What Makes a good GTD List Manager?

April 29, 2008

Kelly Forrister, one of the coaches at the David Allen Company, recently offered a list of criteria to use when choosing your GTD app.

With such a great list from one of the experts, we thought we’d take a few minutes and show you how we’ve implemented those features in Enleiten for you.

Key features to look for:

  • Sorting lists by context – many programs have a “category” feature that will easily support this.
  • Ability to assign a due date – not forcing it on all of them, but allowing it for those that need it.
  • Portable for on the go access – can be synched to a handheld or printed.
  • Easily accessible – less than 60 seconds to get something in/out.
  • More attractive to you than repelling – you’ve got to like the system your entrusting your brain to.
  • Doesn’t force priority codes – if you know GTD, you know that forcing priority codes is old news and rarely accurate anyway.
  • Place to capture additional notes – attached to an item to capture relevant info related to the item.
  • Ability to search and sort in various ways.
  • Robust enough to handle all of your stuff.

So, how do we do it (as well a sneak preview of what’s to come)?

Read the rest of this entry »


10 Ways to Beat Procrastination

April 28, 2008

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In an interview between Merlin Mann and David Allen, I heard the great phrase “Procrastination isn’t about not doing, it’s about not doing and feeling crappy about it”. None of us want that ambient guilt bearing down on us during our time off, so here’s 10 great ways to figure out why you’re procrastinating and finish what you have to do.

  1. The excuse: It’ll take so long!. Maybe, or does that objection stem from not really knowing how long it will take? Set a timer for 15 minutes and see how far you can get. You can use a kitchen timer, the alarm on our cell phone, or grab a computer based timer, like a widget with an audible alarm. Most of them time, I can finish before the timer goes off just by forcing my self to get started.
  2. The excuse: I’ll mess it up. So what? Do a quick scenario run down in your head. Even if you don’t do it perfectly, will the outcome really be a problem? You’re nervous about calling a potentially big client – but if it doesn’t work out you’re not any worse off than you were. So what if you aren’t good at painting or knitting? Do it, enjoy it, and practice until you’re great. Your color choices or dropped stitches won’t cause anyone any harm.
  3. The excuse: I don’t know enough. Not being an expert doesn’t mean your efforts aren’t worthwhile. Tufte may be the expert on displaying information, but he’s not going to be putting together anyone’s quarterly sales reports. Acknowledge that lots of the work, in every company, everyday, is being done by non-experts – and the results are pretty impressive. And unless you’re contemplating neurosurgery, you can use your current skills, a few questions to colleagues, and some research to be good enough.
  4. The excuse: It’s not worth it (pt. 1). You’ve already committed. But maybe you can renegotiate the task. Will an outline do instead of a draft? Can you offer to take on something else for the person you committed to this task for instead? Can you delegate it to someone else, so your responsibility then lies in making sure it happens? Delegating isn’t necessarily a cop-out. If you ask the right person, this can be a great learning experience for them, a chance to cross train on a related team, or a way they can demonstrate they’re ready to take on more responsibility.
  5. The excuse: It’s not worth it (pt. 2). So maybe you can’t renegotiate. For whatever reason, you have to do it. As long as this project is weighing on you, it’s draining your energy and attention. Try reframing your reason to reflect this. Getting the task or project done is no longer about finishing it for its own sake. Now it’s about taking a weight off your shoulders to free your mind up to relax and enjoy other things without guilt.
  6. The excuse: It’s not worth it (pt. 3). You’ve probably been through parts 1 and 2 before. A great way to avoid procrastinating on similar projects again is to look at why those “not worth it” projects in the past repelled you. If you’re a freelancer, did you charge less than you feel you’re worth? Promise not to make that mistake again. Did you make a commitment before understanding the effort and the time involved? Resolve to get more clarification in the future.
  7. The excuse: I just can’t get into this. Sometimes it’s just hard to get into the right frame of mind to make progress. Are there easier related tasks you can start with? Try cranking through a few of those to get yourself in a productive and successful state of mind. If they’re part of the same project, they can also grab your attention and help you load the right ideas in your mind, so when you go back to neglected task you’re already thinking about it.
  8. The problem: Distractions. When you’re avoiding a task, working in a space that offers shinier, more entertaining alternatives is going to strain your willpower. Schedule a block of time devoted to nothing else. Close your email if you can. Turn your phone to silent or have your assistant hold your calls. If you’ve got the flexibility, consider changing locations. Go to a library or coffee shop and bring just the materials you need with you. It’s amazing how much more interesting your task becomes when you don’t have anything else to do.
  9. The problem: Your to-do list. Make sure your to-do lists are set up to help you work. If you procrastinate often, maybe you need shorter lists of things you’re actually going to do that day to keep you on track. If so, move more to your “someday” list. Maybe you need to view your attention as a resource, and group tasks by how much energy and focus you have. Maybe your tasks are too vague, and little time to process them into steps or add additional supporting detail to the steps will make them seem more manageable. Take the time to examine your set-up periodically and see if how well it really reflects the way you work when you’re at your best.
  10. The problem: Lack of urgency. If you’ll honor it, set yourself a deadline. If you’re not sure that’ll do it, give yourself a source of external accountability. Tell a colleague or a friend you’ll see at a meeting the next day you’re going to finish your task or project before you see them. Ask them to check in with you about how it went.

