Why You Should Be Reducing The Tasks In Your To-do List.

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Many years ago, I worked in car sales. I learnt a lot in those days about people and about how a business with multiple parts could work together. One area of the business that stood out for me was the service centre. The service centre of the dealership I worked at was attached to the showroom and I had a lot of contact with the team that worked on the cars brought in for service and repairs.

A valuable lesson learned

One of the lessons I learned from the service centre was how they organised their work. When they took an appointment for a service or a repair, the basic work required was entered on a booking sheet and a day was assigned for when the car would come in. The booking sheet contained only the basics of what work needed carrying out on the car. For example, it might have “full service” or “oil change”. Apart from the make and model of the car and the customer’s name, there was not much else on the booking sheet.

When the car came in, however, a worksheet was placed inside the car. This sheet contained the list of work that needed to be carried out, notes made by the person taking the booking and a place for the mechanic to write what he had done and what he believed needed to be done. Any issues, anything waiting from the parts department and customer requests were all written down on this worksheet. It was a system that worked and one that led to very few mistakes. As a result of this system, our service department had one of the highest customer service ratings in the country.

Going all in digital

When I decided to create an all-digital productivity system in 2009, I adopted a similar approach. I had my to-do list manager, my calendar and my notes app. My calendar always told me when my deadlines were, where I was meant to be and when. My to-do list manager told me what work I should be doing that day and my notes app was where I kept all my project notes, things that needed thinking about and things I was waiting for. My notes app acted as my worksheet. It was where it really didn’t matter whether things were beautifully laid out or were in any kind of organised list. It was my reference guide. I could dump links to articles of interest, telephone numbers of key people related to the project and issues that needed resolving.

The system I created meant my to-do list manager told me to “Continue working on Project X” and in my notes app, I found the corresponding note called “Project X”and contained in that note were all my thoughts, ideas and, to a certain extent, what I needed to work on next.

A better way of handling tasks

It’s a system I’ve used for years and it works. Often, I find many people write out a task list on their to-do list manager like this:

  • Download image
  • Resize image
  • Crop image
  • Colour correct image
  • Add text to image
  • Post image to website.

Instead, all I would have is a task called “Post new image to website”. This means my to-do list never looks overwhelming. It allows my notes app to be my digital playground and it really doesn’t matter what I dump in the note. I am free to write what I want, how I want and I am not forced to create endless lists in a hierarchical manner.

These days, I can also add a link directly to the document I am working on, be that a Google Doc or an Apple Pages or Keynote file which makes this system even more efficient. Less clicking and an immediate update on where I am with the project.

My workflow essentially works something like this:

  • Review Todoist to see what work needs doing. Click on the Evernote note link and
  • open Evernote note to that project and review notes.
  • open document I am working on and begin work.

It’s simple, it gets me up to speed very quickly and over the years has evolved into a sleek, efficient system.

Here’s how I use Todoist to get this working:

 

A better archiving solution

Another benefit of using this method I found is I am able to save the notes I made during the project in my archive. This means in the future, if I ever work on a similar project, I will have all the notes and ideas I had from a previous project available to me. One of the problems with to-do list managers is once the task is done it disappears and although some to-do list managers do archive your completed tasks and projects, they are not easily searchable, unlike with an app like Evernote, where all your notes are searchable.

An Antidote to project task overwhelm.

When you start adding a lot of unnecessary tasks into your to-do list manager, you very quickly find yourself overwhelmed by the length of your lists. You will also find it difficult to resist the temptation of picking and choosing what to work on. Some tasks will be easy, others will be more difficult and quite a few will be sheer drudgery. Not a good way to get you motivated to get on with your work. When you see a task such as “Continue working on Project X” and, in my case a direct link to my project notes from my to-do list manager, I have no overwhelming list. Just a simple direction to work on a specific project. The choice I have to make is do the work or not do the work. Once you start working, the flow begins and you quickly get into doing the work.

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So if you find you have long lists of tasks in your project lists, consider farming some of those tasks out to your notes app. Create a note with the same title as your project and use that note as your playground. You can add ideas, notes, links and keep track of what you have done each day. Once the project is complete, you can archive the note for future reference so next time you have a similar project you will have a good set of notes to guide you through the difficulties.

Thank you for reading my stories! 😊 If you enjoyed this article, hit those clapping hands below many times👏 It would mean a lot to me and it helps other people see the story.

