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Productivity Made Simple: Selecting What to Do Next with GTD

Productivity Made Simple: Selecting What to Do Next with GTD

    In the previous episode of the Productivity Made Simple (using GTD to improve your productivity) series we were talking about where to start with GTD – the brain dump exercise. Today it’s time to take your massive list of things, and create an actionable plan that makes selecting what to do next very easy.

    If you’re not using any methodology in your work then selecting your next task can be difficult. There are so many things to do, yet so little time. You can try to do the most important tasks first, but how do you decide what is truly important and what only seems like it is? Furthermore, is something indeed important or just urgent?

    Solving challenges like this is where GTD really shines. You can use the methodology to take your brain dump list and divide it into actionable sections, in the least confusing way possible.

    Dividing your list into projects

    Your brain dump list is not something you can work with effectively. If you want to be productive you need something smaller and more manageable.

    The first step towards creating such a thing is to turn your list of tasks into a list of projects. Now how do you do that?

    Take your list and gather all similar tasks together. By similar, I mean the tasks that essentially touch upon the same area.

    Let’s just say that you’re a freelance designer, and a blogger, just as an example. On your main list there might be tasks like: improve the menu for client X, design custom buttons for client X, do some finishing touches on client’s Y site, write a new post for my blog, update WordPress.

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    You can take such tasks and divide them into groups of: client X tasks, client Y tasks, my blog tasks – these are your projects.

    I’m using a specific example because that’s the easiest way of explaining most things, but the concept can be easily applied to any other areas and different kinds of tasks. The main rule of recognizing a project is to find at least two tasks that are closely related to each other.

    This is the first approach – taking the tasks and gathering them into projects. There’s also the second approach – picking complex tasks and creating projects around them. By complex, I mean everything that requires taking more than one action to complete them.

    Here’s another example. Something like “have the car fixed” is likely to appear on your list. This sounds like a single task but it isn’t. To actually get this done you need to take care of a number of tasks. In this case: choose a mechanic, call them and make an appointment, get your car to the mechanic, pick the car up. In the end, a seemingly simple task of having the car fixed has turned into a project. And that’s OK.

    In the end, what you want to end up with is a number of projects, where each project consists of at least two tasks. From here you can proceed to the next step.

    Next tasks list

    This is where you spend the majority of your time when working with GTD.

    As of now, you have your list of projects, but don’t quite know what to do with it yet. Start by selecting only ONE task from each project, and then putting it on a separate list.

    This one task should be the next reasonable thing you can do to get a given project going. Every project has such a task, so selecting it shouldn’t be a problem.

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    For our car fixing example the next task would be to choose a mechanic.

    However, don’t try to select more than one. I know that for some projects it might seem that more tasks need to be done at the same time, but it’s not true. Even when you have two tasks you think you’ll have to do at the same time, you’re still going to start with one and then do the other. It’s not possible to do one task with your left hand and the other with your right hand. Stick to a single next task for each project only.

    The list you’re creating right now (one containing only a single task from each project) is called the next tasks list. The name explains it well enough. It is the list that contains all the tasks you need to take care of next; nothing more.

    Selecting things to do from the next tasks list

    The list itself is still a set of many different tasks, so you need to find a way of deciding which one you should actually do first.

    There are four main factors that can help you decide what to do when you’re looking at your next tasks list.

    1. Your context.

    This sounds fancy, but what it actually means is the environment you’re currently in. Some possible contexts might be: at the office, at home, on my phone, shopping mall, and so on.

    It’s obvious that some tasks can be done only when you’re in the right context. If you have an office job you can’t do any job-related tasks if you’re not at the office, so don’t even clutter your mind with them when you’re at home.

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    This context principle is pretty obvious, but it’s still good to keep it in mind to be able to snap out of unproductive thinking that sometimes catches us off guard.

    2. Available time.

    Different tasks consume different amounts of time. If you have only 30 minutes to spare there’s no point in starting to work on the new marketing strategy for your company…

    When selecting a task always try to predict how much time it can take, and compare it to the amount of time you actually have.

    3. Available energy.

    Maybe you just don’t feel like doing any creative work… Maybe some simple physical work would be more appropriate right now … like washing the car or something.

    This is OK, you don’t have to be at your 100% mental strength round the clock. Sometimes it’s good to use those other moments to do other work.

    4. Priorities.

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    This is where the fun starts. The last element in deciding what to do next.

    Basically, I’m sure you have an idea about what priorities are. Either something is important to you at the moment or it isn’t.

