Search Results for: gtd

Too much on your plate? Get a smaller plate

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Nirvana. That’s what we all want, isn’t it? Maybe that’s why I was attracted to an app by that name several years ago when it was in beta.

Nirvana is built for GTD, with Next Actions, Waiting, Someday, and other “Getting Things Done” features. I liked it, but the developer was taking too long to get it out of beta and I eventually moved onto to other things.

The other day I heard that Nirvana had been updated and I decided to take another look. I played around with it, entering tasks and projects, adding tags, and taking the app for a test drive.

I’m using the free Basic version which limits you to 3 “Areas of Focus” (e.g., Work, Personal, etc.) and 5 Projects. I have more than one business, however, and could use more than 3 Areas of Focus. I also have many projects, both active and inactive, and could use a lot more than 5.

But here’s the thing.

As I struggled to shoehorn my busy life into the Basic version, I realized that while I may have 50 projects I could be working on, I can only work on a one or two at a time. I found myself thinking about what was important to me right now, and used these for my 5 projects. Any other projects (or standalone tasks) I can tag “Someday,” or schedule for a future date, which is what I did with a project I’m planning to work on next month.

If I had the unlimited Pro account, ( per year) and put every project on the project list, both active and inactive, I can see how things might get out of hand. Using the Basic version of Nirvana, or any app that limits you to a handful of “front and center” options, forces you to prioritize.

I can’t have too much on my plate because my “plate” only holds so much.

Of course an artificial limit of 5 projects is just that–artificial. I can still put “everything” in this or other apps and find them when I want to re-fill my list of 5.

I think I’ll play around with the limited version of Nirvana a bit longer. There’s something liberating about looking at a spartan interface with just a few things in front of me, seeing how close I am to being “Done”.

Check out Nirvana and see what you think

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Getting things done by getting rid of your to do list

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No matter which method of task management we use, the challenge we all face is having a task lists that has become unmanageable.

Right now, I have over 600 “next” items on my list. (I keep everything in Evernote using tags.) That’s too many.

The “Getting Things Done” (GTD) system requires us to go through our lists once a week, to update our priorities for the following week. But my list is too big and it’s been a long time since I have done a weekly review.

Please don’t tell anyone.

The weekly review is what makes the whole system work. When you stop, you no longer have a task management system, you have a library.

How do I fix this?

I’m thinking about doing something drastic.

I’m thinking about starting over. Clean out the list and start a new one.

Yep, get rid of all of my “next” items and start from scratch.

What’s the worst that can happen? I’ll forgot something I haven’t thought about in months? It couldn’t be that important, could it?

Don’t we pretty much know what’s important? Aren’t we already working on what we need to do right now? Don’t we also know what we’ll probably do after that?

And we’re got our calendars for anything with a deadline.

A clean slate sounds like it would be delightful, doesn’t it? After you add back a handful of “next” tasks you remember or that come up this week, your weekly review will be quick and easy. You won’t avoid it. You’ll start getting things done.

But letting go is hard to do for a lawyer. Too many “what ifs”.

So here’s an safer alternative:

Move all of your tasks to a temporary folder or apply a temporary tag. Then, go through everything one time and decide if it should still be on your next list. If so, add it back. You will probably delete a good portion of your list this way.

Of course the danger with this safer method is indecision. We have too many things we are sure we need to do, and we can’t eliminate them.

Being a lawyer can be a royal pain in the arse.

Okay, if you can’t decide, move those tasks to “someday”. Keep your next list lean and mean.

Yes, we’re also supposed to go through our someday list during our weekly review. But if you don’t, if you go through it every six months, or every once in awhile, I won’t tell anyone. Pinkie swear.

See how I use Evernote to manage tasks and projects. Click here.

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Evernote vs OneNote for Lawyers

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Several years ago, I used OneNote for note taking and organizing information. I loved the digital notebook concept. I loved having nested notebooks and pages and sub-pages where I could organize everything.

