This post looks at the tools available to help implement the G.T.D. method.
Before going any further let me state that carmont.com is not affiliated with David Allen Co.and G.T.D. and Getting Things Done are official trademarks of the David Allen Company.
In his book Getting Things Done: How to Achieve Stress-free Productivity, David Allen provides a wealth of advice on the benefits of tools that can be used to implement his system.
The primary consideration is usability. If you find something difficult on unnatural for you to use then you will fail. Any system you use must fit with your way of working. If pencil and paper works best for you then build your system round that, if digital, computer based systems fir your way of working then choose that. It is likely that any system that you use will contain elements of both the more traditional pen and paper and digital systems.
You will almost certainly have a digital in-box related to your email account or accounts. Over and above that you will need an in-box for the paper based side of things, snail mail, jotted notes etc. This can be a standard office in tray or a shoe box, whatever makes sense. You will probably have several in-boxes to cover work and home. The main things to consider is that the in-box is easy to access and suitable for the items you are going to be adding. Try to minimise the number of in-boxes while making sure that everything coming in can easily be put in.
Pretty self explanatory a bin for things being discarded although it is probably worth considering if a shredder is worthwhile to protect information you are discarding.
You need to have a central repository for reference material, basically a filing system. Again make sure that the system suits you, a filing cabinet might be worthwhile for large collections, box files and pocket files can also be utilised. The paperless office has been discussed for many years now and with some effort it is probably achievable, but realistically we still need to cater for both physical records, letters, contracts etc.
A great tool for storing reference material is Evernote. Evernote has clients for Windows PC, Mac, IOS and android so can be accessed from your computer or smart phone. Paper item can be scanned to Evernote for filing and, with premium membership scanned, documents are searchable. I will be looking at Evernote in a separate post in the near future. More traditional systems could include box files or filing cabinet.
In terms of G.T.D., projects are any result that requires more than one action to complete. A project will have a defined outcome and actions required to achieve the outcome. You can easily keep projects in folders or use a software application to track the project and actions. Evernote can provide a framework for projects, another web based application that I will discuss in another post is IQTell which provides a very comprehensive system for implementing G.T.D.
The calendar should only be used for specific time limited entries, I.e. appointments, meetings etc. It should contain the “must do at a certain time” items not a to-do list or “would be nice to do” list. Keep these items out of the diary, to-do items and would be nice items belong elsewhere, not cluttering the diary. Solutions here are pretty straightforward either traditional paper diaries or any of the myriad digital solutions.
Task lists come out of processing your inbox or reviewing your projects. Within the G.T.D. system context is used to help identify what tasks to do next. The context is an indication of what you need to achieve the task. For example you may have the following contexts
Calls – tasks that require you to phone
Computer – task that require you to be at a computer
Shopping – tasks related to shopping
Home – tasks do be done at home
Work – tasks to be carried out at work.
Next actions list
This is a list of the tasks you have selected as most relevant, it is a subset of the overall Task list. You need to review you projects and tasks regularly and update your next actions list based on the review.
Task lists and next actions can be processed either in a paper based system or digitally. I find that, due to the continuous change in these items, that paper based systems quickly become difficult to maintain and I prefer to carry out the recording and processing of task using software.
A tickler file is used to file information that you haver decided is not important enough to require acton now, but that you want to review at a later date. The G.T.D. method recommends a 43 folder system, you have a folder for each day of the current month, containing review material for days in the current month and 12 folders for each month. The idea being if we are in March review items for March would go in one of the daily folders, but if there is something I want to review say in July would go in the July folder and at the start of July I can review.
One of the key features of G.T.D. is getting things out of your head and into your G.T.D. system so that you are free to process actions not trying to remember everything. In an extension of the In-box you need to have a method of capturing ideas and thoughts when the happen and getting them into your In-box for processing.
Methods here are many and varied, you can take notes using a smart phone either written or voice recording, laptops, PC’s are another method, also small voice recorders. The downside I find here is that it can be fiddly and slow entering notes into a phone and starting up a laptop of PC to record something is not very effective. I use paper systems, it is fast and easy and the notes can be put in the In box for processing. Small A7 notebooks carried in a pocket allow notes to be taken anytime. Whatever system you use it must be able to quickly and easily get items recorded for processing. If you don’t get the capture part of the system right you will not be getting the full benefit of G.T.D.
In the next article I will be taking a look a IQTell, a cloud based G.T.D. tool currently in Beta test.