David Allen's GTD App Review

David Allen's GTD App Review
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Part 2

In Part 1 of my reflections on David Allen’s ultimate GTD app, I went through the first page of his feature wish list.

At the GTD Summit 2019 event, David Allen attempted to explain what he wanted.

https://www.intentionallyproductive.com/category/tools/ultimate-gtd-app/

Reality sets in because the organizations we work for will have different technology infrastructures. One organization might be centered around the Google Suite services. Others might be revolving around Dropbox, the Apple Mac/iOS ecosystem, Windows operating system, or the Android environment. With so many competing ecosystems, it will be near-impossible to find a single GTD app that can integrate well with all of them.

I don’t think there will ever be one ultimate app that will do everything. It’s more about adopting the many habits and mastering the tools that can get us close to mastering GTD or any productivity system.

Let’s go through the list and check off which line items you have a workflow for. This is food for thought. What workflows do I want to implement? Are there any workflows I can improve on?


Page 2. Initial/Current View (The Startup Screen) and Page 3. Initial Screen

These two pages show an overall view of our GTD workflow. They will be explored next.


Page 4. Capturing To My Inbox


Do I have a process for capturing to my inbox? A trigger list is helpful in exploring any items that I wanna to capture. Here is the official GTD Mind Sweep Incomplete Triggers list. Customize this list to fit my needs.


Page 5. Inbox Processing


Do I have a workflow to process my inbox? List down the steps I need to properly organize any inbox items into my projects, checklists, and someday/maybe lists. The above picture illustrates GTD steps to processing my inbox.


Page 6. Creating New Projects


Do I have a template or workflow for project creation? I enjoy using a text expansion macro to create my project templates. Defining a project is a habit that often gets skipped over and I go direct to listing my next actions. Sometimes I need to remember if the project aligns with my personal goals or the objectives of the organization I work for.

I have started to explore more project creation in mind map form. Here is an example of a mind map to help me visualize my projects in its initial stage.

I brainstorm to capture tasks and ideas in the Unprocessed Notes node. Then I group various tasks into different phase nodes. Breaking up a large project into various phases or sub-projects aids in keeping it more manageable.


Page 7. Projects


Do I have a task manager or analog workflow that is capable of storing my projects and its associated tasks? Apple Reminders is a great app for managing a small project but I’ll need to turn to a higher level app such as Things, Todoist, 2Do, or OmniFocus to handle more complicated projects.


Page 8. Next Actions


Do I have a workflow to take next actions from my various projects and checklists to create a Today’s Task list? I also need an Errands list if I’m going out shopping. Or I need a list of miscellaneous House tasks that needs to be taken care of.

Flagging a task or tagging a task with the Today tag might be helpful. I personally look at my task manager list of all available actions and write down 3-5 tasks into my Bullet Journal (BuJo).


Page 9. Persons

Do I have a workflow for keeping tracking of any outstanding Waiting-For’s or agenda items from people I need to talk to? A Contact Relationship Manager (CRM) or my task manager can do fulfill this requirement for me. Sometimes, I’ll just have a page in my BuJo for a person that I frequently interact with.


Page 10. Someday/Maybe


Do I have a workflow for tracking any projects that I want to put on the back burner? Many projects do not need to be worked on right now. I want to keep track of it but I don’t need to see it in Today’s Agenda items to work on. I need to put a project on hold by setting it to start on a future date or assign a date to review a Someday project.

Maybe projects are random ideas that I haven’t fully fleshed out into full projects yet. I might not have the necessary resources or information required to brainstorm about it. But it is something to think about at a later ideal

I keep my Someday projects separate from Maybe projects. I will definitely work on a Someday project in the future. A Maybe project is still in the incubation stage and needs further exploration. I have a checklist of different ideas such as:

  • House ideas to R&D

  • Professional ideas to R&D

  • Vacations ideas to R&D


Page 11. Tickler


Do I have a workflow to remind me about any events, appointments, or a due project? My workflow tools should have the ability to notify me of an upcoming appointment or a task that will be due in the next 2 hours. Thankfully, a digital calendar can be set to ding us at any time. My Apple Watch buzzes when something I wanted to track will happen.

Otherwise, I do try to adopt the habit of checking my BuJo at least once an hour to remind myself of any incoming events I need to be aware of.


Page 12. Meetings


Do I have a workflow or template to handle meeting notes? A text expansion macro or document template is helpful to make sure I’m always ready to take notes during a meeting. Then I make a mind map to help me summarize what happened. I’ll grab any next actions or waiting for’s that will come out of a meeting.


Page 13. Communication


Do I have a checklist to remind me about any forms of communication that needs to happen? This list includes any emails, phone calls, faxes, and letters that needs to be delivered. I think this also ties in closely with Page 9. Persons. I’m either waiting for something from someone or I need to communicate with a person or organization.

I’m thinking of e-mail apps (Apple Mail, Spark, Airmail, Newton), social media apps (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter), or video chat (Facetime, Skype) as possible apps that can link with my task manager, calendar, and CRM.


Page 14. Areas of Focus and Page 15. Projects



Do I have an established structure for my Areas of Focus? I need a task manager that can group my projects into folders. These folders represent Areas of Focus or Responsibilities that I am tracking.

Alternatively, I have sections in a 3-ring binder that separated by divider pages. Each section represents an Area of Focus. I slip in my project pages inside when I need to capture items.


Page 16. Reference Lists


I am looking at Allen’s page about Reference Lists and am unsure of what he truly wants. Maybe he wants a text expansion macro that can create blank reference lists to print out? Or a PDF editor to create templates for his use? The world still revolves around papers and creating blank forms is still essential.

