None of this will make sense if you don't know GTD, so learn that first (get started here)
There's a ton of ways to use GTD, but I like to use whatever tools I have on hand before acquiring a new tool. I use Outlook tasks because I already use Outlook, and I can access my tasks from pretty much anywhere: my computer, a friend's computer (via Outlook Anywhere), via my phone using a Task manager that works with Microsoft Exchange.
Here's how I use Outlook:
- I create an Outlook task for anything I have to do. An Uncategorized task means it's in the GTD InBox.
- If it's an e-mail, I'll create a task out of the e-mail, i.e. Ctrl+Shift+Y to copy the e-mail to the task folder.
- If it's not an e-mail, in Outlook I type Ctrl+Shift+K to create a new task.
- I go through the InBox (i.e. Uncategorized tasks), and do the following:
- If it's something I can do now in a couple of minutes, I do it now.
- If it's something I have to wait to do later, then I add a reminder to the task, and set the category to "!Tickler".
- GTD discourages using a Tickler too much, unless there's hard requirement for a specific date. The reason this works with GTD is because the total number of things in the ToDo list stays relatively small, and Dave can go through his entire list in a week. I am not that good -- I have close to a thousand items, so I can't go through everything in a week. Which means if something doesn't have a date on it, I may not get to it for months.
- If it requires that I talk to someone, I'll send an e-mail, and close the task. Depending on the importance, I may not close the task, and set it as !Tickler to with a date, to remind me to follow up.
- If it requires that I talk to someone, and I can't send an e-mail, I set the @xxx where xxx is the person's name. This categorizes the topic (in the context) so that it surfaces when I'm talking to that person. xxx may also be a particular meeting where the the issue in question needs to be raised.
- If the item needs to be done by me, at work, I set the category to @work. Similar to @home.
- However, if the item can be done anywhere (i.e. I just need a phone, i can be in a car, waiting in line at the DMV, etc., then I set it to @anywhere.
- Anything that's a reference type info, I file it away in the appropriate reference location (I have 5 different places, which is a lot, but I've had them for years, and it works for me). If I am not sure where it's supposed to go, I set the task category to !Reference
- Anything that I don't want to deal with right now, but I do someday, I set it to !Someday. I review the !Somedays periodically (like once a year or so)
- If it's something I want to print out, I set it to @print
- If it's something I have to do at my server computer at home (where I manage all my permanent storage, pictures, music, etc.), I set the task to @server
Next, when I'm at one of the "@" locations, I go through the list and start doing stuff. The first thing I do for an item is to identify the Next Action. I may or may not do the Next Action at that time. If I don't, I can skip to the next item and identify it's Next Action as well. Once every item has a Next Action identified at the particular "@", I start doing those Next Actions.
How I avoid procrastinationEdit
It's okay not do the work: If when I'm at a "@" context, and follow these rules:
- I can not do the work, but instead empty my inbox. But eventually, the inbox will be emptied, and it doesn't take long. In the process of emptying the inbox, I can't add more to the inbox.
- For a particular @ context, I can go through each item and not do the work, if instead, I'm identifying the Next Action for each item. But eventually, all items will have a Next Action, and now you have to do the work.
Since I'm world's worst procrastinator, the next rule is going to seem rather pedantic to most anyone who reads this:
- I cannot do anything of significance without it having to go through the Inbox.
This means, if I'm at the computer, and got stuff to do, and I'm not taking a break, then I have to go through the GTD cycle, even if I would rather do something that just came to my mind. I actually create a new task, do it, and complete the task. The reason I do this very silly thing is because if I don't, I will forget about GTD altogether. It reminds me that I'm still using it. And it's a wake up call when I'm not, in no uncertain ways.
Yes, there's still wiggle room to mess up, but I'm okay with them being there, and I have enough self-control to understand what they are. Wiggle rooms are:
- Wife, kid or someone walks up to me to talk. I put things on hold.
- If I get a phone call
- If I get a new e-mail. I allow e-mails to interrupt my work because, for some reason, I have some type of a immunity against letting it control me to much. I go through a hundred e-mails a day.
- If I want to take a break. I want to take a nap. I want to watch TV. I want to play a game with my kid. I want to go to bed for the night.