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Trust your GTD System


Several blogs note the ongoing battles one can have with your Getting Things Done system.  Half the battle is getting things figured out in the first place and determining the best set up for yourself.  Whether it involves index cards, a labeler, a Moleskine, a great pen to write with, an online GTD app or simply modifying Outlook with a plug-in, there is no mistaking some set up time is required.  And then comes a potential trap – never being satisfied with your plugin or app.

There is Things, iGTD, OmniFocus, etc., etc., etc.  Because of the adoption rate by techies, GTD is an often updated and modified system.  I went through many apps myself, so please learn by my mistakes.  I’m not here to preach what works best for me will work for you – you have to figure that out as I did.

 What I will preach about or rather will prophesy is THAT day you will start letting go.  It’s coming, so if it hasn’t yet, it will.  The system you trust with all of your to do’s, tasks, projects, meetings, etc. – it WILL lose its lustre.  It’s anyone’s guess why this happens, but it does appear to be nearly universal.  My theory is simple – you don’t just chain your ways overnight.  Being in business for over 20 years, is it realistic to expect you’ll change your ways in less than 3-6 months? 

So, when that day comes, try these steps:

Step back.  Take a deep breath – because when you start letting go of your GTD system, that is usually a good sign that you’re sliding back, you are panicking and you are doomed to failure.

Grab your journal or Moleskine.  Trace back to where you started giving up and putting your old plan in front of your new system.  Determine what went wrong.  Was it the sheer number of projects on one day?  Was it a lack of planning that spun out of control?  Check this out:  When you review your Moleskine or journal, did you notice you stopped taking notes?  When you stop getting things out of your head, you can really feel the downward spiral because it takes its toll on the sub-conscious as various items attempt to play with your internal hard drive – and ultimately it will do as before and fail you.  Whatever the reason, take the time to figure out where it went wrong.  AND THEN WRITE THAT DOWN.  The definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results.  But, hey, we’re human.  Chances are if you let your GTD system down once, you will do it again unless you understand the reasoning and avoid it the second time around.

Weekly Review time is in order.  Is your in-box piled high?  Is your email out of sync?  Are your task lists and projects behind?  Chances are good that you let things go and like a failed diet plan, you grabbed the chocolate cake with a 2-liter of Mt. Dew, metaphorically speaking.  Re-sort that office, clean it up and do a much needed Weekly Review.  The psychology behind getting things back in order will make you fall in love again with your old friend, GTD.  

Plan ahead.  Let’s assume you’ve just completed your Weekly Review on a Friday.  Look at your calendar or tasks for the following week and write down the first 3 items you have to get done on Monday.  Then when you come in on Monday morning, you’ll see these and have that extra reminder to Get Things Done.

Extra bonus tip time.  Taken from the 4-Hour Workweek, I have a quote that is on a vertical note clip on my desk:  “Am I inventing things to do to avoid the important?”  This simple statement is great to refer to as my center.  When my mind reminds me I’m probably not doing something that is on my GTD list or that I’m chasing a few dead ends, I can look at that statement and get re-focused.  Try it.

If anyone has other ideas you used to get back to your GTD system, please let us know.


My Most Productive Day Ever


(Warning:  The post you’re about to read contains a proud father reflecting on his family – read with caution.)

The most productive day that I had ever known at that point in time was 3 years ago tonight.  It was 3 years ago tonight that my wife’s water broke (for real this time) and we were admitted into the hospital.  And, at 2:31 PM on March, 15, 2005, Olivia Marie Pickett was born.  And at the age of 37 then, I learned that life was about to start all over for me.

Producing great work is not always the hardest part.  It’s maintaining it that’s tough.  But, oh so worth it.  Put your focus where it belongs this weekend and enjoy your family.

Happy Birthday Livvie – you are loved.


Fighting Distractions to Maintain Focus

Focus EyesIs it just me or do other productivity seekers also have an issue with maintaining FOCUS?  Me, I’m like a kid in the candy store.  I lose focus on an ongoing basis.  I love surfing the net.I love listening to new ideas.  I love solving problems.  I love working.  I love playing.  I love life.  And so my lifelong struggle with focus continues.  I’m like someone who can’t put food down.  I can’t put information down.  I eat it all the time.   I have a ton of information – useless or otherwise – stored in my head.  But I continue on, struggling to focus.  And so I come today to provide a great post from LifeDev.net on keeping distractions at bay.  Hey, look at me!  I maintained focus long enough to write this – perhaps I’m getting better already…    


FocusOK, I couldn’t resist with that title (alluding to Karate Kid for those of you who did not grow up during the 80’s). FOCUS.  You can never be productive without focus.  You can never produce effective anything without focus.  You need to do everything with focus.  This morning’s CNN Headline News showed a stat that reveals cell phone use while driving causes people to drive slower, change lanes less often and generally adds to traffic problems.  What, you mean multi-tasking is not such a good thing after all?! We all have problems focusing.  When I was a kid my mom took me to the optometrist and he had me look at letters to repeat back to him – ONE AT A TIME.  I wasn’t asked to juggle, gargle or repeat the Star Spangled Banner while upside down.  Simply focus.  Leo at Zen Habits has a great post on how to make this year your best and has focus included in his list of ways to improve.  I highly recommend this read in a world that continually challenges us to be our best.  His insights are a beacon and I hope you appreciate this article especially. 

Email, Gmail, and other Focus Issues


Last week I responded to a post from Mike St. Pierre at The Daily Saint.  I was honored when I found the next day his follow-up post was in response to my comment.   “The best of intentions leave many of us guilty of over-socializing. Before you know it the next actions you had scheduled to complete that day were cut in half and all because you simply lost focus. So, how can we maintain focus during the day?”And his response post is here to that question.  Thanks Mike!   On another note – what do those of you use at work vs. home – are you able to sync up your Outlook with Gmail successfully?  And what do you do to keep the focus away from putting out fires on email all day?