Ironically, one thing I wasn’t crazy about was something OneNote is known for: the ability to place notes and graphics anywhere on the page. I was used to a more linear approach to organizing things. I tried to get used to this free-form method of displaying content, but never did.

Another thing I didn’t like is that each page was itself a big graphic (I think) and each element on it was a graphic. I may have the tech wrong but it always felt a bit weird. Maybe I’m just a plain text kinda guy.

As my notes grew, I found that keeping them organized wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. I had so many notebooks and pages and sub-pages, things got confusing. Tags and search weren’t terribly reliable in the version I was using and I started looking at what others were doing to organize their notes.

I read lots of blogs about OneNote and kept hearing it compared to Evernote. I had Evernote on my hard drive, but used it only on occasion. I saw that many OneNote users had switched to EverNote because of some of the same frustrations I had experienced, so I started using Evernote more and liked it. I made the switch and haven’t looked back.

Evernote is my virtual filing cabinet, my GTD platform, and my universal note taking system. I use it all day, every day, on all my devices and in every part of my work flow. If you’re a lawyer, you can see how I use it in my Evernote for Lawyers ebook.

Microsoft just made OneNote free for PC and Mac users so I thought I would give it another look. I read an excellent article comparing OneNote vs Evernote. It concluded that Evernote takes the gold, but it also showed how far OneNote has come since I last used it.

I just downloaded OneNote and will take it for a test drive. At first blush, I can see how I might use it for certain projects, but I can’t see making my primary note taking system.

How about you? How do you weigh in on the Evernote vs OneNote for lawyers debate?

Evernote for Lawyers: A Guide to Getting Organized and Increasing Productivity is available here

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Getting things done the way that works best for you

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I just read an article about the four different personality types or thinkers and how we each go about getting things done. We make our lists differently and approach them differently.

Structural thinkers create a traditional to-do list every day and check things off as they do them. They take an organized, linear approach to managing their tasks.

Analytical thinkers consider the value of what they might do, and how much time it will take to do it.

Social thinkers seek input from others and consider how different tasks relate to everything else they might do

Conceptual thinkers don’t keep a traditional to-do list; they use an intuitive approach to getting things done

I don’t know how accurate these four types are or which group I fall into. Trying to figure it out made my head hurt. The author acknowledges that we might be a combination of types, and I’m sure that’s true for me.

My approach varies. It depends on the project, how I’m feeling that day, deadlines, and what I feel drawn to do. Some days, I work through a list and cross things off. Other days, I don’t look at anything, I just go with the flow.

I have a very large list of tasks and projects and someday/maybes, in Evernote, and each has one or more GTD tags that identify and prioritize the task or project. But to be honest, once I’ve assigned those tags to my tasks, I don’t refer to them every day.

I do what’s on my calendar. I do anything I’ve tagged as an “MIT” (most important task). The rest? I usually know what’s “next”.

I get things out of my head and off of scraps of paper and into my “trusted system”. It’s all there for me, in Evernote, so nothing will be lost or forgotten. I can search and find things, by tag, or I can browse. And yet, strangely, I usually don’t. I just know what I’m going to do.

But then my work life is a lot less complicated today than in years past. If I were still practicing, I would undoubtedly have a more structured approach to my day.

I think the big takeaway is that we are all different and we have to do what works best for us. We can use a complicated system, or no system. We can analyze and prioritize, or we can trust our gut. We can manage our lives with GTD, Franklin Covey, Kanban, or Eisenhower, or we can grab a pen and jot down a few things we want to do today.

Use what works best for you, even if it’s just your calendar and a post-it note.

My modified GTD system is detailed in my Evernote for Lawyers ebook

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163 Getting Things Done Software Options

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I admit it. Even though I am committed to Evernote as my getting things done software application, I still like looking at other apps. It’s fun. I get ideas. And yes, I get tempted. But I stay with Evernote, even though it is not a GTD app and does have limitations, because it is simple, powerful, and I can make it do what I want it to do. (I also like having all my tasks and projects in the same place as my notes.)

I chose Evernote because everything else I tried was too complicated to learn and/or use, or didn’t “feel” right for me. I found myself spending too much time managing lists instead of getting things done.