    For example, yesterday you were feeling just fine, but today you feel ill, so going to a doctor is the highest priority even though yesterday it had no priority.

    Priorities can change daily; this is normal. It doesn’t mean that you’re an unorganized person. I would say the contrary: if you have the same priorities for the last 10 years maybe it’s time to think them through.

    This is just a simplified model of priorities, and for now it’ll do. However, GTD takes the idea of priorities much further, and turns it into something much more useful. We’re going to talk about priorities in one of the next posts, but for now just think of them like the answer to the question of “what’s the most important task for me at this precise moment in time?

    That’s basically it when it comes to selecting what to do next. Just to recap:

    1. Create your projects list.
    2. Take one task from each project, and put it into your next tasks list.
    3. Choose what to do next based on your context, available time, available energy, and priorities (in that order).
    4. Do the task.
    5. Put another task from the same project on the next tasks list.
    6. Go back to point #3.

    A question to you. Do you find GTD complex and challenging to implement? To be honest, that was my initial impression. But I’m glad I ended up implementing it anyway, that’s for sure.

    (Photo credit: Your Next Step via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on December 13, 2018

    There Is More to Life Than  ____________

    There Is More to Life Than  ____________

    I decided to leave the title of this article open ended, because I’d like you to fill in what words best fit that blank. We’re all unique individuals from different walks of life, and in different stages of life; so, that sentence will have a different meaning for each of us.

    If you’re a busy working professional, why are you working in the job that you have now?

    Is it because it’s something you’re passionate about and brings you a lot of satisfaction? Or, is it because you studied that in college and just found a job that hired you for those skills? Perhaps it’s because of the money that you’re earning, or know you can earn down the line?

    What if you’re about to retire? You’ve got, say, 2 to 3 more years before you hit your ‘deadline’ for retiring. Have you done all that you’ve wanted to do in the past 30-40 years? Any unfulfilled goals or dreams? Are you happy with the outcome of your life to date, all the decisions and/or risks that you’ve made thus far?

    I’m sure many of us started working after college in hopes of earning a good living–to be financially stable and able to afford the ability to experience and do things that we love. We start establishing a career, and with time, tick off boxes on our bucket or ambition list. As you look back on the last couple of years, just how much of your time has been spent doing things that you enjoy and love–the things that give you a great sense of fulfillment and meaning?

    Have you become a slave to the economy, a slave to your work, or a slave to your kids? Or have you found a balance between work and pleasure?

    When is Enough Ever Enough?

    Sadly, many of us live to work.

    Realists would argue that if you truly want to work to live, you still need the finances to back that up. No money no talk. That is how the world runs today. So if you don’t earn or make enough dough, it’s hard to truly enjoy life; it’s hard to be happy without money.

    So, in this quest to provide just that, many of us end up spending our whole lives pursuing wealth and a life of status and material wants. But, is it ever enough? Is there such a thing as having too much money? And, at what expense?

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    Many wealthy entrepreneurs, millionaires and even billionaires have come to agree that money doesn’t bring you all the happiness in the world. It’s good to have, but it doesn’t truly satisfy all desires. There comes a point where you would have ‘had it all’ and still feel a sense of emptiness: an empty void that needs to be filled, not with money or material possessions.

    So the question is then, what more is there to life if not for financial stability, status or material possessions?

    How do we make work a part of life instead of having it consume our life entirely? Perhaps we need to go back to look at the word life itself.

    What is Your Purpose in Life?

    What is the nature of life? What does life mean to you? Is there a purpose?

    If we seek jobs, all we will find are jobs. But if we have a sense of purpose in how we are productive; if we seek a calling, then we will find more than a job. We will find our contribution to humanity and we will find more to life. Would you agree?

    Research has shown that having purpose and meaning in life increases overall well-being and life satisfaction, improves mental and physical health, enhances resiliency, enhances self-esteem, and decreases the chances of depression. So it should be noted that to be happy in life isn’t always enough, because happiness is a surge of emotions that does not last. Instead, it’s more important to find and have meaning in life.

    Meaning is not only about transcending the self, but also about transcending the present moment. While happiness is an emotion felt in the here and now, it ultimately fades away, just as all emotions do; positive affect and feelings of pleasure are fleeting. The amount of time people report feeling good or bad correlates with happiness, but not at all with meaning.

    Have You Been Going on a Wild Goose Chase?

