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Productivity Made Simple: The Key to GTD – Your Daily Graph of Activity

Productivity Made Simple: The Key to GTD – Your Daily Graph of Activity

    Sounds serious, doesn’t it? Thankfully, the whole idea turns out to be quite easy to grasp.

    But first…

    At this point you already know what the main elements of productivity are and where to start with GTD. This is all great, but we’re still lacking one important piece of information…

    What the hell to do with all this stuff?!

    And today, we’re going to cover exactly that.

    Understanding the Diagram of Action

    When working with GTD you’re basically doing one of three things at all times:

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    • Take care of defined tasks.
    • Take care of undefined tasks.
    • Plan (define) your tasks.

    These things fall into a loop, and repeat themselves throughout the day, week, month, and so on.

    Planning your tasks will be the topic of the next post in this series, so let’s leave it for now and focus on the first two things.

    • Defined tasks/activities are everything that’s in your Projects List, Next Tasks List, Future/maybe List, and Calendar. You know, all the stuff you’ve planned to do eventually.
    • Undefined tasks/activities are everything that comes at you by surprise, forcing you to take some kind of action. Like when your spouse calls you and yells that your house is on fire. (That’s an extreme example, but I’m only trying to get my point across.)

    Defined and undefined are the only possible types of tasks you might stumble upon on your way through life. Everything is either familiar to you (things you’ve planned for), or new and unexpected (things you didn’t predict would happen).

    So defined tasks we’ve got covered. Whenever you’re in the mood for work you just pick one from your Next Tasks List and execute it. But what to do when undefined tasks happen? Do we simply do them, or what?

    This is where the Daily Graph of Activity comes into play.

    Getting to Know Your Daily Graph of Activity

    First, the graph itself. Don’t get discouraged right from the start because the thing is actually quite easy to grasp — as I’m explaining below.

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    GTD graph

      There’s a thing called things on top of the graph. Things are everything that crosses your path during the day – everything your life hits you with (the undefined tasks). Getting an email is a thing. Coming up with a new idea for something is a thing. Receiving a phone call is a thing. Getting a direct order from your boss is also a thing. In a sentence – everything that requires any kind of reaction on your part is a thing.

      So the things go into your inbox. The inbox doesn’t have to be an actual inbox, like an email inbox or a traditional mailbox in your front yard. This is simply a place where all the incoming things land.

      You can create a folder on your computer’s desktop, for example. Or write everything down on sticky notes and stick them to your computer’s screen. Or have a special container next to your desk. The choice is truly up to you. Whatever makes the most sense to you can be used as an inbox.

      So everything lands there and waits until some further action on your part. What you do is pick something up from the inbox and answer the first question: What is it? Do I have to (or want to) do anything about it?

      If the answer is no then you have four main options you can do next.

      • Trashing the thing. Pretty self-explanatory.
      • Putting it in your Future/Maybe List. If you think you might want to work with this thing in the future.
      • Scheduling it in your Calendar. If you need to take action on it on an exact date and time (remember, your Calendar is sacred).
      • Putting it in your Reference Files. If it’s just some piece of information you want to keep, but it’s not actionable in any way.

      If the answer is yes then a second question arises: Is it the next possible action?

      The undefined things you’re hit with during the day can be constructed very differently. They can be simple one-action activities (like an email saying, “Take out the trash”, or they might as well start massive projects (like, “Start the marketing campaign for Coca-Cola”). So the question above is where you decide if it’s the former or the latter.

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      If it indeed is something that sounds like a new project then you need to put it in your Projects List, and then do some planning around it to come up with a list of possible tasks for it (I’ll cover this more in the next post in the series).

      However, if it is just a simple one-action activity/task then you should consider taking care of it immediately. Hence the third question on the graph: Can I do it in less than 2 minutes?

      Why the 2 minute restriction? Because if you were to take care of every one-action task someone sends you right at the spot you wouldn’t be able to do anything else in a day. GTD simply protects you against a situation when incoming tasks are sabotaging your way of working.

      So, if you can indeed do it in less than 2 minutes then simply do it. An example of such a task is one I gave you a couple of paragraphs above – someone telling you to take out the trash.

      Unfortunately, most undefined tasks cannot be done in less than 2 minutes. That’s just life.

      There are two choices for you in such a case. You can either delegate them, or defer them.

      • Delegating something means to simply send it to someone else. Your assistant, your contractor, or whoever else you have to spare or find the thing to be a suitable task for. Once you send the task to them, simply put it in your “Waiting for” List so you don’t forget to get back to that person and ask about their progress.
      • Deferring something means placing it in one of two possible places: either your Calendar or your Next Tasks List.

      Put it in your Calendar if it absolutely needs to be done on a specific date, otherwise put it in your Next Tasks List so you can get back to it when you decide to work on your defined tasks.

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      That’s all there is to the graph. Following it honestly lets you handle every undefined task very effectively.

