Getting Things Done: An Update

I have long been a fan of David Allen’s Getting Things Done™ (GTD) [affiliate link] . If you are serious about increasing your productivity, this is the one book you must read. His methodology is the most effective I have seen.Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Filmwork, Image #2680384

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Filmwork

I have written extensively on my implementation of David’s system. Here is a sampling of previous posts:

As a result of these articles, GTD users often email me, asking about the technology I am currently using. I have used several over the past several years. For the past three years, I have used Microsoft Entourage. David’s company, The David Allen Company, has a wonderful white paper on how to use GTD with Entourage. (They also have one for Microsoft Outlook.)

Unfortunately, Entourage tasks do not sync with the iPhone. So, last month, I switched to OmniFocus. It has a Mac desktop version and an iPhone version. They sync with each other, so that whatever I do on one platform is reflected on the other.

OmniFocus is not the easiest or most intuitive program. (If you want something a little easier, check out Things.) However, the program is extremely flexible. It can also be controlled by AppleScript, which is essential for me. I have a script, for example, that automatically converts an Entourage email into an OmniFocus task.

All in all, I am very pleased with OmniFocus. If you are serious about implementing GTD and are on a Mac platform, you owe it to yourself to check it out.

Question: If you are a GTD fan, what system are you using?
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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are snarky, offensive, or off-topic. If in doubt, read My Comments Policy.

  • http://www.whydidntyouwarnme.com Pat

    Michael, thanks for the update on OmniFocus. I’ve been trying it and Things, waiting for MacWorld to see what they do to each. I like Things better so far. One thing I miss on both is the ability to copy and paste so I can include “Today” in an email to accountability partner. Wish someone would come up with that! Entourage is what I’ve used on my Palm for as long as it’s been around and how I miss that! Unfortunately, Entourage isn’t on iPhone and Palm isn’t supporting newer versions. Why is compatibility so hard?

  • http://www.thesalesblog.com/2008/12/more-on-gtd.html THE SALES BLOG

    More on GTD

    Turns out that Michael Hyatt has blogging about GTD for some time at his blog, From Where I Sit. His list of past GTD blog posts is an excellent resource….

  • http://thepaisano.com paisano

    Good review. Nice to know how OmniFocus works. As a new iPhone owner I’m very disappointed with the lack of support for notes and tasks and no sync with Outlook or Entourage. I’m trying dozens of third party solutions. TaskData and KeyTasks both claim to accomplish this. Not very good reviews though. Need to test them.
    Thanks

    Pai

  • http://www.fokkekooistra.nl/blog/ Fokke Kooistra

    Good post and nice to read about your updated system! I have struggled with the same problem, Entourage not syncing tasks to the iPhone.

    I have tried Omnifocus and Things, very powerful apps with a lot of flexibility.

    Eventually I have chosen for Evernote because of their great iPhone client. On my blog I have written about my setup: Evernote and GTD.

    But the software a person uses is not that important, grasping the concepts of GTD is far more important.

    Fokke

  • RoverHaus

    Thanks for reposting this most excellent content. It has been so very helpful to me.

    I’m still waiting for it to be in print. If you have trouble finding a good publisher, I can hook you up! ;-)

  • http://www.mosaictrust.com Derek Bell

    Thank you Mike. My wife just came in from Borders in Cool Springs with a copy of Getting Things Done – I finally decided I gotta read this book so I had her pick it up (thanks for your persistence). When she paid for it the person who checked her out made a comment like (and I paraphase), “what is going on – I have sold more copies of this book today. You got the last copy.” How about that. Mike/Oprah’s Book Club. Derek

  • http://robert.epictales.org Robert Treskillard

    Thanks, Michael, I was just pondering today how to get a better handle on my to-do list. My post-it-note system is coming unglued!

  • Brian Stewart

    Michael, regarding your post from June, 2007, “Breaking E-mail Addiction,” have you been successful?

  • Fr. Hans Jacobse

    Blackberry users might appreciate ToDoMatrix (http://www.rexwireless.com/individuals-tmx.php). I use it and love it. It is designed around GTD, but has enough flexibility to conform to your own tweaks of the system.

    Brian, one practice I implemented was to shift over all the interesting stuff I like to read to separate gmail accounts. You can even make different accounts for different categories of interests. Items you might like but have no real productive function don’t clutter up your inbox anymore, and when you have some free time you can always cruise over and check the mail. What I have found however, is that I rarely check it. Important and interesting are two different things.

