One of the sections that has changed most significantly in DL4 are tasks. Obviously the user interface for everything has changed quite a lot, but with tasks, the philosophy and concept of how tasks are used also has under gone a big change.
One of the more popular approaches to productivity in recent years has been David Allen’s Getting Things Done, or GTD for short. There have been many, many, many things written about it on the internet already so I will try not to rehash what has been explained by others already. For me, the most important aspects of any GTD system are, having somewhere to put your “stuff”, which are all the things in our life that are not yet in their “home”. And then creating small, actionable tasks to reduce the friction and feeling of insurmountability that often come when working on larger projects. And lastly, having a regular appointment to review everything inside your GTD system to make sure that projects are moving forward and to remove tasks that no longer make sense.
Inbox for Action.
So just like your email inbox, or if you have an inbox on your desk for incoming paperwork, your GTD inbox is the place to put stuff that doesn’t belong anywhere yet. New ideas bouncing around in your head, things you’ve just remembered to do, errands that never seem to get done… you get the idea. Getting all of this stuff out of your head and into a system that you can grow to trust relieves you of a great deal of stress and anxiety of continually worrying about those things. Being unsure of whether you’ve forgotten to do something, or if you will remember that great idea you came up with en route to your next meeting makes focussing on what you are currently doing much more difficult.
Once you start organizing tasks into projects, you’ll have more obvious places to put things directly, but for now, you’ll create all new tasks in the inbox. You can create a new task at any time by clicking on the arrow menu, next to the new item button in the toolbar. Or use the keyboard shortcut command-shift-T.
A good rule of thumb for how to create an actionable task is to make the first word of every task a verb. And not just any verb, but one that describes a physical action, like write, buy, design, email, phone, etc. Verbs like “decide” or “create” are not specific enough as to what you’re actually supposed to be doing and make it far easier to procrastinate or fiddle around with meta-work, like choosing fonts when you should be writing words.
Don’t fake your Worklist.
Once you’ve got a decent amount of tasks entered into your task manager, when it comes time to start actually doing them GTD systems can easily become overwhelming to new adopters. You can look at what to do based on the task’s context (where you’re able to do a task, such as the office or while using a particular tool, like email or phone), it’s due date, estimated time, whether it’s a next step, etc.
In Daylite 4, the Worklist is meant to simplify this process by making it the one place you put tasks that you are actually going to work on. As in today you will actually work on and complete this task. It is not for things that you’d like to do today, or things you really should do, but probably won’t. Since migrating over to DL4, I’ve tried to make this rule absolute and unwavering. Once you allow tasks on your Worklist that you don’t actually work on, you psychologically give yourself permission to treat it as more of a suggestion list than a canonical statement of what you intend to do today. To add a task to your Worklist, select it and then click the pin icon or drag it on top of the Worklist in the sidebar.
So what kind of tasks should be on your worklist? Well, let’s give an example of something that shouldn’t be on your worklist: new website. Only if you’ve never created a new website would you think that creating a new site in one day was an achievable goal. Another GTD maxim is that any task that is more than one step is not a task, but a project. The more you can break down a task into it’s component steps, the more manageable it is to have on your worklist. In Daylite you can even use subtasks to make this even easier. For our website example, you might create a task “write copy” and then right (or control) click that task and select “new subtask” and then create a task for each page on the site that you’ll need copy for. You can also assign tasks as subtasks by holding down option and dragging it onto another task.
Review your objectives regularly.
As you start down this path of capturing all the stuff that used to rattle around inside your head, if you’re like me, you’ll quickly end up with a lot of stuff in Daylite. In order for GTD systems to work properly, you absolutely must incorporate periodic reviews on a regular basis during which you’ll go over each of your projects and tasks to make sure they are still relevant and actionable.
A common review strategy is to sit down once a week on Sunday and go over all of your tasks and projects so you’ll have a good mental picture of what your week will look like. Start with your Not Done list which shows you all of your tasks, grouped by objective. You can then use filtering to find tasks that have been recently created, so you can keep your momentum going on those items. Or I’ve saved a Smart List called “Stale Tasks” that shows me all tasks that are older than 6 weeks and are not yet completed or cancelled. When going through this list, be brutally honest with yourself whether you really care enough about those tasks to see them through or whether your business priorities have changed enough where your time is better spent focussing on more important things. Be liberal with your delete key and remember that you can always reference deleted items in the trash later on.