EmmeBi’s Toolbox Cabinets

April 27, 2008

Just too pretty not to share:

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The Toolbox series from EmmeBi seems like a gorgeous set of cabinets for setting up reference files. Numbered drawers aren’t quite the GTD-approved alphabetical system, but I can imagine they would provide wonderful storage by active project or some other system.


Other people’s systems

April 27, 2008

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The LiveJournal Organizers community is full of pictures of the insides of moleskines and other planners. (photo from member Leana)

In contrast to the streamlined, often minimalist systems I’ve seen elsewhere, these are just exuberant lists. While I’m probably not going to make a trip to Target to grab some cartoon kitty sticky notes anytime soon, I find these inspiring. The mash-up of mundane tasks, favorite artwork, personal drawings, and inspirational guidelines for living makes these trusted systems fun to use and look at. And really serves as a great example of how to incorporate different horizons of focus into your thoughts while getting tasks done.


Sneak peak: table view

April 24, 2008

Eric has been putting together some slick new ways to organize and review your tasks. When it’s ready, you’ll have the ability to sort lists of tasks by due date, project, context, etc., all on the fly, and to drag and drop multiple tasks at once to assign them. Oh, and did we mention that the pages will load faster, too?

Take a look:


Someday/Maybe

April 21, 2008

I’m loving Maggie Mason’s dream list, and I think it’s an inspiration for all of us list-lovers. And, well, I think my someday/maybe list could use a little more of it.

She’s got big dreams and small dreams:

“Grow vegetables
Try escargot
Help someone get into or through college
Live in another country for a year”

Her readers have contributed some of their own as well.

I’ve got a few of these in my lists, but looking through her 100 things inspires me to add some more. I’m working on a few of mine, like raising my first reasonably good quality koi (hopefully somewhat competently…) and finding actually taking the plunge to start a company with friends. And a few are in my list waiting for me to take action, like working my way through the rest of the French Laundry cookbook and learning a new language.

And I think my life will be enriched if I incorporate more of those into my more mundane to-do lists, to remind myself of how many possibilities there are in the world – and that if I break those goals down into small steps, none of them are impossible.

What’s on your list?


If only Hansel and Gretel had cameraphones…

April 17, 2008

File under: Minneapolis has a skyway!

While being utterly trounced by the delightfully named “Strike Your Fancy” bowling team last night, I mentioned Tuesday’s article on uses for your phone camera to my fellow bowlers. And really the resulting story was too entertaining not to share.

Apparently, having once gotten disoriented at a new job downtown trying to navigate the maze-like Skyway system, someone had started using their cameraphone to take photos at each intersection while they learned their way around. On your way back from lunch, just follow the photos in reverse order and you’ve got a trail of portable breadcrumbs.