Anyway, if you’re still looking for the perfect app, or like me, you enjoy seeing what else is available, you might want to take a look at this directory of 163 Getting Things Done Software options. I found it by reading a post that summarizes ten popular GTD apps. Of the ten, I have the most experience with Toodledo and Nirvana. They’re both worth a look.

Careful, though. No matter what productivity system you use, trying out new apps can become addicting. You can spend hundreds of hours reading reviews, trying features, and moving information. Been there. Done that.

Of course in the end, the best system is the one that works for you. My wife uses pen and paper and gets way more done than I ever have. It took her about ten seconds to set up her system and she spends zero time looking at other apps.

Check out my Evernote for Lawyers ebook.

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How to prioritize your daily tasks

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I use my own version of GTD (Getting Things Done) as the backbone of my productivity system. Every day, when I sit down to prioritize my lists and choose what to work on for the day, I choose three “MIT’s” (Most Important Tasks). If I get my MITs done, I call it a good day.

Some people recommend the 1-3-5 system: 1 big thing for the day, 3 medium things, and 5 small things. Others use the 3-2 method: three big things, two small things. And then there’s the ABC/123 method.

For me, “three things” is about right.

Many days, it’s just one or two MITs. The number really doesn’t matter. What matters is that I am effective because I’m getting important things done.

But how do you decide what’s important? How do you look at a long list of tasks and projects and select three Most Important Tasks?

I don’t know. I just do it.

Sure, there’s a certain amount of logic in the process. I look at deadlines and appointments and reminders. But more often than not, it’s my gut that tells me what to do.

In “The 4-Hour Work Week,” Tim Ferriss offers a suggestion for deciding what’s important. He says, “Imagine you’ve just suffered a heart attack and are allowed to work only two hours a day. What would you do during those two hours? And if you had another heart attack and were allowed a maximum of two hours of work per week, what would you do?”

Ferriss also says, “. . .requiring a lot of time does not make a task important,” and I agree. He is also a proponent of making a “don’t do list,” ignoring things that aren’t important so you can focus on what is, which I wrote about recently.

I like learning about new productivity systems. But most of them are too complicated and time consuming to learn and use. I like the simplicity of focusing on just “three things”.

If you want to know how to prioritize your daily tasks, start by acknowledging that some things are much more important than others. Think 80/20. A minority of tasks, perhaps 20%, will contribute to the majority of your results.

You’ll never get everything on your list done, and trying to categorize and prioritize hundreds of things that aren’t important, or as important, as your three things, isn’t efficient or effective.

This post is one of my MITs for today. Next for me is to finish another writing project. I’ll get to that right after I check my calendar.

I explain my productivity system in my Evernote for Lawyers ebook.

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What do you do when you have too much to do?

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I’ve got lists. Lots of tasks and projects. Things I’m working on and things I plan to work on. Everything is organized in Evernote. I follow my own version of GTD. Every task or project has at least one tag to identify it as something I plan to do Now, Next, or Someday.

But while everything is organized and tagged, I still have too much to do. It’s overwhelming. So I find myself avoiding my lists and doing what is nagging at my brain, which defeats the entire purpose of having a task management system.

Currently I have 54 Now tasks, 531 tagged for Next. I’m supposed to look at everything during my weekly review, but with that many tasks on my list, I find myself procrastinating.

What do you do when you have too much to do and your weekly review isn’t working?

You declare task bankruptcy.

You get rid of everything and start over. A fresh start with your tasks.

While I had never heard the term “task bankruptcy” before, I’ve done it before. I did it to achieve inbox zero with my email. I did it when I stopped using one online task management app and started using another and there was no way to export/import my tasks. I can attest to how good it feels to wipe the slate clean and start over.

Starting over doesn’t mean throwing out everything. I will refer to my lists in the process of creating new ones. But every task will be scrutinized and will have to earn it’s way back onto my lists.

First, I will move all of my tasks and projects into a temporary notebook. My main notebook, where I keep all of my tasks and projects will then be empty.

