As an introduction, most of this material is not spawned from my brain. It is months of reading and reviewing and testing out and fiddling with all sorts of productivity systems, from classic day planners to getting things done to GsD. After trial running numerous productivity systems, I've finally devolved one suited best to my personality. You may find that this instructable is only your beginning to developing your own system that will be as bulletproof for you as this one is for me. My apologies in advance for any amateurishness or roughness around the edges of this instructable, as it is my first.
Step 1: Materials
Below is a list of the basic materials that one needs to use this system. Generic terms will be used and examples provided, so that you can swap out items and services as you'd like.
- Email (for all online "stuff" [stuff will be explained in the next step])
- Space for Paper. I use the corner of my desk, whereas others prefer a letter box.
- Moleskine or similar pocketable notebook. This is the most important of the 3, in my opinion.
- I love to use the Uniball Vision elite bold tipped pens, but to each his own. Just make sure its a good solid pen that writes very nice and is comfortable in your hand. you'll be using it quite a bit.
I love Google Calendar, but any program would work. Heck, if your totally against tech, use a paper one. but for the purposes of this instructable, Ill be assuming you're using GCal.
Since I lean more towards digital, I tend to use an e-filing system. but again, if you like paper, get yourself a small filing cabinet and some trusty manila folders.
>Internet Enabled Phone
This is again a personal preference over a more paper based system. Ill explain in greater detail how its used in the coming steps.
Step 2: Collect
This step is the most crucial, and the most difficult to implement. without it, the whole notion of the system falls apart. The basic idea of the original GTD is to capture everything from your brain, so its free to work on the tasks that have to be completed. in my system, this mantra carries through. with your handy dandy moleskine and pen, write down everything that needs to be done. this is anything from "proofread report for Tamy" to "clip toenails" (gross i know, but its got to be done at some point.) this everything you're writing down is called stuff. "Stuff" is anything and everything that needs to be done. Once you get into the habit of ubiquitous capture, the rest of the system is pretty easy.
Email is straight forward. when stuff comes in, deal with it (more on this in the next step). as most productivity and zen bloggers promote, keep an empty inbox. it really is a blessing when there's nothing in there. its quite relaxing just to see. it also helps you keep on top of things.
Paper Area is for any tangible documents that need to be taken care of soon. BE WARNED : don't let your paper area turn into a paper dump. this can ruin the whole system and make the system not work for you.
Notebook (moleskine) - use this for everything else. jot stuff down in it, keep your task list in it etc. its like your paper catch all.
Step 3: Consolidate
this step is about getting all of your "stuff" organized so that you can efficiently get it all accomplished. While consolidation sounds like its putting everything in one place, its not. Bear with me while I explain.
once you've collected the stuff you need to do for a day, its time to put it into a manageable, efficient form. Stuff that can be done is classified as Actions. Stuff that can be done with multiple actions is called a Project. Everything else i call Extra Goodies.
If something is an action, is usually is a single step thing that has a verb in the phrase. good examples of this include "shave my beard" "take trash to street" and "proofread Instructable". These are good actions because they allow no room for wiggling around. Either you shave or you don't. Once you do shave, it can be crossed off you your list.
Projects are simply things that take multiple actions to complete. for example, the project of cleaning a closet might include the actions of "throw out crap in closet" "reorganize shelfs" "organize stuff on shelfs". Projects usually have their own list away from the actions list.
EXTRA GOODIES -
this is stuff that is neither action nor project. this could be data on a band you like, or anything form of stuff that you can't act on in the near future. Extra goodies usually get filed under three files : Trash - really, if it ends up here you don't need it. Someday/Maybe - Scuba in Australia would go here, because someday you can take that trip, but not now. Reference - Your own personal wikipedia. Just keep info here that may be useful to you in the future.
so now you've got places to put things. an Actions list, a Projects list, and files for extra goodies. this is where contexts come in so handy. In addition to my moleskine, i use the google tasks widget on my iGoogle page to keep track of my next actions and projects. have contexts means i just put @home, or @computer, or @library in front of tasks. this way, stuff that needs to be done when I am at the computer gets done, and when I am at the library, @library stuff gets done. pretty simple
Step 4: Review
This step is pretty simple. It just means you look over your lists to make sure you are making progress. David Allen, the father of GTD, recommends Daily, Weekly, and so on reviews. I tend to look at my lists every time I complete a task. I do this because I need to see what to do next. You can play around with it to see what works for you, but since my iGoogle page has the Tasks widget and GCal widget on the main page, I see it about 50 times a day. I like to check it frequently. Maybe you won't. that's your decision.
