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OneLessTask's GTD Process/Setup: Part 2

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  • OneLessTask's GTD Process/Setup: Part 2

    In Part 1, I covered intake and transfer of tasks. In this part, I tackle reviewing, doing, sweeping, and some other tools that I have found helpful.


    Review: Master Task List

    I am using Checkvist for my master task list. You don't really want to hear about how much time and money I spent on numerous other software applications and sites (Things, TaskPaper, Toodledo, Remember The Milk, Nirvana and Hitask to name only a few), so I'll focus on what's working today.
    • 99% keyboard driven. This is a must for me. Hands on keys means uninterrupted flow.
    • Free. I paid for a subscription, but only because I like to fiddle with color schemes and that was in the pro package.
    • Unlimited nesting. I wanted to nest my projects within my areas of responsibility (see below), which was not possible in the other systems I used.
    • Import text chunks. I can take any block of indented text from e-mail, Word or Notational Velocity and import it into a task or notes outline.
    • Tag support. I could finagle tags into most any system, but it's nice that Checkvist has them already.
    • Due dates. Okay, geek-out time: I have an outlined task list with tags AND I can track due dates with it? No way. (Way!)

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    Review: Paper

    Okay, so the cool thing about keeping a steno pad is that I have a running chronology of my notes, which is kind of "duh", but I have proven that if I have a page flexible system (3-ring, Circa, etc.) that I will fiddle it into meaninglessness. The steno pad gives me enforced continuity.

    Review: Mobile

    This is where I say, "Oh no, my system is flawed. Oh well. What was I doing?" I do not access my master task list on my phone. At some point, I have to take responsibility for my priorities and not surrender accountability to my "outboard brain". (For a lengthy but rewarding read on this topic, I suggest The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nick Carr.)

    Does this mean I have forgotten things while away from my computer? Yes. Repeatedly? Yes. For tasks, this doesn't really bother me. For events, my phone will supply extra e-mail and pop-up reminders about upcoming events.


    I don't really have any advice here. You all know how to do your work better than me. However, my most effective doing happens when I follow my own advice below.


    I break down my sweep routines into three categories:
    • Daily
    • Weekly
    • Monthly
    I think this is pretty standard. I am not disciplined enough to do quarterly or annual sweeps (and it seems a bit over the top). For each category, I perform the following:

    Sweep: Daily: Morning sweep

    I do the same set of tasks every morning. Sometimes this takes two minutes but if I have a crazy day, a morning sweep is a lifesaver for my peace of mind. Here are the steps:
    1. Review calendars >> add tasks
    2. Read new mail >> add tasks
    3. Review old mail >> add tasks
    4. Prioritize tasks >> set Today tasks
    Step four is the key here. I move tasks up or down in the list, add related tasks that might be tacit but that will bog down my initiative subconsciously, and adjust due dates based on changes in circumstances.

    Sweep: Daily: Task sweep

    I check my list after I do something. I do something else. Repeat.

    Sweep: Weekly: Comprehensive Sweep List

    I keep a list of every conceptual area where I might have a task. Here are some broad areas to give you an idea:
    • Every project at work
    • Every room and area of my house
    • Every community of people
    • Major items I am responsible for (finances, pets, cars, computers, etc.)
    Sweep: Weekly: Set 7-day goals

    Add projects and tasks related to any new goals I establish.

    Sweep: Monthly: Review roles

    This is similar to my areas of responsibility. Do I have any new roles? Have I dropped any roles?

    Sweep: Monthly: Review goals

    Have I met my goals? If not, then are they still goals or just things I beat myself up about? Adjust goals as necessary.

    Sweep: Monthly: Consider life goals

    This is often too weighty for me to give serious attention but I owe it to myself to think about it every so often.

    Sweep: Monthly: Set 30-day goals

    Add projects and tasks related to any new goals I establish.

    Supplemental Tools

    Here are a couple of not-quite-GTD things that help my process.


    Suggested by the makers of Checkvist, Fluid is a Mac app that allows me to turn a web page into an application to which I can assign a shortcut key.


    FreeMind is a mind-mapping (a.k.a. clustering) application. I can brainstorm, export my cluster to an outline in HTML, copy the text of the outline and import it into my master task list. Nifty.

    Notational Velocity and Simplenote*

    Notational Velocity (Mac) and Simplenote (iPhone) are notes applications applications that sync with each other. This is explained much better in this article on GigaOm.

    * I include information on note-taking since for me it is an inherent part of intake and translating notes to tasks.


    I hadn't come to fully appreciate the complexity of my process until I tried to write it down. Like many others, I have only come to this point through years of trial and error and refinement, which is of course still ongoing.

    I share this in hopes that you might pick a piece of it out for your own use, if it is helpful. I assure you that some parts of my system will be unsavory, and I advise you to take what's useful and leave the rest. I am open to suggestions, if for no other reason than to spur discussion about how we all tackle the same goal of getting organized.

    A myth that I held as a young lad was that once I found the perfect solution, I would stop fiddling and life would be grand and problem-free. But I have come to accept that nothing in life is perfect, and I can appreciate the joy of the journey instead.