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:

Project structure.png

 

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.

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.

Avoiding Project Overwhelm

Getting Things Done by David Allen is a great book. I would even go as far as to say that, in the world of time management and productivity, it is one of the best. Yet, as with all great things it is not perfect. One problem I see from many of my clients, and people who embark on the GTD road, is sooner or later they will come up against the feeling of overwhelm. This in turn leads to stress, or what I call “project stress”. Project stress is where you have captured all your thoughts commitments and stuff and created a list that has become a monster. You no longer want to open it because just seeing the list disappear off your display causes you anxiety and fear. This is not how GTD is supposed to work. The byline for the GTD book is “The art of stress free living” yet for those who suffer from ‘project stress, stress free living is far from what they experience.

So what causes this project stress?

One of the core tenets of the GTD process is to capture everything into a trusted place. Invariably, that trusted place is a list manager such as Remember the MilkOmnifocus or Todoist. These applications make collecting your stuff, commitments and ideas simple. Often it’s just the press of a few keys or even a few words spoken into your watch. This ease of capture, while staying true to the GTD principles, also creates a lot of tasks that first need processing and then adding to a list that becomes bigger and bigger every day. The time it takes to process the tasks becomes a barrier at times, but more worrying is the fear, anxiety and stress many feel when opening a project that eventually they avoid looking at that project all together. Not exactly what GTD is all about at all.

How do you avoid project stress and overwhelm?

[I recently did a video on setting this up. You can view that below:]

To overcome this problem, you need to break down your projects. A simple example would be to create a project and divide that project into three parts. One would be “The Beginning” another “The Middle” and one “The End”. You can then allocate the tasks into the sub-project it belongs to. Research tasks more than likely go into the “The Beginning” sub-project. Actual tasks that move the project forward go in to “The Middle” sub-project and anything related to follow-up or closing a project would go in “The End” project. This example is a very simple example, but I am sure you understand where I am going.

Be careful with Single Action Projects

Another list that can rapidly cause project stress is the single actions project. The project where you dump tasks not related to a specific project, but all the same need completing sometime and are going to take more than two minutes to complete. My own experience has taught me that these projects can rapidly fill up with a lot of tasks. One way to deal with these is to create an area of responsibility project (or folder) and create sub-projects for each area of responsibility. You can see from the example below how I have this organised in Todoist. This folder contains all the areas I have a responsibility for and so instead of having thirty tasks in one single actions project, these task are divided up into their individual areas. The only task that go into these are genuine single action tasks that are not projects in themselves. This avoids any list becoming too long and when I decide to focus on one of the areas I can just open that specific list and work directly from the list.

Make good use of the two minute rule

The two minute rule is a life saver for me. It is one of the best things about the whole GTD process. For those of you who don’t know, or have forgotten about it, the two minute rule is: do any task that will take two minutes or less to complete. It works. By strictly applying this rule I find all my lists remain manageable and never become too long. It is also surprising how completing a string of tasks very quickly can really give you a boost. I know sometimes it is very easy to say to yourself “oh, I can’t be bothered with that now. I’ll do it later”, too many of these though quickly mount up and before long you have projects that are monsters.

Use the weekly review to cut projects down

During the week when I am at the pit head of my daily activities, I do not want to be worrying about projects becoming too large. That is why in my weekly review I will go through individual projects and cut them down to size if they have become too large. The whole weekly review is a time out process that allows you to take stock of where you are and where you want to be going. Use the opportunity to make sure all your projects and lists are manageable. It is never time wasted I can assure you.

Project stress and overwhelm is certainly a condition created by our fast paced lives. But it can be avoided with a little effort and some forward planning. But one thing I have to say — don’t let it stop you from achieving incredible things.

My Digital GTD Journey

In 2009 I was beginning to feel rather frustrated using an analogue Franklin planner system. When I was walking around with a smartphone. It seemed my work bag was unnecessarily heavy and I wasn’t taking advantage of the new technology in my pocket. I had read David Allen’s Getting Things Done book a few years before, and so I decided to reread it and to see if there was anything in there that would enable me to take advantage of my new iPhone.

