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Why Are You Getting Things Done?

Why Are You Getting Things Done?
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    Why are you collecting potential actions day-in and day-out in your collection tool of choice? Why are you processing the things you have collected and identifying potential outcomes of the stuff that has just come into your life? Why are you reviewing these things as much as you need to keep them active in your life? Why are you getting things done?

    Sounds like a funny question, especially for a topic on Lifehack, whose sole purpose is to show you how to get things done faster and better. But, the question remains.

    What is the point of these systems and getting all this stuff done?

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    The End Game

    GTD prides itself with using a bottom up approach to productivity rather than the “traditional” top down approach like Covey and other life-coach type of gurus have tried to teach us. The idea is that by using this bottom-up approach, that is, capturing all of the potentially meaningful stuff in your life, identifying what it is, and either doing it or not, you will be using the best way to clear the decks and eventually find your life purpose. Your end game.

    Being productive isn’t the end game. Being productive is the way to reach the end game. David Allen talks about the various Areas of Focus in our lives; the things that drive us as a human being. These can be:

    • Family
    • Spirituality
    • Career
    • Mental health
    • Vitality
    • Hobbies

    These areas are the “why” behind getting things done and the reason that you need to be productive. We shouldn’t be getting things done for getting things done sake.

    The paradox

    So, how do you find your why? How do you get up close and personal with your end game. By getting things done.

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    OK, now we are drifting down to “na-na-nu-nu” land. You may be thinking, “you just told me that we need some sort of purpose to get things done. Thanks for nothing.”

    The only way to find your purpose in life (your end game) is to clear your deck. There is no way (at least not one I have found) that you can experience the awakening of your goals and dreams when you are stressing about over 500 unprocessed emails in 3 different accounts (sounds familiar), have overdue tax bills, and have family members that need your attention because of your lack of attention. We must be able to give ourselves some breathing room.

    We do this by collecting and processing these not done stuffs and put them into a trusted system. Once there, we can either commit or “uncommmit” to these tasks and outcomes. That alone is a totally freeing process: taking all of the junk in our lives, answering the question “what is this junk?”, and then purging or doing it now or a little later.

    With this process under our belts, we slowly clear our mind and our workload allowing us to finally find our “why”.

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    Why you can’t find “why” right now

    If you have an insane life of too much to do, and not enough time to do it in, then you will have a very hard time finding your end game and what’s important to you. You have to unbury yourself from crap work and tasks to get some breathing room to find your purpose.

    The process is the thing

    So, why are you getting things done?

    Maybe you have identified that you have a family that needs taken care of. That family needs money to buy stuff. The job that you have (maybe even one you don’t necessarily like) is the way that you make money so they can buy that stuff. So, when you are doing the mundane “readying the TPS reports”, you can link this small task or project on your list to the “why” of being an awesome family man/woman.

    Your end game is easier to reach when you get the mundane in a system and the mundane is easier to do when you link it to your end game. You only got here because of the process of collecting and processing into a trusted system.

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    Elevating the process of GTD

    It’s time to get away from too many process and tools and tweaks. The process of GTD was made to be done with paper or digital tools. It’s tool agnostic for good reason.

    There isn’t too much wrong with tweaking and fiddling with your tools as long as that tweaking and fiddling is to help you accomplish your end game with less resistance, not for the sake of fiddling.

    So, when agreeing to a project or taking time out of your day to do one of those little tasks on your lists, remember and be conscious of why you are getting things done. This is the only way to make sure that you are getting the right things done and that the you have the right things to do to reach your end game.

    More by this author

    CM Smith

    A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

    How to Beat Procrastination: 29 Simple Tweaks to Make 5 Project Management Tools to Get Your Team on Track To Automate or not to Automate Your Personal Productivity System Design Is Important: How To Fail At Blogging 7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively 6 Unexpected Ways Journaling Every Day Will Make Your Life Better

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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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