What Would You Like To See?

I’ve come back many times to this project I started years ago. Finally, I’d like to seriously consider working on this, adding it to my daily routine. Originally the plan was just app reviews to sort through all the muck out there. Then by far my most popular post was reflecting on my major breakthrough in “An Epiphany: Why I Kept Failing at GTD”.

I do very much enjoy diving into the psychology, and helping individuals overcome mental roadblocks.

So, what are your thoughts? How can I best provide value to GTDers around the world? Thanks for your time!

EDIT:  Feel free to join the conversation over on Reddit, too!

An Epiphany: Why I Kept Failing At GTD

I’ve fallen off the wagon over and over. It’s exhausting and frustrating.

Each time I thought I had it figured out, it was only a matter of a week or two before things started falling through the cracks, and I once again relied on my brain rather than a trusted system to manage my projects.

I went two years without utilizing the Getting Things Done methodology, and it was a near-catastrophic life event that hit me between the eyes with the truth.

I was simply overcommitted.

There is something amazing and terrifying about containing everything within a trusted system, where you can visually see everything that is or has pulled at your attention. Sure it helps us to make decisions and prioritize our time, energy, and focus. Yet it also forces us to acknowledge every single thing we have commitments to.

I co-founded three businesses, consulted multiple others, managed several employees, tried to sort the accounting for all of them, and tried to survive the third and fourth years of marriage while working 12+ hours a day.

Am I a complete idiot? One could be forgiven for wondering.

Of course, I desperately needed GTD given the sheer volume of important things that were falling through the cracks. Yet every time I did a brain dump, and a full review and inventory of my active projects, I felt the load crushing my soul.

The truth was, I had simply exceeded my limits as a human being to effectively perform in all the areas that I played a role. It was one of the most humbling moments of my life. And it set me free.

I haven’t fallen off the wagon since I made that discovery.

So what did I do to fix it? The course of action I took is easy to describe, yet intensely difficult to execute.

Four Steps To Stop Sucking At GTD

Step 0: Forgive Yourself for Being Human

Before we dive into the actual four steps, this is one prerequisite. To skip this step is to guarantee an immense amount of frustration. If you can pull this one off, I promise you that you will be a better person for it.

Life is tough. GTD gives us hope that we can remain Master and Commander 24/7, and dominate every aspect of life as a result. However, when the realities of life hit and we fail despite our GTD mastery, we tend to feel a bit hopeless. The upcoming weekly review no longer looks like an upcoming breath of fresh air. Instead it appears more like an imminent reminder of all of the areas of life in which we are falling short.

The most important thing that helped me turn my life back around, and get back on the wagon for good is this: I stopped trying to be awesome at everything. I forgave myself for the areas in which I was falling short. I’m human. I’m not going to do everything right all the time. In fact, the more ambitious I am, the more I will inevitably fall flat on my face. And that’s okay.

So please, please, forgive yourself for being imperfect. The rest of life becomes so much more enjoyable.

Step 1: Zoom Out

Now that you’ve embraced your flaws and imperfections, we can reevaluate life with a fresh perspective. However, you can’t reassess your priorities in life when you’re buried in the projects and tasks that need to be done this week. For that, we have to zoom out to a 50,000 foot view of life.

I recommend reading about the horizons of focus within David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done. Essentially, the 50,000 foot view is looking at the rest of your life, and considering what is most important to you. Every project and task you have in your system should reflect this goals and priorities.

You can zoom in a tad to the 40,000 foot view, where you see long term projects that will take several years, or consider the goals for the next year or two at 30,000 feet.

Only when we’ve stepped out of the busyness of life and looked at the big picture can we move to the next big step.

Step 2: Reevaluate What is Most Important

Certainly, all of our projects should either directly or indirectly support our goals and life mission that we looked at on the 50,000 ft horizon. When I took a look at the massively overwhelming list of projects I had, there wasn’t a single one that didn’t represent exactly what I believe in, and directly support my life goals. That’s how I fell into the trap of jumping into them and holding on to them for so long.

However, the law of diminishing returns applies here. I was spread so thin that I was no longer effective at anything, despite how relevant they were to my life goals.

Decide what is most important to you. For example, my relationship with my wife is more important to me than my entrepreneurial track record. In reality, I had never once thought that business was more important than my marriage, yet my marriage was suffering due to my entrepreneurial commitments.