    Allen writes in his book that once you develop the system, a weight lifts because you don’t carry the “open loops” (unfinished tasks) in your mind any longer. Once your mind is cleared, new ideas emerge. I found this to be true. In fact, creative thinking is much easier and it motivates me to keep with the system.

  • Moe

    I love Omnifocus. I tried things, but the complex functionality in Omnifocus won me over. You can be very detailed in Omnifocus. I also like the syncing functionality with the desktop application which is top-notch. I would be so lost without it. Thanks for posting this.

    By the way, I would love to get a “feel” of what your projects, actions look like. Maybe post some screenshots on your blog?

    Thanks!

  • http://www.kimmirich.wordpress.com Kimmi

    Michael, what Brian Stewart asked?
    I was wondering the same.

    I now find myself pulling away from this ‘hyper-mobile, cyber-centric, attention-deficient life.’ Who first said this, I do not remember, but the follow up was the kicker, “day by day, through mobile crack add techni, we are eroding our capacity for deep attention — the building block of intimacy, wisdom, and cultural progress.”

    I’ve studied your suggestions about ‘twittering.’ and also wonder; how has this now affected your time mgmt.?

    Respectfully, I’ve concluded I could never do this. I am not about to give ‘this’ to the world. I simply can not see it as anything but another crackberry blitz. Again, respectfully and maybe it’s different for you as a CEO, but I’m CEO of my own life and feel, here’s where I draw the line.

    In the past couple of weeks I’ve made a conscious effort to pick up the phone instead of going the email/crackberry route and tap into real human emotions. And I find it didn’t take much more time or energy to do such. As well the people seemed more appreciative.

    And in the end, it was I who gained.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/mhyatt/ Michael Hyatt

    @Brian and Kimmi: Yes, pretty much. I go through seasons where it is ore difficult to be offline. But all in all, my system works well for me.

    With regard to Twitter, the time commitment is minuscule. On average it take me 30-45 seconds to write one tweet. For the sake of argument, let’s assume 45 seconds. I average 13 tweets a day. That’s 585 seconds (45 x 13) or less than 10 minutes. Total. Per day.

    Thanks,

    Mike

  • Stuart Logan

    Mike,

    My copy of GTD by David Allen is dog-eared and marked throughout. I’ve tried most of the GTD apps for Mac over the last year or so and have settled on the system listed below. I have found that each component has to be easy to learn and use, otherwise the tools get in the way of the work. I’m leery of third party apps by individual programmers who may not be here tomorrow or databases without a track record. With the exception of Basecamp, all of the software tools I use are free and stable. And with the exception of Quicksilver, all have little to no learning curve. Here goes:

    Hardware
    24″ iMac at home and another in the office
    13″ MacBook
    iPhone
    Scansnap scanner

    Applications
    Gmail
    Basecamp
    iCal
    AddressBook
    Evernote for Mac
    Quicksilver
    MobileMe
    Keychain
    Yahoo mail

    Gmail – I receive both my personal and work mail into my gmail account. I process email several times a day and subscribe to Merlin Mann’s Inbox Zero approach. I label everything as I process it. If I can complete a task in two-five minutes I knock it out, label it and archive it. I then invoke Quicksilver and log an event in iCal. I try to log everything I do in a day as an event in iCal. I have many labels in gmail, but the two most important are @NextAction and @WaitingOn.

    iPhone – When I’m not near a Mac, I either send myself an email or create an event in iCal. The iphone sorely missing To Do’s in iCal.

    iCal – I use iCal to track my personal To Do’s, scheduled events and meetings and to create a timeline of events, accomplishments, etc. As I complete To Do’s, I create an event in iCal to record it. I have calendars called Project A, Project B, To Do and one called Timeline. Each serves to give context to To Do’s and events. Each day before calling it quits I review the events of the day and change the significant ones to the Timeline calendar. I then review my Timeline calendar each weekend as part of my weekly review. It makes the weekly update that I publish to colleagues and stakeholders in my business much easier to compile.

    AddressBook – while I like they way gmail captures each email address, I’m not a fan of Gmail Contacts. I use AddressBook instead. I use the notes section to track interactions with people. I use Quicksilver to quickly prepend notes such as : 12/15/2008 – telecon re: the big issue. ref email same title/date.