All that happened, I exchanged my Franklin planner for a beautiful paper-based notebook. Not quite what I had in mind. However, within six months the App Store began filling with productivity applications. Many were good, many were excellent, but most were terrible. It took me quite a long time to find an application that met my needs. I needed something that not only worked on my iPhone but synchronised with my iPad, desktop and laptop. At first, I found this with Things for Mac, and I used that for about a year when I finally laid out my hard earned cash and went fully OmniFocus.

So from around 2011 onwards, I was using Omnifocus. I got to know Omnifocus intimately and I was able to go very deep. My ‘Perspectives’ were set up, my ‘Contexts’ were set up and everything worked fine. Even to this day, I have immense respect for those guys over at the Omni Group. They make tremendous products whether it’s OmniFocus, OmniGraffle or OmniOutliner. OmniFocus, in my opinion, is the Rolls-Royce of productivity software. Its solid, it’s dependable, and it works like no other productivity app in the market. It’s not beautiful, But it is elegant.

But in 2014 I realised that OmniFocus was way too powerful for my needs. Yes, OmniFocus can do very well with the little things, But it is expensive and I just felt it was more than I needed. And as with Rolls-Royce cars, when it comes to servicing, there’s a lot more to it than servicing a simpler more nimble car.

And so my search began. I took another look at Things, but the only thing they had changed was Cloud Syncing. I looked at Wunderlist, but that just didn’t look right to me. Finally, I found Todoist. What drew me to Todoist initially was its beautiful design, the designers at Todoist really are something special. They created a gorgeous interface both for iOS and Mac OS. And that design over the last two years has just got better and better. But it isn’t just the design, Todoist is reliable, Over three years never let me down. Todoist sync is lightning fast. Todoist has all the features I want, Labels (contexts) and Filters (perspectives) and it doesn’t have things I don’t need (well… perhaps one… I don’t need Karma, but I know a lot of people who like that feature)

What I have realised during the course of this journey is that as we grow with GTD we change. Our needs change, and we learn to use the system better. I think most of us who set out on the GTD Journey find the basic system doesn’t necessarily work perfectly for us, and one of the beauties of GTD is its flexibility. You can use a simple paper-based system, Or a full-blown digital system it really doesn’t matter. But what matters is you make it your own and that you trust it implicitly. If you don’t trust your system implicitly then you’re never going to find GTD working for you. My journey with GTD has taken me through four different apps. It has taken me six years to get to where I am today, but where I am today is a place I feel very comfortable with. I have an application in Todoist I trust implicitly, I have created a system around the GTD system that works for me and I find I very rarely feel stressed, I always feel in control, and my relationships with both my family and friends have never been better. I know many people will tell you that you should not indulge in 'productivity porn' and keep switching your tools. But you will grow, your system will grow and the needs of one system may not meet your own productivity needs in the future. If and when that happens, look around, see what has changed with other apps and figure out what will work best for you. Don’t be afraid to change.

The journey is worth it because what a journey I’ve had. Thank you, David Allen, Thank you Omnifocus and thank you Todoist.

 

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If you want to build your own productivity system then I have a course specifically on creating your own productivity system. Just enrol through this link

 

8 Tips On How To Stay on the GTD Wagon

One of the many complaints I hear about GTD (Getting Things Done) is that it is very easy to fall off the wagon and revert back to old habits of disorganisation, stress and overwhelm. It is easy because remembering to capture everything immediately after remembering to do something, or feeling motivated enough to do the daily mini review and, more importantly, the crucial weekly review is difficult and can take quite a long time to form the habit. This is why so many people give up on GTD and go back to their old comfort zones.

And yet it does not have to be difficult at all. David Allen himself admits becoming a ‘black belt’ at GTD takes time and effort but, as with anything worthwhile, sticking to it and persevering has so many benefits. I remember when I made the change from a Franklin Planner to GTD, it was hard and it took a lot of concentration to remember to write things down. For me the more difficult part was trusting my system. I had used a Franklin Planner for nearly fifteen years — a beautiful Aniline Leather binder that just got better and better looking with age — and was so used to using the A1 / B1 / C1 prioritising method, that not using any priority methodology was alien to me. I didn’t feel comfortable and I didn’t trust my system completely for months. But gradually I gained more trust, I found the daily mini-review essential to building my confidence and the weekly review made sure I wasn’t missing anything. Now, I have complete trust in my system and if I do miss anything it is likely to be a technology failure (which is very rare) or because I was lazy.

