How to Clear Your Annoying Mental Clutter

Just like physical clutter, mental clutter can take a toll on your health, happiness and productivity. For example, can you remember a time that you tossed and turned all night long thinking about things that you needed to do, which resulted in a poor night’s sleep? This is what mental clutter can do. To combat mental clutter, we’ve developed a three step system that frees your mind of the things that are bogging you down.

Three Step System – Filter, Capture Everything and Make Actionable

  1. Filter – In today’s world it’s common for many of us to have multiple email and social media accounts. In addition, we’re constantly searching the web to find new information. That’s why we’ve combined social, email and web streams into one app — allowing you to filter this information by keywords and other choices, which results in a more efficient way to consume and curate this information.
  2. Capture Everything – Doing a “brain dump” is a common way to get everything out of your head and into a system. The Quick Inbox is designed specifically for this reason. Record everything and process it when you’re ready.
  3. Make Actionable – How often do you find information in email, on the web and from social media that you can’t act on right away? This is why we created a way to convert these items that you find into objects, which you can schedule on your calendar. For example, you can instantly convert an email message with a party invitation to an event on your calendar — in one app (no app hopping required). This is a great way to reach “inbox zero” every day.

View the Slides

You can carry out this three step system by using LightArrow Apps. To learn more, watch the slideshow below:

Watch the Video

You can carry out this three step system by using LightArrow Apps. To learn more, watch the video below:

Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Doing Phase

LifeTopix and My.Agenda are personal organization apps for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch. Both apps are especially useful for those who utilize David Allen’s Getting Things Done® (GTD) method. The GTD method is an excellent method for organizing your schedule and getting things done for both life and business.LifeTopix GTD

At LightArrow, we’re constantly incorporating features that are useful for GTD, and we enjoy sharing our best practices for using these features. In this post, I’ll show you how you can use LifeTopix for the Doing Phase of GTD. Keep in mind that our starter app, My.Agenda, can include many of the features discussed by purchasing the Get Things Done Pack as an in-app purchase.

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. Allen lays out five key phases of the GTD process, which include 1) Capture/Collect, 2) Process, 3) Organize, 4) Review, and 5) Doing. This post focuses on the Doing Phase of this workflow. In earlier blog posts, I’ve described the first four phases.

Refer to the following links to better understand how to use LightArrow apps for GTD.

Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Prioritizing Tasks in LifeTopix
Best Practices for Getting Things Done with LifeTopix Categories and Contexts
Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Capture and Collect
Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Processing
Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Master Organizing
Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Weekly Review

What is the Doing Phase of GTD?

No matter what system you’re using, it’s incredibly important to take action on your projects and units of work (tasks). In GTD, the Doing Phase is about making choices and taking action on items based on the context, time available, resources, and priorities. The types of items that you execute on are primarily tasks; however, in LifeTopix you might also be acting upon notes, appointments, trips, visits, events, gifts, and shopping lists. When using LifeTopix, we suggest that you review your action lists daily and choose the items for which you wish to act.

This post focuses primarily on tasks and appointments, but keep in mind the principles are similar for most actionable items. If you’ve properly executed the phases of Capturing, Processing, Organizing, and Reviewing, then you should be able to easily proceed with the Doing Phase. When using LifeTopix for the Doing Phase, focus on the items described in the following sections.

Choosing Items from My Contexts

LifeTopix provides context tags for adding metadata to any type of object, no matter what system you use. Fundamentally, tags are used to describe the data for organizing purposes. In GTD, contexts are assigned to help you determine if you’re at the correct location and have the proper resources to complete a job. You can use LifeTopix’s context tags for GTD contexts.

The following four criteria are outlined in Allen’s book for setting contexts:

  1. Context (tools available, such as phone, internet, etc.)
  2. Time (the time at hand)
  3. Energy (your attention level)
  4. Priority (importance)

Take note that you’re more productive if you perform tasks, such as making phone calls during chunks of time, rather than switching to a different task — such as going to the grocery store to pick up milk and then finishing phone calls at a later time. Examples of GTD contexts are @office, @home, @grocery store, etc.

In LifeTopix, you can set any context you wish and you can assign multiple contexts to items. You access the My Contexts view by tapping the “tag” icon, as shown in the following image. The My Contexts view assists you in making choices about the jobs you wish to complete daily. This view shows all the contexts that you’ve set up.

LifeTopix Contexts
You can drill down into the contexts to see their tasks and other items by tapping the items in the list. In the My Contexts view, I’ve chosen the context of @home. The following image shows the tasks to which I’ve assigned to this context.

LifeTopix Contexts

Choosing and Viewing Daily Tasks from Contexts

Once you’ve selected a task from the My Contexts view, you can view the task detail to further determine if you have the time to complete the job. You can also determine if the item is a priority. The following image shows the fields that help you to decide on an action. The image below also shows how you can assign the action to the current date. Assigning a date allows you to easily locate and view the task in the Agenda view.