    MobileMe – syncs iCal and AddressBook beautifully across all my Macs. I also use iDisk as my main file storage directory.

    Evernote – I use Evernote as my catchall reference and someday maybe filing cabinet. It syncs perfectly with a web-based client and each Mac that it is installed on. I have a paper-free desk each day when I go home. I use a Snapscan scanner to create pdf’s and have configured the scanner to automatically send a copy to my iDisk > A-Z directory and one to Evernote. Each file is given a file name equal to the date, hour and time. I rename and tag scanned files daily.

    Keychain – I store all of my sensitive snippets of data (account info, passwords, etc.) in a keychain. I had read a great deal about people having problems syncing keychain. My solution was to simply store my keychain file in my iDisk directory. Syncing works fine.

    Quicksilver – This is the only app with a learning curve, but the dividends are huge. I create To Do’s and events and add them to iCal, notes to AddressBook, Find contacts in Address Book quickly – start typing Micha and hit enter. Done. I use Quicksilver to compose and send emails in gmail, add spotlight tags to files and much, much more. Great app.

    Basecamp – I use Basecamp to manage all of my projects. As powerful as gmail is, I still find it hard to finds things quickly. Conversations with the same subject line and different file revisions slow things down too much. Most people are not thinking about subject lines that are easy to retrieve later on. I have taken to copying and pasting the key elements of email messages, project related phone calls, meeting notes, files, etc. into a Basecamp project message. Its extra work and not ideal in my mind, but being able to quickly put your hands on information is a competitive advantage making it worth the extra effort on the front end

    Team Projects and Communications – each of my direct reports also has access to Basecamp. We create milestones and to do’s and generally try our best to use the messaging component in lieu of email. We also work extensively with programming consultants located thousands of miles away and use basecamp to manage their workload. The programmers use the time tracking feature to log time spent on To Do’s in 15 minute increments.

    Reviews – I review my Basecamp dashboard, Timeline calendar and gmail labels @WaitingOn and @NextAction on a daily basis and then again from 10,000 ft. on a weekly basis.

    Like most folks who are striving to become more effective, my system will likely change as new tools come out. Gmail just added tasks functionality for example. Thanks for all of the insightful posts over the last couple of years.

    Regards,

    Stuart

  • Maurice Gavin

    Mike
    We met at EPCA during my delivery of GTD for David Allen Company. Thanks for providing so much space here where you speak to GTD.

  • http://jeffgoins.myadventures.org Jeff Goins

    fascinating. I’m still trying to discipline myself into this kind of productivity, but I love the tips on more resources!

  • http://www.myhome-myoffice.com myhome-myoffice

    Thanks, Michael, I was just pondering how to get a better handle on my to-do list. Your ideas and other comments gave me a good insight as to how I should do it.

    Once again, thank you very much.

  • http://stanfield.pbwiki.com Todd Stanfield

    I much prefer Toodledo (toodledo.com) and the Toodledo iPhone app. over OmniFocus.

  • http://www.wrike.com/ Daria

    Hi, Michael.
    As a great fan of GTD I guess you wouldn't miss the GTD Summit this week. I was just wondering if you were going there. Our company will present Wrike.com as an innovative project management solution that helps businesses turn personal productivity of every employee into productivity for the whole organization (http://www.wrike.com/gtd.jsp). It would be nice to catch up with you at the event.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Daria,

      No, unfortunately, I won't be there. However, you might want to consider advertising on my blog. It sounds like your product might be a good fit. Thanks.

      http://michaelhyatt.com/advertising
      />
      Thanks,

      Mike

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/human3rror human3rror

    test.

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  • http://www.whakate.com Whakate

    The current version of Things lets you create tasks out of items from other applications such as Mail. I am missing a lot of features in Entourage that you get with Outlook 2007. This is frustrating given you pay a high price for the business version of Office 2008. For me, it´s iCal/ Mail/ Things – synching with iPhone/ MobileMe.

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  • http://twitter.com/BourneMedia @BourneMedia

    I've tried most GTD apps, and Omnifocus wins becuase it SYNCS the best on my Macs and my iPhone.

    FYI, I found a typo: "I am used several over the past several years."

    I'm curious to know if you bother to fix things like this. I'll check in later to see.

    Thanks for all the great help, Michael!

    David Bourne, In Asheville

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks. I have fixed it.

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