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My top 10 GTD tips

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

So, after being a GTD acolyte for several years now, I thought I'd share some tips about what has worked best for me, along with some of the quagmires I've learned to avoid.

1. Start anywhere
Anything you can do to make yourself more productive and more effective is worth doing. If you can't process everything in your life in one sitting when starting out, don't sweat it. Start from scratch and then make a tiny dent in your backlog each day.

2. Find the real next action and name it well
Make sure the next action for your project is a real next action - that is, a physical act that you can do in one sitting. Tweak your language so the notation for the action appeals to your desire to check off small accomplishments in rapid succession.

3. Process your inboxes frequently
You should process your inboxes every day. If you miss a day or two, you should feel bad and do it as soon as possible.

4. Keep a real projects list

Don't confuse your list of projects with your project reference material. If you rely on your reference material to tell you about what projects you have, you will inevitably miss some that don't have reference material yet.

5. Simplify
Your tools and processes should be as simple as possible. It has to be easy to work your system.

6. Don't obsess
Are you getting things done or are you obsessing about the subtle nuances of your system? If subtle nuance intrigues you, try obsessing about it by writing a novel, not caressing your action lists.

7. Observe and extend (feedback loops)
Consider the efficacy of your approaches at pre-determined intervals. Make sure your thoughts aren't wasted: come up with heuristics and procedures to make everything you do easier. The weekly review is a great time to do this.

8. Be forgiving
Not everyone in the world is a manic detail tracker like you. Don't be too upset when others don't fall right in line with your GTD regimen. Let them do it their way, but if you are waiting on something from them, be sure to track it diligently on your @waiting list. ;-)

9. Install once
If you follow GTD discussions too closely or too frequently on the web or on mailing lists, you will end up installing your system multiple times. Why waste time reformatting your life? Install once and run.

10. Escape GTD
I find it very relaxing and productive to completely escape GTD thinking on a regular basis (like on the weekend). This doesn't mean I'll completely shirk my duties for entire days, but I'll go into "organic" mode for several hours at a time, where I am not thinking at all about doing anything. Oddly enough, this is a good way to generate lots of ideas about how to do things better.

Posted by murt at 2:45 AM  |  2 comments  |  links to this post

RSS feeds to email - it's easy!

If you would like to have RSS feeds delivered to you as email messages, check out You simply enter the feed's URL, then your email address, and you're all set.

I set up a separate email address just for feeds so they are easier to filter.

You may shudder at the prospect of shoving even *more* stuff into your mailbox - but I kind of like the idea of reducing the number of places I have to go to manage information. Since I automatically file all feeds into an @read folder, they don't clutter up my inbox and I can scan through them at my leisure.

Note: you can't really manage your subscriptions by default from the site; you have to use the links at the bottom of the messages you get to access these functions.


Posted by murt at 12:15 AM  |  0 comments  |  links to this post


Sunday, January 15, 2006

Thanks to Rebecca for the lovely redesign. I think the content is more legible now.

I've also dropped the "high octane moron" title. That was the title of my never-realized third music zine, and I just wanted to use it somewhere, but it never really matched the content of this site.

Posted by murt at 10:44 PM  |  0 comments  |  links to this post

yubnub - command line for the web

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Let me just say that I'm the last person to swoon over every Rails app just because it's a Rails app. Something is either useful or it's not, and the language is less important than the functionality.

That said, is the coolest web gadget I've run across in quite a while. Billed as a social command line for the web, the site is a collection of all sorts of useful commands for interacting with the web. Since anyone can add new commands, kids with less workload than you have already added most of the ones you will want to use.

The simplicity and power of the idea is pretty wonderful. And the best part is that it actually can shave a few milliseconds of time off your most common web tasks, which of course adds up. It's definitely geared toward geeks and those who think in terms of text as opposed to heavy mouse users, but for those who can easily remember shortcut commands, this is fab.

Within a few minutes of discovery, I'd already installed this as my default Firefox search engine.

Posted by murt at 12:08 AM  |  1 comments  |  links to this post

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Fans of outliner, PIM, mindmap, knowledge management, etc. software should check out this web-based forum. The forum software used sucks, and the site goes down quite a bit, but it's nevertheless a good place to hear about new software and get usage ideas from others.

Posted by murt at 12:52 AM  |  1 comments  |  links to this post

Household task pictures

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Domestic administration is not my strong suit, particularly when it comes to home repairs or maintenance. I don't have any zeal for do-it-yourself home improvement. And shopping at Lowe's or Home Depot is not my idea of amusement.

Still, there are things that have to be done, especially when your house was built in 1926.

I often forget to write down or capture all the things that have to be done around/to the house. So, my idea is to use my PDA's crappy internal camera to just walk through and around the house and take snapshots of everything that is amiss, broken or needs to be improved. I can then drag these into my database software and track them like any other project or action. It's quick, easy, and perhaps the visual reminders will help inspire me to remember why I should do anything about it at all.

Posted by murt at 2:31 PM  |  1 comments  |  links to this post

The Reinvention Date

On Friday night, my wife and I went on a "reinvention date," which is an idea I thought of earlier in the day. It's really no different than coming up with mutual goals or resolutions, but "invention" sounds more fun.

I believe your life circumstances are your own invention. Barring accident and disease and other acts of nature that you have no control over, the kind of life you have is basically a result of the mental image you have of the life you want (or think you deserve) and the resultant choices you make.

For instance, when I first graduated from college, the overwhelming image of my life that I had was one where I was self-employed. Within two years, I was self-employed, although my first attempts did not make any money and I couldn't live off them. A few years later, I had figured it out and have now been bossless for almost ten years.

At the time, my self-invention only involved not having a "real" job. I didn't consider many implications beyond that. So now, I find that I indeed got what I wished for, but it wasn't exactly accurate in terms of an ideal life. A lot of things I enjoy, like music and writing, got dropped by the wayside and work consumes too much of my time and attention. It's also hardly bossless - each client is actually like a boss, so I have multiple bosses. That's okay, though; being bossless is no longer my primary desire; it's been replaced with the desire to grow a company and to make time for what I lump together as "personal stuff."

So, it was time to reinvent myself, and of course the new year is the time when the mood for this is right (although it's pretty arbitrary).

When you are married, have business partners, etc., your self-invention can no longer be just a self-invention but must be a group invention. My wife is also my business partner, so that simplifies matters a bit for me.

The idea of the reinvention date was simply to take some time and talk about our ideal lives and how they are different than the ones we have today. From there, we came up with an interim ideal that is reasonably achievable within one year. Based on this imagination of an ideal one year in the future, we came up with some goals and action steps.

Granted, we veered off track a bit. There wasn't much of an agenda and the key to a good meeting is a well-defined agenda. Anyway, I think the idea has merit and I hope it's something we can repeat annually. I'm becoming enamored with processes that repeat on a regular schedule, especially ones that address levels above tasks or next actions. With an endless supply of ground-level actions in your face every day, I think you have to forcibly schedule review at higher levels if you want to modify your circumstances.

Posted by murt at 2:30 PM  |  0 comments  |  links to this post