Getting Things Done (GTD) is a time management methodology that many people have adopted to become more productive and stress-free in all aspects of life. This methodology focuses on following five steps in order to help users become more productive and lower stress. Many elements of the GTD system can be applied to HabitRPG.
- 1 Where Did GTD Come From?
- 2 How Does GTD Work?
- 3 More About the Five Steps: Capture, Clarify, Organize, Reflect, Engage
- 3.1 Step 1 - Capture: Collect Your Ideas And Projects
- 3.2 Step 2 - Clarify: Process Your Ideas
- 3.3 Step 3 - Organize: Put it Where it Belongs
- 3.3.1 How Should Tasks Be Organized?
- 3.3.2 Use the Tools that Work for You
- 3.4 Step 4 - Reflect: Review
- 3.5 Step 5 - Engage: Do It
- 3.5.1 Criteria for Choosing Model
- 3.5.2 Horizons of Focus Model
- 3.5.3 Three-fold Nature of Work Model
- 4 Another Approach to Getting Things Done - The Secret Weapon
- 5 See Also
- 6 References
Where Did GTD Come From?
GTD was created by David Allen as a way to help organize life into more manageable chunks and focus on the task at hand, instead of worrying about multitasking and getting everything done at once. In order to help explain the process, he wrote a book about it and holds frequent seminars and lectures to help people who are struggling to increase productivity without raising stress. More information about David Allen can be found on his website.
How Does GTD Work?
GTD works by using five steps to help order and prioritize tasks. The Five Steps are Capture, Clarify, Organize, Reflect, and Engage. In other words, the first concept of GTD is writing every planned task or project down externally, so you can stay focused on the current task without having to try and remember everything all the time. These tasks are then sorted into a system of different common areas, which can include time components, collaborators, certain tools used for completion of the task, or tags utilizing specific context.
More About the Five Steps: Capture, Clarify, Organize, Reflect, Engage
Step 1 - Capture: Collect Your Ideas And Projects
Step 1 is all about writing it down, or Capturing and Collecting your ideas so they don't get forgotten or lost. The suggestion is to use an in-basket or notepad to capture everything, but you can also use HabitRPG as your in-basket. Just add tasks to the To-Dos list for processing later and move on. Other ideas include making an Inbox To-Do with checklists or notes to add your ideas to in order to process them later.
Collecting uses tools in order to capture the ideas in your head, but make sure you don't have too many places for the ideas to go. By having a central place to keep all these ideas, it will make it easier to process everything all at once. If you need incentive to keep writing down ideas, you can start by making a Habit that you can hit for each idea you write down.
In order to make sure you get full credit for every idea, you might want to wait until you are sitting down to process ideas, and then count everything you have in your in-basket and give yourself the correct number of clicks. This will also help with the next step, as it will allow you to estimate how much time you will need to process your in-basket. It is recommended to allow at least 30 seconds for every idea you need to process.
Step 2 - Clarify: Process Your Ideas
At this point, it might be helpful to add a Daily task so you remember to process your in-basket daily.
Processing the in-basket is key to making sure your ideas are properly handled. When you do sit down to process the in-basket, you need to process the entire box so that it is sorted and ready for organization. Resist the urge to put items back into the in-basket to process. In order to process and clarify your ideas, follow these steps.
Once you sit down to process everything that has been collected, make the conscious decision to honestly decide if a task is something that really can be done. For instance, if you just finished watching a super hero movie, you might have jotted down an idea to build a ramp and see if you could duplicate a stunt. Is it actionable? Probably. Is it something you really want to spend your time doing? If not, trash it. If so, decide what the next step to do with it is.
Decide What the Next Step Is
Once you have decided that you are going to keep a task or idea, decide what the next step is. If it is something that will take two minutes or less to finish, put everything else aside and take care of it right away. If you decide to "Do-It", it is helpful to create a "Do-It" habit so you can get the benefit of following the method without having to enter every task.
