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The 5 Absolute Worst Months to Start GTD

The 5 Absolute Worst Months to Start GTD
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    Some months are the worst...

    David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology is one of – if not the – most highly-touted way you can improve your productivity on multiple levels.

    But implementing it isn’t something that you can just “get done”.

    GTD can be dififcult for those stuck in their ways and trying to adopt it on their own. Sure, the David Allen Company provides resources that can help you get into it more efficiently and effectively, but it’s still a lot to wrap your head around.

    Many people have to adjust their entire way of thinking when they try to use GTD, and that takes a whole lot of time, focus and effort. So choosing when to start GTD is critical.

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    Rather than offer the best times to start (which I may do in a later post), I’m going to go a different way. I think that by suggesting the worst months to start GTD you might just stand a better chance of committing to a start date, as opposed to waffling on one or trying to start right now.

    1. July

    This month is a bad one to start GTDing because it basically begins the summer season (for those living in the Northern Hemishpere). It’s a time where people want to enjoy their time, and not spend it learning how to best spend their time. Distraction levels are high due to the warm weather and the fact the kids (if applicable) are out of school.

    Ask yourself this: Would you rather start to practice “Mind Like Water” or actually “be in the water” during the month of July?

    In July, get out of your head…and get to the beach.

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    2. March

    This is a month where traveling is a big thing. Spring Break for a lot of students, warmer weather in the tropics for those North Americans seeking refuge from the cold – March doesn’t even like a full month once you factor a vacation in there.

    When you’re thinking about getting away at this time of year, it’s best not to think about getting things done at this time of year.

    3. December

    Don’t you have enough to do during this month? Doesn’t everybody that you’ll need to communicate with have enough to do that you’ll have trouble even syncing up with them when you need to – even without GTD as your ally?

    The holiday season is stressful enough for many; don’t over-season yourself by tackling the adoption of a productivity system on top of things. You’ve got enough to do in this month without having to learn how to do it better.

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    4. September

    Another time of year that seems to slip away just as quickly as it arrived. Summer is over, school is starting up and everyone at the office is hopefully refreshed from a few long weekends over the last couple of months. September is a time best spent getting connected with where you’re at so far in the year as opposed to tweaking how you got there.

    The month may leave quickly because of all of the “starting” happening all over the place, but most people seem to take the entire month just to get back into a routine. So settle back into that routine while looking at it for what it is this month. Save the looking at it for what it could be for a month in the future.

    5. January

    This one may sound a bit odd, especially considering that most resolutions are made (and often broken) in January. But think about it. You’ve just come out a holiday season that basically has lasted for all of December (and those in the United States have been in that mode since Thanksgiving) and now you’re asking yourself to commit to putting a system in place to get things done – and you’re asking yourself to do this without any recovery time.

    And people wonder why resolutions don’t stick.

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    January is a better month to spend reflecting on the year that just passed, to prepare yourself for the year ahead and recover from the holiday blitz you’ve just experienced.

    The Big Idea

    The big idea behind GTD is that it will help you in your quest to get things done. The worst idea is to pick a month where you have less of a chance of completing that quest.

    So, during which of the 7 remaining months will you start GTD?

    (Photo credit: Close Up Calendar Page with drawing-pin by Shutterstock)

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    More by this author

    Mike Vardy

    A productivity specialist who shows you how to define your day, funnel your focus, and make every moment matter.

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    Last Updated on July 21, 2021

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

    More on Building Habits

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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