Productivity and GTD

3 habits to boost your productivity

AUTHOR: Francisco Sáez

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In this post I will discuss some productive habits that are not strictly GTD, but that, either underlie its general approach or can be complementary and highly useful in certain circumstances. All of them are related to the perspective or vertical approach of GTD.

1. First things first

This concept was introduced by Stephen Covey in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. In particular, it’s the third of these 7 habits, and it has to do with physically doing the things we have committed previously.

Covey defines it as the ability to make decisions and choices according to the consciousness we have of ourselves. The goal is to achieve effective personal management, which means it has to be consistent with our vision of life and things we consider important.

In order to do that it’s crucial to distinguish between the two factors that define each activity: urgency and importance. A thing is urgent when it requires our immediate attention. A thing is important when it contributes to larger goals, to our values​​, to our mission.

We react to urgent things, but the important ones require our initiative—proactivity—to carry them out. This is why many people spend most of their time battling with urgent and—often—empty things. To avoid this we must learn to say “no” to some things, apparently urgent.

If you’re a GTD practitioner, this concept isn’t new to you, because it’s a habit in which David Allen stresses throughout all his books. Keep this in mind when you’re doing your weekly review and organizing your lists. What moves you? What’s important to you?

2. Most Important Tasks

This concept, introduced by Leo Batauta in his book Zen To Done (ZTD): The Ultimate Simple Productivity System, is not nothing but the daily application of the first-things-first habit.

Important projects on which you will spend your time this week are supposed to be chosen at your weekly review. Now it’s time to define at least one daily action for each of them, so these projects can move forward. These daily activities related to major goals are the MITs (Most Important Tasks).

To use this in your GTD system, you just have to always do your MITs before other actions, of course, if the context you are in is the right one.

3. Eat that frog!

This concept was introduced by Brian Tracy in his book Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less.

As an old saying says, if the first thing you do when you wake up each morning is eat a live frog, nothing worse can happen for the rest of the day. The frog is that task you’re worried about because you know you’ll get into trouble if it isn’t done asap. Despite of that, you’re always putting it off.

The idea is that if you eat the frog at the beggining of the day, the satisfaction you get from taking it off your shoulders will energize you for the rest of the day. Conversely, if you don’t do it, it will be constantly hitting your head.

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