the magic number of hours to dedicate to learning the new skill.

      His reasoning is that everyone will hit a wall early on in the rapid learning stage and that “pre-committing” to 20 hours is a sure-fire way to push through that wall and acquire your new skill.[4]

      Check out his video to find out more:

      13. Learn by Doing

      It’s easy to get caught up in reading and gathering information on how to learn new skills and never actually get around to doing those skills. The best way to learn is to do.

      Regardless of how unprepared you feel, make sure you are physically engaged continuously. Keep alternating between research and practice.

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      14. Complete Short Sprints

      Rather than to force yourself into enduring hours upon hours of dedication, work in short sprints of about 20-30 minutes, then get up and stretch or take a short walk. Your brain’s attention span works best with short breaks, so be sure to give it the little rest it needs.

      One study found that, between two groups of students, the students who took two short breaks when studying actually performed better than those who didn’t take breaks[5].

      15. Ditch the Distractions

      Make sure the environment you are in is perfect for your rapid-learning progress. That means ditching any social media, and the temptation to check any email. As the saying goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.”

      Before you sit down to learn new skills, make sure that potential distractions are far from sight.

      16. Use Nootropics

      Otherwise known as brain enhancers, these cognitive boosters are available in natural herbal forms and in supplements.

      Many students will swear by the increased focus that nootropics will provide[6], particularly as they get set for some serious cramming. Natural herbal nootropics have been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic traditions to improve the mind and learning.

      Find out more about brain supplements in this article.

      17. Celebrate

      For every single small win that you experience during the learning process, be sure to celebrate. Your brain will release endorphins and serotonin as you raise your hands in victory and pump your fits. Have a piece of chocolate and give yourself a pat on the back. This positive reinforcement will help you keep pushing forward as you learn new skills.

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      The Bottom Line

      Learning a new skill should be exciting and fun. Whether you use online courses, real world experience, YouTube videos, or free online resources, take time to learn in the long term. Keep picturing the joy of reaching the end goal and being a better version of yourself as continual motivation.

      More Tips on How to Learn New Skills

      Featured photo credit: Elijah M. Henderson via unsplash.com

      Reference

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