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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 June 26, 2019

    How to Create Your Road Map to Success (A Step-By-Step Guide)

    How to Create Your Road Map to Success (A Step-By-Step Guide)

    Everyone has their own definition of what success means to them. Well, at least we all should by the very fact that no two individuals are created 100% alike.

    Our road map to success should be different to the person standing next to us. But we can get caught in the dangerous trap that someone else’s ideas of success should also be ours. Be careful.

    Regardless of whether or not we’re talking about your working career, business or personal life, it is truly hard to resist the contagious excitement surrounding those fantastic dreams and goals you allow yourself to explore.

    The ‘come-down’ after attending a euphoric state-inducing personal development seminar can often result in you feeling the slump of post-seminar blues. Worse still, your everyday circumstances don’t accommodate the changes you swore to make that weekend. Nothing changes.

    Get ready to kiss goodbye the post-seminar blues and skip to each destination on your roadmap to your successes. By repeating over and over these simple steps, the quality of your life will improve.

    You will want to use these steps as standard strategies to carry you toward further success in whatever shape or form you choose.

    1. Define What Success Means to You

    Is it just having enough money or more money than you might ever need that allows you to feel and judge yourself a success? Is it about having a beautiful house worth more than $2,000,000 on the upper east side of Manhattan?

    Is it about having a loving partner who supports you in your endeavors? Do you equally support each other?

    Is it through the tertiary education roadmap that you only feel valid you can make a meaningful and successful contribution to help the world economy turn? Is that your definition of success or is it someone else’s? Maybe your mom’s or your dad’s?

    When her daughter Christina found her on the floor of her office, in a pool of blood having hit her head and breaking her cheekbone as she fell, CEO of Thrive Global and celebrated author of Thrive, Ariana Huffington had a wake-up call in more ways than one.[1]

    The exhaustion and overwhelming stress which had led to her fainting drove Huffington to radically introduce new work ethics, values and rules at the editorial.

    Ten years on from her accident, Huffington still leads the conversational charge amongst global leaders to change the badge of honor that successful people need to work 24/7, and give everything of themselves and more, even it means compromising their health.

    As opposed to letting power and money be the two measurements of success, she explains wisdom, well-being, wonder and giving will give you greater success by nurturing your psychological well-being.

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    We can’t argue with Huffington that without that, we are proverbially dead in the water.

    Warren Buffet stated the way he defines success nowadays has nothing to do with money:

    “I measure success by how many people love me”.

    You can’t but fall in love with the wisdom and nobility these words seem to reflect, but keeping it as your only definition of success is probably dangerous. Lacking today’s wisdom at 20 years of age, would Buffet have had the same definition of success?

    Think about where you are on your journey. You are likely to have different goals and different measures of success as you navigate your roadmap. Huffington and Buffet explain non-tangible ideas of success are crucial for our overall success.

    Let’s also not forget though that through tenacity, persistence and many other success habits, these business leaders also rate extremely high on the power and money metrics. However, that’s not all there is to it.

    If you are not sure how you would answer if someone asked you what your definition of success is, here are some clues to get you thinking and feeling.

    As your head hits the pillow and before you close your eyes, what’s most important is that you can internalize that you have chosen your definition of success and you can full responsibility and accountability for deciding upon it.

    2. Review Your Progress and Satisfaction in Life

    Review the main areas of your life. Not just those where you feel you need to make changes. Review all of them:

    • Your career vocation or business life;
    • Your relationships – your intimate or life partner, family and friends;
    • Money health and financial management strategies;
    • Commitment to your faith or religion and spiritual personal development;
    • Your physical and mental health;

    What leisure or recreational activities you pursue for fun to energize your spirit and enrich your soul.

    Do you have ideas of what success looks like for you in each of these areas?

    Neglecting to look at even one area is like trying to restore function to a beautifully crafted Swiss watch, whilst failing to attend to a rusty-looking cog in the tiny internal workings that needs attention. Turn one cog, the others all turn. Ignore a damaged one, the system malfunctions.

    For each area, give yourself a rating out of ten – one signifies the least satisfaction and ten signifies the most – and ask yourself the following questions to help you start identifying what’s important to you:

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    • How satisfied or content with this area of my life am I presently?
    • Where would I like to live this current level of contentment to?
    • What would that new level of satisfaction look like, feel like?
    • How important is this area compared with the other areas of my life?

    Regardless of what areas you recognize need to be your core focus, consider making personal development and improvements to your physical and mental health, and well-being a constant feature of your action plan.

    You will need to continually recognize obstacles you’ll face from your outside world, as well as those internal psychological battles that will arise from within.

    Without your mental and physical health intact, it’s unlikely the rest of the ‘cogs’ are going to turn properly.

    3. Get to Know Your Values and Priorities

    Don’t make the mistake of thinking goal setting can be done in one sitting. You want to make sure the pursuits you put down on paper aren’t fly-by-night moments of excitement that ebb and flow with the rise and fall of tidal trends.

    Become better at identifying your priorities by exploring how you feel about each of your life areas. Think about the ratings of satisfaction you might have denoted for each. And now write down what you want to be, do and have.