So here are my 8 tips to staying on the wagon with GTD

1 Start small.

I know David Allen says do it 100% or do not do it at all, but for many people this is just too much of a change to do well. I would recommend that you get in the habit of capturing things first. Use your phone, or better still carry a small notebook and pen with you everywhere. Whenever you sit down with anyone put the little notebook on the table. This will always remind you to capture your ideas, commitments and thoughts. I find a little notebook and pen is less obtrusive than putting your phone on the table and people do not get annoyed with people writing things down. They do get annoyed when you keep typing on your phone. The David Allen NoteTaker wallet is a sound investment when starting out. (Sadly, I believe this is no longer available)

2 Never neglect the weekly review

The central core of the GTD system is the weekly review. Choose a day and time and give yourself one hour. Block it off in your calendar and make sure you commit to it without any exceptions (including holidays) I choose Sunday afternoon before I go out for my long run and it makes my Sunday run the most enjoyable run of the week. My mind is free, I know there’s nothing forgotten and I’m ready to tackle to week ahead.

3 Process Your Inbox at least once every 48 hours.

I know there will be days when you get home and you will be exhausted. Or there will be days when you go out after work with your friends and have a few too many beers. Never force yourself to do the mini-review when you feel like this. Just leave it over until tomorrow. You can do a quick scan of your inbox anytime you like just to check there’s nothing coming up tomorrow. I have found the 48 hour rule much more flexible than 24 hours.

4 Trust your calendar

From the moment you begin your GTD life you must trust your calendar. Never put a “maybe” task on your calendar. Your calendar is for “absolutely will happen” tasks only. If you are using software to organise your todos do not add your tasks to your calendar. This was a mistake I made early on and very quickly I stopped looking at my calendar because it was full of stuff and just overwhelmed me. Once I took off my daily tasks and only put in appointments and deadlines I began feeling much more comfortable with my calendar.

5 Really get to know your software / notebook

Whether you choose a task manager like Todoist or a simple notebook you must learn how to use it properly. This is certainly the case if you choose to use software. I use Todoist (and have used Omnifocus in the past) and I spent hours learning what the application could do. I read blogs, books and instruction manuals (Really! I did). I wanted to become an expert at what the software could do. The confidence this gave me really boosted my overall sense of what I was doing was right and took a lot of the stress from becoming a GTD ninja out of the equation.

6 Make you contexts useable

Another tenant of GTD is contexts. The label you use to allocate a task to a certain place, tool or person. Contexts are very personal and so need to be useful to you, not anyone else. Too often I find people have copied someone else’s contexts and then not used contexts properly. It took me weeks to come up with the perfect set of contexts for the way I work, but since I did that I have never looked back. Things have changed as my tools changed, but overall they are still the same as they were when I first set them up.

7 Be patient

You are not going to become a GTD master overnight. It takes time and it does take a lot of thinking about how you will set it up. GTD is wonderfully flexible, and that is a good thing, but it can also be a curse. Decide whether you are a digital or analogue person and choose your capture tools and list holder accordingly. The time and effort it takes to become a GTD black belt are worthwhile though and well worth the patience it takes to become a master.

8 Read the book, then re-read it every year

I know there is an awful lot of stuff written about GTD online. And in theory, you could learn how to do it simply by reading many of these articles. But, if you truly want to achieve a life free of stress and be in control of everything going on in your life then it is a must. Every December I re-read GTD and I still find things I have missed or have stopped doing. Last year, for example, I realised I wasn’t using my contexts properly and was relying too heavily on dates. Once I readjusted my system I very quickly found myself achieving more.

If you follow these tips, I can promise you will soon get comfortable with GTD and it will quickly become a big part of your life — in a very positive way. Good luck.