One of the recurring topics here on the blog is my attempt to improve my productivity. My main method for staying on top of everything I have to get done is the Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology. My last mention of it was when I got my new HTC EVO a couple months ago and the search for a replacement app for ToDo by Appigo. After some testing, I ended up going with Got To Do. It has served as a more than capable replacement.
Outside of the digital search, something else I had done was introduce a new context – Actions – Urgent, for things I really needed to get to during the upcoming week. In general, I felt like that was a positive change. For the most part, the things that need to trickle up to the top of the list do so. And it has caused me to be much more diligent about conducting my weekly reviews. The only problem is that over time the line has been blurring between items that are really urgent and need to be completed in the upcoming week and those that are just next actions. This has resulted in some frequent adjustments to the tasks.
One of the mailing lists that I am on is a GTD list and a recent discussion had to do with a comparison of the Do It Tomorrow methods with GTD. So I did some research into this methodology created by Mark Forster and just finished reading Do It Tomorrow and Other Secrets of Time Management. There were some interesting concepts in there, especially on tips and techniques to stay on task and to avoid the effects of procrastination. Also some interesting bits about two “parts” to our brain – the rational part and the reactive part. The reactive part is what wants to avoid work, so the rational part has to use some tricks to get past those defenses. Can’t really say there was a whole lot as far as a methodology. I’ll probably be able to use some of it in my work.
Of more use has been something I found on Mark Forster’s web site about a concept called SuperFocus. I gather from some of what I’ve read, this is a successor to another methodology he created called AutoFocus (maybe up through version 4?). You can read the web site for information on how the system works. One downside to it is that there is a dearth of apps for SuperFocus. I did find one for Android – ActionFocus - but I still haven’t fully tested it.
The system seems to be much more centered on a low tech paper and pen approach. And here I am on a paperless digital life list as well, introducing a paper system into my life. Anyway, I invested in a MoleSkine pad and a dedicated pen. At this point, I am basically taking the items from my Actions – Urgent context in GTD and moving them over to the first column of the SuperFocus pad. I’ve been using the system for about a week now and I do think I managed to complete more than I normally would have.
The strength of the system seems to be in helping me to focus on the activities and tasks that I really need to get done instead of them getting lost in the relative noise of the GTD system. Combined with some of the techniques from DIT, I think I can squeeze even more productivity out of myself.
Of course, there are some weaknesses to the system as well. First, the aforementioned low tech approach. That leads to the second weakness – I can really only use the Moleskine for one folder. In this case it is work. It does not really seem suited to adding in tasks and actions from some of my personal activities without introducing a new Moleskine (ideally, one per folder, but I could possibly limit it to a second “Personal” folder and combine stuff from GTD).
Early indications are that the SuperFocus technique will be an effective extension of my GTD methods and will help me get things done once they have trickled up to be at or near the center of my focus.