Oi! JFD, mate. JFD. Or, the art of getting things done (#GTD)

JFD, boy. JFD. Or, the Art of Getting Things Done (#GTD)

Getting Things Done, a way of organising your thoughts, your tasks, yourself, is quite a beast to get your head around. It sounded very simple when I came across it on Lifehacker. It sounded like just the thing I needed to organise myself. Oooh and there are apps for my phone, programs for my computer and olivine for my browser! This sounds perfect! Because, you see, if a system is complicated enough it becomes another method for not getting things done whils appearing to be extremely organised.

Five labels sit at the heart of the GTD method: Next, Action, Waiting, Someday and (the golden one) Finished. The flow goes something like this:

1. Item enters your world. It gets put into your Inbox.
2. At a suitable time during the day you examine your Inbox and assign a label to each item in there.
3. Anything labelled “Next” you see if you can do straight away. If you can’t, why not? What’s stopping you? Can you resolve that now or do you have to relabel the item “Waiting” and add what you’re waiting for to the Inbox?
4. Repeat for all the “Action” items
5. Have a look and see if anything in the “Waiting” category can be resolved
6. Have a look at your “Someday” list and see if you can do anything with any of them.
7. Anything you complete gets labelled “Finished” and you give yourself a gold star.
By the time you’ve done all that, your Inbox should be empty and ready to receive the next load of things that are invariable coming your way.

In order that you don’t get swamped under a sea of things labelled as “Next” you can apply Contexts to them – are they things you should be doing at home? At work? When you’re driving? (obviously anything involving detailed use of a computer or phone shouldn’t be attempted while driving!). These are “Contexts” and they’re very useful for making that vast task list more manageable.

Then there are project labels. Each project gets a label so you can work out quickly how you’re doing on a given project. There are also “Type” labels – not everything that comes in is going to be a task, sometimes it’ll be a useful Resource, some background Information, a Contact related to the task,a project or context.

So, essentially, everything that you’ve examined from your Inbod should have 4 labels. That way you can filter all this stuff – organise it, some might say – in order to get things done more efficiently. And this is where the apps come in.

As a task manager, when it comes to one you can access from pretty much anywhere (as long as you have it on your person) you can’t beat pen and paper. You can enhance it with the Pocket PDA planner templates at www.gtdplanner.com, giving you task and action lists, project templates… Lots of lovely stuff. And you get a pack of their widgets so you can design your own templates using OpenOffice.

But I’m a geek, so pen and paper didn’t quite cut it for me. I headed for the Internet and found…

Toodledo. Located at www.Toodledo.com this task manager is a rival to www.rememberthemilk.com. Both are excellent tools, both give you all the labels and contexts you could wish for but Toodledo came out ahead because of sub task support and better notes/comments. It doesn’t have a dedicated Android app, unlike RTM but it does connect to the Pocket Informant app. I’ll add screenshots
later. Both Toodledo and RTM are free, so I’d recommend taking hem both for a spin.

Pocket Informant for Android takes the native calendar functions of the phone and dovetails on task management seamlessly. I use it predominantly to add alarms and alerts to tasks, remind me if I’ve got something important to do.

So that’s my gtd setup. Pen and paper to note stuff down, online task manager to track the tasks themselves, phone app to alert me when stuff really needs doing. By and large, it works. But your mileage may vary. And don’t get me started on tracking and dealing with emails! That’s a subject for another day.

This has been done on an iPad, the first time I’ve had a serious go with one. They’re rather good but I hope the new android tablets coming out are going to be better! I’ll add screenshots to the post when I get back to my pc.

Welcome to Random Wednesdays

Right.  I hope you’re all paying attention today because I’m going to have a few words with you about discipline.  750 of them, in fact.

