How to Effectively Use Technology and GTD to Simplify Your Life

06 Jul

How to Effectively Use Technology to Simplify Your Life

  1. My primary tools are Gmail, Google Calendar, Evernote, and Dropbox with the GTD system. (I leverage these realtime apps with my computer and cell phone. The key to efficiency is using basic GTD concepts in conjunction with online tools.)
  2. Capture any random thoughts and ideas immediately with a note in Evernote using my phone app.
  3. Go paperless – scan documents and send to email inbox
  4. Set up a contact in Gmail named “Evernote” and enter the Evernote associated email address so you can easily “forward to Evernote” from your email.
  5. Use Gmail inbox to respond to items that take less than 2 minutes, everything else that requires action and takes more than 2 minutes forward to “Evernote” inbox for review
  6. I also recommend using to automate tasks between Email, Evernote, Dropbox, Twitter, Facebook, and other online tools (very useful).

A Screenshot of how I organized Evernote using the GTD concept (inbox is default folder)

GettingThingsDone (GTD) concepts by David Allen

  1. Capture all the things that need to get done into a logical and trusted system outside of your head and off your mind
  2. Disciplining yourself to make decisions about all the inputs you let into your life, so that you will always have a plan for next actions that you can implement or renegotiate at any moment

Outcomes & Actions

  1. Describe in a single sentence the intended successful outcome for the problem or situation
  2. Write down the very next physical action required to move the situation forward

Horizontal & Vertical Control (Get Things Off Your Mind and Get Them Done)

  1. Horizontal maintains coherence across all activities in which you are involved
  2. Vertical manages thinking up and down the track of individual topics and projects

Five Stages of Workflow (Horizontal)

  1. Collect things that command our attention (anything personal or professional, big or little, that you think should be different than it currently is and that you have any level of internal commitment to changing)
  2. Process what it means (What is it, Is it actionable?)
  3. Organize the results
  4. Review the options
  5. Do It

Weekly Review

  • Loose Papers – business cards, receipts, etc. – put in in basket for processing
  • Process Your Notes
  • Previous Calendar Data – review for remaining action items, reference information, etc.
  • Upcoming Calendar
  • Empty Your Head – write down any new projects, action items, etc.
  • Review “Projects” (and Larger Outcome) Lists – ensure that at least one kick-start action is in your system for each
  • Review “Next Actions” Lists
  • Mark off completed actions & review for reminders of further action steps to capture
  • Review “Waiting For” List
  • Records appropriate actions for any needed follow-up & check off received items
  • Review Any Relevant Checklists
  • Review “Someday/Maybe” List
  • Check for any projects that may have become active and transfer them to “Projects” & delete items no longer of interest
  • Review “Pending” and Support Files
  • Browse through all work-in-progress support material to trigger new actions, completions, and waiting-fors

Models for Making Action Choices (The Three-fold Nature of Work)

  1. Predefined
  2. Work as it shows up
  3. Defining work

Six Level Model for Reviewing Your Own Work

  1. Current actions (Runway)
  2. Current projects (10,000 ft view)
  3. Areas of responsibility (20,000 ft view)
  4. 1-2 year goals (30,000 ft view)
  5. 3-5 year vision (40,000 ft view)
  6. Big picture view (50,000 ft view)
  • Projects: clearly defined outcomes and the next actions to move them towards closure
  • Horizontal focus: reminders placed in a trusted system that is reviewed regularly
  • Vertical focus: informal back of the envelope planning

Five Steps to Accomplish Any Task (Project Planning)

  1. Defining purpose and principles
  2. Outcome visioning
  3. Brainstorming
  4. Organizing
  5. Identifying next actions

Five Phases of Natural Planning Techniques

  1. Purpose / guiding principles (Why are we doing this?)
  2. Mission / vision / goals / sucessful outcome (What would wild success look, sound, or feel like?)
  3. Brainstorming (How would we accomplish it?)
    – View the project from beyond the completion date
    – Envision wild success (suspend “Yeah, but. . .”)
    – Capture features, aspects, and qualities you imagine in place
  4. Organizing (identify components, subcomponents, sequences, events, and/or priorities; what must occur and in what order? When do we do these things?)
  5. Next actions (Where do we start?) “If the project is off your mind, your planning is sufficient. If it’s still on your mind, keep applying the model until it’s clear.”

Organizing Stuff

Pick up anything around you that you’re wondering what to do with, and apply a simple set of formulae:

  • I don’t need or want it = trash
  • I still need to decide what this means to me = IN basket item
  • I might need to know this information = reference
  • When I could possibly move on it, I want to see the action as an option = next action reminder, reviewed when and where it could be done
  • I need to be reminded of this short-term outcome I’ve committed to = project list item, reviewed weekly
  • I need to have this when I focus on a project = support material
  • I might want to commit to this at any time in the future = Someday/maybe list item
  • I might want to commit to this on or after a specific time in the future = calendared or “tickled” item incubated for review on a specific future date
  • I want to achieve this “bigger” outcome = goals, objectives, visions that you review on some longer interval
  • It’s something someone else is doing that I care about = item on Waiting-For list, reviewed at least weekly
  • I need to consider it when I do certain recurring activities = item on a checklist

GettingThingsDone (GTD) Workflow


  1. Keep everything out of your head (create a bullet-proof collection system – use Evernote for this!)
  2. Leverage technology and become as paperless as possible.
  3. Decide actions and outcomes when things first emerge on your radar, instead of later
  4. Regularly review and update the complete inventory of open loops of your life and work


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Posted by on July 6, 2012 in Uncategorized


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