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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 October 12, 2018

    11 Tactics on Increasing Brain Power, Memory, and Motivation

    11 Tactics on Increasing Brain Power, Memory, and Motivation

    How do you motivate yourself? We all want to maximize our time and do more of the things we love to do but sometimes we get stuck in the ‘getting ready’ process.

    We want to live every day with a clear intention to get closer to achieving our goals and living a happy, successful life. We want to get better every day but we never actually jump off.

    The most powerful form of motivation comes from self-motivation. You can light your own fire.

    It is not enough simply to wait for inspiration to start you moving forward. It doesn’t have to be something that happens to you, it can be something that you create.

    All progress and motivation starts with taking action. One action will lead to another. Action will create better outcomes and new experiences for you.

    When my coaching clients are suffering from distraction, I simply get them to start taking action. To get fired up. To do something specific.

    This may be getting up earlier, or committing to doing exercise daily. Even if it’s doing something for just 5 minutes, it’s often that little push that it enough to get them going.

    If you focus on a small number of things to create the change you want, it can have a dramatic effect on your business and life.

    Here are 11 things you can do right now to take that jump and in the process of increasing brain power, memory and motivation.

    1. Simplify Your Life

    By creatively planning your life, it allows you to simplify. Delegating and eliminating activities that don’t motivate or excite you ensures you maximise your time and focuses your energy on achieving your goals.

    It’s really hard to stay motivated when your mind is confused and cluttered with all of the projects and tasks you need to do. But if you can simplify, if you can carve away the unnecessary, your life will become more focused. And more focus leads to more motivation.

    What areas of your life could you simplify?

    One way you could do it is to combine tasks. Think about two things you want to do and see how you could combine them into one activity.

    The author Marilyn Vos Savant takes this one stage further in her book Brain Building in Just 12 Weeks. She recommends that we make a list of every small task that has to be done, say, over a day or a week-end and then do them all one after another.

    Essentially, you are fusing lots of smaller tasks together into one task and completing them all together. So rather than doing one task on one day and another task on another day, it becomes a focused blitz to get lots of little things completed all together.

    This frees us more time and gives you a sense of accomplishment, that increases motivation.

    2. Focus on How Far You’ve Come

    One of the things that stops us being motivated and causes procrastination is that we measure our success not from how far we’ve come, but how far away we are from our dreams and ideals.

    If we can change our thinking and become more conscious of how our brain is working, we can set ourselves up for success.

    We’re often at our happiest when we use our brains to problem solve, visualize, achieve and measure our progress.

    If you talk in specifics rather than generalities, there is an opportunity to feel happier and more energized.

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    One way to do this is to start training your brain to measure specifics, which grounds your feelings in reality and can boost motivation.

    Rather than focusing on your ideal, think about what you’ve achieved from a specific starting point.

    If your goal is to lose 14lbs in the next 6 months and you’ve lost 3 lbs in the first 3 months you have two choices. You could focus on the fact that you’re still 11lbs away from your goal or you could focus on the fact that you have lost 3lbs since you’ve started.

    The second option will allow you to celebrate success and build motivation and refocus your mind to lost more weight whilst the first option may focus your mind on how far away you are from your goals.

    Let your brain set your own goals and have your own experiences.

    3. Set Measurable Goals

    This follows on nicely from the previous point. When I work with coaching clients we always set specific, measurable 90 Day Goals.

    This is great for motivation and training the brain to focus only on things that are specific and measurable.

    When we are making real progress towards our goals, it makes us a lot happier. We are motivated and inspired.

    We all sense where we are in the present moment. The past has gone and the future is well, the future.

    In this present moment, we feel like we’re making progress, moving forward in the right direction or we’re not. We can’t stop time. We can only make better use of our time.

    If you’re not happy with the progress you’re making, you may start comparing with others which can make you feel a lot worse and stop motivation in their tracks.

    So, think about what goals you want to achieve for the next 90 Days. Ask yourself what is the meaning/purpose behind each of the goals.

    Write the goals down. Put specific measurements against each goal and visualise what achieving the goals will mean to you in terms of your own personal progress.

    4. Shift Your Motivation from Getting to Giving

    Some people only focus on what they can get out of life and relationships. It’s all about me, me, me.

    “When you change the way you look at things; the things you look at change.” – Wayne Dyer

    However, if you come from a position of serving and helping, and being more consciously awake to the world around you, your mindset can shift from merely receiving to giving.

    And when you create this shift, coming from a space of giving, your brain starts coming up with more and more creative ways to spread more and more abundance.

    It’s far more satisfying to focus on giving. If you really focus on this, it can become a true purpose and focus for you.

    Rather than focusing on simple transactions, you focus on deepening relationships and doing things that will genuinely make people happy.

    If you focus on giving and gratitude and surround yourself with people of a similar mindset your motivational energy will always be high.

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    There are also additional benefits. When givers come together the results can be so much bigger than on an individual level as everything has the capacity to be multiplied.

    When your motivation is to give your brain will think of more and more creative ways to do that. Random thoughts will pop into your head and you’ll find more creative ways to improve other people in both your business and personal life.

    5. Create and Repeat a New Habit

    Sometimes, the smallest shifts create the biggest results. When you start a new habit, whether that’s going to the gym, creating videos or improving your speaking the key is consistency and repetition.

    By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you create incremental improvements.

    If you want to start a new morning routine, the key is repetition. If you want to start meditating, the key is to stay with it. If you’re gearing up to run a 5k, the key is to run every day and build that strength and stamina.

    If you have a vision of yourself as someone who doesn’t complete projects, then you think of yourself as that person. But if you tell yourself every day you’re a world class ‘project completer,’ you’ll begin to think and act like that person.

    If you’re procrastinating on a big project, just start small and do something to move it forward, even if only five minutes. The next day work on that project again.