I’m trying to write a book.  Have been for a while now.  Occasionally – last November during National Novel Writing Month (http://www.nanowrimo.org), for example – I manage to sit down and blast through a few thousand words but then it just sits there.  I promise myself I shall spend time working on it and then stuff just seems to happen.  If I didn’t know better, I’d believe that the Little Grey Men from Michael Ende’s “Momo” were stealing all of my spare time and smoking it.  Maybe they are and I’ve just not noticed.

So the key to writing is, apparently, to just do it.  Make the time, sit down, and just get on with it.  And that’s why I’ve started using a website called 750words.com.  You sit down, you write 750 words (more if you like) and it keeps a track of when you’ve written.  Across the top of the page is a tracker showing you how many times you’ve managed the 750 in a month.  You score points for days, points for streaks of continuous days, and it nags you if you’ve not written in a day.  But in a nice way.  I don’t know what happens if you manage to write for a complete month, I’ve not been using it long enough.For writing, it’s a beautiful, uncluttered workspace.  It looks like this:

750words.com screenshot
Just a blank space with a cursor and a word-counter in the bottom corner.  Nice, plain, simple, very conducive to getting your ideas down on the page.When you’ve completed your words, it does some analysis and tells you a bit about your writing.  How was the language? What you were feeling, are you in an “Us and Them” mood, a mostly “Us” mood, a “very negative and thinking mostly about the past and yourself” mood?  And it tells you not only how long you took to do your writing but charts up your words-per-minute.  I’ve thought about cheating on this one, typing everything into Notepad first and then pasting it into 750words, but that defeats the purpose and I’d only be depriving myself of the statistics.

One thing that does come out of using the site is the realisation that (a) 750 words is actually quite a few and (b) some days are better than others, Section Leader.

And it tracks breaks and distractions.  If you spend more than 3 minutes not writing, then you’ve taken a break.  And it will tell you at the end.  So this makes it all the more important to those vital writing statistics that you don’t take a break and get it done quickly.
As a first-draft, rough ideas, tool it’s superb.  I don’t have to worry about not having the file with me, about finding a computer with yWriter (www.spacejock.com – just wait for next Monday’s Application-of-the-Week post) or about whether the portable version of yWriter will work.  It’s all there on-line, safely protected behind the security of my username and password.

There are, of course, alternatives.  You could do this yourself with a personal wiki, a notepad file or take the retro approach and use a genuine pen and paper!  Actually, if I’m not typing I *do* use fountain pen and a lovely hand-crafted leather notebook I bought up here on Shetland and I’ve usually got at least one Moleskine notebook about my person if I’m properly dressed.  Somehow the connection to the paper is so much better, so much more *personal*.  I can’t imagine writing character notes on screen, for instance.  It’s just not done.

If 750 words is a little too much, then there’s the twice-Twitter site 280daily.com.  As any Twitter user will know, you’ve got 140 characters to express yourself in.  280daily lets you double that but it’s a personal log, not a public timeline, and you only need to do it once a day.  It, too, nags you but you don’t get any of the nice statistics.

Using these sites is a matter of discipline.  A matter of setting aside the time to let the words flow freely and without interruption.  During this post I’ve had to field queries about Excel references, the fact that a SharePoint site has been moved and that the new colours are a little eye-watering, and that yes, Internet Explorer 9 has been released and no you can’t have it as it doesn’t work on XP.

So there you go.  750 words, give or take, about writing 750 words a day.  Definitely worth a try.

In case you’re interested, the 750words.com statistics for this post were:

  • Weather while writing: Partly cloudy, 9C (No, definitely dreach and a lot colder)
  • Rating: PG with some violence.  (I managed a PG-13 the other day.  I think that might’ve been down to the swearing)
  • Feeling mostly… Upset (hmm, not sure)
  • Concerned mostly about… Success (yeah, I can see where that might have come from)
  • Mindset while writing…  Introvert / Positive / Uncertain / Thinking (Okay, yep)
  • Time orientation: The Present
  • Primary sense: Sight
  • Us and them: You