LifeTopix Tasks GTD

When you assign a due date to the current day, the task appears in the Agenda view, which makes it easy for you to view and edit your upcoming tasks from one screen, as shown in the following image.

LifeTopix Agenda View GTD

In the above image, notice that the “Write 10 pages” task appears in light green, indicating it’s the next action to complete.

Choosing Items from Task Lists

Another method for choosing your daily tasks is to review your Task Lists in LifeTopix. In the Tasks + Projects topic of LifeTopix, you can access all your tasks in one view, which is the Task List view. You can drill down into each task to determine if you have enough time to complete the task and whether or not the task is flagged with a higher priority. This view is shown below.

Task List LifeTopix

We realize that it’s crucial to choose daily tasks based on many factors, and that priority and context are of upmost importance. Therefore, in our upcoming release of LifeTopix, we’ve made it easier to choose daily tasks by adding more choices for filtering task views. You will be able to view tasks by All, Category, Context Tag, Due Date, Last Updated, Status, Associated Item, Priority, and Task Owner. This allows you to better choose items based on context, time, resources, and priorities. These new choices are shown in the following image.

LifeTopix 8

(Pre-release image)

Utilizing Hot Lists

Hot Lists are exactly what the name implies — items that have a high degree of importance. Hence, we created the Hot List view for those “Hot” items. The Hot List gives you easy access to your favorite and most commonly used views and items by aggregating them into one place. This saves you time in navigating to frequently used views, items, and resources in LifeTopix.

At LightArrow, we realize that when following the GTD method, you might not want to set due dates for tasks that do not have hard deadlines. In LifeTopix, we recommend adding the due dates so you can easily view your items in one place (the Agenda view); however, if you prefer not to assign due dates to tasks, you can add these items to the Hot List.

To add tasks to your Hot List, in your Task List view, tap the “more info” icon to view the following options and then choose “Add to Hot List.”

Note: In many LifeTopix list views, you can tap and hold an item to add it to the Hot List.

Hot List GTD LifeTopix

Subsequently, you can view your chosen items directly from the Hot List, which you access from your Dashboard, as shown below.

Hot List

Using Your Calendar Views

Actions that must be completed at a certain date and time (with hard deadlines), such as classes, meetings, doctor’s appointments, kids’ activities, etc. are handled easily by LifeTopix. Specifically, LifeTopix allows you to define these items by Appointments, Bill Payments, Events, Dated Notes, Occasions, Medications, Activity/Wellness, and more. LifeTopix has a variety of choices for viewing the calendar. LifeTopix includes a main calendar that allows you to pick and choose the types of items that display on it. The app also includes specific calendars for tasks, events, and trips. You can view the calendar by Day, Week, Month, and Year. If you want to see these calendar views in detail, refer to Not Crazy About the iOS 7 Calendar App – Here’s the Answer.

In the Month and Day views, you can easily review the items that you scheduled for the day, which helps you to decide on the other tasks that you’ll work on daily. The following image shows an example of the Month view.

Month View LifeTopix

In this view, you can see all the dated items that you’ve assigned for the day — all in one place. Keep in mind that your dated items also appear in your Agenda view, which provides a good list of your jobs, events, and appointments for the current day and the upcoming week.

Completing Tasks

Of course, completing your important tasks is the ultimate goal when your intention is productivity and getting things done. Doing the work is up to you, but LifeTopix makes it easy to mark your tasks as complete. You simply set the Status to Completed and enter a Finished On date. This way, you have a record of when you complete the task and you feel a sense of accomplishment when you see your important items crossed off. The following screenshot shows the fields where you indicate status for a task.

LifeTopix Complete Tasks

Once you’ve completed your tasks, you can view the completed task list by filtering by all tasks, as shown in the following image.

LifeTopix Completed Tasks

Take note, in our upcoming release, you’ll have the ability to view your tasks by status, as shown earlier in this post.

More Information

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:

Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Prioritizing Tasks in LifeTopix
Best Practices for Getting Things Done with LifeTopix Categories and Contexts
Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Capture and Collect
Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Processing
Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Master Organizing
Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Weekly Review

Your Turn

As I mentioned, if you’ve properly focused on the first four phases of GTD, then the Doing Phase should be a breeze. Please comment and let us know how you implement the Doing Phase and let us know if you have suggestions or questions.

GTD® and Getting Things Done® are registered trademarks of the David Allen Company. LightArrow Apps are not affiliated with or endorsed by the David Allen Company.

Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Weekly Review

LifeTopix and My.Agenda are personal organization apps for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch. Both apps are especially useful for those who utilize David Allen’s Getting Things Done® (GTD) method. The GTD method is an excellent method for organizing your life and getting things done for both life and business.

Getting Things Done

We’re constantly incorporating features that are useful for GTD, and we enjoy sharing our best practices for using these features. In this post, I’ll show you how you can use LifeTopix’s features for the Weekly Review phase of GTD. Keep in mind that our starter App, My.Agenda, can include many of the features discussed by purchasing the Get Things Done Pack as an in-app purchase.

