I’m a productivity guy. I love GTD methodology, use it, and live according to my personal habits. Every morning is the best time of a single day because when the world usually sleeps I can do anything I want. Why? Because is 4:30 AM or 5 o’clock. This’s my miracle morning ritual. My time. Am I crazy? Yep, but let me return to the past.
I have been working at Miquido for four years. It’s been a really surprising time for me. When I started I believed in the existence of the best tool for GTD and generally – for task management. I read a lot of books. I watched TEDx talks on the topic. My colleague asked me, “Chris, why did you enter ‘Get answer Maciek’ in your Calendar when the answer for me could be YES or NO?” Well, because it was a task. Everything was a task and every single GTD tool (apps, web service, bullet journal, etc.) was the best tool I’ve used ever. My favorite at that time? It’s a good question. It was chaos.
I organized an internal presentation in our company and introduced all my knowledge (especially the little knowledge…) of GTD, tools and productivity hacks. I remember when my boss – Chris Kogutkiewicz – said: “Thanks Chris […] I really appreciate your passion for GTD, but I’m thinking right now about the execution of tasks. Let me suggest something to you, and correct me if I’m wrong, but I think you can’t be productive if you use a lot of complicated tools at the same time.” I was really shocked and angry, but today I understand Chris.
“Can we subtract instead of add? What if I could only subtract to solve problems?” This is Tim Ferris’ question to us. I asked myself that two years ago and I was embarrassed. Multitasking, all the tools, and the rules didn’t work at all. Why?
Cutting for productivity
If we do too many things with too much detail and use all the possible categories of stuff, the truth is that we don’t simplify anything. That’s where I was.
That’s the lesson I learned from the last four years. I was really shocked by the remarkable effects of using Apple’s default productivity apps: Notes and Reminders. Chris showed me his Notes. He had noted with simply a header: “To do”. What else? Bullet points. That’s all. Simply, clearly, and effectively. I thought ‘OK, let’s do that.’
Six months later I gave up my super advanced tools up. The results? Contrary to my previous habits, I have stopped thinking about the next endless tasks. I look at the list, review my priorities (I understood that I can put something off.) and do that. Getting things done. No adding lots of flags, categories or other frames for a single task. To my surprise, it has been working!
Next issue: the lack of free time. I lived from task to task. It was dangerous for my mental health. I didn’t want to listen to anyone. Let me introduce the newest case study at the University of Edinburgh. “Professor Richard Morris, of the Centre for Cognitive and Neural Systems at the University of Edinburgh, said: ‘Little surprises happen all the time in subtle ways that reflect our personal lives and interests. Somehow, the novelty of surprise creates a halo of a better memory for all the otherwise trivial events of one’s day that we ordinarily forget.’ […] It’s called ‘flashbulb memory’. […] The key to improving your memory is… well, it’s surprising.”
When I took Chris up on his advice and cut all the unnecessary tools and rules of GTD, I could focus on my work, tasks, and goals. From today’s perspective, I lost sight of the core of GTD – doing something. Maybe I was a really good supervisor but I wasn’t a worker. I didn’t have the time for reviewing my productivity system, goals and finally the actual status. I have that stuff right now. I love that practice. Every Friday I’ll do my weekly review when I’ll check my list of tasks, add new ones or delete the unnecessary, schedule the most important from that and stay free space for surprise situation. I can empty my mind, add anything to my inbox when I think it might be worth doing that in the future, but on Friday I’ll have a chance to look at again and make a decision. This is the key.
From one perspective I’m still ready for the next week, but now I’m more flexible and certain that I want or I have to do a single task on my list. What if I am not sure? I can delegate (to another person or other time) or cut. At the end end of the day, a task is done for me. It can’t be legacy or unhandled.
One system. One tool. Constantly reviewing!
I worked my productivity system out. Completely? Of course not, but I use one GTD tool right now (the best for me, not for other ‘ninja gurus’), practice my weekly review and try to be ready for every single crazy day at Miquido and in my life.
I’m a runner so as I guess you understand how it could be hard to go running when it’s raining outside. I have scheduled running, of course, but any GTD system can’t tell me, “Chris, I’m waiting for you on the bridge.” So what do I mean? You know, good relationships are crucial to our survival; to humanity’s collective knowledge, progress, and joy. We can use super advanced methods to do anything we want, but it’s not a joy. Joy is when we can share our experiences with others. Learn and find new solutions together.
Leonardo DiCaprio said, “Every next level of your life will require a different you.” Four years ago I thought that I knew everything about GTD. Today at Miquido I constantly learn that it could only be a little piece of my possibility. We should surround ourself with smart people that allow us to have a second pair of eyes that have more experience than we do in their chosen field of expertise. The key is trying to be beyond the bounds of possibility. Together.