The GTD mantra. Four words: Collect, Process, Execute, Review.
A mnemonic (memory device) for remembering them: C-PER (See Per).
Let’s go through what each of these four mean:
Through each day (especially when you wake up on Monday), invariably your email Inbox will become full of new items, and your head will be buzzing with new things you need to do. So daily, especially starting out each morning, collect all new to-dos and put them into Evernote. Some of the ways of doing this include:
As you hear yourself committing to do something, you will know where that commitment needs to go. The key is to get them down into EN quickly, similar to a brainstorming session: just get them out of your head as quickly as possible. You can process them with context later. Most inputs will come from these mental/verbal commitments, emails you receive, and from documents handed to you.
After you have collected the new items into Evernote, then process them by adding contexts to them. Remember, a rule of TSW is that every pending action receives at least a .When context. Many of us here at TrueToniqs keep our to-dos/notes sorted by Created date during the week, so all of the new ones are at the top. If a to-do wasn’t tagged when it was added you can quickly see that it needs a tag (because all the new to-dos are there at the top of the list), and a context can quickly be added. After a few days of daily processing, you will find you can get through this second Process step pretty quickly.
So, once you’ve collected any new to-dos for the day, and processed them so that all items in your Action Pending file have at least a .When tag, you are ready to go to the Execution phase. Get it done! A good system is only good if you consistently use it.
Now that all pending action items are in the system, and properly grouped, let’s start getting things done. Time to execute.
Collect, Process, Execute, Review.
When approaching our next thing to do, we typically are in some frame of mind. We might be in “Work” mode, and therefore want to focus on just those items, or in “Home” mode, or “Dad” mode, or “With Dave” mode, etc. One of the most powerful features of Evernote is the ability to combine two contexts to focus on in a specific set of tasks. For example, if you arrive at work, you might start with @work and 1-Now to start executing those work items that are of the highest priority. Press and hold the Control key (PC) or Command key (Mac) key, select the two tags to the left, and suddenly your 400 to do items become 4 items. Now that is focus. Execute.
Typically, we might select the 1-Now tag, and if there are too many of those, also select a .Where, .What, or .Who context. Once we review and/or execute those, we will unselect the second context, and move to another secondary context to combine with 1-Now. This feature is very powerful, as you can filter down to a reasonable chunk of items to focus upon.
During the day, I only focus on 1-Now and 2-Next items across the board, and get in the zone of getting things done that are on deck for execution. As I go, I might think of .Who or .Where tags, and update as necessary.
As you complete an item, get it out of the Action Pending category. You can do this by dragging it into the Completed notebook. This takes the note out of Action Pending, and puts it with other completed items. All the tags associated with the note stay with it, so you can still search the Completed notebook if you select it instead of Actions Pending.
One thing to notice is that the quantity next to each tag; for example, 1-Now (388) includes all notes with that tag, both completed and pending. To see how many items you actually have pending for a given context, click on that tag, and you can see the total notes on the “filter bar” at the top. Don’t see the filter bar? There is a small down arrow to the right of the search bar that expands it.
“An alternative to using the Completed notebook is to simply delete your to- dos. Some here at TrueToniqs use this method, though it prevents later review ability.”
Moving notes from Action Pending into Completed is a liberating experience!
Reviewing your trusted system is at the heart of the GTD mindset, and imperative if you are to keep TSW in tune with your overall execution goals. During review, every pending action is read and considered, even if only momentarily, with the ultimate question being: “Is it time to move this deferred item up in priority of .When to do it?”
As you complete your 1-Now items and archive them, the next logical step is to put more into 1-Now.
During the day, and nightly, decide which of the 2-Next items should graduate to the 1-Now pile.
When at work, it will be those @work/2-Next items that are moved, and when you get home, it might be those 2-Next/@home items. This constant review makes sure that there are plenty of items in the 1-Now context from which to choose. Equally important, it will prevent any to-dos from getting neglected, collecting dust, and falling way off your radar of what’s important.
You may ask, What is the !Daily tag for? This is reserved for those items you are working to habituate into your life. It really could be called “Make this a habit!” It could be something like Check your attitude! Or 30 Sit Ups! Or Tell kids/wife they are great! Anyone who’s studied how to create a new habit knows that it takes about 21 days of constant repetition before it’s ingrained. So !Daily is for the little things we remind ourselves of and do that matter the most. It isn’t for “brush your teeth” since that’s already routine. But it might be for “floss!” if you’re needing to finally make that a habit. !Daily is the first context we review each morning to get going on the right foot.
On Sunday morning get up early, prepare a cup of tea or coffee (or Brain Toniq) and commit to reviewing, one by one, every item that is Action Pending. From 1-Now to 5-Someday. Because every note has a .When context, you can be sure that if you view each .When context, you will touch every item. Nothing missed.
This is the crux of your system, as it is a good time for reflection, and to keep your mind on why you are signing up for processing all of these things! Think about which ones can be moved ever closer to the 1-Now context (because that is the ultimate point, right?)
“While I mainly keep my notes sorted by Created Date during the week so that I see the newest notes first, on these special Review times, I sort notes by Tag. Then I can begin my review with all 1-Now items, and they sort by like kind secondary context. This puts all work items that are 1-Now together, so I can review them grouped together, move on to 1-Now @home items etc. until I finish my 1-Now review. I then go to the next .When context, which is 2-Next, and do the same until I have reviewed all notes with a time context.”
During Review time, mull on anything that you have in your head that needs to be added. As you read each item, think about what other contexts might be good to add for referral later. Review how well you actually executed all things in 1-Now. Maybe you are moving too many too fast?
Give a bit of thought as to WHY you are doing all this, and how it applies to your overall goals. While during the week your focus tends to be execution, this is a time for reflection. There is an underlying plan for nirvana, happiness, and world domination. Let it simmer up to consciousness during Review time.
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