When i wake up in the Morning, I usually check over all of my lists throughly, then repeat before bedtime. this helps me maintain the sense in my lists. throughout the day i check back to see what to do next and such.
Step 5: Plan
This step is optional, but I usually do this after i do my morning review. I either in my head, or on paper, sketch out a rough idea of what i would like to get done for the day. I do this because with a busy school and extracuricular schedule, its easy to go through a day without making and progress on lists do to lots of prescheduled stuff and procrastination. Morning planning helps me set daily goals and figure out when i can work it all in.
Step 6: Act
the final step is the easist. Just do it. Start working on your lists however you think you can be the most efficent. that may mean doing all task before projects, or vice versa, or even mixing them up. the way I usually work is to complete a task and then take a short break. If the task is short, the break is short. Tasks under 15 minutes are rewarded with a youtube video. An hour of work? 15 minutes to stretch and grab a snack. Got a few hours under your belt? grab a show or 2 on hulu. just make sure that the rewards are proportional to the work, otherwise you'll end up procrastination.
Other methods include the Pomodoro technique, which i personally love. This is 25 minute chunks of focused hard productivity with 5 minute breaks in between. every 3 or 4 pomodoros, take a break of longer duration.
Budgeting time is also important. I like to do "Today +1" this means i set aside enough time to get everything done that needs to get done that day, plus an hour to chip away at the actions list.
Its also important to not work to hard. It is a good idea to set an ending time for each day (ie 10pm) where you retire from accomplishing things on your lists and just relax and do whatever you please.
Step 7: Review Again
After you've begun acting on your tasks lists and have made progress, it makes sense to use a list and log to keep track of what you've done.
LOG: Keeping a work progress log helps one avoid procrastination because it essentially hold you accountable for your actions. One tends to feel guilty after they see no progress in the work logs for a few hours or days. This log also allows you to keep track of what you've done and what you have to, allowing you to free up space in your brain to focus on the tasks, and not remember what you have to do. To implement a log, simply jot down in a notebook or on a computer every tasks you complete.
*tip* If you open up notepad in word and save it with ".LOG" at the top of the document, it will time stamp the document every time you open it. pretty handy for maintaining a work log.
Review: This is more of a weekly review in depth, but it makes sense to preform it every week, at the same time. This list allows you to go over your past lists and check your work log to make sure no action or task slipped through the cracks and that you were productive and on track for the last week.
Step 8: One of My Days/ Conclusion
Heres a quick overview of how i specifically use all of my tools together.
When im at home in front of my computer, stuff goes right into GCal or GTasks on my iGoogle page. even if im not at the computer, ill run to it on the next break to file stuff.
When im in class, it gets trickier. Since no phones are allowed out during class, i write everything in my moleskine. and then head to the library to transfer the stuff in the notebook to the GCal and GTasks.
If im not anywhere near a computer, I use my phone (which has unlimited data) to log into GCal and Gtasks. Since its the mobile versions of the sites, i typically organize this in more detail when i get to a computer. My pen goes in the front left pocket of my pants and the Moleskine in the back left. Phone in front right, Wallet in back right. this system allows me to carry all of my essential productivity tools on my person, so I am never caught off guard.
While this system can seem pretty busy and in depth to simply maintain productive, it has a proven track record. The nice thing about it is that it is a pliable system, with which one can mix in match parts to suit their own needs. If contexts for actions won't help you, delete them. If adding in some unseen part to the system will, do so. the idea behind this is to make one aware of different techniques and show basic implementation strategies so they may develop a system that is perfectly tailored to themselves.
Also, please let me know how this is, as my first instructable. Any tips on improvement are greatly appreciated.