A constant struggle to be more organized and not waste time, especially for very busy people.
There are countless books and thousands of articles on How To Succeed (GTD) principles. But to many, the ideas and principles of GTD may seem like such a big job that when you’re done organizing, you won’t have time to do any work.
This is why it is so important to create applications and automation that do many of the GTD principles for you. Or at least the way you use these apps should make it easier to organize and keep you organized and efficient.
Free your mind from clutter with Inbox
When you want to get something done, the inbox is very important. Not a mailbox, but a task mailbox.
The most important way to help your mind stay focused and organized is to clear up the clutter. Clutter means those ideas or moments when you think about tasks that need to be completed. By dropping these fleeting distractions in your inbox, you can get them out of your head and not be distracted.
It doesn’t matter which application you use for this, as long as it has a mailbox. It is best if the app includes both a web tool and a mobile app so you can collect these ideas no matter where you are or what you are doing.
Take it one step further by integrating your inbox with your email account. For example, you can install the ToDoist plugin for Gmail Chrome, which integrates ToDoist with your Gmail account.
With this plugin, you can select the ToDoist icon at the top of an open email and use the quick add task feature to add an email to your inbox as a new task.
This allows you to save time on small tasks while you are trying to take care of your inbox. Just set aside emails that take your time as a new task and move on.
Most business applications usually have a Chrome extension for the browser.
This allows you to add a new task based on the information you read on the web page. The idea is to provide yourself with quick and easy ways to add ideas to your inbox so you don’t have to try to remember them later.
One of the best ways to be more organized is to keep your mind clear and free.
Keep your calendar organized
Too many people try to use their calendar and their inbox for the same thing; track tasks. The calendar is not for that.
In your calendar, you only schedule events related to time. Not all tasks. Your calendar should have only the following items:
- Appointments and meetings at specific times.
- Events on a specific day, such as full-day training, business travel, or important events such as birthdays
- Focal time are set blocks of time each day that you focus on tasks from your to-do list.
These “focus time” blocks do not have to be specific to a specific task on the calendar. That’s what your to-do list is for, and in the to-do list you decide which task to work on next during these time blocks.
Aside from recurring events, appointments, and time to focus, the rest of your calendar should remain open for meetings or other unexpected tasks.
If you have time, you can always give them more attention for your tasks. If appointments are scheduled beyond the specified time, change it as needed.
You will notice that the calendar above has a task setting every morning and a weekly overview of tasks on Fridays. This is where you sort your inbox, plan and prioritize your projects, as described in the sections below.
Exclude to-do list while changing priorities
Life is changing rapidly, and these changes can change your priorities.
Any to-do list you use should consist of top-tier projects that reflect these life priorities. For example, the most important areas of my life that I focus on in completing my tasks include:
- Writing on the Internet
- Day Work
During your weekly review of tasks, you want to review all of your task areas and make sure that the tasks you have included in all of these projects are still relevant and important.
You can do this by changing the priority level of the tasks or by deleting them entirely.
One of the most important principles of GTD is to get rid of things that are no longer important. These are tasks that just take up space and make a mess. Getting rid of this clutter is one of the best ways to get organized.
Follow three steps as you review each task.
- Is it no longer relevant? Delete it.
- Can anyone else do this? Delegate it.
- Whatever remains, prioritize.
An easy way to make sure you do this on a weekly basis is to use the to-do mobile app and view tasks and priorities while you relax at home. Sit on the terrace, sip coffee, review and re-prioritize your tasks.
Planning projects correctly and overestimating time
Spend time each morning going through your to-do inbox and planning the two main components of each task.
- How long does it take to complete?
- How important is it to complete?
Estimating time is simply estimating effort. If you were given one full session, would it take 5-15 minutes, 15-30 minutes, 30-60 minutes, or more than an hour? Create colored labels for these time frames and apply them to each new task.
Always overestimate the time it takes to complete tasks. Otherwise, you will constantly run out of time for unfinished tasks.