Allen lists books here. Maybe he is referring to keeping resources in easily accessible locations such as a notebook app (DEVONthink, Evernote) or putting everything into a cloud drive such as Dropbox, iCloud, or Google Drive?


Page 17. Weekly Debriefing (The Weekly Review)


Do I have a workflow to review my projects and checklists? I want to make sure my projects and checklists are always up-to-date. I set a time to review a variety of projects and checklists.

  • Mondays - Routine Tasks

  • Tuesdays - One-off tasks for my Work, Personal, House, and Family

  • Wednesdays - Any currently active work projects

  • Thursdays - Any currently active personal projects

  • End of the Month - Any projects that are on hold or on Someday status.

Some projects such as the Christmas shopping list don’t need to be reviewed on a weekly basis. I put an all-day appointment in my calendar for these ticklers.

The Weekly Review is the secret sauce that makes any productivity system click. Once I adopted this essential habit into my productivity workflow, life flows more smoothly.


Page 18. Coaching Messages and Page 19. Coaching Models



I don’t know of any app that will truly hold your hand when I’m going through my workflows. I do have a Keyboard Maestro macro group that coaches me through my Daily Review workflow.

I use an OmniOutliner outline that I refer to when I’m doing my monthly review. I like checklists a lot. Atul Gawande wrote a book exploring the idea of using checklists for nearly everything in my life.

https://www.amazon.com/Checklist-Manifesto-How-Things-Right/dp/0312430000/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=checklist+manifesto&qid=1564992032&s=gateway&sr=8-2

If I have a checklist, I won’t be skipping any steps and assuming that my projects and checklists are up-to-date.

The checklist becomes my coach. As a matter of fact, this post is a checklist for me to fine-tune my system.


Create your own ultimate GTD workflow

What works for me might not work for you. I created a checklist from David Allen’s GTD app wish list and looked for workflows, tools, and apps that will help me get to a well-oiled machine that is humming on all eight cylinders.

Some other productivity systems that I have incorporated into my own personal system includes:

Michael Hyatt - Free to Focus and the Full Focus Planner

J.D. Meier - Getting Results the Agile Way

Leo Babauta - Zen To Done

Ryder Carroll - The Bullet Journal

Find your own productivity workflow. Create a system that includes habits and tools that facilitates your needs as a remote worker. What works for you? Diagnose areas that have provided some friction. Look for something that works for you.

Some workflows that have been created are presented here:

@bkruisdijk shows how he uses OmniFocus, DEVONthink, Drafts, Shortcuts, Keyboard Maestro, Fantastical, Apple Mail, and TextExpander to create his own ultimate GTD app.

@Kourosh reflects upon his GTD workflow and explores how he was able to use his methodology described in his book Creating Flow with OmniFocus..

Take your time developing the different checklists and workflows needed. Test it in your daily life for a few weeks before moving on to the next workflow. Then share your own workflow by creating a new post. We can learn much from each other.

Enjoy!

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Awesome job & thank you for all the extensive work in this project. This will definitely help me! Thanks again!

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The Getting Things Done podcast had an interview with David Allen, John Forrister, and Eric Mack about the early attempts at the ultimate GTD app.

It’s an interesting episode to listen to for those of us wanting to create our own GTD workflow.

Eric was the technology guy that would try to show Allen his latest and greatest feature tweak in their attempts at creating the ultimate GTD app. Allen would always resist and ask Eric if there was a way to make it simpler. One thought that stuck with me was Allen asking

Would I still be using this new feature in 30 days?

One of the greatest obstacles in GTD (or any productivity system) is that we’re always looking for a new workflow, a new tag, or a new app that promises to magically fix our workflow. I’ve tried out new tags and workflows but ultimately discarded them after a few weeks. Sit down and review our GTD workflows to see what has stuck and what needs to be discarded.

Allen wanted a pre-designed app that executed the various GTD workflow components. Apps such as Todoist, OmniFocus, and Things have their special features set. But having the app isn’t the final answer. We have to implement the workflows and habits and use the app as a tool to complete our goals. Nobody is going to remind me to do a weekly review. Nobody will tell me to look at my checklists when I’m at the grocery store. Everybody has their own methods to handle communication or agenda items with other people. To truly master GTD, I need to sit down with the tool I have and design my workflows to facilitate my needs.

In the mid 1990’s, there was no such thing as iCloud, Dropbox, Slack, Asana, and other cloud services. Heck, we were still in the dialup modem phase and wifi wasn’t really a thing yet. Decades later, we’re much further along with cloud services. Some of us are using Office 365 as our foundation. Others might use gSuite or Salesforce. Every organization will have a different foundation to work from. It would be incredibly hard to find that GTD app that will work with everything. But we can try and get halfway there if we put some elbow grease into it. Learning automation such as Siri Shortcuts, Keyboard Maestro, AppleScript, PERL, or Javascript will give us the tools to get our tools to communicate with each other. Or hopefully we might have a colleague or app developer who has the tools needed to get it to work.

Eric was fascinated when he met Allen and Forrister for the first time (17:00 into the podcast). He observed how Allen and Forrister worked together and went through their Agenda page and their Waiting For page in their GTD notebook.

He thought that if he could create the app then that would solve everything. He would try to lay on features and new preference settings but Allen would ask him to simplify it further. But simplifying is the hardest thing to do. Something can look simple but hidden underneath the surface is a complexity that runs the machine. The idea is to make a workflow as complex as it needs to be and as simple as it needs to be. Perplexing, right?

Technology isn’t the answer. It is part of the solution. Workflows matter. If we don’t build the habits, the tool isn’t gonna fix our problems.

I’m looking forward to listening to the next episode when it comes out soon.

Anybody have any thoughts about what they want? Do you think it’s the app that will fix it all or is there something else to creating the ultimate GTD app?

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