(NB: In Evernote, I use one notebook for all of my notes. I use tags to identify when I will do something (Now, Next, etc.) and for reference purposes. Multiple notebooks leads to confusion–Which notebook should I file this note in? Which notebook DID I file that note in?)

Next, I will go through all of my tasks and projects in the temporary notebook. Anything I know I want to do (or have to do) will get moved back into my main notebook. Anything I’m not sure of, that doesn’t call out to me and inspire me, will go.

The objective is to have a lean and mean Now and Next list. I will still have my Someday/Maybe list, but I will be ruthless in paring this as well.

I guess you could describe this as a periodic review. You go through everything and make decisions about whether you still want to do something and if so, when. That’s what should be done during the weekly review. But when the whole system gets bloated, it makes sense to periodically re-boot.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by everything you have to do, if you find yourself procrastinating on your weekly review, you might want to declare task bankruptcy and get a fresh start.

But be careful. Once you have zeroed out your task obligations and created new lists, those tasks might start accumulating again. Fortunately, you won’t have to wait seven years before declaring task bankruptcy again. You can do it any time you want.

If you want to see how I organize everything, check out my Evernote for Lawyers ebook.

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Evernote for Business: Is it right for your law firm?

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Evernote has launched Evernote for Business, which promises enhanced sharing capability for the workplace. For lawyers, the idea is that your firm would have it’s own business account, with a library of shared notes (documents) which employees (with permission)  can access. You and your employees can also have your own personal Evernote notebooks which are private.

Does your firm need this capability? I’m not so sure.

Personal Evernote accounts already allow sharing. You can set up one or more notebooks in your account and share those notebooks with others in the firm. Sharing basic firm documents such as email templates, checklists, and blank forms is pretty straightforward. Where things get hairy is with sharing client files or other non-public information.

In Evernote for Lawyers, I discussed the idea of storing client files in Evernote. If it’s just you who is accessing that information, your comfort level will depend on whether you feel the need to encrypt that information before uploading it. The more critical issue is sharing that information electronically with others in your firm.

Evernote can be accessed anywhere there is an Internet connection, so if your employees aren’t as careful as you are, someone who is not authorized to access those shared notebooks might be able to do so. If your secretary’s laptop is stolen, for example, your client files could wind up in the wrong hands.

I don’t know how Evernote for Business handles permissions and other security issues, but if it makes shared access to private information more secure, that alone would make it worth considering. The added functionality it promises would be icing on the cake.

Evernote for Business is $10 per month per employee, a small investment if it allows you to set up a secure virtual filing cabinet for your firm. But that remains to be seen.

Are you planning to use Evernote for Business? Let me know in the comments.

Evernote for Lawyers shows you how to use Evernote for marketing, GTD, blogging, AND storing client files.  

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The Ten Commandments of “Getting Things Done”

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Many people refer to David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done, as their productivity Bible. Like the real Bible, however, Allen’s book isn’t particularly easy for the uninitiated to digest. It took me several reads and a lot of hi-lighting before the ideas started to sink in.

And yet the principles in Getting Things Done (GTD) aren’t that complicated. In fact, the system is basically your calendar, a few lists, and a process for organizing everything so that you know what to do first and what to do after that. This allows you to be effective (getting the right things done) and efficient (getting things done right).

The sub-title of Getting Things Done is “The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” and that is an apt description of the ultimate benefit of mastering GTD.