Longer Than Two Minutes
If the task will take longer than two minutes to complete, there are a few steps that can be taken. The task can either be delegated, added to a To-Do list, or put on a Someday/Maybe list. Make sure that you know what the next step should be before looking at the next task.
Follow Through With The Next Step
If the task is something that can be accomplished in 2 minutes or less, do not put it off. Just get it taken care of immediately so it doesn't have to occupy any more of your time or waste space by putting it on a list. If the task takes longer than two minutes, you should have already decided whether the task needs to be delegated, deferred, or added to your To-Dos, and now you just need to do it.
Delegating is an easy way to help get a task off your plate while still being able to ensure it is taken care of. Managers delegate tasks all the time, and even in your personal life, you can delegate a task. Need to take out the trash? Delegate it to one of your kids. Want to get something coded but have no idea where to start? Delegate it to a friend who has the experience. It is even easier to delegate if the person you delegate to frequently is another HabitRPG player. Simply set up a challenge for that person in the guild. Here is an example:
- Challenge Name: Joe Bloe
- Sean Soe creates a challenge in his Work Team private guild for Joe Bloe and adds tasks. When he has new tasks for Joe, he edits the task page. When Joe completes To-Dos, Sean deletes them so they don't clog up Joe Bloe's completed list. Joe never leaves the challenge so Sean can continue to send him tasks.
Defer It: The Someday/Maybe Checklist
This checklist allows you to keep tasks that you want to do eventually, but maybe not in the near future. In other words, if you eventually want to go to Italy, but might never have the time or money, that would be a great idea to put on your Someday/Maybe checklist.
One method of handling Someday/Maybe tasks within HabitRPG is to enter them as checklist items in a Someday/Maybe To-Do list. When you do complete something off the checklist, you can click + on a Habit, such as Someday/Maybe or Do-It!, and then delete the checklist item that was completed. This means that the task will become red over time, but you can ignore the redness, as it will not affect you. Alternatively, depending on your class and level, you may be able to reduce the redness with a special skill.
Step 3 - Organize: Put it Where it Belongs
The key to organizing is to put like items in the same "bucket" to be worked on at the same time. By placing action reminders in the right lists and tagging them appropriately, less time is wasted switching from task to task. There are a few ways to take care of adding buckets to HabitRPG. You can set up Dailies for each bucket that correspond with a file under that tag, or you could have a separate To-Do checklist for each tag type. There are multiple ways to organize your ideas, and a few have been included here. Keep in mind that organization can be very personal, and you will need to decide on what works for you. Here are a few places to get started:
How Should Tasks Be Organized?
The four primary action lists that are recommended by the GTD program are Projects, Next Actions, Waiting For, and Calendar. Each action list is meant to hold different actions in order to group similar items together so they can be done together more efficiently than if you were trying to do different types of tasks.
Projects are meant to be multi-stepped tasks that are done once, or infrequently, and then can be checked off. Projects typically require time set aside to finish from start to finish, unless they are long projects that will be taken care of a little each day. The key quality of a project is that it might take many steps, but the time used will all be dedicated to the entire project.
These are actions that you want to work on during the day. These are going to utilize different tools so you can keep them organized. For instance, tagging certain To-Dos with "Office" could help you sort what tasks need to be done in the office and what tasks need to be taken care of elsewhere. This makes it quick and easy to move from one set to the next.
These are tasks that could be done, but you are waiting for something. You could be waiting to hear back from a contractor to continue working on a remodeling project, or maybe you need to purchase supplies before you can reorganize the office. These tasks are just waiting for a certain thing to happen before being able to proceed.
Here are where the tasks go that need to happen on a certain day of the week, or at a certain time. These could include appointments, times to take pills, or trash night every Friday. If it is not time-specific, it should go into one of the other three categories.
All four categories together should cover every task that that you have set aside to categorize. Remember, this system is supposed to be customizable in order to meet your personal needs, so don't spend too much time worrying if a task should be a project or a next action. Put the task where it will work best for you, and move on.
