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The Only 5 Tools You Need to Implement GTD

The Only 5 Tools You Need to Implement GTD

    If you visit Lifehack regularly then I’m sure you’ve noticed the Getting Things Done series that’s been featured here lately. In recent weeks I’ve been discussing the methodology itself, and how to use it in your everyday efforts (both work and personal projects).

    What I didn’t do, however, is point you towards specific tools you can use to make your GTD life easier. Well, that is exactly what I’m going to do today.

    Let me just remind you that there are 7 main elements of GTD: Projects List, Next Tasks List, Future/Maybe List, Calendar, “Waiting for” List, Resource Files, and the intangible element – trust.

    Each of these can be handled using the simplest tools possible – pen and paper. But since we live in the 21st century, then it’s probably not the most effective way around for some people.

    What follows is a list of great tools that are either GTD-friendly right from the get-go, or can be easily adjusted to fit the GTD way of working.

    Your Inbox

    As I said in one of the posts in the GTD series (Your Daily Graph of Activity), most people usually start their work in their inboxes.

    These inboxes don’t have to be actual inboxes (email or traditional mailboxes). As defined in GTD an inbox is “simply the place where all the incoming things land”. This gives us many possibilities regarding the actual tools or software we want to use for our inboxes.

    Some tools and software that tend to work best are:

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    1. Every email software

    This is obvious, but the simplest solutions are often the best. Your email software (no matter what you use) is set up perfectly well to be used as an inbox for some incoming things because…well, it simply has an inbox in it — and every email you get is waiting there for you to read it.

    One important thing to remember, however, is that when dealing with new emails is you should take action on them immediately.

    But what to do when you encounter a new request that hasn’t been sent via email? This is where other tools come into play.

    2. Remember The Milk

    Remember The Milk (or RTM) is a great tool and it has a lot more GTD applications than just acting like an inbox.

    First of all, RTM is essentially a to-do list application. It’s available online (for all operating systems), and also it has a lot of versions for other platforms (iPhone, iPad, Android).

    However, to actually call it simply a “to-do list application” is quite an understatement. It can be used for any kind of activity where lists of things come handy.

    For example, since there’s an iPhone version, you can use it as a grocery list when you’re shopping or as a simple notepad you can use on the go so no brilliant ideas escape your mind. Or you can use it as an additional inbox. Whenever you stumble upon a new request that hasn’t been sent via email you can put it into a separate list inside RTM (preferably one named “inbox”).

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    Going back to RTM itself. The tool is very easy to use. It supports multiple lists, four levels of priorities, tags, many keyboard shortcuts (they make working with RTM lightning-quick once you get a hang of them), RSS feeds, iCal feeds, reminders, and more.

    Projects List

    Often the Project List is quite an extensive piece of GTD real estate…so to speak. It needs to be perfectly organized so every project is easy to grasp and easy to work with.

    For me, there’s only one way of doing this properly – using mind maps.

    Just to remind you (courtesy of Wikipedia), a mind map is “a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items linked to and arranged around a central key word or idea”. Or in plain English – it’s the best way of giving your thoughts a physical form (in this case, creating a digital representation of your thoughts).

    Most projects are only semi-organized around many different thoughts that do make sense all together, but are hard to put into a traditional list or text document. Mind maps, however, can handle such a situation exceptionally well. This is why mind maps are perfect to handle your Projects List.

    3. FreeMind

    When it comes to mind mapping digitally (on a computer), there are many tools that can make it possible. Nevertheless, there’s one really worth checking out. It’s called FreeMind.

    The name gives quite a good hint that the tool is free — and that’s a good thing. But there’s more good news — there are versions available for most popular platforms and operating systems. Not only that, but you can also download “binaries” (FreeMind is a true open source project).

    But the best news of all is this: FreeMind is the easiest to use, quickest, and smallest (in terms of memory and disk space used) tool available. In essence, this is the best tool for mind mapping available.

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    (If you prefer online tools to dealing with local files on your computer you can check out MindMeister. It looks quite impressive too. It provides all the important functionality for mind mapping, and has a lot of additional stuff, like the ability to include attachments, images, PDFs and other files. But it’s not free. The less expensive plan available is $4.99 per month.)