If you’re trying to learn GTD, or this is your first exposure to it, here is a summary of its key components, the “Ten Commandments of “Getting Things Done”:

  1. Put everything in a “trusted system”. Get it out of your head, off your desk, and into one “Inbox” (or a few), ready to be processed.
  2. Organize your tasks into lists, for example, “Today,” “Next,” “Someday,” “Waiting,” and “Projects”.
  3. A project is anything that requires more than one step (task). Each project should have a list of tasks needed to complete it.
  4. Organize your lists by “context”: Where (@Office, @Home, @Errands), Tool: (@Internet, @Phone), People: (@Debbie, @ABC Board). That way, when you’re @Office, having a meeting with @Debbie, you can zero in on appropriate tasks and not be distracted with @Errands or chores you need to do @Home.
  5. Use your calendar to record future tasks by date (i.e., appointments, start dates, due dates, review dates). The calendar is sacred territory. If it’s on your calendar, you should do it.
  6. Use a tickler system to remind yourself of things you may want to do or review in the future but aren’t due on a specific date (and thus, not on your calendar).
  7. Process your Inbox often: If something is actionable, either Do it (immediately), Delegate it, or Defer it (Calendar, or “Next” list). If it’s not actionable, either Trash it, put it on a list to review in the future (“Someday” or “Tickler”), or file it as Reference material.
  8. Review your lists daily. Decide what to do based on your Time and Energy and the task’s Priority. Don’t prioritize in advance because priorities (and Contexts) change constantly.
  9. Plan every day in advance. Review your plan and your progress once a week at a regular Weekly Review.
  10. As you process your Inbox or review your lists, ask yourself two questions: What’s the successful outcome? And, What’s the next action (logical next step) to make it happen? David Allen says, “These provide fundamental clarity for Getting Things Done, and they lie at the core of most everything I teach.”

This probably represents 90% of the GTD system. There are many nuances and refinements and many of us have modified “pure GTD” to suit our work flow and preferences. You can spend a lifetime tinkering with GTD or, once you have a basic set up, simply get things done.

GTD can be done with pen and paper. There are also many GTD apps for your smart phone or computer. I do all of this in Evernote (plus my calendar). My GTD system is presented in detail in my Evernote for Lawyers ebook.

Do you use GTD? How has it helped you to get things done?

You can use my Evernote GTD system even if you don’t use Evernote. Read Evernote for Lawyers, however, and you’ll want to use Evernote. Even if you’re not a lawyer. 

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Evernote search just got easier. Well, sorta

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Although I use it extensively, I don’t write much about technology. One reason is that by the time I’m up to speed on a new piece of software or hardware, it’s usually old news. One exception is Evernote, my favorite tech tool.

I’ve written before about how I use Evernote for everything from note taking to writing to managing all of the information in my personal and professional life. I also use it for Getting Things Done (GTD).

In fact, so great is my love for Evernote, I wrote a book about it: Evernote for Lawyers: A Guide to Getting Organized & Increasing Productivity.

I included in the book’s resources an extensive list of Evernote’s “Search Operators”–the syntax used by Evernote to find notes. These search operators are powerful but can be difficult to remember, so many of us use “Saved Searches,” another Evernote feature that comes in handy, especially with complex searches. But Saved Searches don’t help when you’re looking for something for the first time.

I just found an alternative that looks promising. BitQwik is free software (for PC’s and Mac’s that can run Windows) that serves as a front end portal for searching your Evernote database using natural language. That is, you don’t have to remember precise search operators to find something. Instead, you can use a regular query, much like you would ask Siri.

Here are some examples, from the BitQwik web site:

  • “Show me notes created between May 1st and March 15 that are tagged with robotics, surgical robots, or telepresence”
  • “I want notes sent to me via the E-mail gateway”
  • “Find my encrypted notes that have the words financial data or private in the title but leave out notes I created yesterday”
  • “Give me notes with pictures from Skitch”

I usually find notes in Evernote by browsing tags and using a few simple search operators. But as my database has grown to over 5,000 notes, I find myself relying more on search, and BitQwik looks like it might be just what the doctor ordered.

I just downloaded BitQwik, so I don’t have a lot to report just yet. If it pans out, I could see Evernote adopting this technology, and that would be great because I don’t like the idea of using yet another piece of software. But I’m not holding my breath because everything Evernote does has to work on ten platforms, not just one, and that doesn’t happen overnight.

If you’ve tried BitQwik, let me know what you think. You can add your comments below, or join me on the Evernote Forum.

Get your copy of Evernote for Lawyers. Unless you don’t want to be organized and productive.

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