Use the Tools that Work for You
Again, this system is meant to help you become more productive. If you don't like to use desk calendars for calendar tasks, put them on HabitRPG instead. The website is a great tool to help with sorting out your tasks, whether by adding them to the Habits, Dailies, and To-Dos, or by creating tags for each section or both. Here are some examples of both methods:
Habits, Dailies, and To-Dos
Does this task or idea need to be done on a schedule? In other words, are you going to do this every day or weekly? Make it a Daily. More often than once a day? Add it as a Habit. Schedule To-Dos by adding a date, and/or adding a Daily or Habit to move a project ahead. The process does not have to be complicated, and some examples of different ways to break it down are written below. For instance, Habits could be something as simple as establishing the routine of using the system, like with this Habit:
If you want to have something that is more broken down, or will show you which Habit you are lacking on, break the Five Steps out to individual Habits. This will help you track how well you are adhering to each part of the process. Here is a sample of the habits you could use:
These six Habits could help you follow the Five Steps, with an extra Habit added in for incentive to Do It. In the example above, organizing seems to be where there is a misstep, so the user would know that some help with organizing might be needed. Of course, Daily tasks can be used to help reinforce organization, and To-Dos can be added to break down projects and tasks into easier to follow lists.
To-Do actions can be broken up a variety of different ways. For instance, a To-Do named Phone Calls could include a checklist of all the phone calls that need to be named, allowing for all the tasks in a given group to be found quickly and easily. Another way to use To-Dos is to add different names to items that need to be handled together. For instance:
Another way to help organize tasks is to use a tag. Tags allow you to pull up Habits, Dailies, and To-Dos that are directly related to a specific category. You can also add an emoji to the individual tasks that correspond with the tag. For instance, a tag of "Office Work" could have the emoji :office: added to the beginning of each task that falls under that category to make it possible to visually see what is in each area. One way to remember to add tags to each item you enter into HabitRPG is to change your settings so that every task added opens up in edit mode, which shows the tags you currently have active so you can select the right one. If you need more help with how to make or edit tags, see the Tags page for full details.
Both Methods Combined
These examples will show how using Habits, Dailies, To-Dos, and Tags could possibly be more productive for some people than using one method alone.
Example 1 - Next Action - Make All Phone Calls
If you have to make phone calls often, it might be beneficial to add a Daily so you sit down and make all the calls you need to for the day. You can then select the tag "Phone Calls" from the tags bar, and that will make sure only the tasks you have specifically tagged as a phone call will show. This will allow you to sit down and complete each of the tasks without getting sidetracked by any other task on your lists.
Example 2 - Projects
Instead of adding a checklist for each project, you could add a tag of "Step 1", "Step 2", etc. to each step of the project and make each step an individual task. This would allow you to take care of "Step 1" for every project you have together at one time. For instance, if all of your projects are building projects, you might end up adding 10 tasks that say "Get Tools Together for X Project" listed as Step 1. This would allow you to take one trip to the garage to gather all the tools on project day.
Step 4 - Reflect: Review
Reflecting on your process and reviewing your tasks to make sure that they are current and relevant is an important part of the GTD method. It is recommended that you sit down every 7 to 10 days to get Clear, Current, and Creative, and going much longer than that could lower your productivity. But what does it mean to get Clear, Current, and Creative?
Clear - Catch up on Collections Missed
Clear is the step where you make sure everything is cleared out - your head, your in-basket, and the other places you might have stuck papers. This means that at least once a week your in-basket is completely emptied, ensures that you are writing down all the ideas you need to in order to keep your mind clear, and gives you a set day to go around to other spots you might have stuck ideas while writing them down in order to make sure everything is being processed by your system.
