5 task management treats from changing GTD tools

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

May 26

Task Management photo

Last week, my task management tools changed. You see, I bought an iMac and dumped my Windows laptop. This, after my wife dumped her laptop two weeks ago and we got an iMac for her. Outside of the reasoning to change to Macs from PC’s, the big issue for me was finding and converting my Getting Things Done tool.

Now, I had used Outlook successfully for the GTD practice. But Office for Mac has a funky Outlook equivalent that interfaces with Mac software and I just didn’t want to go there. After some research, I ended up getting “Things” for both Mac and the iPhone.

I took a couple of days last week just getting the Windows to Mac thing right for the computers and then I tackled my (hundreds of) tasks and dozens of projects. There is no easy conversion. E-mail from one machine to the other helped, but some of the conversion work was just plain old manual type it in. In the process, I got some task management treats.

Forced rethink of task management structure

Different tools have different ways of organizing tasks and projects and Outlook to Things is no different. Things uses tags instead of categories and you can also use sub-tags as well. Thus, I had to look hard at how I did my organization to determine what was working and what was not. Putting in some serious planning time here helped in getting the task structure set up the way that I thought worked best for me.

My tasks were poorly written

In GTD, there is the axiom of the “next physical action” to take and that next physical action is what is written for the task. When you are converting, you go back to principles of GTD and it was clearly evident that my tasks were not constructed as GTD tasks. Lacking in verbs (“write” this, “call” this person…). Lacking an outcome. Many of my tasks were simply “reminders” instead of well written actions.

Many Someday items eliminated

Someday is a category where you put stuff that you might want to do “some day.” That trip to France. Learning to play guitar. Someday became a place to dump every idea I had a remote thought of doing. Well, that list — and the need to convert it — got shortened up.

You re-think projects

A Project in GTD is anything that requires two or more tasks to complete. This makes sense; you can’t do a project, you can only do the tasks that will get the projects done. Well, I had a lot of “tasks” that were really projects. And Things has this cool way of doing projects and associating them with tasks (they also do for Areas of Responsibility). Working with the Things way of doing projects really helped get that right.

When conversion is complete, you do a Weekly Review

Weekly Reviews are the cornerstone of keeping your task management system current and complete. My weekly reviews were getting a bit scattered and not as complete as needed. It is a situation everyone faces. By converting my GTD system, I did a weekly review after conversion to see how it all worked. So far, so good. You know this will change…

Moving to a new task management tool, for those who utterly depend on it, is stressful, time consuming and slows productivity. Yet, doing so after many years of faithful use of a current tool can give you some treats as well.

Does your task management tool need a reboot?

Photo by DamienOz

Photo by DamienOz

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About the Author

Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.

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