While we’re out here in 50,000 foot land, we can objectively evaluate what’s most important, and move onto the next step, which can be excruciatingly difficult.

Step 3: Prune

For a bush or tree to thrive and be healthy, they need to be pruned. The dead or awkwardly located branches, if left on the plant, will take up the nutrients that should be going to the rest of the plant.

This will be hard, and it was for me. It was so hard. Because in step 2 I very clearly recognized that my marriage is more important than business, and that my businesses were soaking up the resources my marriage needed to thrive, my business efforts needed pruning.

I completely shut down two of them, and took a lower position in another to take responsibility and time commitment off of my shoulders.

It wasn’t a week later when it became clear that it was the best decision I had ever made. Most importantly, my marriage did a complete turnaround and today is thriving like never before.

But because of step 4, the benefits didn’t stop there.

Step 4: Focus

Now as acting CEO of only one business, and with less obligation to my second, I felt an overwhelming sense of energy to apply to my work, and to my relationships. I could now apply an incredible amount of creative energy into things – I got focused.

Not only was I able to fulfill my responsibilities, but I was able to go above and beyond. I gained much more respect from my peers, from my family, and eventually from myself, and everything that I’m putting my energy towards is prospering. I’m in the zone for the first time, and it feels amazing.

So Now What?

So now life is perfect, and I never make any mistakes.

…said no honest person ever.

It’s still a challenge to keep priorities in check, and to keep using my trusted system consistently. There are so many opportunities out there. With the renewed energy and more available time that I now have, opportunities to commit to new things can be a huge temptation.

I’ve learned several things along the way that have been absolutely essential to staying on the GTD wagon.

Five Tips For Staying Awesome At GTD

Tip #1: Zoom Out Regularly

Every time you do your weekly review, it’s absolutely vital that you start by zooming back out to 30, 40, and 50,000 foot views of your life to make sure you’re spending time on what matters the most to you.

The thing that made all the difference for me was to discuss these horizons of focus with my wife. For you it could be a spouse, a best friend, a sibling or a business partner. It’s a form of checks and balances – accountability to help us stay on track, and not be swayed by the ebbs and flows of life.

Tip #2: Celebrate the Small Victories.

You will continue to make mistakes and have struggles. You’re still human. Kinda stinks sometimes, doesn’t it?

This makes it so much more important to allow yourself to feel great about the little things. For example, once I had been capturing my thoughts and ideas for an entire week consistently, I practically threw a party for myself. This is an incredibly important step toward getting all of this junk out of my brain and into a much more competent system! I’m one big step closer to freedom!

Don’t hesitate to offer yourself rewards. It could be a kit kat bar or a Hawaiian vacation.

Mistakes aren’t going to kill you, and small accomplishments are a huge deal.

Tip #3: Weekly Review More Often Than Weekly.

It has taken some time for me to trust my system. I have years of relying on my brain – it’s a tough habit to break. For quite a few weeks, I had to do a complete review every 2-3 days to make sure I wasn’t missing something. I needed to be sure that this could be trusted, and nothing important would slip through the cracks.

It’s okay to be a bit ridiculous about it at first. As you repeat this over and over, you’ll come to expect that your system does indeed have everything accounted for, and you can gradually relax back into a weekly schedule, or whatever you find works for you.

Tip #4: Use Someday-Maybe Way More

One mistake I used to make all the time was to put everything that I wanted to get done on my active projects list. While that may work for some people, the massive list of projects just increased the feeling of overwhelm. Now I only have the projects that need to get done in my active projects. I get way more done, and the progress feels much more significant.

My only suggestion would be to make sure you’re reviewing the Someday Maybe list fairly frequently in case the projects become a need-to-get-done situation without an external trigger of some sort. Since I still review everything more than weekly, my bases are covered there.

Tip #5: Connect Regularly To A Fellow GTDer

There is a lot of danger in self-council. Don’t be an island. Find a friend or colleague (with whom you like to interact) who uses GTD as well. Share experiences, stories, challenges, and ideas. These insights can help you overcome speed bumps, and occasionally help you avoid them altogether. They can also keep you inspired and encouraged. And finally, they can remind you that they too are human, and make mistakes, and that everything is still going to be okay.