Current - Review Everything
This step helps you to get current on everything by having you sit down and review all of your lists and information. Take the time to sit down and go over all of your action lists, calendar data, project lists, and anything that you have been or will be working on. This is the step where you could catch a task that you missed doing, or maybe just missed checking off, and shows you what you have coming up. You can also update tasks in this step, so if you no longer need to do something, or have a different idea for a project, take the time to fix the steps here.
Creative - Follow Your Creative Side
This step is specifically for looking at your Someday/Maybe list and seeing if there is anything that you might be able to add to your normal tasks. Be creative and courageous, and don't be afraid to try something new. If you find that something really isn't working for you, this is the time to change it. It will give you a week to try a new way before you evaluate whether or not the change is working.
The review process is an important step that needs to be done every ten days at the most. The easiest way to make sure you do a review is to pick a day of the week to do it on, and schedule it as a Daily for that day only. Do it on a day where you normally have time, and make sure that when you sit down to do the review, your mind is fresh and not already worn out by a full day's work. Also, keep in mind that a review is a set aside time to look through everything, not take care of side items. If you find something that you can take care of, categorize it to be a Next Action, and then keep on with the review.
Step 5 - Engage: Do It
Finally, do your tasks. You have them organized now, you know which ones are feasible and which ones aren't, so now is the time to start doing the tasks. The most important part of this step is to trust your instincts and do the tasks that seem right for you. Are you sick in bed with the flu? Maybe pulling up all of the writing tasks would be a good idea. Stuck in the house due to the weather? Try all your phone tasks to get the phone calls done for the day. The GTD method actually has three processes to try and help you figure out what set of tasks to do first.
Criteria for Choosing Model
The Criteria for Choosing model gives you four pieces of criteria to apply to any task list in order to make sure that it is feasible for doing the task. The four criteria are Context, Time Available, Resources, and Priorities.
This criteria looks at what place, tool, or person the task will require. If you don't have the tools on hand to do the job, then move on to the next list and see if you have the tools to complete that one instead. For instance, building a table is probably not the best task while you are sitting in the library, but doing research on how to remodel your bathroom would be a great task to pick up.
Everyone seems to run on a limited amount of time, and if you don't have enough time to complete the task, then try moving on to a different task. Twenty minutes might not be long enough to resurface the deck, but you could use that time to clean out your email inbox instead.
Resources specifically mean how you are physically and mentally feeling. Are you up to the task? If you have been sick, you might not be physically able to move all the furniture around to redecorate the living room. If the task will take too much out of you, try and find a task that might let you get back into the swing of things.
If you have multiple tasks that match the context, time available, and resources criteria, this is when you look at priorities. HabitRPG might be able to help, as the color of each task can show you how long it has been since you last took care of it, but this is a personal decision too. If you need to mail a bunch of letters and make a number of phone calls, you need to decide if mailing the letters is more important or if making the phone calls needs your attention. For instance, mailing letters might be more important on a Saturday, where phone calls would be more important on a Sunday since there is no mail running.
Horizons of Focus Model
The Horizons of Focus model breaks down work into 6 different levels, or altitudes, of work and what each task means. The six levels are Runway, 10k, 20k, 30k, 40k, and 50k. Each person needs to decide what level they want to fly at, or what level they want to start taking care of tasks, as the higher up a person goes, the more refined and defined the tasks are.
The runway is the ground floor, the bottom level, and includes all the actions and information you currently have to do and have to organize. This level would hold every individual task, every individual habit, and would take a lot of time and energy to tackle because of the enormity of the level. Everything starts on the ground, but some things can work their way up to higher levels of processing.
10,000 feet up is the next level, and includes the inventory of your projects, which in this case is defined as anything that takes more than one step to complete. Most people have anywhere from 30 to 100 projects at any given time, and each project of course generates more tasks. This is the first step over the Runway, where things are just starting to get in the air.
Every person feels they have from four to seven major areas of responsibility that they will be held accountable for, whether from a boss at work or a family member or even held accountable by yourself. The 20,000 feet level helps to weed out the projects that fit into these major areas of responsibility, and by making sure that the project you have in mind is something you really are going to be responsible for, you can possibly weed out old projects and create new ones that better fit into your responsibilities.
