Notes on stuff

Tagged Posts: GTD

Links for 2013-02-07

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Links for 2011-05-03

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Blending Pomodoro and GTD

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Pomodoro Timer
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I’ve been using variants of the Getting Things Done (GTD) technique for a few years, and I find it’s a safe haven when work is turbulent. The simple rules of the GTD workflow help create forward motion on the most overwhelming of days. As I posted recently, after many attempts at finding the right tool support, I have now settled on one that works for me.

But there are days when I have cleared a block of time, and I just need to plough through work, and if I’m not careful my GTD list can become just one more challenge to single tasking.

I wondered if Pomodoro could help with that, so much to the bemusement of colleagues I have started the practice of using an electronic timer (with ticks!) to force myself to work in timeboxes when I am carrying out focused tasks.

A number of people have written about combining these two techniques, including Arjun Muralidharan and Tim Noyce. They have clearly spent longer reflecting on how these things work best for them, but I would add a few observations of my own:

  • GTD always works as a way of finding something productive to do – like most professionals my “to do” list represents far more work than could ever be done in a day, or even a week – being able to slice it by context, by association, by relevance means that I can always find something to fill an empty timeslot.
  • It really helps to identify one or two “Most Important Things” at the start of the day – I use a temporary GTD context of @Today to capture those.
  • Pomodoro works well for driving a concentrated focus on a single-person task, but is no help at all when you have a lot of collaboration to achieve, meetings interrupting the flow etc.
  • Pomodoro sets out to make interruptions (internal or external) more noticeable, and I found a side-effect of that was that I was getting tetchier with people who interrupted me. Pay attention to the guidance in the Pomodoro book about handling interruptions!
  • It’s very tempting to go on beyond the Pomodoro “just to polish something off”

What systems work for you?

How do you best resolve the “what do to” and “getting it done” pressures on you?

Let me know in the comments.

Getting Things Done (GTD)

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063/365 - getting-things-done thursday
Image by jypsygen via Flickr

I’ve been using variants of the Getting Things Done (GTD) technique for a few years, and I find it’s a safe haven when work is turbulent. The simple rules of the GTD workflow help create forward motion on the most overwhelming of days.

My invaluable assistant in this is Nozbe – Michael Sliwinski and his team have put together a highly-functional product that I couldn’t work without. It’s by far the most effective GTD tool I have used, and I urge you to try it. (Disclosure – that hyperlink has an affiliate code).

The killer features for me are:

  • easy task creation from a set of bullet points in an email – great for those post-meeting brain dumps!
  • complete integration between the web and the iPhone app
  • Evernote integration for project notes, again with an easy email interface for capturing things
  • the attitude Michael and his team have to support!

How do you Get Things Done?

Comments please!

Links for 2010-05-28

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Links for 2010-05-26

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The boundaries of GTD

Ton Zijlstra has some provoking thoughts about the limitations of GTD-like systems :Ton’s Interdependent Thoughts: Thoughts on GTD System Weaknesses

In short, Ton highlights the increasing need to apply qualitative (and often social- and/or network-based) approaches to filter the info-glut before you can start putting actions into a GTD-like process.

I think he’s spot on, and it made me think a little more analytically about my personal organisation system, loosely-based on GTD, but heavily reliant on the capabilities of MindManager enhanced by ResultsManager.

ResultsManager adds a project– and action-planning capability to MindManager by allowing any topic in any mind-map to be tagged with task-related metadata, and further, the ability to define “dashboard” maps which cut across the information, pulling together a view based on whatever criteria the dashboard author chooses.

In the most GTD-like aspects of the process, this makes it easy to create a mindmap of “Today’s Next Actions” across all of my projects, but the filtering capabilities are very powerful and allow many other views to be created.

Key aspects of this system which, I think, go some way to addressing the issues Ton raises are:

  • Ability to store, manipulate and interpret information within the context of a given project or concern, yet pull out and record cross-links;
  • Clear signalling of which ideas do not have any current “Next Action”, and which therefore may need further thought to continue developing actionable sense;
  • An easy way top bring in external information sources – for example by using a MindManager map part to import the content of an RSS feed, I can connect this information management system to my wider information-gathering and filtering processes.

Ton’s closing challenge is for a system to present patterns about activity that could in turn become “inbox” items – this definitely needs further thought, but my intuition is that a combination of tagging and feed-derivation could take some kind of a log for re-ingest to the “machine”.

Getting Things Done with Mindmanager, ResultsManager, GyroQ, and now MindReader

I’ve used Mindmanager as my core information-management tool at work for several years. For the last few months I have also been using it as the underlying support for my “GTD-like” personal productivity processes, augmented with the excellent ResultsManager add-in from Gyronix.

ResultsManager is very powerful, I particularly like the way it allows me to have a mindmap per project, yet pull all of my “Next Actions” into a single Dashboard mind map. However to exploit this power requires the capture of several pieces of information for each action item.

This is where another Gyronix product comes in – GyroQ – this provides a hot-keyable place to capture odd thoughts without breaking flow, queueing them for later addition to a set of ResultsManager mindmaps.

One of the great things about GyroQ is that the tag-based interface allows end-users (with the approprioate developer licence) to extend the functionality of the tool.

The most active contributor of new tags and macros is the anonymous ActivityOwner, who is both active on the Gyronix support forums and runs an excellent website packed with hints, tips, and example GyroQ tags, MindManager macros, and ResultsManager dashboards.

Latest offering from ActivityOwner that I’ve grabbed and put into service is a set of tags and macros entitled MindReader. This extends the functionality of GyroQ to allow you to enter natural-language phrases such as “Email Bob about project X tomorrow” and have these parsed to create ResultsManager activities with key information fields pre-filled – potentially a huge timesaver.

I run a mixed economy of MindManager versions – X5 at work, 6 at home. MindReader is designed to work with version 6, and I discovered one version-dependency in the code. I’ve posted a fix to make MindReader work with MindManager 5 on the ActivityOwner wiki here.

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