      Undefined tasks are the ones that can completely ruin your perfectly planned out day; GTD can help you to prevent such a situation.

      Now what?

      We know what to do with our defined tasks (simply do them when you have some time) and we also know what to do with our undefined tasks (define them as explained above). But there’s one more quick thing I want to share with you today. And that is how to review your work each day/week, and actually be aware of what’s going on.

      Here’s what I personally do.

      1. Each day I start with my Calendar. Because I know that the most important tasks for a given day are right there. Tasks that can’t be overlooked. I advise you to do the same and start your day by checking out your Calendar as well.
      2. When I’m done with the Calendar I take my Next Tasks List, pick one task and start executing it. Then I pick another task, then another and so on.
      3. Additionally, once a week I do a bigger review and have a look at all my lists: Projects List, Future/Maybe List, Waiting for List, and I make sure that my priorities are still the same and that I still want to execute all those things that are there. I also plan my next week and update everything so it’s perfectly in tune with my current goals and matters. This is also the time for creating new projects and deleting old ones — you know, cleaning stuff up.

      And that’s it. This whole methodology comes down to these simple activities:

      1. Take care of your Calendar.
      2. Take care of your Next Tasks List.
      3. Review everything.
      4. Repeat.

      And that is why GTD is so effective in a real-life environment.

      (Photo credit: Decision Making Phrase via Shutterstock)

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      Karol Krol

      Blogger, published author, and founder of a site that's all about delivering online business advice

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      Last Updated on January 13, 2020

      50 Motivational Quotes for Work to Inspire Success

      50 Motivational Quotes for Work to Inspire Success

      Let’s face it – no matter how excited you are about a new project or priority in your life, there will always be days when your motivation lags. Days when – despite all the progress you’ve made in the past – it just sounds easier to sit on the couch playing video games than to buckle down and crank out the work needed to meet your goals.

      In order to be successful, you must be able to motivate yourself past these humps. Whenever you feel your drive and determination lagging, turn to these motivational quotes for work to provide the extra spark of passion needed to keep you on track.

      Quotes about Goal Setting

      Whether you’re still in the planning phases of your business or whether you’re plotting a plan of attack to bring about your long-range vision, setting good goals is a critical part of succeeding in business.

      Check out these quotes for extra inspiration on how to turn your dreams into reality:

      quote-Benjamin-E.-Mays-the-tragedy-in-life-doesnt-lie-in-106113

        “The tragedy in life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach.”– Benjamin Mays


        “By recording your dreams and goals on paper, you set in motion the process of becoming the person you most want to be. Put your future in good hands — your own.”–Mark Victor Hansen


        “Give yourself an even greater challenge than the one you are trying to master and you will develop the powers necessary to overcome the original difficulty.”–William J. Bennett – The Book of Virtues


        “The entrepreneur is essentially a visualizer and actualizer… He can visualize something, and when he visualizes it he sees exactly how to make it happen.”–Robert L. Schwartz

        Quotes about Achieving Excellence in Work

        Once you’ve got your goals together, you’ll need to put in 110% of your effort in order to transform these visions into reality. To increase your motivation to work at a consistently high level, take a look at the following words of wisdom:

        “Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”–Aristotle


        “If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.”–Charles R. Swindoll

        Desire is the key to motivation

          “Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal — a commitment to excellence — that will enable you to attain the success you seek.”–Mario Andretti


          “The secret of joy in work is contained in one word – excellence. To know how to do something well is to enjoy it.”–Pearl Buck


          “The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.”–Vince Lombardi

          Quotes about Determination and Persistence

          Since every business or other endeavor is bound to hit some rough patches, it’s often a person’s level of determination and patience that brings about either success or failure. These positive quotes give you an extra boost of encouragement:

          “Enter every activity without giving mental recognition to the possibility of defeat. Concentrate on your strengths, instead of your weaknesses… on your powers, instead of your problems.”–Paul J. Meyer


          “Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience. Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence.”–Hal Borland


          “Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”–Calvin Coolidge

          quote-Thomas-Fuller-an-invincible-determination-can-accomplish-almost-anything-92190

            “An invincible determination can accomplish almost anything and in this lies the great distinction between great men and little men.”–Thomas Fuller

            Quotes about Leadership

            Whether you use it to engage your employees, to encourage teamwork or motivate others to follow your unique way of thinking, leadership is crucial. Take your leadership cues from these renowned leaders’ famous sayings:

            “The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born — that there is a genetic factor to leadership. This myth asserts that people simply either have certain charismatic qualities or not. That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born.” –Warren G. Bennis


            “All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership.”–John Kenneth Galbraith

            Leadership is not magnetic personality

              “Leadership is not magnetic personality — that can just as well be a glib tongue. It is not ‘making friends and influencing people’ — that is flattery. Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to high sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.”–Peter F. Drucker


              “The task of leadership is not to put greatness into people, but to elicit it, for the greatness is there already.”–John Buchan


              “High sentiments always win in the end. The leaders who offer blood, toil, tears and sweat always get more out of their followers than those who offer safety and a good time. When it comes to the pinch, human beings are heroic.”–George Orwell

              Quotes for Success

              Think of success as a holistic process – one which results from the combination of goal-setting, excellence, patience, determination and leadership you prioritize throughout your career. These highly successful people provide you with an excellent source of motivation:

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              “Be patient with yourself. Self-growth is tender; it’s holy ground. There’s no greater investment.”–Stephen Covey


              “Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.”–Norman Vincent Peale

              Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.