    Next Tasks List, Future/Maybe List, “Waiting for” List

    Your lists, with the Next Tasks List leading the way, are where you spend most of your time when working with GTD. Therefore, they need to be easily accessible and easy to work with. Being able to access them online from every computer and operating system is a nice thing as well.

    This is where Remember The Milk comes into play yet again. I’ve described RTM in detail earlier in this post, so I’m sure you see its value when it comes to working with all kinds of lists.

    An additional benefit of using just one tool for all your lists is that you don’t have to play around with myriads of different login names and local files. The most effective way around is to always focus on a minimum number of tools and fit them into your work habits.

    Calendar

    This is simple, and I’m sure you can see it coming…

    4. Google Calendar

    I don’t think I have to convince you why Google Calendar is great. I’m sure you’ve already signed up for it (or for a similar tool/solution).

    The most important characteristics of a GTD-calendar tool are:

    • Available from any computer (with Internet access)
    • Supports reminders
    • Supports multiple calendars for a single user
    • Supports sharing events with other users
    • Supports ongoing events

    And Google Calendar has them all covered. Also, there are a lot of apps available for every mobile platform.

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    Resource/Reference Files

    The only difficulty with resource files is that they must be pretty well organized, accessible, and preferably available from any computer with Internet access.

    This can be done by implementing two things.

    1. First, create a directory/folder somewhere on your computer’s hard drive. This directory will contain all your resources – things that might come handy as a reference when working on your projects. It’s your job to organize this directory nicely, and make it as easy to grasp as possible.
    2. Next, connect it to Dropbox.

    5. Dropbox

    Dropbox is a tool that lets you synchronize your data between multiple devices you use, but it’s also great for accessing your content online directly through Dropbox’s website.

    All this makes it perfect for acting like a GTD Reference Files base. Not only can you synchronize your files on every machine you use, but you also get an online backup so you can stop worrying about your stuff disappearing overnight after a hard drive malfunction.

    If you’re just using Dropbox to store the most essential data you can go with their free plan (up to 2GB of disk space available, although you can get mire space by inviting others to the service). Later you can easily upgrade your account to “Pro 50”, where you get 50GB for a modest payment of $9.99 per month.

    Conclusion

    As you can see, you only need 5 tools to fully implement GTD into your life. (By the way, “every email software” counts as one.) And this is good because the less tools you use, the easier it is to keep your game together and make them work for you. If you start using too many tools they become a burden instead of an effectiveness and productivity booster.

    What tools do you use as part of your GTD approach? Please share them in the comments below.

    (Photo credit: Dirty Set of Hand Tools 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 February 17, 2021

    50 Ways to Increase Productivity and Achieve More in Less Time

    50 Ways to Increase Productivity and Achieve More in Less Time

    If you feel like you don’t have enough time to do everything you want to do, maybe it’s time to check-in with your time management skills.

    No one is born to be very good at time management, so that’s okay if you think you’re bad in it. But everyone can learn to boost their productivity and achieve more!

    Here are 50 ways to increase productivity and add hours to your day.

    1. Set a Timer

    Estimate the time you need to tackle different tasks and set a timer for each of your tasks. How you go about this is up to you as there are many different ways. There is the Pomodoro technique where you focus on a task for 25 minutes followed by a five minute break afterwards.

    In the event that you have a task that will take much longer than that, you can consider one of the many timer-based apps. One that comes to mind is Clockify. It’s used for freelancers and entrepreneurs alike, however it’s a good way to be setting yourself a timer. It provides reports and you can serve as a project manager of sorts too. Best of all, it’s free.

    2. Eliminate All Distractions

    Distractions include the phone, email notifications and having multiple web browsers open on the desktop. Just as it’s important to be organized offline, it’s key to have things organized online as well. This free guide End Distractions And Find Your Focus is a good tool to help you. With this guide, you’ll learn how to get rid of distractions and boost productivity. Grab your free guide here.

    You can also learn more on how to get rid of all distractions in this guide: How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

    3. Listen to Music That Boosts Productivity

    Distractions should be avoided, but sometimes a bit of music in the background can help you focus.

    Of course, it doesn’t need to be heavy rock music, but a bit of Beethoven may do you some good.

    Here’s a complete guide to help you pick the right music for better productivity: How To Maximize Your Productivity With Music: A Complete Guide

    4. Find Meaning in What You Do (And Love What You Do)

    Enjoying what you do is the ultimate way to increase your productivity.

