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Stripping Toodledo down for GTD
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Posted: Feb 01, 2013
Score: 2 Reference
As much as I've loved using GTD, I've always felt it was always bait for Productivity Pr0n. I decided GTD was about

1. Collecting every possible project, errand, task, habit, you want to track at all.
2. Processing... this is the delegation, delete, etc.
3. Tracking
4. Acting - I use principles from the Pomodoro technique for this phase.

[So I just finished typing this all out... it went longer than I expected.]

I've started to strip pieces of GTD away and I wanted to use as few fields in Toodledo as possible. More fields to fill out is just not motivating.

Now, my display is:

Task, Folder, Context, Status (Or Priority, if that's your preference), Notes

I create a folder for ANYTHING requiring more than 2 tasks and I title it with what can be best described as "completion condition." I also create them for specific people (Girlfriend, boss, co-worker).

For context, I use @anywhere, @computer, @email, @errand, @home, @work (Contexts are very personal, you will have your own set)

Status (Or Priority) I use to designate levels. The levels I use are Next, Soon, Later, Someday, Waiting, Delegated. Using Toodledo's options, I respectively use Next Action, Active, Planning, Hold, Someday, Waiting, Delegated. I suppose one could use Priorities, though some categories will need to be shifted. I'll leave that as an exercise for someone so inclined. I'm currently experimenting with using Now for things I want to become routine like flossing my teeth or eating more vegetables. They never get checked off as complete. They're effectively there as reminders.

Notes are where I will keep relevant notes for the specific task (phone numbers, addresses, email, etc)

Every folder, at any given time, will only contain ONE task. That task is whatever the next action for that particular project will be. For example, if I had a "Prepare guest room" the only task in there will be "Dust the ceiling fan." There is no need to worry about any other task at all. (But what if you have more tasks... I'll get to that)

For contexts, choose the context that fits best for the task. What is the essential location or tool? You see my list. I expect your list to differ. For the longest time, I used to use @home, @work, @errands. Eventually, I decided I needed to add the extra contexts.

For Status, place items where they best fit in terms of how important they are. The standard GTD Someday example is Learn Italian. Maybe your first task is Buy an Italian-English dictionary. You will probably make the status of this Someday. Maybe there is a book you want to read over time. Your first task can be Read Chapter 1 and you'd give it the status of Planning. The vacation to Hawaii you were planning on this year is going to have to be postponed due to a sudden medical emergency so the original Next Action now becomes Hold (or Waiting).

So, continuing with the Prepare Guest Room...

I create a task "Dust ceiling fan" and I add it to the folder "Prepare Guest Room." I give it Context of @home and Next Action.

Great... now turns out you have a list of Guest room tasks you want to record right now... fine. Let's do that... you'll repeat as above, only the Status will be Active instead of Next Action. This way, it will be tracked, but it won't be there when you're searching through "Next Actions."

That's it for task entry! (I'll get to collection later)

The two views I use most are Main (Folder/Context) and Context (Context/Status). I also use Folder (Folder/Context) with Recently Completed Showing as it gives a marker of progress during the daily/weekly reviews.

The other tool I use is Google Calendar (you can use whatever calendar you like). Everything that has a hard due date goes there. I make it an All Day event and on a given day, when I complete a task, I will delete the event. I should also stress I have no duplication between my calendar and Toodledo. So for a more complex project, you will place tasks on your calendar so you can be sure to make enough progress as needed. The VERY IMPORTANT thing is to treat the due dates as firm, and the easiest way to do that is to make the action as doable as possible. For example, "Read 1 chapter" not "Read Book." Just think, if you make a due date to "give yourself time" to finish by then, you haven't made the steps small enough.

Lastly, I use Evernote and the Toodledo email address (and sometimes paper) as capture devices. During daily review, they will all get processed and entered in Toodledo as needed.

So... I get an email and I decide my next action is to Call Phil about car. I forward that to Toodledo @@calls $Next Action. I archive the original email... my inbox is clean. Is it an email I just want to read at some point, like a newsletter from some company? I forward that to Toodledo Read Newsletter @@computer $Next Action. I get an email about the new Lamborghini. I forward that to Toodledo Buy Lamborghini @@errand $Someday. If you replied to an email and are now waiting for a reply to move on, bcc your toodledo and don't add any context/status. You'll just process it in daily review.

I'm out and I eat something delicious I'd like to recreate. I take a picture of it in Evernote and title it "Find recipe for delicious awesomesauce" and I will process it later.

Daily review: Anything in Evernote is processed. Go to search and search for anything where status is none. Feel free to save the search. Now process those items. Go to your Folder view. Any folder without a Next Action under it needs to have a new Next Action. Thankfully, you have your completed action there to help remind you of what the next new action is (Or, if you have other tasks already listed, like in the Prepare Guest Bedroom example, just update one of those to be the next action). Go to Status->Waiting do any of those items need to be followed up on? If so, create a Next Action task for it. Go to Status->Someday and look over anything there to see if it can now become Activated as a Next Action. And delete any Projects that no longer interest you. Quickly brainstorm anything else you might want to take on and create a folder and task for it.

Weekly Review: Do the daily review, then... review your projects and decide what's most important. Maybe some projects need to drop out of Next Action to Active to keep your Next Action list small. Look at your calendar and see if there's anything in the week you need to supplement in some way, like you and your wife are scheduled to go shopping for a new dresser and you just realized you should take measurements before that day. Take look at some projects where no progress has been made. Perhaps you can make a step even smaller so you'll be able to make some progress in the upcoming week. Finally, go over some type of trigger list and see if it triggers anything in your brain about a task or project you need to plan for. Feel free to use Merlin Mann's trigger list ( and just remove what makes no sense for you. Eventually, you'll add to it yourself. Just remember, this is a time to REVIEW, not to DO. So, if you suddenly remember a phone call you need to make, don't do it. Just make your note for processing it afterward. For most people, this should be less than an hour. Also... this should be on your calendar every week.
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