 

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My purpose is to help 1 million people by 2020 to live the lives they desire. To help people find happiness and become better organised and more productive so they can do more of the important things in life.

If you would like to learn more about the work I do, and how I can help you to become better organised and more productive, you can visit my website or you can say hello on Twitter, YouTube or Facebook and subscribe to my weekly newsletter right here.

Why I Switched To Todoist 3 Years Ago.

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I read the Getting Things Done book by David Allen in 2009. I’d heard about the book but never considered reading it. I thought I already had the best time management system in my Franklin Planner. But one day, as I was browsing the books in the English books section of the Kyobo Bookstore in Seoul, I came across Getting Things Done and thought, why not? That book changed everything for me. I saw possibilities of creating my own system and the chance to take advantage of the emerging mobile technology that was beginning to emerge.

Reading Getting Things Done, was the start of a journey of discovery. I tried many different kinds of productivity apps, from Franklin Covey’s Task app to Things for Macbefore finally going with the Rolls Royce of Mac productivity apps, OmniFocus. And there I stayed for a number of years.

But there was always a slight problem in the background. I loved OmniFocus, it got me in the habit of using digital tools to manage my daily tasks, I ate up every article and listened to every podcast I could find on using OmniFocus, I played and played around with the perspectives attempting to find that ‘perfect’ one that would meet all my needs, then I would read another article and change all my perspectives again. It was a cycle I repeated almost every week. I was continually searching for the ‘perfect setup’ and I loved it!

Then, one day, I came across Todoist. I was immediately drawn to its beauty and simplicity (I am quite an aesthetic person) and I downloaded it to test it out. For about one year I played around with Todoist. By then, I was a hardcore OmniFocus user and because of the financial investment, the start and due dates, the perspectives and different setups I could have in OmniFocus I was reluctant to switch completely.

What finally moved me over to Todoist was when I asked myself exactly what I wanted from a to-do list manager. OmniFocus is brilliant. It has every conceivable feature a productivity and time management geek like myself could ever wish for, and I took complete advantage of that. I was always tweaking my perspectives and playing around with start dates and due dates. It was procrastination heaven.

Then it hit me. OmniFocus is a procrastinator’s heaven. There was always an excuse for playing with the settings and set up, and I found I never needed much of an excuse to play around with it either. The amount of actual work I was doing was being limited by the amount of time I was playing around with the features in OmniFocus.

I should point out, this is not the fault of OmniFocus. This is my fault. I can’t help myself. That inner productivity geek is a strong voice and was always tempting me to try just another perspective or to switch to using only start dates, and then a few days later suggesting I switch back to due dates. Oh did I love it.

The trouble was, I wasn’t getting much real work done. I had a beautifully organised OmniFocus, but I didn’t have that much completed work to show for it. That’s when I decided to go all in with Todoist. Todoist’s feature set is much simpler. At its core, it is just lists for different projects or labels. But, for my inner geek, I have filters. I can play around with the filters as much as I like, but as there are fewer options than in OmniFocus I am not spending complete afternoons playing around. Just a few minutes instead.

At the core of my productivity system, today is GTD. So when I made the decision to move over to Todoist completely I re-read the GTD book and set up my Todoist as close to a pure GTD system as I could. Over a period of a few months, I came up with a system inside Todoist that worked far better than anything I created in OmniFocus and apart from a few minor tweaks, my system has remained pretty consistent over the last three years.

In those three years, I have written 4 books, created over 300 YouTube videos, 8 online courses and still maintain my communications consultancy. My productivity has increased ten times, and this was because I dropped an app that was feature rich and moved over to Todoist. Todoist has focussed me on the work and not the feature set and for that, I am so grateful to Todoist.

And that brings me to the point of this article. There are thousands of to-do list managers out there today with new ones appearing every week. Each one promises a better feature set than the others. But a great to-do list manager is not one with hundreds of features. A great to-do list manager is one that focuses you on the work. One that puts the work you need to do right in front of you from the moment you open it. In simple terms, a great to-do list manager is just an app with lists. If the app presents those lists in a beautiful way, then all the better, but really all we need is a list of the tasks we need to accomplish today and a way to check them off. For me, Todoist does this brilliantly.

So thank you to all the amazing people at Todoist. You’ve made an incredible product and I for one will not be changing apps anytime soon.

Thank you for reading my stories! 😊 If you enjoyed this article, hit those clapping hands below many times👏 It would mean a lot to me and it helps other people see the story.