The importance of each task is how soon should you complete it? Did your boss tell you to have the report ready by Friday? This is “Priority 1” and should be highlighted in red. Would you like to write this chapter of the book someday? This is Priority 3 and is highlighted in blue.
Specific colors don’t matter as long as you understand what they mean.
Combine the tasks and things you love to do
Not everything has to be a chore. In fact, the more tasks you can combine with each other, the more time you will have.
Here are some examples.
- Watch the instructional video for work while you walk on the treadmill during your workout.
- Review your weekly task overview while you are in the waiting room for your doctor’s appointment.
- Use an application such as Voice Notes to dictate the first chapter of a book while you drive for three hours on a business trip.
- End-of-day gym reminders on your work office computer (Microsoft Outlook calendar).
- Reminder to pick up your Valentine’s gift on the way home (Google Calendar or Google Assistant
- Reminder to take your headphones on a business trip (Google Home
- Reminder to pick up a list of products in the store (Google Calendar or Google Assistant
With a little creativity, you can combine many of the tasks on your to-do list and complete multiple tasks at coinciding hours in your schedule.
This kind of creative time management is the key to super-efficient use of GTD principles.
Prioritize use of time over importance
When you prioritize tasks, don’t think about them in terms of how important they are to your long-term goals. Think of them in terms of urgency.
How urgently should you complete this task? What would happen if you spent another day or another week doing it?
The only tasks that need to be Priority 1 are those with a hard deadline of 24 hours. If you have a few more days (later), make it Priority 2. For any tasks that you would like to complete “someday”, if you have time, make them “Priority 3”.
Review your daily routine every morning to make sure it is balanced and realistic.
If there is a lot of red, take a look at your time estimates for these tasks and make sure they fit into your focus time blocks. If not, then you need to reach out to whoever set a deadline for you and either ask for a later date or delegate authority to someone on your team who has time.
You have to deal with everything in terms of “time.” Importance means “how much time do I have left to complete this task?”
When it’s time for you to concentrate during the day, close everything else (including your email) and begin these tasks.
Use reminders effectively
Reminders can be annoying if you don’t use them effectively. You should only set reminders for time-related tasks such as appointments or meetings.
You don’t need to be reminded of work tasks because time is set aside in your calendar to solve them.
You should also set up reminders to appear on the devices you will be using when this event occurs. For example:
Always think about where you will be right before you need to complete a task, and set the correct reminder on the desired device and app accordingly.
Use Focus Sessions Effectively
So it’s time to focus. Now what?
Make sure your environment is conducive to focus and productivity. Close the office door. Play your favorite soothing music Sit at your computer and focus only on the task at hand and nothing else.
Focus time is your time to shine. This is when you finally get your way. Your maximum productivity at the end of the day depends a lot on how well you can actually focus during your “focus time.”
Looking to improve your productivity? Use the online Pomodoro app to take short breaks regularly. This will help you stay more refreshed and focused.
Remember to focus on the big picture
At least once a month, you should review your overall goals to make sure everything you work on aligns with your larger life goals.
Not sure what those goals are or how to break them down into smaller pieces? I highly recommend using a goal planning app like Goalscape
This is a creative way to visualize your important life goals within a circle. Around this circle, there is what you need to do to achieve these big goals. The further you go outward, the smaller the goals become. The outer rings form blocks containing the tasks you are currently working on.
Reviewing your goals monthly as your life changes can help you remove things that no longer matter to you and add new ones that matter.
Use these larger goals to guide your clutter and prioritization of the tasks you’ve set on your to-do list.
If Goalscape isn’t right for you, there are many other goal planning apps out there.
Don’t over-plan or over-organize
Most importantly, let the tools do their job. You should only spend your review sessions organizing and scheduling, but don’t spend so much time planning and organizing tasks that you never have real work to do.
This is why scheduling daily, weekly, and monthly review sessions is like being more organized. This is the time dedicated to managing your GTD routine. Beyond that, it’s all about getting things done.
What tips can you give to get things done? Anything we haven’t covered here yet? Let us know in the comments.