    Ironically, the single-minded pursuit of happiness is leaving people less happy. “It is the very pursuit of happiness, that thwarts happiness”, according to Viktor Frankl, a famous Austrian Neurologist and Holocaust survivor. Going back to the common example of pursuing riches in order to be happy is exactly what makes many so unhappy.

    So again, look at the statement “There is more to life than ______.”

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    Have you answered it meaningfully? If you’ve read on this far, and are now wondering how to take that first step to figuring out what your true purpose is in life, fret not; I’m here to help you reframe your mind and actions, so that you can embark on a journey of finding true meaning to your life.

    Everything that you can do and accomplish in life are bounded by 7 Cornerstone Skills. These are the true essentials needed to achieve excellence. They’ll put you on a path that gives great meaning and satisfaction in life. And, the best thing of all? They already exist in each of us. We just don’t always make the most of it, or sometimes we aren’t even aware of the power that each of these skills have to help us in life.

    On it’s own, each skill is unique and can help you through different stages of life, or problems. But as a whole set, these 7 Cornerstone Skills will give you full transformation over any situation. No matter what phase of life you’re in, what you’re striving to achieve, or what feel you’re lacking, your pursuit of meaning in life will be much faster when you’re able to make use of not one, not two, but all 7 Cornerstone Skills.

    The 7 Cornerstone Skills

    So let me give you a glimpse into what these 7 Cornerstone skills are.

    Creativity

    Creativity empowers you to find unique solutions to problems, and see things in ways that you least expect.

    It goes beyond the artistic impressions and aesthetics, and is a crucial building block of change.

    Learning

    Without Learning, you will not be able to advance and progress in life. Yet, there are many of us who always fall behind not because they don’t have the intellectual ability, but because they don’t know how to learn effectively.

    Memory

    And then we have Memory, one of the most vital components, because without that you have nothing to fall back on, nothing to gain from all the learning or experiences that you’re exposed to on this earth.

    And with an ever increasing amount of information available, how can you store up as much knowledge as you can without overloading?

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    Focus

    And with any and everything that you do, a certain amount of Focus is always given.

    Whether it’s the career ladder that you’ve been climbing, or the responsibility of being a parent, Focus is a flow that allows you to push towards the progress that you’re striving for.

    Without focus, we find ourselves lost, demotivated and stuck in a rut.

    Motivation

    Many of us aren’t happy in life or with our jobs and responsibilities because we lack Motivation, and an overarching purpose as I already mentioned earlier. Motivation helps drive you forward, and gives you the focus achieve your purpose.

    Habits

    If you realize, every new day that comes is filled with routines. Whether it’s getting ready for work in the morning, putting your kids to bed in the evening, or setting aside time during the weekends for family time and activities, it all happens as a result of habits that you’ve built over time.

    Therefore Habits dictate a big part of your life. Pursuing happiness, money or meaning all have a dependency on your habits. If you find yourself being controlled by bad or negative habits, it’s more likely to hinder you from being productive and reaching those goals.

    Time

    This also ends up leading to bad use of Time, or poor time management.

    You might feel like you haven’t built a stable career yet because you lack proper time management. You find yourself spending a lot of time being busy, yet producing little outcomes.

    Or certain habits might be consuming time that you can be using for other more productive tasks.

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    Perhaps you’re on your way to retirement, and feel like it’s too late to find new meaning to your life. There’s not much time left to embark on a new journey again.

    Are You Ready to Live Your Best Life?

    The simple fact is, that if you can sharpen these 7 Cornerstone skills, you will realize that finding meaning in life, or reaching the goals and ambitions that you’ve set out for yourself, no matter what stage of life you’re in, is very attainable.

    There is no magical method to having life figured out. The skills have always been there since day 1, you just need to know how to use it to the best of your advantage.

    And I’m here to show you just how you can do that. Lifehack is all about equipping you with the best and most effective ways to increase your productivity, motivation and focus to achieve true Purpose in life, in as little time as possible.

    Embark on a transformational journey with us as we show you how to learn and improve your 7 Cornerstone Skills so that you’ll come out a new person, ready to either pursue your existing goals at a much quicker rate, or to find new goals to pursue without being limited by time, age or responsibilities.

    If you’ve been wanting a change, or been stuck in a rut for a while now, here is your chance to get started on pushing towards progress again.

    Anyone can transform, anyone can change. Are you ready to live your best life? Click here to start your journey!

     

    Featured photo credit: Caroline Hernandez via unsplash.com

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