My goal is to help show you how to live the life you desire. To help you find happiness and become better organised and more productive so you can do more of the important things in life.

If you would like to learn more about the work I do, you can visit my website or you can say hello on Twitter, YouTube or Facebook and subscribe to my weekly newsletter right here.

How To Turbo-charge Your Productivity Using Hard Edges and Single Apps.

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I get a lot of questions about the types of apps someone should use for various different types of notes, tasks and projects and whether it is okay to keep some notes in one app and other notes in another app. When I do get these questions, I know the person asking the question will have a very complex system in place, which nine times out of ten is the reason they are struggling with their personal productivity.

A good functioning productivity system has very clean boundaries between each functioning app. Tasks are in a single task manager, notes are in a single notes app, events and appointments are on a calendar and files are in a single file storage app. There is no cross over. This means, if you want to check on the time an appointment is next week, you only need to look at your calendar. If you want to see what still needs to be done on a project, you only need to open your task list manager. If you want to review your notes from a meeting last week, you only need to open your notes app and if you want to continue working on the PowerPoint file for your appointment next week, you only need to open you files storage folder. There’s no having to think about where something is because you have very clean boundaries between the different types of work you have.

Here’s how I recommend a project is set up.

Let’s say I have a project to create a new employee training programme. My boss and I had a meeting last week where my boss told me she wanted me to develop this training programme. The notes from that meeting would be collected in Evernote. As this is a project, I would create a new notebook in Evernote called “New Employee Training Programme 2018”. Any meeting notes, research papers and such like would be collected in that one notebook.

(NB. Creating a new notebook for the project is my way of managing projects. Other people prefer creating a tag. It really doesn’t matter how you set it up as long as you know how to find all your notes when you need them)

After the meeting I would create a new project in Todoist under my work folder called “New Employee Training Programme 2018” and I would add in the very next action. I can develop the other tasks later.

I would then create a folder in my iCloud Drive under Work called “New Employee Training Programme 2018” and the documents I am writing for this project would be stored there.

Future appointments related to this project would be added to my calendar with the letters NETP2018 in brackets before the meeting name. This way I will be able to instantly recognise what the meeting is about when I see it on my calendar.

So, once set up, the project structure would look like this:

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It does not take very long to set this up after the initial meeting. It takes around five minutes to set up, but those five minutes mean that when you are working on the project, there is no wasted time trying to remember where you put something relevant to the project because you will know: If it’s a task, it’s in your task manager, if it’s a file you are working on, it’s in your storage drive and the appointment for the next meeting is on your calendar. All notes related to the project will be in your notes app. Because you have a unified naming system, it is very easy (and quick) to find exactly what you are looking for.

This is why, when you are constantly playing around with new apps, tweaking your system or have too many similar types of apps, you spend a disproportionate amount of time trying to remember where you put something. When that happens, I find people complain about how “busy” they are and how “overwhelmed” they feel. The position you want to be achieving is when you want to find something, all you need to know is what it is you are looking for. If you want to find a PDF file about the old employee training programme, you will instantly know that will be in your notes app, in the notebook called “New Employee Training Programme 2018” and you can go straight to it. If your boss asks to see the Word file you are working on, you will instantly know to go to your storage drive and to the folder “New Employee Training Programme 2018” and pull up the Word file.

When you have hard edges between your productivity apps you know where everything is and you save so much time and energy. When you don’t, you create a busy, overwhelming life for yourself.

I hope this has helped clarify project set ups for you. This structure works for almost any kind of project you are working on whether it is a work project, or simply cleaning out your home. If you stick to this project setup, you will find a lot of the ‘busyness’ and ‘overwhelm’ you feel will just wash away and you will always know what needs to be done and when.

Thank you for reading my stories! 😊 If you enjoyed this article, hit those clapping hands below many times👏 It would mean a lot to me and it helps other people see the story.

My goal is to help show you how to live the life you desire. To help you find happiness and become better organised and more productive so you can do more of the important things in life.

If you would like to learn more about the work I do, you can visit my website or you can say hello on Twitter, YouTube or Facebook and subscribe to my weekly newsletter right here.

The 10,000 Subscriber Todoist Giveaway Winners

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Here's a list of winners from my recent 10,000 subscribers Todoist Giveaway. Thank you all for taking part and for all your wonderful support. 