                “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”–Winston Churchill


                “Successful and unsuccessful people do not vary greatly in their abilities. They vary in their desires to reach their potential.”–John Maxwell


                “Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It’s quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure. You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t at all. You can be discouraged by failure or you can learn from it, So go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because remember that’s where you will find success.”– Thomas J. Watson


                “The great successful men of the world have used their imagination.  They think ahead and create their mental picture in all its details, filling in here, adding a little there, altering this a bit and that a bit, but steadily building – steadily building.”–Robert Collier


                “It is a paradoxical but profoundly true and important principle of life that the most likely way to reach a goal is to be aiming not at that goal itself but at some more ambitious goal beyond it.”–Arnold Toynbee

                Sports Quotes for Athletes

                You don’t need to be a Michael Jordan-caliber athlete to draw inspiration from the following quotes. Even if you’re just a recreational player or someone who’s using sports as a means to get back in shape after long periods of inactivity, the following motivational sports quotes will encourage you:

                “My attitude is that if you push me towards something that you think is a weakness, then I will turn that perceived weakness into a strength.”–Michael Jordan


                “Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.”–Lance Armstrong

                Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths.

                  “Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.”–Arnold Schwarzenegger


                  “I know what I have to do, and I’m going to do whatever it takes. If I do it, I’ll come out a winner, and it doesn’t matter what anyone else does.”–Florence Griffith Joyner


                  “Every time you stay out late; every time you sleep in; every time you miss a workout; every time you don’t give 100% – You make it that much easier for me to beat you.”–Unknown


                  “If you are hurt, whether in mind or body, don’t nurse your bruises. Get up and light-heartedly, courageously, good temperedly get ready for the next encounter. This is the only way to take life – this is also ‘playing’ the game!”–Emily Post


                  “We must train from the inside out. Using our strengths to attack and nullify any weaknesses. It’s not about denying a weakness may exist but about denying its right to persist.”–Vince McConnell

                  Quotes to Motivate Learning

                  Committing yourself to pursuing knowledge in a single area is a tremendous endeavor – one that often seems overwhelming given the depth and breadth of information that’s available today. Keep the following motivational quotes in mind if you’re learning:

                  “How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and the strong. Because someday in life you will have been all of these.”–George Washington Carver

                  quote-William-Arthur-Ward-if-you-can-imagine-it-you-can-36189

                    “If you can imagine it, you can achieve it; if you can dream it, you can become it.”–William Arthur Ward


                    “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”– Aristotle


                    “Success is not the key to happiness.Happiness is the key to success.If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”–Albert Schweitzer


                    “Wear your learning, like your watch, in a private pocket: and do not pull it out and strike it, merely to show that you have one.”–Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield


                    “He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever.”–Chinese Proverb


                    “Study while others are sleeping; work while others are loafing; prepare while others are playing; and dream while others are wishing.”–William Arthur Ward


                    “Books can be dangerous. The best ones should be labeled ‘This could change your life’.”–Helen Exley


                    “A book is like a garden carried in the pocket.”–Chinese Proverb

                    All-Time Favorite Positive Quotes

                    Finally, whatever your goals are in life, you can’t go wrong by taking the advice of the following famous motivational quotes:

                    “Change your thoughts and you change your world.”–Norman Vincent Peale


                    “Your time is limited, don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living the result of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinion drowned your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”–Steve Jobs


                    “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”–Maria Robinson


                    “Out of clutter, find Simplicity. From discord, find Harmony. In the middle of difficulty lies Opportunity.”–Albert Einstein


                    “Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.”–Lyndon Johnson

                    If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.

                      “If we did all the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves.”–Thomas Edison


                      “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”–Wayne Gretzky


                      “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”–Winston Churchill


                      “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”–Ralph Waldo Emerson

                      Final Thoughts

                      To use these motivational quotes effectively, find the one that speaks to you. Although all of the phrases listed above can be considered “motivational,” only you can decide which one resonates with you most directly.

                      Next, take the quote you’ve settled on and copy it onto small index cards or other pieces of paper that can be stored around your home and workspace.

                      If you’re creative, you can create inspiration boards, signs or other decorative displays featuring your favorite motivational quotes – really, though, the most important thing is that your chosen phrase be accessible in a variety of different places. This will make it easy to access and review whenever you feel your motivation slipping away.

                      More Inspiring Quotes

                      Featured photo credit: Kyle Glenn via unsplash.com

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