I would love to be that guy, as much as I can be. I wanted to share some of my story so you know that I’m a real life human being. My hope is that you’ll share some of your stories as well. If I get enough responses, I would even like to feature some reader stories on this site (after getting permission first, of course). Feel free to comment below, or better yet drop me a line directly. I’d love to know how I can help you out!

The Future of GTD Reviews

Arriving At DestinationGTDReviews.com is alive and well.  Sure, there may have been about three years in between this post and the last, but let me assure you, my resolve for helping people thrive at Getting Things Done has never been greater.

So what’s next?  First up, we’re going to do a few articles to catch people up on the state of GTD software.  There have been some major revisions to all of the ‘big dogs’ of GTD apps, and now over the air syncing with mobile apps is becoming a standard.  This site definitely has a software focus, so we’re going to get on top of the reviews first.

This will also be a story about my ongoing adventure in falling off the GTD wagon, and getting back on it.  During our three year absence, much of that time was spent using my brain instead of organized lists and ubiquitous inboxes, and that was a huge mistake.  I’ve been back on the train now for a few months, and I’ve probably been more productive and focused in those last few months than in the preceding two years.

But let me ask you all a question – what is the greatest value I can provide, as a fellow GTDer and human being?  I have a passion for the topic, even more now that I’ve been without it for a period of time in my life.  What is missing, beyond reviews of software, that I can pour my heart and soul into?

I would love to hear from you!

GTD Apps for Mac OS X – A Mega-Update

As we continue to work hard on the GTD Reviews redesign, we feel it’s important to keep our information current and relevant.  Today we’d like to review the apps listed in our Mac App Comparisons page, explain the changes we have indexed, and review what’s new in the world of Mac for GTDers.

The following is a list of all of the apps that are (or were) indexed in the Mac App Comparisons page, and a description of what’s new, and what we’ve changed!

Actiontastic

Actiontastic hasn’t been updated in over three years, so we’re considering it stale and obsolete, and removing it from our index.

Chandler

Chandler was updated as recently as April of 2009, so while it’s been over a year, it still lies within our 2-year standard.  No changes since the introduction of our app comparison pages, however.

EasyTask Manager

Another app that hasn’t seen any new changes on the desktop version, but its most recent update was October of 2009, so it’s far from stale.  In addition, they now have an iPhone app that is at version 1.9, updated as recently as April 23, 2010. Update:  They also have a new iPad app that is at version 1.1.

Midnight Inbox

Now at 1.4.4, updated Feb 22, 2010, though curiously they are very cryptic about what features this update brings, stating: “This update brings bug fixes, speed improvements, and feature enhancements.”  Profound, really.

What is new, however, is an iPad version, which in my opinion looks gorgeous.  We’ll have a functionality report with the new site redesign in the coming weeks.

OmniFocus

While the desktop app hasn’t been updated again since October of last year, we’ve seen several updates to the iPhone app.  This includes the recent major update to version 1.7, specifically for the new iPhone 4 and its “retina display.”

We’re also excited to see the impending release of the OmniFocus for iPad app.  Omnigroup has been very open about the ongoing development of the app, including today’s update on their company’s blog.

TaskPaper

Desktop version is now at 2.2.2, bringing several minor bug fixes and subtle usability updates to the minimalistic app.  In addition, they have released an app compatible with both iPhone/iPod Touch and iPad in recent months that sync nicely with the desktop version.

Things

Now at 1.3.4 as of an update on June 24th, and while the changes are minor, they are many.  Head over to the Cultured Code website for the full release notes.  They also have a well-established iPhone app, and they were one of the first to release an app for the iPad as well.  Here’s a neat introduction video they’ve put together for the new iPad app.

The Hit List

A beautiful, award-winning app that has sparked quite a bit of controversy over its lack of update activity, The Hit List updated to version 0.9.3.19 on April 30th, 2010.  Oddly the only thing updated was the beta expiration date to July 1st of 2010.  While the developer, PotionFactory has been otherwise silent about the development of the app, this at least shows that it hasn’t completely fallen off their radar.

Note also that the much-desired iPhone app was claimed to be under development last December through their twitter account (@thehitlist).  Note in the latest tweet, they linked to a screen cap of the supposed iPhone app, though with no discussion of it since then, many are wondering if this magnificent Mac App is truly dead, or just hibernating?

What’s Next

(link) Hasn’t been updated in over two years, so we’re considering it stale and obsolete as well, and removing it from our comparison pages.

