How would you describe your relationship with time?
As a business owner and a self-improvement junkie, I’ve been experimenting with systems to improve time management ever since I was handed my first day planner back in grade school.
Still, if you asked me how I’d describe my relationship with time, my honest answer — up until a few years ago, at least — would be resentful, stressful, and limiting.
Fast-forward to present day and my response is radically different. After implementing David Allen’s famous Getting Things Done (GTD) system, my time management massively improved. Although I occasionally backslide into my old attitude about time, most days I’m excited about taking control over my time with the help of GTD’s techniques.
So when I reviewed progress at the end of last year, I was surprised to I discover that although I had always found a way to get through an enormous volume of day-to-day tasks, I had made little progress toward big-picture goals.
Having more free time wasn’t the answer, either — when I did have a small window of free time, it would somehow fill up with work-related tasks.
Fortunately, right around this time I also stumbled upon a book called Procrastinate on Purpose: Everything You Know About Time Management is Wrong by Rory Vaden. I could summarize this book in two words: game changer.
In this post, you’re going to find out how to use my favorite aspects of GTD to absolutely crush the day-to-day tasks that crowd your inbox, Post-it notes, and mind — and how to harness the methods from Procrastinate on Purpose to make sure that you don’t sacrifice important, growth-oriented work.
In other words, I’m going to share exactly how you can capture the most valuable aspects of each system to make 2016 your most productive year to date.
Clear Out the Chaos with GTD
David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, is considered to be the world’s foremost expert on personal and organizational productivity. His simple, no-nonsense systems have revolutionized the personal productivity and time management.
One of my favorite things about GTD is that it massively reduces decision fatigue. I primarily use it to manage micro, day-to-day tasks, and to review big-picture goals.
One of the main takeaways can be summed up these memorable words from David Allen: “Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.”
According to David Allen, anything you can’t write down will run on a loop in the back of your mind, devouring valuable mental bandwidth.
That means that writing down your ideas, tasks, and projects — getting them out of your head — and capturing them in an actionable system is critical.
I’ve incorporated the Getting Things Done system into my own workflow — and it’s rare that I miss a weekly check-in. I use a combination of Evernote, Redbooth, and Google Drive to implement the main points in the GTD system:
I keep an Evernote note where I compile miscellaneous ideas, tasks, and to-dos. No matter where I am, I can open the note from my desktop or mobile app and dump all of my disorganized thoughts into it. This note is essentially my “inbox”.
David Allen has a tip about these tasks: if you can do it in two minutes, do it right then and there when you capture it. While it’s great rule for some people, it throws me off track. Instead, I periodically batch those tasks into a block of time of 30 minutes or an hour and knock them all out at once.
On a weekly basis, I review the list. I delete items that don’t matter, and copy/paste the others into other lists: “Lifelong Goals,” “Long-Term Goals,” and “Personal/Fun Projects.”
Anything that I need to do in the near future gets added to Redbooth as a task or scheduled in Google Calendar.
I’m no stranger to “procrastination by organization.” My workspace is often at peak organizational optimization right before an important deadline.
If you’re anything like me, blocking out time for review will corral your urges to get off track by giving you “sanctioned” time to get organized.
I use a personal development exercise inspired by Tony Robbins to facilitate the GTD review process. Every Sunday night, I open an Evernote notebook that I use exclusively for review, reflection, and goal planning, along with my other lists.
This is when I take a look at my big-picture goals, take an inventory of what did and didn’t get done during the week, celebrate successes, and then pull items from some of the longer-term goal lists into my calendar.
It’s great — but not quite perfect
Having a system that helps you get everything out of your mind — and onto paper or a screen, and then into your calendar — improves productivity for most people.
Reverse-engineering big goals and regularly reviewing them (along with the granular, day-to-day to-dos) also helps. I’ve been using this system for the past three years, and as a result I accomplish many more of the day-to-day tasks I set out to do.
Still, this doesn’t take into consideration a crucial point about time management and productivity: We make decisions based on emotions — not logic.
Make Big-Picture Progress With PoP
Enter Rory Vaden, author of Procrastinate on Purpose.
Rory is a leading expert in self-discipline and productivity. He shows people not just how to get things done, but how to get the most important things done.
When it comes to the large, ambitious projects that so many of us have (but so few actually get around to) — launching a startup, running a business, doubling clients while cutting time spent in half, getting into fantastic physical shape — as it turns out, there is a very specific approach that creates success.
And it’s not about time management. It’s about personal discipline.
Even as you work faster and harder, there is still a limit to how much you can get done in a day. So instead of just doing more, you have to change your approach entirely: you must become a “multiplier of time”:
“You multiply your time by spending time on things today that will give you more time tomorrow.”
— Rory Vaden, Procrastinate on Purpose
Rory Vaden calls people who create more time “Multipliers.” Here’s how you can become a Multiplier too — and start making real, substantive progress toward your high-priority goals as well.
Redefine what it means to prioritize
Your first step is to start evaluating where you already spend your time, based on these factors outlined in Procrastinate on Purpose:
- Importance: How much does this matter
- Significance: How long will this matter
- Urgency: How soon it needs to get done
As Rory Vaden explains, “Prioritizing does NOT create more time. It’s more like a redistribution of your time.”
Master your emotions
Emotions, not logic, dictate the way we spend our time. According to Rory, Multipliers effectively multiply time by giving themselves five “emotional permissions” that the rest of us do not.
Try giving yourself these 5 emotional permissions:
- Eliminate tasks: Is it important, urgent, and significant enough to dedicate resources to it?
- Automate: Can I include this task in a system that functions without my direct influence?
- Delegate: Can someone else do this task instead?
- Procrastinate: Put non-important tasks on hold until later
- Concentrate: when it is time for me to complete a task myself, I can dedicate my full, undivided attention to it, knowing it’s the most significant use of my time
These actions translate into “self management” rather than time management, and they directly affect how we spend our time.
Forget everything you know about “balance”
Personally, when I get excited about a project or a goal, I tend to pursue it at the expense of other normal day-to-day activities. Pretty soon, friends and family chime in, warning me to “stay balanced.” The guilt sets in, my productivity and excitement drop off, and the project drops off my list. Has this ever happened to you?
Procrastinate on Purpose has a different take on balance. Instead of balancing several priorities in a given day, week, or month, get laser-focused on one thing at a time until you complete it.
Rory explains that it’s much easier to maintain a business, a fit body, book promotion, widget sales, after the business has been built, the body achieved, book written, the widget created, etc. So if invest that time and intense levels of focus up front, keeping it going down the road will demand far less time and effort.
However, most people try to do several things at once — they may check off a lot of items on their to-do list, but ultimately they walk away with nothing. Don’t let this be you.
Make 2016 Your Most Productive Year Yet
You want to manage overload, reduce decision fatigue, and put yourself in the driver’s seat of day-to-day tasks — and David Allen’s system for managing tasks and maximizing the use of your time is an excellent way to do that.
You also want to make choices that align with your long-term goals, so that you make real progress on projects that are meaningful to you — and the Procrastinate on Purpose methodology can lock that in. In other words, combining GTD with PoP gives you and me the best of both worlds.
Armed with these two powerful systems, world domination is no doubt in imminent in my future — and yours.