    If you aren’t sure what you love doing yet, don’t worry. Leo Babauta has some unique ways to help you: How to Find Your Passion

    5. Prioritize your tasks ahead of time.

    By listing your tasks in order of importance, you can make sure that you finish all of your most important tasks during the day.

    Learn a unique technique to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster.

    6. Batch Similar Tasks into a Single Batch.

    Tasks like blog writing, phone calls, email and errands can be grouped into a single batch. You will save time by completing similar tasks in one session. One way to help you with organizing all of those things is through the app Todoist. It’s an easy and simple way for you to plan out your day, set reminders, and group all of your most important tasks in a convenient spot.

    7. Complete Your Most Dreaded Tasks First Thing in the Morning.

    Whichever activity you are dreading the most is probably the one you need to complete first thing in the morning.

    Many people tend to check emails in the morning because after checking a list of emails, they feel fulfilled. But that’s just an illusion of having achieved more.

    Doing simple tasks like checking emails first in the morning is bad for you. Instead, do the difficult tasks because you have more energy in the morning to tackle them!

    8. Reward Yourself for Finishing a Big Task

    To stay motivated for whatever you do, reward yourself every now and then.

    Keep track of your small wins and milestones and celebrate them. So whenever you struggle about your progress, you see how far you’ve come!

    Find out more about this 2-Step Approach to Self-Motivation: Track Small Wins and Reward Yourself.

    9. Don’t Multitask

    Research has shown that multitasking is not productive. If you think you can multitask, think again.

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    For optimum productivity, focus on one thing at a time.

    10. Step Away from the Computer

    The Internet has become one of the number one distraction. To increase your productivity, try to do as much of your work offline as possible.

    I do this a lot when I try to brainstom new ideas and have found it to be very beneficial to simply unplug.

    11. Use Focus Tools

    Make good use of apps and technology to help you remove distractions.

    Here’re 18 Best Time Management Apps and Tools to help you stay focused. This way, you’re not distracted by the web, e-mail, or IM.

    Also, join the free Fast-Track Class – Overcoming Distraction, and you’ll learn the one simple method to work even when you’re surrounded by distractions. Join the free session now!

    12. Just Start

    Often times, starting is the hardest part. People tend to wait for the perfect time with perfect condition to start. But there’s no perfect condition.

    Once you get going, you will quickly get into a rhythm that could last for hours.

    13. Find out Your Productive Hours

    Everyone has a certain time of the day in which they are more productive than others. For me, it’s the morning.

    Find out when your prime time is for productivity and optimize your work schedule accordingly.

    14. Keep a Notebook and Pen on Hand at All Times

    This way, you can write down your thoughts, to-dos and ideas at any time. The key is to get everything out of your head and onto paper. Your subconscious mind won’t be reminding you about it every other second. Another consideration is getting the app Evernote. Not only does this save you on ink and paper, Evernote is a convenient place for you to jot down notes and thoughts and then share them with the team. In certain circumstances, this can prove useful if you’re the type of person that has a lot of ideas that you want to share.

    15. Write a Blog to Chronicle Your Own Personal Development and Achievements

    The blog keeps you accountable and always working towards self improvement and personal growth.

    When you write down all the small achievements you’ve been having, you’re also more motivated to move forward.

    And you know what, this is how I started Lifehack too! What also helped me in starting Lifehack is WordPress, which allows people to set up a website for free. WordPress has simplified a lot of the process of building a site to the point that virtually anyone can build a website now.

    16. Write out a To-Do-List Each Day

    I like to plan my day the night before. This way, I can get started on my most important tasks as soon as I wake up. The Full Life Planner is a nice tool to help you organize your days and get things that matter done. Check out the planner here and start to plan your day ahead easily!

    Make sure you don’t make any of these common to-do-list mistakes!

    17. Write Your Most Important Tasks and To-Dos on a Calendar.

    The key to good time management is knowing where to be and what to be doing there at any given time. Effective calendar management goes hand in hand with good task list management.

    Learn here How to Use a Calendar to Create Time and Space.

    18. Reflect on Your Productivity Constantly

    As you go throughout your day, repeatedly ask yourself:

    “Am I currently making the best possible use of my time?”