What are we missing?

Okay, I know some of you use a GTD app for mac that we didn’t list here, or in our index.  If that’s the case, please, please, pretty please – comment below or even email me.  We want this to be the one-stop-shop for newbie GTDers looking for the right app for them, and we can’t be that if we’re missing apps!  Thanks, all!

OmniFocus for iPhone Updates to v1.7

OmniFocus 1.7 for iPhoneToday I opened up the App Store on my iPhone 3GS, and was pleased to find a major update for OmniFocus!  The popular GTD app for iPhone and Mac has updated for the new iPhone 4 that is released tomorrow, and for the multitasking abilities of the new iOS 4 from Apple.

All of the artwork for the app has been updated to look great on the new high-resolution “retina display” of the iPhone 4.  A user on the DavidCo.com forums posted a full-resolution screenshot for your viewing pleasure.  The main app icon is also brand new – a nice, fun diversion from its predecessor.

In addition, the new version 1.7 allows OmniFocus to continue some of its core operations in the background, and will suspend the app at any time when switching between apps with iOS 4.

For a full change log, head over to the OmniFocus for iPhone forums, or find the update in the iPhone’s App Store.

Have you updated?  What do you like or dislike about new version 1.7?  Are you running it on the iPhone 4 or an older version?  Comment below!

Becoming a GTD Black Belt

Black Belt - Credit Greta Gabor on FlickrIn our recent review of the GTD Implementation Guide, I made mention of a category of GTDer that is “on their way to black belt,” and I’ve been asked to elaborate on what that means.  My goal in this update is to shed some light on black belt from my perspective, but more importantly share with you some resources that have helped paint the picture of what a GTD black belt looks like.

Black belt in most anything is the highest level of achievement, most commonly recognized in martial-arts.  This is the level at which adapting the styles and techniques of that art has become natural for the individual, and includes an understanding as well.  While the GTD methodology is very different from martial-arts on the surface, the similarities of thought process are astounding.

David Allen describes in the video below just how similar the two are in a visit to the Google campus.

 While I strongly recommend watching this entire video, you can skip ahead to 10:52-13:42 (2min 50sec of viewing) for info relevant to this post.

To elaborate on that in a way that made it more easy for me to understand: GTD is not meant to add extra steps.  In fact whether you realize it or not (and most don’t), all of the steps within GTD are steps that you already do, you just naturally do them dramatically less efficiently than your GTD system can do.  I know what you’re thinking, because I’ve thought it too:  “Implementing GTD is unnatural and even a bit uncomfortable, because I have to make a conscious effort to put thoughts into my system, and then take extra time to process and organize and review and do each individual action.”

Exactly.

Now let’s jump back over to martial-arts, taking a look specifically at karate.  Imagine signing up for a class in karate.  In your first few classes, they’ll discuss the thought process and mindset of karate.  Then they move into the implementation of certain basic moves.  At first, as you attempt the moves, they’re completely unnatural, and typically very uncomfortable.  It takes time, practice, and patience for those moves to become more natural and effective in their intended effect, right?

Then you start to get the hang of it.  Your body adjusts, becomes more flexible, stronger, and faster.  The moves become more natural, and you become a force to be reckoned with.  You no longer have to think about each individual move, but instead it’s just a swift flow of movement.  You can automatically react in the most powerful and effective way with these ingrained moves, and you’re now fully in control.

So you can see the picture I’m painting here.

When first implementing GTD, and even for some time, there are several steps that are unnatural and uncomfortable.  It’s also not nearly as effective as most people would like it to be at first.  Why?  Because they know they want to be a black-belt, but their body hasn’t even adjusted yet to be able to do an simple kick effectively.

So what does this mean for you?

Whether you’re brand new to GTD or have been working on your own implementation for a few months to several years, understand that it takes time, practice, and patience to become a black belt.  Just like with karate, if you stick with it through the belts, the end result can be magnificent.  GTD will no longer be an extra thought, but a natural part of  your work-flow that frees up your mind to think creatively about and focus on whatever is important to you.

Resources

To wrap things up on this topic for now, here is a 2-minute audio clip on the DavidCo.com website where David Allen describes what a GTD black-belt looks like.

Here is a post (#2) over on the DavidCo public forums quoting a DavidCo newsletter, detailing out textually the various belts and what each means.  This is a great way to see where you’re at now, and assess goals for reaching the next belt.

