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My Getting Things Done Setup

The best thing that I’ve done for my Project Management career was to manage my personal projects more effectively.

I am an avid user of David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” approach to personal productivity.  It is amazing how it has changed my life.  Just a few months ago, when I started reading his book, I couldn’t have imagined how much of an impact it would make in everything I do.

In case you haven’t heard of GTD, I cannot recommend it enough.  You can click here to get a copy of the book on Amazon.

If you are familiar with the approach, I’d like to share what has been working for me when it comes to setting it up.

For reference, this is a depiction of the GTD workflow (from http://freshpathconsulting.wordpress.com/):

I will share here some of the tools I use to implement the system above.

Inboxes

As you know, GTD calls for the need of one or more “inboxes,” or as I call them, “stuff collectors.”  These are places where you collect everything that comes at you during the day.  These can be email messages, bills, ideas, news articles, etc.

I have three inboxes:

  1. A physical folder I carry in my briefcase
  2. An “in” tray on my work desk
  3. Evernote

For receipts, snail mail, or whatever else that is a physical item, I put them either in my folder or use my desk tray.

For email messages, or anything else that is electronic data, I forward it to my Evernote account.  If you don’t know what Evernote is, I wrote about it a few blog posts ago.

In Evernote, I have a notebook called “Inbox” which is my default notebook.  So all email messages I forward to Evernote get saved to that notebook.  Similarly, news articles that I read using RSS can also be saved there through the apps I have on my iPhone (Feedler Pro and Reeder).

List Management

For my task lists I use a free tool called Toodledo.  On Toodledo you can set up a powerful to-do list with a number of features.

To set up projects, I use the folder feature.  So a new folder means a new project, which then allows me to assign individual tasks to it.

I also use the context, due date, repeat, and status parameters.

Context allows me to assign a specific location for where I’ll accomplish a task.  That way, when I’m at a location, I can simply sort my task list by context and quickly see what I can do while I’m there.

Due date is used for tasks that need to be done by a certain date.  This is an extension of my calendar, and I use it sparingly.  For example, “pay gas bill” doesn’t have to be paid on the due date, but before it comes around.  As such it does not make much sense to put it on the calendar, but it is helpful to be reminded of the due date.

Repeat is for tasks that are to be repeated on a regular basis.  For example, our company payroll taxes need to be paid every month by the 15th.

Status can be used to assign a task as a next action item for a project, for example.

Calendar

I use Google Calendar for keeping track of my hard-landscape appointments and tasks.

Reference

For items that need to be filed away for reference, I use a physical filing system and Evernote.

My physical filing system is very simple.  It is a collection of manila folders that are labeled and organized alphabetically.  They sit on my desk at work and are always there for quick reference.

For electronic items, I use Evernote again.  It allows me to file things away and quickly find them when I need to.

Integration

For integrating all these tools, there is a great app for the iPhone, iPad, Android, and Blackberry called Pocket Informant.

There are many apps out there specifically for GTD users, but Pocket Informant is the only one I’ve used so far that integrates Google Calendar and Toodledo in one interface.

What are you using?  I’d love to hear what’s been working for you.  Leave a message below if you can!

 
8 comments
ptyrrell
ptyrrell

Omnifocus. expensive at first, but if you value your time, it is super cheap. I am a newbie at this, but so far looking very good.

lejeanmi
lejeanmi

Thanks for the great article Cesar!I use Pocket Informant as well to manage my tasks/calendar. It is definitely the best app I have found to do this although it still lacks a key feature that would make me 100% happy with it. The fact that it unfortunately doesn't flag the top/first task in a given project as "Next Action" (even in GTD Task Mode) which result in all future tasks being shown in a given context (@home, @work, etc.) although you can't do anything about them at the present time.I do like PI a lot but this has annoyed me for quite some time now.By the way they do have this as a Feature request on their website and you can vote for it here:http://feedback.webis.net/forums/16749-pocket-informant-for-ios/suggestions/329160-next-action-list

HalaSaleh1
HalaSaleh1

Cesar - thanks for the post! My husband is a big fan and expert at implementing GTD. I wish I could say the same for myself. I think in some ways it's fear of commitment ;) The idea of having to sit down once a week for a couple/few hours in a row to clear things out is tough to swallow, since I barely own my weekends anyway. But definitely made me reconsider, and I should move past the fear of failure! :) Thanks again

Cesar
Cesar

Jose, I know it is hard to stay on top of things and it's easy to fall off the wagon. But don't you love the feeling of having a "zero" inbox? That alone is worth the effort, don't you think? I don't have an Android device, but I took note of the DGT GTD app you mention and I'll keep it in mind. Thanks for your comment and stay in touch. I'll be reviewing some exciting GTD-driven products very soon. Have a great Sunday! Cesar

Joser
Joser

Hello Cesar, Thanks a lot for the info. As it happens, I have also integrated the GTD system into my personal and professional life. I have fallen off the wagon a few times, but when I pick it up again, I can see how much easier it keeps getting. I have been using the same tools you use such as Toodledo, Pocket informant and an Android app called DGT GTD which happens to be free. I can definetly see how I can integrate Evernote, thanks to your post. I own a laptop PC, and Android phone and an IPad. I have gotten them to be in sync with each other as well. Thanks again for your post. Jose

cesarabeid
cesarabeid moderator

 @lejeanmi Thanks for your comment and feedback! The one thing I can tell you is there is no perfect tool, especially when you consider that we all implement GTD in slightly different ways.  PI has helped me lots and I think my favourite feature is that it brings my task list together with my Google Calendar.  I'm trying to slowly move to OmniFocus but it's difficult, since my work computer is a Windows machine.  I think the best approach is to devise your own system and tools in a way that works for you... But I have to agree, it can be annoying when we REALLY want a feature and our favourite tool doesn't have it!

 

Thanks again (I checked, your website, good stuff!)

cesarabeid
cesarabeid moderator

 @HalaSaleh1 Thanks for the comment!  Can I challenge you to do something really easy?  Start with the drawer on your nightstand (or if you don't have a nightstand, that drawer that you have somewhere full of stuff).  Take that drawer out and have your husband help you implement GTD just with that drawer.  He'll know what to do.  Do that today and post back here your thoughts.  I'd love to hear what you have to say after doing that and after your drawer is clear!

HalaSaleh1
HalaSaleh1

 @cesarabeid Ahhh you know me too well already! How can I say no to a challenge?!?! Ok will see if I can catch him for enough time on the weekend and will let you know how it goes ;)