I was prompted to write this post by one of my blog readers, (so thank John from California if this post is helpful). He wanted to know exactly how I implement GTD with Nozbe, how I manage and document my activities throughout a normal day, and what I would recommend to someone who wanted to get started with GTD.
Three Simple Steps to Get Started
Let me start by providing some direction for those that have never implemented the GTD (Getting Things Done) task management system originated by David Allen, and documented in his book, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
- Start by getting and reading David’s Book. OK, I know you may not want to wait until after reading the book, but please get the book and read it when you can. It will greatly help you understand GTD.
- Open a free Nozbe account. (Don’t purchase any of the premium plans until you have used and understand a bit about the system and how it will work for you.)
- View the Nozbe 10-Step Simply Get Things Done Course with Nozbe! training videos. (Remember to do step #2 first, so you can pause the videos and experience what is being taught as you progress through the training.)
These three simple steps will move you forward in discovering a whole new way to get things done that really works. As you may have read in my other posts, I was a very dedicated Covey and Daytimer user and trainer for more than a decade before finding GTD. And even though planning was nothing new to me, the combination of David’s GTD system and using Nozbe to implement GTD has made a tremendous difference in my business and personal productivity.
The Essence of GTD
If I had to nail down the essence of GTD and why it works for me, I would have to point to the mantra, “get everything into your trusted system”. This is the single most important difference I see in what I was doing with Covey, and what I’m now doing with GTD. I don’t worry about priorities, when or where it will be done, or with whom, I just get it into the system. The standard weekly review will take care of the details later. But I can rest easy knowing I won’t forget anything.
And that is where Nozbe really shines. You access your Nozbe system with a browser, so no matter what platform you’re on, Windows, OS X, Linux, you have a browser, right?. And it doesn’t matter what computer you’re on as long as it has a browser, your home machine, at work, your laptop, the library or a friends computer, they will all let you see and use your Nozbe GTD. And there are platforms for mobile devices too, Nozbe.mobi and iNozbe for your iPhone. And Nozbe supports Jott links so you can even call your tasks in to your Nozbe inbox.
Benefits to Going Online
Life is wonderful when you have an electronic system that maintains your mail (email), your calendar, and your GTD. In fact the benefits of an electronic system over the more physical system taught by David in his book include, 1) organization and simple reorganization, e.g. switching from a view of all tasks in a specific project, to looking at tasks in context (when and where you can get them done) to chronological order by due or other date, to a view of only the next tasks that need to be done to further each project. 2) easy to search, 3) as I’ve already mentioned, having your lists with you wherever you are, at work, at home and even on the go, and 4) sharing your lists with others – much easier to accomplish electronically.
The Missing Link – The Journal
One thing I quickly learned after moving everything to the “cloud”, is that while I can take my GTD with me wherever I go, it is not always convenient or appropriate to interact with it. Some examples include, while driving the car – you do know this don’t you? in a meeting (taking notes in a notepad or planner is accepted, while typing on a laptop, your Blackberry or iPhone is usually not), while talking at the coffee station or over lunch, you get the idea.
So while moving my calendar and todo list from my old Covey system to their electronic equivelents, I retained one essential element – the journal. I carry a portfolio with my daily journal on the right, with the previous work week of journal pages underneath, along with some blank journal pages and business cards on the left side. That’s it, no calendar, no todo list, just the journal. Remember, I have my email, calendar and GTD with me for reference on my iPhone.
The Journal accomplishes several important things.
- In a minimum of 15 minute increments document what you did throughout the day. So it might start out, 0730-0800 Lab Prep, 0800-0815 voice mail and email, 0815-0900 Prep for meeting with DBA, etc. This will provide evidence to yourself that you did or did not do something productive throughout your day.
- Document your activities throughout the day, who you spoke with, when and about what.
- Document your meetings right on the journal page, for later reference.
- Write down what you agree to do, in a meeting, on a phone call, or even an idea you come up with when not convenient to put it directly into your system.Here is a great tip – place a checkbox beside anything that needs to be entered as a task in your GTD. When you get back on the computer, enter each task and check the box indicating that you’ve got it in you’re trusted system.
Here is a blank page from my journal that you can download and use. (For best results, right-click and download this pdf file and then open it with Adobe Reader or Acrobat.)
[Update 10/4/08 – Learn more about the Daily Journal in this new post.]
The Weekly Review
This is crucial. Whenever I’m reading a blog post about a failed GTD system, the first question that comes to mind is, were you doing a consistent weekly review? This step is a deal breaker for GTD. Without a weekly review GTD doesn’t work, period.
During a weekly review, you set aside time to go through every project and look at each task in the project to determine if the task is still relevant and actionable (if not delete it), is the context still accurate, and should it be moved to the next action list. This is also the time to close projects that are completed or put those projects on hold that contain tasks that are not actionable at this time.
I know this was a very long post. Thanks for spending the time to read through it, and leave a reply if you have questions, or if you found the post helpful. John.