LifeTopix is a personal organization app for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch. For those who use David Allen’s Getting Things Done® (GTD) method, we’re constantly incorporating features that are useful and we enjoy sharing our best practices in LifeTopix for using them. In this post, I’ll show you how you can use LifeTopix’s features to help you prioritize tasks — influenced by the “Four Criteria Model,” which I’ll explain for those who are not familiar with GTD or this model.
What is GTD?
If you’re not familiar with GTD, it’s “the groundbreaking work-life management system by David Allen that provides concrete solutions for transforming overwhelm and uncertainty into an integrated system of stress-free productivity,” according to David Allen’s website.
How Does One Decide Which Tasks to Complete in GTD?
When prioritizing, many of us only take into account the value of completing tasks. For example, we consider the outcome if the tasks are completed or not completed. While this factor is certainly important, in GTD, Allen takes into account the following four criteria — context, time available, energy, and priority, which is considered the “Four-Criteria Model.”
In the GTD method, Contexts are typically based on a physical location, resource, or the equipment that’s necessary to complete a task. Examples of Contexts are @office, @home, @grocery store, @computer, @train, @vacation, or @phone. Also, in GTD, items are allowed more than one Context. For example, you could assign a Context of @office and @phone for phone calls that are completed at the office. Intuitively, many of us take into account the physical location and whether or not resources or gear are available when deciding which tasks to conquer and when to start them. Some activities fall outside of these parameters. For example, processing email on a smartphone or tablet can be performed while commuting as a passenger on the train — not only at the office; therefore, a Context tag of @train can be utilized. To learn more about using Contexts in LifeTopix, see GTD Best Practices for Using LifeTopix.
2. Time Available
Time available is the amount of time it takes to complete a task or the “effort.” Once you’ve determined that you’re at the proper location and that you have access to the required resources, then you can decide which tasks you can complete within the allotted amount of time. For example, if you must leave the office at 6:00 to catch a ride home and it’s 5:00. You have one hour to complete a task so it’s best to find a task that you can complete in one hour. In order to locate a task that you can complete, then you must assign an estimated amount of time to each task when you’re planning tasks.
Some tasks require a lot of brain power and/or physical energy, while others are completely mechanical and you can practically complete them in your sleep. Once you’ve satisfied the Contexts and your task can be completed within your time frame, you can evaluate the energy that’s required to complete the task. For example, imagine you’re a web producer for a corporate website and your job responsibilities range anywhere from adding marketing copy to a website to designing complex web information systems. When brain power is low, you’ll choose the more mechanical task of adding marketing copy, rather than building flow diagrams with proposed designs. The quality of the work is better when your energy level is appropriate for the task at hand.
Lastly, take into account the tasks that will produce the most value. How will these tasks help you achieve your most sought after goals and carry out your vision. How will they affect the bottom line? Who will benefit? Are these tasks urgent and why? These questions will help you choose the tasks that will move the needle.
The Four Criteria Model in LifeTopix
In LifeTopix, you can create projects, tasks, and to-do lists/checklists. To-do lists/checklists are best suited for very short and simple tasks or items to check off, such as a quality or inspection checklist that’s used over and over again. When planning tasks, it’s best to create projects with associated tasks.
Creating Context Tags
Simple Context tags in LifeTopix are shown in the example below. I created location-based and equipment-based Context tags, such as Home, Work and Laptop. I also included Low Energy, Medium Energy, and High Energy Context tags. These Context tags satisfy the criteria of (1) Location and Equipment-based Contexts, and (3) Energy Level.
Creating Projects and Tagging Tasks
By using the Tasks + Projects topic of LifeTopix, I created an imaginary project for a product launch, called “Product Launch – Lannister” and I created sample tasks, which are associated with this Project. When defining tasks, choose the Contexts that are appropriate for each of your tasks. Additionally, if a person resource is required, you can also choose a person or persons that represent the owner(s). These options are shown in the example below. Also, when defining tasks, ensure that you estimate the effort that is required as the number of hours, and also determine the priority. This satisfies (2) Time Available and (4) Priority. These options are shown below.
Choosing Your Tasks
When choosing among tasks, in LifeTopix you can view all of the tasks by their Context by accessing the My Contexts view. For example, you can choose all the tasks that are tagged as Work, Medium Energy, etc., as shown in the following example. You can drill down into each task and make decisions about the tasks to complete based on how long the tasks will take, the priority of the tasks, and if they require additional people resources. Once you’ve made decisions about the tasks you wish to complete, you can assign a due date as shown below. After you assign due dates, upcoming tasks appear in the LifeTopix Agenda view — divided among today, tomorrow, and the next seven days. This allows you to view your tasks among the time-based items that are on your schedule, such as meetings. Alternatively, you can choose tasks among the unassigned items directly from “Open Undated Items” in the Agenda view. For your convenience, you can drill into the details from this view when choosing items you plan to complete. The Agenda View is shown below. LifeTopix includes several ways to view your lists of tasks. If you prefer not to schedule a time for tasks, you can view the tasks from the My Contexts view, within Categories in the Tasks + Projects topic, or divided among projects in the Tasks + Projects view. You might also choose to add tasks that you’re planning to complete to the Hot List, which enables you to view all the tasks in a single click from the Hot List.
GTD is a great system for managing your busy home and work life. If you’d like to know more about best practices using LifeTopix for GTD, refer to the following posts:
Please comment and let us know how you’re prioritizing and choosing tasks. Thanks!
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