Winners of the 3 Todoist Pro 1 year codes

  1. Adam Goldschmidt
  2. Pat Turmel
  3. Wei-Yan Chen 你好!

Winners of the Sticker Packs

  1. رامي جودت حلاوة
  2. Pat Turmel
  3. Estefanía C
  4. Yavuz Özis
  5. Kaare Andersen
  6. Chloe Wilde
  7. Alice Camilla
  8. Dominic Massatsch

If you haven't received a message from me, could you please get in touch either through Facebook, email (carl@carlpullein.com) or Twitter (@carl_pullein) 

Working With Todoist: The Book. Why I wrote it.

I’ve just published a book. It’s a book about my favourite application and it’s a book I have spent the last ten months writing and I’ve loved every minute of the process.

In this week’s blog post I want to share with you why I wrote the book, and what’s in the book, and hopefully I can covert you to joining the millions of others who have found Todoist and have used it to become better organised and more productive and of course perhaps persuade you to buy a copy.

At the end of 2015, I decided I wanted to tell everyone about the fantastic productivity app, Todoist. Since I got into digital productivity in 2009, I have tried many of the different productivity apps in the App Store, and none of them really managed to keep me organised and on top of my work and life, and at the same time inspire me to get more work done and stay organised. Only Todoist managed to do that. With its beautiful user interface, logical workflow and immense flexibility, to me this app was the stuff dreams were made of. And I wanted to tell the whole world about it.

But how does an English teacher in South Korea tell the world about an app? I decided the best way to do this was to start a YouTube channel to show as many people as possible how to use Todoist and some of the tricks and tips I had learnt from using it for over 18 months. That channel grew, in fact it grew far better and faster than I ever imagined. I never realised there were so many people who were using Todoist and wanted to get more out of it. The comments and fantastic questions left on the channel helped me to improve my use and show people more great ways to get Todoist working for them. I am so grateful to all my subscribers, those guys have really inspired me.

Because I love writing, I decided the next step in my desire to spread the news about Todoist was to write a book. I know not everyone wants to watch YouTube videos, and I know my production skills are not in the same league as Sam Mendes or even many of my fellow YouTubers, so I began writing ten months ago and finally after a hectic three days, during the long Lunar New Year holiday here in Korea editing and formatting, the book was finished and published.

In the book, I have gone through how you can set up Todoist, use all the amazing features and get yourself organised and on top of everything. I am sure I managed to get in almost everything there is to know about Todoist, how it works and how you can organise it so it fits into your way of working.

The book starts with the basics of setting up projects and creating tasks, then it moves on to labelling, flags and filters. And if that isn’t enough, it then delves deeper in the second part of the book and goes though some of the more advanced features that will very quickly turn you in to a fully fledged expert with Todoist.

I have written this book because I want everyone to find, learn and use the fantastic Todoist everyday of their lives. It can help change your life by bringing order out of chaos and by helping you see the way forward to achieving the things you want to achieve in your life.

I have thoroughly enjoyed writing this book. It has taken me ten months to write and the whole process has taught me a lot about Todoist and myself. Two other writing projects came up last year that had tighter deadlines and involved working with other people. I had to make decisions about what should be done and when. I learnt to better prioritise and still allow myself time each week to write this book. It took longer than I planned (about two months longer), but the effort was worth it.

The biggest takeaway for me from this experience is that priorities are always shifting, and it is important to be flexible enough to allow for those shifts in priorities. You can always put a project on hold while you work on another, higher priority project, but you should always come back to the original project. Doing a little bit each week. Perseverance and a determination to get a project finished is always going to be the key ingredients for a completed project like writing a book or filming a short film. Far too many great ideas and projects fail to complete because they are not returned to when something else becomes a priority. Don’t give up a great idea just because something else temporarily become the priority.

Throughout the whole process, Todoist was always there to keep nudging me every Friday to write a little more of the book. I didn’t have to do anything special, all I needed was to create a weekly repeating task telling me to “continue writing Todoist book”. I never failed to write something. Sometimes is was as much as 1,000 words, other times it was only 100. But I kept going and Todoist gently reminded me every week. It was a nice break from the pressure of working towards other people’s deadlines too. I made sure I had no other writing to do on a Friday except the Todoist book and it was a wonderful experience.

So, whether you are an occasional user of Todoist, a seasoned user, or if you feel a bit lost and not sure what you need to do and want something to point you in the right direction, then this book, and Todoist, is for you. You can buy a copy either from Apple’s iBooksAmazon Kindle or directly through my website. Go on, treat yourself.

