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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 November 3, 2020

    How to Use the Prioritization Matrix When Every Task is #1

    How to Use the Prioritization Matrix When Every Task is #1

    It takes being productive to get things done correctly and on time. So how do you know which tasks are essential and which can wait? The answer is in the Prioritization Matrix, also known as the Eisenhower Matrix.

    The matrix took its name after Dwight David Eisenhower.

    Eisenhower was a general in the US army and the 34th President of the United States from 1953 to 1961. As a five-star general and a Supreme Commander in the US Army, he drafted the strategy for an Allied invasion of Europe.[1]

    Eisenhower had to make tough decisions every time about which tasks to prioritize out of many he needed to focus on daily. So, he came up with the famous Eisenhower Matrix, or the Prioritization Matrix.

    What Is the Prioritization Matrix?

    The Prioritization Matrix is a tool for rating your tasks based on urgency. It helps you know the critical activities and those tasks that you should bypass and can be useful in project management, small businesses, or personal tasks.

    Eisenhower famously said of the matrix:

    “Most tasks that are urgent are not important, and most tasks that are important are not urgent.”

    This quote became the maxim for Eisenhower in managing his time.

    There are four quadrants in the Prioritization Matrix, which help in comparing choices of what to do first and last, allowing you to prioritize projects and create strategic plan[2].

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    Eisenhower Matrix Template

      The quadrants are:

      • Do
      • Schedule
      • Delegate
      • Eliminate

      Do

      Do is the first quadrant in the Prioritization Matrix, and it incorporates important activities. That is, those tasks you need to carry out urgently — crises, deadlines, and issues that need your urgent attention and are highly relevant to your life mission.

      Hw do you know which task falls into this quadrant?

      Start by analyzing your priorities, and then establish if it falls within the ‘do it now’ criteria. If the task is achievable within a day, or within 24 to 48 hours, it’s urgent.

      Another approach you can adopt in prioritizing tasks in this category is to adopt the “eat the frog” principle by Mark Twain. This principle recommends that you do the most urgent activities as soon as you wake up.

      Here’s a practical example.

      Let’s say you need to draft a content strategy and submit a report to your manager. It’s Saturday, and the deadline for submission is Monday. Can we say the activity is urgent? Definitely!

      Schedule

      The second quadrant of the prioritization matrix is Schedule. The Prioritization Matrix classifies tasks in this category as important but not that urgent.

      They are long-term objectives and tasks with no immediate deadline. Those tasks could include meditation, journaling, studying, family time, and exercising.

      You can plan out activities in this quadrant for some other period. For instance, you should exercise for good health, but you can allocate time to do it.

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      Schedule these activities in such a way that they don’t transfer to the “Do” or “Urgent” quadrant. Ensure you have sufficient time to carry them out.

      Delegate

      The third quadrant of the prioritization matrix is Delegate.

      These tasks are not important to you but are quite urgent for others. This is where teamwork comes into play.

      You can technically perform tasks in this category, but it makes sense to delegate them. Delegating tasks will ensure you have more time to pursue activities in your first two quadrants.

      You should also monitor the tasks you have delegated. It will only amount to a sheer waste of time if you don’t have a tracking system for delegated tasks.

      Eliminate

      The last quadrant highlights your productivity killers. They are tasks that are not important to your goals and not urgent. The only way to boost your productivity is to eliminate them.

      Some examples are constantly checking your phone, watching movies, or playing video games.

      They could also be bad habits that you need to identify and delete from your daily and weekly schedule.

      Successful people have learned how to prioritize and stick to what’s important. They have learned to find a better person for a task or eliminate less significant tasks.

      Let’s consider two inspiring personalities that have designed their prioritization system.

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      Warren Buffet developed a two-list prioritization model to determine which task deserves his best attention. The bottom line is bypassing things that are important and useful but not top of the priorities.

      Mark Ford, a business advisor, marketer, self-made millionaire, and author devised his strategy:

      “Start work on the most crucial priority, take a break, work on the second most important task, take a break, then sort out the less important activities and any tasks he received from other individuals by afternoon.” [3]

      How to Use The Prioritization Matrix

      Using the Prioritization Matrix can be tricky if you’re new at it, but by following a few simple steps, you can learn to utilize it in the best way possible.

      1. List and Rank Your Priorities

      Highlight all the tasks you need to carry out in a day. Then, classify them with weighted criteria based on urgency and importance.

      Identify any activity that requires prompt action. I’m referring to a task that if you don’t complete that day, it could produce a grave consequence. For instance, if you don’t submit your content strategy, other content writers cannot work. It means you need to check for high-priority dependencies.

      2. Define the Value

      The next step is to examine the importance and assess which of them impacts your business or organization the most. As a rule of thumb, you can check which tasks possess higher priority over others. For instance, you need to attend to client’s requirements before you take care of any internal work.

      You can also estimate value by examining how the task impacts the people and customers in the organization. In a nutshell, the more impact a task has on people or the organization, the higher the priority.

      3. Take out the Most Challenging Task

      Procrastination is not a symptom of laziness, but avoidance is. The truth is that you will typically avoid tasks you don’t want to do. The former CEO of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein, once said he would take out the most dreaded task first thing when he got to the office.

      Brian Tracy called these tasks the frogs you need to eat. That will remove the nagging dread, which mounts pressure on you when you postpone necessary tasks[4]. This is where the Prioritization Matrix can help; eat the “Do” frogs immediately.

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      If you need help overcoming procrastination, check out this article.

      4. Know What’s Important to You

      As long as you are in this cosmos, you will always encounter different choices that may be contradictory to your goals. For instance, a fantastic promotion that requires excessive travel will isolate you from important relationships. If you are not priority-conscious, you may accept it, even though your family is your priority.

      Therefore, it makes sense to identify what is important to you and to prepare yourself not to compromise those important things for immediate pleasure or gain.

      Yogi Berra captioned it this way:

      “If you do not know your destination, you might end up somewhere else.”

      5. Establish Regular “No Work” Time

      YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki established a rule not to check her emails between 6 pm and 9 pm. According to a CNN Business report, she was the first woman to request maternity leave when Google just got started. She prioritizes dinner time with her family despite being the CEO of YouTube[5].

      Is it possible to cut out time for our relationships and interests outside of work?

      Of course, and that’s why you need to set out your “no work” time. This approach will enable you to renew your energy levels for the next task. Also, you will be in the best position to introspect as you are not in your usual work zone.

      6. Know When to Stop

      You can achieve everything on your list sometimes. After you have prioritized your workload and assessed your estimates, remove the remaining tasks from your priority list and focus on your most urgent and important tasks.

      Conclusion

      It’s not enough to be successful at work. Ensure you make out time for your family and an important relationship in your life.

      Getting started and finding time may be tricky, but with some practice using the Prioritization Matrix, you’ll find that you are more productive and better able to divide your time between the things that are important to you.

      More Tips on Prioritizing

      Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

      Reference

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