    This one simple question can be an excellent boost to your productivity.

    19. Get up Early Before Anyone Else

    I know it could be difficult for some to wake up early in the morning but nothing beats a quiet house!

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    Here’s How to Start Your Day at 5:00 AM and some Simple Things Early Risers Do to make waking up early easier.

    20. Get Plenty of Sleep

    When you work online, sleep can become a long lost memory. However, it’s important to get plenty of sleep so that your working hours can be as productive as possible.

    Try out this night routine which I highly recommend for productivity: The Ultimate Night Routine Guide: Sleep Better and Wake Up Productive

    21. Exercise

    Research has shown that midday exercise boosts productivity and morale in the workplace.

    Take a short walk at lunch or do some simple stretches during your break to maximize your productivity.

    Here I have some exercises recommendations for you:

    22. Outsource as Much as Possible

    If you want to achieve more in less time, learn to delegate or outsource work. Here are just a few of the companies that will help you outsource your everyday tasks:

    Also, read this guide to learn how to delegate effectively: How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

    23. Set Some Exciting Goals

    Without worthy goals, you will never be motivated to get things done.

    Set goals that are challenging and achievable. The best goal setting framework is a SMART goal. That said, there are other tools that can help you out as well. For example, The Dreamers’ Guide To Reaching Your Goal is a great guide to help you set and reach goals effectively. Grab your free guide and learn how to make your goals happen this year!

    24. Tell Other People About Your Goals

    When you tell others about your goals, you will instantly be held accountable.

    25. Listen to Podcasts

    Listen to educational podcasts or audio books while you’re driving to work, cleaning the house, exercising, or cooking dinner.

    Audio learning has the power to add hours to your day. Not to mention, your cranium is sure to thank you for it.

    Some recommendations for you: 11 Podcasts To Inspire Yourself

    26. Read David Allen’s best-selling book Getting Things Done

    This is one of the most important productivity books you will ever read. Read it, apply the tips in your daily lives and get more things done.

    Here’re more great books about productivity too: 35 Books on Productivity and Organizational Skills for an Effective Life

    27. Learn to Speed Read

    When you can read faster, you will read and learn more! Check out these 10 Ways to Increase Your Reading Speed.

    You can also make use of the app OutRead to help speed up your reading speed!

    28. Learn to Skip When You Read

    When you’re reading a book, just read the parts that you need and skip the rest. But you have to read with a purpose.

    Learn how to make it work here: How to Read 10X Faster and Retain More

    29. Focus on Result-Oriented Activities

    Pareto’s law (also known as the 80 20 rule) states that 80% of the outputs result from 20% of the inputs. This means that 20% of our actions result in 80% of the results.

    We must find the 20% that is creating the 80% of our desired outcomes and focus solely on those activities.

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    30. Take a Break

    You can’t always be working at optimum productivity. Instead, you should shoot for working in short bursts at your most productive times.

    31. Start a Polyphasic Sleep Schedule

    What is polyphasic sleep?

    Polyphasic sleep is a sleep pattern specification intended to compress sleep time to 2-5 hours daily.[1] This is achieved by spreading out sleep into short (around 20-45 minute) naps throughout the day. This allows for more waking hours with relatively high alertness.

    While you can learn more about it here, you’re recommended to take some naps during the day to recharge your energy too.

    32. Learn to Say “No”.

    We can’t do everything and therefore we must learn when to say no in order to save our sanity.

    Learn the Gentle Art of Saying No from Leo Babauta.

    33. Go on an Information Diet

    Most of the world lives on information overload. We must eliminate mindless Internet surfing.

    Stop reading three different newspapers a day and checking your RSS feeds multiple times a day. Otherwise, you’ll never get anything done.

    The key is to limit yourself only to information that you can immediately take action on. Here’re some simple tips you can try: 10 Simple Productivity Tricks To Manage Overloaded Information

    34. Organize Your Office

    The piles of paper around your desk can be a huge barrier on your productivity. Optimize your time by organizing your office, setting up a system and dumping the junk.

    Check out these 21 Tips to Organize Your Office and Get More Done and 20 Easy Home Office Organization Ideas to Boost Your Productivity.

    35. Find a Mentor

    By modeling after those who have already achieved success, you will save yourself a lot of time and energy.