    Put aside your initial literary ramblings and revisit them in a couple of weeks or one month. Without looking at your initial thoughts, do the process again and see what consistencies show up. What keeps coming up as feeling important? Around what ideas is there the same yearning or emotional pull?

    If you’re unsure about what you feel you wish to head towards, be in allowance of this. Don’t be jumping to quickly fill the void. The desperation is likely to have you catching the tail of the last exciting concept in fear of missing out, or trying to fill the void of excitement you yearn for.

    Increase your practice of pausing and asking yourself:

    Why does this resonate with me? Could this be a distraction which complicates the route I have mapped out? Am I becoming that person who proverbially chases two rabbits and catches none?

    In his book The Heart of Love, Dr. John Demartini explains how becoming strongly aware of your values and priorities helps you understand why you are and where you are in your life at any given moment.

    If you don’t know what you feel you stand for, look at where you direct your time, energy and attention. Look at your behavior and work backward.

    You might think making money and creating financial wealth is high on your radar. However, if you spend more than you earn and allocate money to depreciating objects as opposed to appreciating assets, your behavior is inconsistent with those typical of someone who is financially astute.

    Look back to your areas of life and ask yourself if the goals you have set are in alignment with your values. Look at your daily behaviors and ask yourself if the way you operate satisfies steps which take you further toward those goals.

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    If not, all is not lost. You’ve simply got some harsh truths and reality checks to face before you can go any further on your roadmap to success.

    4. Make Room Deliberately to Work with a Coach

    You have to come to terms with the fact that you’re likely to be swimming against the tide.

    Once you make clear unwavering decisions about what goals you’re aiming for, prepare to be un-liked, unpopular, criticized and potentially ostracized. There’s a high possibility you’ll lose the friendship and support of some however you will gain new friends and the support of others.

    Regardless of what area/s of life your goals pertain to, make room to work with a coach. Choose wisely who that person will be to encourage and walk beside you.

    Whether it be a certified coach, a family friend/mentor or qualified therapist, find someone who knows how to work with the specific issues and challenges that lay ahead without any agenda other than your success.

    Having that impartial guide can be an invaluable constant. This helps keeps you on the straight and narrow even if other areas of your life aren’t going swimmingly.

    5. Get Highly Familiar with Your Habits and Behaviors

    Despite the scientific evidence in support of it, we’re not recommending you need to start getting up at 5:00 am and exercising for an hour before you even think about starting your day.

    You should start asking yourself these questions far more frequently:

    • How well do you know your habits and routine ways of operating?
    • Do you know what choices and patterned behaviors help or hinder you?

    You know what you want to work on. Greater clarity on your values has enabled you to discern which priorities are high on your list and which ones are low. It’s now time to reinforce and reward the habits that carry you forward on your roadmap to success, and adjust those habits which delay or divert you staying on course.

    Remember though that part of the joy of the human experience is to be fallible, so don’t suddenly shelve all those character-building ‘vices’. Your flaws are a necessary part of your unique success jigsaw puzzle; they are the inspiring reasons you’re going on this journey in the first place.

    Demartini and New York Times journalist and author Charles Duhigg both explain in their books how recognizing your unhelpful behavioral patterns needs to take place first. You identify the emotional and psychological rewards which rule over whether you sustain, break or make a habit.

    When you know the rewards that light you up like a Christmas tree, you link them to new or modified habits that support values you want to make a higher priority.

    Say you love eating out. You love artisan cuisine and get giddy at watching the episode of Heston Blumenthal create chocolate water in his food chemistry laboratory. As much as you say you want to increase your investment in appreciating assets, your spending habits speak otherwise.

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    So, you might start looking for discount opportunities on your higher-end dining. The dishes may not rival Heston’s masterpieces, but your taste buds still enjoy a culinary roller coaster AND you also now to get feel-good allocating the discounted amount to a saving’s program.

    Your tummy is singing as is your bank account. The whole experience goes well beyond short-term gratification and satisfies several values and goals.

    Tweaking habits and forming new ones isn’t hard; it’s just a matter of finding a happy marriage. Take time to find it. There will always be ways.

    6. Celebrate the Wins and Monitor Your Progress Along the Way

    You must become good at deliberately rewarding yourself when you make changes that take you further along your roadmap to success.

    Professor of cognitive neuroscience Dr. Tali Sharot explains how the brain responds and adapts far better to rewards than punishment when it comes to learning behavior and creating new habits.[2]

    When we apply punishment, we reinforce the traumatic memory as being more important than the actual lesson we might have been meant to learn in the first place.

    When we gamify rewards on our success journey, we inject fun and humor. We also reduce the stress that often comes with learning new things, habits and adjusting to new ways of being, doing and having.

    Final Thoughts

    If you hit a progress plateau at any point, you might need to allow yourself to plateau and switch your attention to another priority.

    The switch may allow you to think more freely and clearly about how to move past your roadblock. Or it might simply be a good time to stop and smell the roses.

    Your muscles grow stronger in their resting phase after a workout. Animals hunt profusely to build up their energy stores before going into hibernation.

    Remember that continually forging ahead is not a natural rhythm. Repeat the cycle of rest, recovery and rallying forward then…start again.

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    Featured photo credit: Tabea Damm via unsplash.com

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