Lastly, if you have a GTDConnect membership, you have access to a three-part, four-hour webinar series that they just released called “The Road to Black Belt Webinar Series.”  I’ve listened to the whole thing twice now, and have tightened up ship considerably.  If you’re not a member, they offer a 14-day free trial.

So, GTDers, what belt are you currently?  What are your goals for the future?  Share in the comments below!

GTD Over The Years – What Changed?

The Passing of TimeI’ve been Getting Things Done since reading David Allen’s book a little bit over a year ago.  Already I’ve seen technology change the way people implement the methodology.  More apps have been released for iPhone, Blackberry, and Android, as the tech world moves its focus to mobile handsets.  Now with the release of the iPad we have a whole new platform onto which people are moving their list managers and productivity software.  The question I have is: What have you seen change over the years since you implemented GTD?

This may be the first time you’ve read a post on GTD Reviews, and we sincerely appreciate that you’ve taken the time to check us out.  This is a fairly new resource on the GTD scene, but we’ll become a one-stop resource for GTDers everywhere as we prepare for the release of the new GTD Reviews redesign coming in the following weeks.  This is a call to action, though.  There are other GTDers out there that need to hear from you, because nothing is as helpful as hearing from another real human being about what they’ve seen, experienced, and learned from their time using the methodology.

“Okay, how can I help?”  For starters, we’ve included a simple poll below.  Let us know how long you’ve been using GTD in your workflow.  Secondly, post in the comments, sharing what you’ve seen change since you first started implementing it.  How has technology changed things?  What has remained the same?  What has time taught you?

We’re excited to learn from you, and the GTD community needs to hear from you!  Share your thoughts, and don’t forget to vote in the poll below!

How longs have you been using GTD?

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Major Site Overhaul Coming Soon!

Road Work AheadLadies and Gents, this site and its potential usefulness have inspired such a positive response from the GTD community, that we’ve decided to invest time and money into a major site overhaul. As you may have noticed, our updates haven’t been as regular or as comprehensive as we would like, but now you know why.

If you’ve had the opportunity to check out our App Comparisons, you have seen how useful the information is. That said, it would be much nicer if you had the ability to manipulate the data and organize it to apply specifically to you as an individual. Well, stand by shortly while we make your dreams into a reality.

If you have any specific suggestions on how we can make this site most valuable to you as the end user, please let us know in the comments below!

The App Comparisons Chart is Live!

App Comparison ChartWe’re excited to announce that the App Comparison Chart is live today!  Thus far we’ve indexed apps on the Mac OS X platform, but there is more to come.  We’d love to hear your feedback on the layout, the categories, or any aspect that you think could be improved to better serve you!  We’ve added the feedback page so you can let us know directly what you’d like to see.

Developers, have we left out your application?  Have we missed something about your app?  Please let us know.

We’ll be adding iPhone apps next.  If you have any suggestions or requests on what iPhone apps should be included, once again use this form.

Thank you for stopping by!

First Post!

"Mind Like Water"

Hi, everyone.  First of all, welcome to GTD Reviews.  We really appreciate that you’ve taken the time to come check us out.  My name is Evan, and I founded this concept.  First off, I want to briefly describe what this site is, and what we’d like it to do for you.

GTDReviews.com is a one-stop resource for new and veteran GTDers alike to view and compare all the tools available to them.  This will eventually include all digital and analog list managing devices, from a Moleskine notebook, to a web-based app, to an iPhone app and its Mac OS X counterpart.  Our intention is to have a site that is comprehensive, always current, and 100% accurate.  In order to accomplish that, we need your participation!

Visit us often, and overwhelm us with feedback and suggestions.  If you go check out the “About us” page, you’ll see that we’re just GTDers like you with a love for technology and the web.  This site is supposed to be “For the people, by the people.”  It just can’t be awesome without your contribution.

We’ll dive in to a bit more detail as we continue to roll out features and content.  Look for personal posts by either myself or Will discussing our own personal discoveries about what has worked and hasn’t worked for us as we implement GTD.  We don’t claim to be pro’s or coaches by any stretch of the imagination.  We’re simply two young professionals who see great value in using GTD to improve productivity and lifestyle.

Thanks again for stopping by, and don’t forget to let us know what you think so far in the comments below!

-Evan