    A good mentor is hard to find, so here’s a guide to help you: What to Look for in a Mentor

    36. Learn Keyboard Shortcuts

    With technology’s help, you can double your work efficiency. Even better, you learn all the shortcuts when using technology, for example keyboard shortcuts.

    When you use keyboard shortcut, you gain 64 hours every year!

    Not sure what shortcuts to lear? Check out these 22 Tricks That Can Make Anyone A Keyboard Ninja.

    Besides learning the shortcuts, you can also create keyboard shortcuts with AutoHotKey.

    37. Improve Your Typing Speed to Save Time

    Do you know you can save 21 days per year just by typing fast?

    You don’t really need to take some serious courses to type faster, try these typing games online:

    38. Work from Home and Avoid the Daily Commute

    If your job is a flexible one, consider working from home. This saves you the commute time and you’ll find yourself more energetic throughout the day as you have saved the long ride.

    Take a look at these tips to help you stay productive while working from home:

    How to Work from Home and Stay Ultra-Productive

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    39. Get Rid of Time Wasters

    Common time wasters include Instant Messenger, video games, Flickr, checking your stats 10 times a day, television and extraneous Internet surfing.

    Don’t rely on your willpower, make use of some of these useful tools to help you stay focus: 10 Online Apps for Better Focus

    40. Plan Your Meals in Advance

    Plan out all of your meals a week ahead and make your grocery list accordingly. This allows you to focus on the necessary – saving you time and money. You can also save yourself even more time through a wide variety of apps. One app that I find helpful is Mealime. It’s an app that provides you with a wide selection of recipes and also a convenient spot for your grocery list as well.

    Considering the fact that over 4 million users have this app, it goes to show that there is a good selection of meal plans that you can follow and that the app is friendly to use.

    41. Cook Your Meals in Bulk

    When you cook your meals in bulk, you will have plenty of leftovers. This can avoid having to cook everyday.

    Find out more about how to make cooking in bulk works: Once a Month Cooking: Productivity Hack or Overrated Time Suck?

    42. Protect Yourself from Unnecessary Phone Time with Caller ID

    The minutes you spend on picking up unnecessary phone calls are time wasted. You can prevent that from happening.

    Check out this detailed guide how you can deal with those unnecessary phone calls: How To Lose the Useless Items that Weigh Down Your Day – Cellphone Calls

    43. Take Shorter Showers

    This one may sound silly but it’s actually something I struggle with. I spend up to 30 minutes in the shower. Think of the time I could save simply by speeding up a bit.

    44. Save the Trips to Bank by Taking Direct Deposit

    Many employers now offer direct deposit. If yours does, then be sure and take advantage of it and save yourself from a number of trips to the bank.

    45. Auto Pay Your Bills

    How many times have you been worried about whether you missed the bills deadline?

    Auto paying your bills will save you time and eliminate late fees and increased interest rates.

    46. Shop Online

    Whenever possible, avoid going to the store. When you shop online, you can be more focus about what you’re getting.

    47. Speed up your Internet With a Broadband Connection

    Many people are aware of the slow speed of internet but aren’t doing anything about it. In fact, this is the number one Internet time-saver!

    If you must use dial-up, then you can use accelerators like Propel and SlipStream to double or even triple your speed.

    48. Keep up the Speed of Your Computer

    If you’re a Windows user, use Windows hibernation feature to avoid the slowdown of exiting and restarting Windows.

    Or maybe, consider switching to Mac as there’re plenty of Advantages You Probably Don’t Know About Switching To Mac From PC.

    49. Turn off the TV

    The average American watches more than 4 hours of television every day. Over a 65-year life, that’s 9 years glued to the tube.

    For better health and productivity, turn off the TV. Here’re 11 more reasons to tell you to stop watching TV so often.

    Turn off the TV and you are sure to get more out of life.

    50. Use a Tivo or DVR

    This can help you cut an hour-long television show down to just 40 minutes. You can save time while not missing the fun.

    So, here’s the ultimate list of techniques you should learn to boost productivity. Pick the techniques that work for you and make them your daily habits. As time goes, you’ll find yourself being a lot more productive.

    More Time Management Tips

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

    Reference

    [1] Medical News Today: What is biphasic and polyphasic sleep?

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