For those of us that practice GTD to manage our commitments and keep them with integrity, the weekly review habit is crucial. This is the time each week when you take moment to break from the minutia, look up, and take stock of the situation by updating and looking over your lists of projects and next actions. Many of us find it difficult to keep a regular review habit, mostly because it takes effort, and—even though there is a psychological payoff—it’s easy to shrug off in the name of urgent demands on your time.
So anything I can do to make my weekly review easier, I want to do, which is why I am excited about sharing the fact that the last two weeks I have had the most frictionless weekly reviews I have ever had thanks to a tool called Workflowy (btw if you sign up for free at that link I will get a bit of a feature bump to my free plan).
It’s a deceptively simple piece of software; online outliners are a dime a dozen, but this one is fast, easy to use, and thanks to its robust search capabilities and tagging system, quite powerful as well.
All that said, it was the simplicity of it that made all the difference. I have a top level node labeled “GTD” with all my lists there. I can zoom in easily and just focus on the particular list I need, or zoom out and see the whole thing, which is what I did for my review. And it made it so easy, because I could just scroll through! No switching lists on different virtual pages, no complicated sorting. Just simple scrolling as if the whole thing was on a sheet of paper.
In David Allen’s modern classic book on personal productivity, Getting Things Done he describes an ideal state of mind:
Imagine throwing a pebble into a still pond. How does the water respond? The answer is, totally appropriately to the force and mass of the input; then it returns to calm. It doesn't overreact or underreact.
A mind like water is a disciplined mind, a mind focused on the right things, at the right times. David Allen places this in the context of personal productivity, getting the things you need to get done, done. David Allen’s Getting Things Done system can help you clear the clutter from your daily task list and help you order your life in a way that is consistent with your values.
I think there’s actually a spiritual component to this, if we’re open to it: the very biblical concepts of stewardship and working “as for the Lord” (Colossians 3:23).
It’s so easy in the digital-age of distraction to forget the sacred trust of time that we’ve been given. In midst of “important” emails, social media notifications, and activity-packed schedules, we miss the important because we’re too preoccupied with the urgent. I’ll be the first to admit that I have sometimes gone weeks and then wondered why I haven’t made progress on the stuff that really matters to me. When that happens I know I haven’t been disciplined in my approach to managing the many things that demand and deserve my attention.
It’s possible to be very busy, but still procrastinate and put off the most important things. This naturally leads to anxiety, restlessness, and stress even though it might seem like you’re workin hard on the surface. This is where a disciplined system can be a huge help. It can help remove some of the friction of starting and finishing those tasks and projects that we just don’t want do, by providing clarity on exactly what we need to do next.
How to get things done
In a nutshell, David Allen's technique revolves around a 5 step process:
Capturing your ideas into a trusted system
Clarifying what next action is needed on those ideas,
Organizing ideas and next actions in a useful way
Reflecting on and reviewing your lists on a regular basis
Engaging (actually doing them).
Everyone will have a different way of doing this, of course. Some people keep everything in a three-ring binder notebook, others organize their world in Excel. Some people love high end notebooks, others make do with index cards and legal pads.
Your tools don’t matter that much, as long as they actually get used.
To get started, don’t even worry about the whole system. Just concentrate on developing a habit of writing everything down, glancing over that list every week or so. It will change your life!
The longer I think on this, the more convinced I am that GTD really doesn’t ask you to do much with your lists. Simply moving things from your inbox and categorizing items by appropriate context (most people only have 5 or 6 at most, in my experience) takes a few minutes, possibly mere seconds with most software based solutions, if you do it once a day or once every two days.
I will grant the weekly review takes some more time, when you are going through your projects and identifying the next action and so on, but this is absolutely essential thinking that must be done anyways if you’re going to make progress on your projects. You’re just doing this “up-front,” batching together your thinking so you’re more agile and less-stressed later.
All of these seems very appropriate to me. I think the real issue is that if you’re spending hours managing lists, you’re either:
allowing yourself to be distracted with the tool
you have an overly-complex tool
(and I think this one is most likely) you’re over-committed.
A principle way GTD reflects back to you that you have too many commitments is when it’s taking a disproportionate amount of time to review and process your inbox and next-actions lists.
You’re overly committed if you can’t find 15-20 min per day to clear your inbox. Similarly, if your weekly review is taking 3+ hours on the regular because you are overwhelmed with projects, it’s also likely you simply have too much on your plate.
I know I’ve over-scheduled my week when I can’t fit in my 1.5 hour weekly review, or when my inbox goes a 3 days or more without being cleared because I’m just too busy.
…I’ve grown in this as a preacher—that I have learned how to renounce the expectation that I will preach a great sermon on Easter Day. I’ve learned to refuse to live by that. I do want to preach a great sermon on Easter Day. But if I go out with the result of preaching a great sermon on Easter Day then I’ve already lost the battle of the Easter Day sermon. So I really try to refuse to try and meet the expectation, usually my own and some others, frankly, that I preach a phenomenal sermon on Easter Day. I refuse that. I try to compartmentalize that and put that away, and I try, instead, to work really hard at asking: What’s the word for this year, Lord, from your Holy Scriptures? That’s what I’m going to preach.
The whole article is full of great pastoral wisdom.
Recently found carrd.co–essentially a one-page website builder (more on the philosophy of the platform) made by a really good designer. It is incredibly easy to use, even normal people can do it (although using a custom domain is–as always–a bit of a technical process) Pricing is very reasonable as well.
Just switched our church website over to it from WordPress. Now, you won’t be creating some kind of spawling personal blog (like this site) or a massive online magazine with this–it’s for brochure sites, landing pages, small business sites, and so on.
I’m headed to hike the Grand Canyon soon, so I wanted to try some new camp coffee that might be better than the instant stuff I brought on my last backpacking trip. This option from Kuju Coffee takes more space, but is infinitely more delicious.
Also, the product I linked to has individually wrapped portions, which is different than the ziplock package I picked up at REI.
The question before our digitally-saturated culture is:
How can we intentionally design an internet-based medium that can promote a thoughtful text-based conversation?
That’s a tough nut to crack, and I’m not sure anyone has totally figured it out yet, but Micro.blog seems to be aware of things that clearly do not tend to facilitate civility and true conversation: unlimited hashtags, the “like” or “heart” button, etc.
It really seems that keeping our communities smaller helps too…and the lack of follower counts here on Micro.blog really de-incentivizes growing “connections” for all the the wrong reasons.
I love so much about how @manton and @jean are building what could become the most sane and human space on the Internet.
Inefficient does not mean ineffective, and it is certainly not the same as lazy. You get things done – just not in the most effective way possible. You’re a bit sloppy, and use more energy. But don’t feel bad about it. There is real value in not being the best.
Wow. This article is worth reading in its entirety (it’ll only take you a few minutes) and reflecting on at length. Really hits home for me, because I simply cannot be a specialist…as much as I would like to be! In fact, I have always wanted to be the best at something. This piece makes the case for being a generalist to better deal with a highly dynamic environments…and of that doesn’t describe my working life, I don’t know what does. I have to come to grips with the fact my calling is neither to be an academic, nor a monastic, nor a professional! I am parish priest.
I suddenly felt like I had an online network that I had to “manage” (not just on Facebook, though I am going to talk now only in terms of Facebook, since that’s where I lived the lion’s share of my online life). This idea of management, of course, implies a certain level of accountability, and so I spent more and more time monitoring Facebook, keeping track of what people were saying, finding things to say myself—which meant I was spending less and less time doing my own blogging, doing my own writing, my own reading…well, you get the idea.