Carl Pullein is the author of Your Digital Life: Everything you need to know to get your life organised and put technology to work for you, a book about how to get yourself organised in the twenty-first century, as well as Working With Todoist: The Book. Get started with Todoist so you can get better organised and achieve greater productivity.

Make Your Todo List More Inspiring

One of the worst ways to begin a task is with the words “sort out…” Hidden behind those two little words is a potential animal that, untamed, will result in inaction and stress. This is not a task, this is a project. Whenever I see a task in my inbox beginning with those words it is an indicator there is something that is going to involve a number of individual tasks. It is never just one task.

We collect a lot of tasks of this nature throughout the day. What these tasks do is they build up over time and create a monster of uncompleted tasks that play on our mind and cause unnecessary stress unless we do something about clarifying what they actually are. Let’s take a simple example: “Sort out wardrobe”. This task in certainly not a single task. The immediate question that comes to my mind is: what needs sorting out inside my wardrobe? Do I need to throw anything out? Do I need to buy something new? If I need to throw anything out, do I have enough recycling bags? Just from that one, simple task I have another two questions that need answering before I can begin. Another example would be: “Sort out my website”. This one could mean anything and really needs a lot of clarifying. For example, are we talking about where the website is held? Or are we talking about reorganising or rewriting pages? (While on the subject of websites, another bad task would “update my website” for the same reasons).

In the course of my work, I find a lot of clients write tasks like this. These are incomplete tasks because they have not been clarified. They are too vague and they are going to lead to a lot of inaction and procrastination.

The strength of using clear verbs to start tasks is they make it abundantly clear what you have to do. For example, “Throw away old shirts” This task would go under a project called “Sort out Wardrobe”. While you are thinking about throwing away your old shirts, you would probably think about how you are going to throw them away. Over here in Korea we have clothes recycling boxes at the end of a lot of streets. My nearest one is about 100 yards away, so I probably wouldn’t need a bag to carry a few shirts there. So, all I need is a label of @home and then one day when I have finished work early, if I am at home, I can bring up my @home list and will see that task. It would take around ten minutes to complete, so a very easy decision to make. If all I saw was “sort out wardrobe” it would be very unlikely I would feel motivated to get off the sofa at all.

In the early days of my GTD journey, I wrote a lot of tasks with the words “sort out”. It made the start of my GTD journey difficult. Once I really began to understand the importance of breaking down my tasks into manageable tasks with good, strong verbs I began getting a tremendous amount of work done. Verbs like “look into”, “decide” and “research” can also be deathtraps of procrastination and inaction, because they are not very specific. I prefer to begin tasks like this with “find” instead of research”. For example “research productivity” would become “find a definition of productivity” From this definition I would be able to look at other areas by using tasks like “find three articles on improving productivity”. This gives me something specific, it also tells me when I have finished. “Decide” becomes “make a decision on”. Not a big difference, but the phrase “make a decision” is more specific to me and implies action.

Back in 2006 Merlin Mann wrote an excellent blog post called GTD: Project Verbs vs Next-Action Verbs. In the article he gave a list of verbs you should use for projects and verbs that should be used for tasks. This was a revelation to me when I first came across it as it enabled me to clearly understand the difference a verb could have when writing my tasks. Project verbs would be:

finalise,

resolve,

handle,

look into,

submit,

maximise,

organise,

design,

Complete,

ensure,

roll out,

update,

install,

implement,

set-up.

Task or next action verbs would be:

call,

Review,

ask,

buy,

fill out,

find,

print,

take,

waiting for,

draft,

email,

read.

Once you get this, understand it and implement it into your system, you will find you quickly start moving forward on many of those projects that have come to a complete standstill.

I am guilty of trying too hard sometimes to keep my projects list as short as possible. But the reality is life is not quite as simple as that. It is perfectly possible to create a project in the morning and complete it later in the day. Likewise a project that appears to be easy, can often still be around six months later. I would recommend you don’t worry too much about how long your project lists are, but make sure your individual tasks are correctly labeled and start with a verb that inspires you to complete it. After all If you are following the GTD principles, projects are placeholders for a weekly review anyway. It is your next actions that move you forward towards completion.

So as 2016 draws to an end and the new year beckons, take some time to look at the way you use verbs in your tasks and see if you can improve them. Make them more inspiring, more clear and watch your productivity soar.

Carl Pullein is the author of Your Digital Life: Everything you need to know to get your life organised and put technology to work for you, a book about how to get yourself organised in the twenty-first century