    The key is deciding what you want to improve and then working on that thing every day. A 1% improvement every day can produce big results in the end.

    Bonus tip: Here’re 18 Tricks to Make New Habits Stick!

    6. Direct Your Subconscious Mind Before Sleep

    Many successful people never go to sleep without a request to their subconscious mind.

    “Never go to sleep without a request to your subconscious” – Thomas Edison

    Your brain is a fantastic problem solving tool. If there are decisions you are struggling with or a project you’re looking for answers on, just spend a few minutes before you go to sleep visualizing the challenges, ideas, questions and experiences.

    You can follow a similar process with your goals. Visualize your goals every night and visualize what the achievement of those goals will look like.

    Your subconscious mind will then go to work, creating different connections and ideas. When you wake up, write down everything that comes to mind and then put things into action.

    You’ll be surprised how amazing your subconscious mind is: Why Sleeping on a Difficult Problem Helps You Get the Answer

    7. Focus on Your Environment

    The people who you spend time with will change your life in one way or another. Surround yourself with people and things that support you in your business and life.

    Cynics can pull you down with them but supportive people will motivate you to becoming even more happy and successful.

    Throughout every day, we have choices regarding what we spend our time on and who we are going to spend our time with.

    You can be with people who stifle and bring your energy down, or be with people who inspire your creativity and celebrate your success.

    Spend more time with people who make you feel more alive and happier and see where that takes you.

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    8. Express More Gratitude

    When you come from a place of expressing gratitude both to what you have and the people around you, the change can be immense.

    If you express gratitude for what you have, you are less envious and fixated on what other people have.

    When you express gratitude to the important people in your life, it changes how you perceive them and how they feel about you.

    Gratitude increases your energy and your feelings of abundance. With gratitude, everything is appreciated.

    Gratitude also makes you a lot more creative and deepens your motivation. Handwritten notes, more expressive feelings, instantaneous notes or calls to the people that matter most become commonplace.

    The thing about gratitude, though, is that it requires an active pursuit in all areas of your business and life. It’s not about what that person has done for you. It’s about how you feel about them, and their value to you.

    Here’s a quick exercise:

    Think about the people that are most important to you.

    Next, write down 5 things you are grateful for, or appreciate, about that person.

    You could tell them the 5 things or just keep it to yourself and sense how you are with that person the next time you meet.

    Another important focus for gratitude is yourself. What are you grateful for today?

    Taking the time to look inwardly and appreciate what you have built momentum and motivation and makes you a lot happier.

    If you want to learn more ways to practice gratitude, check out these 40 Simple Ways To Practice Gratitude.

    9. Increase Your Energy

    Energy is a huge motivator. If we are fired up or excited about someone or something, we are usually very motivated.

    Think about the last time you achieved something important. I’m guessing your energy and motivation was high?

    If you’ve beaten your best time on the track, or lost the weight you wanted, or won a big piece of business, your energy will be sky high and you will want to dive back in again to improve your previous performance.

    When we are excited and motivated about the things we are doing, we bring high levels of energy.

    If you could spend more time doing the things that excite and motivate you, what would that mean for your business and life?

    High levels of energy produce continual growth and give you higher levels of confidence.

    Try this:

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    Pick three things that give you high levels of excitement and motivation. Commit to spending at least one more hour on each of the things every month.

    See what you can achieve. If it brings in the results you want, aim to spend more time on those 3 things and remove 3 things you want to spend less time on.

    10. Visualize Your Ideal Future

    If your motivation is lacking, try focusing on the purpose behind what you are doing or on how it plays into the larger goal of what you want to accomplish.

    One great way to increase your brain power and motivation is to start thinking bigger and then challenge yourself to think bigger and bigger about your vision of your ideal future.

    Where would you like to be in 3 years or 5 years’ time? What is your bigger purpose in your business and life? What would have to happen to make you happy with your progress?

    Identifying and then focusing on your bigger vision gives you the feeling of working on something greater and being part of something bigger than yourself. It gives deeper meaning and purpose to your daily life.

    If you are putting long hours into something or making a lot of sacrifices to achieve something it will help put things into perspective and ensure your motivation stays strong.

    Can’t figure out your purpose yet? No problem, here’s How to Find the Purpose of Life and Start Living a Fulfilling Life

    11. Take More Actions

    If you’ve been resisting taking on a big project for a while, be that at home or at work, everything else in your life can begin to suffer.

    Sometimes, you just have to face your resistance and fear and do what you’ve been avoiding. That one thing, could make a real difference to your life.

    We all have lots to do and sometimes it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the tasks at hand.

    The key is to prioritize so we make the best use of our time and make an internal commitment to just get started.

    One of my clients was very close to finishing a new online course but there were some things she was avoiding and procrastinating over. It was very easy for her to fill her time with social media updates, shiny new things and check out the things her competitors were doing to avoid taking action. She knew she was neglecting something really important to her personal goals and putting off things that mattered to her.

    I got her to focus just half an hour at the beginning each day for a week on this project. That amount of time grew as her excitement and motivation increased.

    She felt more excited and motivated by just getting started again and doing the work. This newfound energy also impacted other aspects of her life.

    She felt more in control and knew she would succeed. Just by taking one small step and getting started.

    Conclusion

    Here are some things for you to consider as you reflect upon this article:

    • What’s motivating you right now?
    • Are you as inspired as you want to be?
    • Are you open to new experiences?
    • Are you continually learning new and better ways to live?
    • Are you putting those into practice?
    • Do you want to be more motivated and inspired?

    Hopefully this article has provided some insights and you can use some of these tactics to help you live every day with a clear intention to get closer to achieving your goals.

    Featured photo credit: Pete Bellis via unsplash.com

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