The 30,000 feet level starts allowing you to look at where you want to be. Where do you want to be a year from now? Your actions should be pushing you towards that goal. That might mean that you take up a new project like "Learn Another Language" in order to head towards the goal of visiting a country you've never been to before. These projects will be more forward-looking than the previous altitudes.
The 40,000 feet level is even higher than the 30k level, and looks at what your goals are one to three years from now. Goals in this level might include "Set Up Savings Account for Child" or "Work on Passport Application". These projects might take a while to fully complete, but will help you get where you are going in the long run.
Finally, the 50,000 feet level looks at the whole picture of where you want to be in life. Is this the job you want, or the lifestyle you want? Projects that belong here are bigger than just tasks and daily items. This might include specifically setting aside an hour a day to play with your kids, or look for a new job. For a business, this would be the Purpose and Vision aspect of life.
Three-fold Nature of Work Model
This model helps you to look at how you are using most of your time. There are three steps to the nature of work, and the best way is to balance all three. Either you are doing pre-defined work, doing work as it appears, or defining work, and the balance between them needs to be even.
Doing Pre-Defined Work
This is time spent doing the tasks you have already sorted and cataloged. This needs to balance with actually defining work, and doing work as it appears. You want to actually take the time to do tasks that take under two minutes, and you need to define work or you might run out of pre-defined work to do. If you find you are running out of work to do, try taking a breather to define work, or maybe review your whole process to make sure you are collecting and processing everything you need to.
Doing Work As It Appears
Anything that you decide to just Do-It would fall into this category. In other words, this should mainly consist of all the tasks that take you two minutes or less to complete, and should be balanced out with the defining of work and doing pre-defined work. If you find that most of your time is doing work as it appears, you might want to add some habits to encourage you to actually Collect, Process, and Organize your work before doing it, as incentive to follow the method.
Here are where Collecting, Processing, and Organizing fall under. You need to spend time defining your work for the system to help you, but if you find that 90% of your time is spent defining and only 10% is actually spent on doing, you might need to review your system to see about simplifying a bit. The system does not have to be complex to work, it just has to make sense to you.
Use the three models separately or together to know which task is the right one to be doing right now. When you are done with the list or set of tasks, use the models again to figure out where to go from there. These models are tools to help you, and do not have to be followed if you think there is something better you could be doing. Trust your judgement.
Another Approach to Getting Things Done - The Secret Weapon
The GTD process has helped many people with prioritizing tasks and getting everything out of their head and into their system. However, some people still struggle with keeping information all in one place, or knowing where to put ideas that they have collected. The people at Braintoniq highly recommend using the program Evernote to help keep everything in one place. Since Evernote is a cloud based system that works on PCs, Macs, and a multitude of mobile devices, it can easily help organize every step of the GTD system into one program. Keep in mind that the tags have symbols or letters in order for sorting purposes in Evernote, but these symbols could be removed when integrating into HabitRPG. Here are some examples of the tags used in Evernote:
- What: These tags show what the note in question is, such as Active or Inactive
- .Active Projects
- .Inactive Projects Read/Review
- When: When does this task need to be done?
- Where: Is the task something that can be done at home, or do you need to go somewhere to complete it?
- Who: Is another person involved in the task that you need to collaborate with?
- [Family Member]
- [Group Member]
Each of these tags can be easily converted to be used in HabitRPG. For instance, an active tag can be placed on active projects, or an inactive tag on projects that are waiting for something. Alternatively, Daily tasks can be entered that redirects you to a task in Evernote. For instance, instead of having a tag for active projects, you could create a Habit or a Daily instead.
Remember to use the method that best works for you, and don't be afraid to experiment. That is why the review process is in place.
- For GTDers, how do you organize projects?
- David Allen's GTD website
- The Secret Weapon