Yes, I’ve been away for a while, with most of my time divided between a huge project at work and spending time with my four grandchildren, our newest and first grandson, Landon Thomas, was born just a few weeks ago. But I just had to spend a little time to add this post about a great new application for the iPhone. But before you tune me out just because you’re not an iPhone user, understand that this information can be used by anyone who wants to dramatically improve how they get things done, with or without an iPhone.
First, let me say that I have been both a student and teacher of time management and daily planning strategies for the last two decades. My journey began when I read a book by Hyrum W. Smith, creator of the Franklin Day Planner, entitled, The 10 Natural Laws of Successful Time and Life Management. That book was such an eye opener for me that I have read it several times, shared it with others, and taught several courses with the information I learned from that book.
Of course, like most others alive during the last two decades, I have also studied Steven Covey’s Seven Habits and other books, listened to many tapes and attended seminars on time management. And I have used Daytimers and Covey planners for nearly two decades. With this background I am fastidious, if not fanatical, about the use of my planner and am rarely (read never) seen at work without my planner at my side, as anyone with whom I work will attest. And while I have used my email and notes applications on my desktop and iPhone to contribute to my task tracking, I have always preferred a paper-based planner to its electronic competition.
So it was with a great deal of surprise that I recently discovered both a system and an application that I found so different, yet so simple, that in a very short time it has revolutionized my daily task and project tracking. The discovery of the application actually led me to the system, but I’ll talk about the system first, since it is the foundation of the application. Whle many may already know about this, I must have gotten stagnant and too comfortable with my planning system, because I only recently read the 2001 national best selling book entitled, Getting Things Done by David Allen. While I’ll let you read the book on your own, and if you care about getting things done, you must read this book, I’ll give you a few of the most important bullet points of the book’s life changing premis here.
- We are so busy and such a multitasking lot these days that we cannot possibly remember everything that we receive, are told about, and especially think about, and if we do not immediately enter that information into a trusted system, we are doomed to think about it over and over again as our mind trys to keep us from losing it. This is a major contributor to daily worry and stress, and plays a major role in keeping us “thinking about work” even when we’re not at work.
- We spend way too much time planning, prioritizing and writing everything down in our planners, knowing that we cannot possibly accomplish everything we have spent time planning at the beginning of every week. And then we spend more time carrying the unfinished tasks over day after day – which is in itself a demotivating, if not truely demoralizing and time wasting exercize.
- Most of the stuff we have to do, consists of more than one action, and looking at the entire elephant (project) can keep us from doing anything at all. The only thing that is important to the project is that we take the next action (small bite of the elephant) in furtherance of its completion.
- In order to work efficiently with our time, we need to learn to work in “context” instead of priority order. If we are sitting in a cafe with only a cell phone, our context is the cell phone. If we are in a meeting with someone, they are the context, or sitting at our computer, it becomes our context. If our tasks are organized by context, it is simply a matter of selecting that context to see the actions (tasks) that can be completed at that time. It is a waste of time to look at our entire task list, regardless of priority, since the other tasks require a tool, person or other context that is not available at that time.
- While tracking daily tasks in a planner can be done with success, we are sometimes tripped up by the longer term tasks, the “maybe someday” lists and reference information that we don’t need at the moment, but which needs to be stored and reviewed on a periodic basis.
So that’s the system in a nutshell, but again read the book to get a detailed understanding of this revolutionary planning system and how to apply it to your personal and business life.
The Getting Things Done book and GTD system, as it has come to be called, focuses on a paper-based or combination paper and electronic implementation using common tools like Outlook, Google, calendars, index cards and folders. While the system is revolutionary in concept, I could not see myself working in the ways described in the book.
Which leads me to the Nozbe application I just recently discovered, and to its founder Michael Sliwinski of Poland. Nozbe (and iNozbe for the iPhone) are complimentary web-based applications that have nailed the electoronic implementation of the GTD system. And Michael has mastered the art of teaching anyone how to use the system, in very short order. On top of that, his customer support is the best I’ve seen since the early days of SSI Software, of WordPerfect fame, back in the mid 1980’s. (Yes, I still have that software and the manuals I taught from back in the early days of personal computers.)
This application consists of three major components: Actions (tasks), Projects and Contexts, and adds to that a way to tag projects for some additional filtering potential as well as time estimating and time tracking components. It also provides the capability to store notes and files with your projects.
Photo courtesy of Nozbe.com
And the crème de la crème, is the iNozbe application, designed especially for the iPhone (and coming Google phone). This application truely lets you take your entire GTD system with you wherever you go, which perfectly suits the premise of utilizing those little snippets of idle time, “in context”, to get more done. Note, you should first use a desktop computer to setup your Nozbe account and view the training before visiting iNozbe for the first time.
Instead of attempting to provide you with all of the information in this post, let me just point you to the Nozbe website where you can read Michael’s training material, watch some training videos and try the application out for yourself. While I highly recommend reading David Allen’s Getting Things Done book, you should be able to get started by simply signing up for a free trial account and then reading through Michael’s, 10-Step Simply Get Things Done Course provided on his blog.
My intent in writing this post has been to provide readers with information on this lifechanging application and system, however, in the interest of full disclosure, please note that if you decide to convert from a trial to a paid account, after using the links on this page to sign up for the free Nozbe account, the author of this blog will receive a small commission from Nozbe.