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. Allen lays out five key phases of the GTD process, which include 1) Capture/Collect, 2) Process, 3) Organize, 4) Review, and 5) Do. This post focuses on the Review phase of this workflow. In earlier blog posts, I’ve described the first four phases. At the end of this post, you’ll find links to those earlier posts.

What is the Review Phase in GTD?

In many productivity systems including GTD, experts recommend that you set aside time every week for approximately an hour to reflect on the items that you’ve completed, determine what needs to be completed the following week, and to contact people who you need to connect with. Allen recommends that you select a consistent place and time so you develop a habit for your Weekly Review. Schedule your Weekly Reviews on your LifeTopix calendar to ensure your process remains consistent.

The following table provides an overview of the items that you should include in your Weekly Review and how LifeTopix provides a feature or view to make the Weekly Review painless.

Weekly Review Checklist LifeTopix Feature or View
Calendar (Time Sensitive Items) -> Calendar / Agenda View
Email and Someday/Maybe Items -> Quick Inbox
Projects -> Tasks + Projects Topic
Contacts -> People + Services Topic (or) Context Tags
Checklists and To-do Lists -> Notes + Files Topic or Agenda view
“Waiting for” and Catch All -> Context Tags and Recently Updated
Loose Papers -> Box, Dropbox, SkyDrive, Google Drive Integration

How Do You Review These Items in LifeTopix?

LifeTopix and My.Agenda are both very flexible apps so there are several ways that you can approach your Weekly Review. The following sections describe different approaches for viewing the items you wish to review.

Calendar / Agenda (Time Sensitive Items)

Items you’ve placed on your calendar are important for your Weekly Review because they’re time sensitive. You’ve given them a date for a reason, whether it’s a hard deadline, meeting, or other event.

When performing your Weekly Review, review the items that you’ve scheduled and create any new items that might be a result of your scheduled items. For example, you might have a meeting with a client coming up, but you haven’t reviewed your client’s requirements. Put this prep time on your calendar or use your LifeTopix Quick Inbox to collect this information.

LifeTopix Calendar

The LifeTopix Calendar is an essential tool for your Weekly Review. Looking ahead 30 days will give you a good “big picture” view of your scheduled items. Make sure that your daily tasks are aligned to your strategic initiatives.

LifeTopix’s Month view is very handy for reviewing time-sensitive items. Review the next two to three weeks to get a sense of what is immediately ahead of you. The image below shows an example of the calendar with the Month view selected. The calendar shows a clear marker on each day that you’ve scheduled an item. You can filter the calendar to view the types of items that are important to you. For example, if you want to view tasks, but not media items — this is certainly possible.

LifeTopix Calendar

LifeTopix Agenda View

You’ll find your Agenda view to be priceless during your Weekly Review. The Agenda view provides you with an easy-to-read, high-level view of the items that you’ve scheduled for the current day and the next seven days. It also includes your to-do lists, checklists, overdue items, and undated items. Just like the calendar, it includes filters so you can decide which types of items you wish to view on your agenda. The image below shows an example of the Agenda view.

LifeTopix Agenda View

Review your to-dos, overdue items, and upcoming items on your calendar. The Undated items section is especially useful because they may not be on your radar yet. This is a good time to decide the fate of your upcoming undated items, tasks, projects, events, and other items.

Email and Someday/Maybe Items (Quick Inbox)

Utilize the LifeTopix Quick Inbox for items without a clear due date, with a due date in the future (ticklers), that you’ve collected from your email messages, or that you wish to do someday (such as learn to speak another language). These items should be reviewed during your Weekly Review. Quickly review items in your someday/maybe lists to determine if you want to convert them to projects or other items. Remove any items that are no longer of interest to you.

The image below shows an example of items waiting to enter the Processing Phase in the LifeTopix Quick Inbox.

Quick Inbox

In LifeTopix, it’s easy to convert these items to actionable items such as projects, tasks or events, as shown in the following image.

Quick Inbox Convert

Projects (Tasks + Projects Topic)

In GTD or other productivity systems, a project is an objective that requires one or more actions. The Weekly Review is a good time to determine what you need to accomplish to move your projects forward and the due dates for the tasks or other items associated with the project.

In LifeTopix, you can create tasks (as task lists) or as a part of a project in the LifeTopix Tasks + Projects topic. These tasks can remain undated if you wish, and you should review them regularly. In LifeTopix, you can create general projects, education projects, health and activity projects, and other types of projects. You can review them all in one place — the Tasks + Projects topic, which is shown below.

LifeTopix Projects

Once you tap on any project, you can view and associate additional items, such as a task list, to-do lists, checklists, appointments, files, notes, expenses, services, shopping items, etc. The project gives you a complete picture of each project and organizes all associated items.

Contacts (People + Services Topic)

During your Weekly Review, you should decide if you need to contact friends, family, or colleagues regarding projects, tasks or other items. Your Weekly Review is a good time to manage your follow-ups. In LifeTopix, when you create tasks or other items, you can assign a contact as an “owner” as shown in the image below:

LifeTopix contacts-owners

During your Weekly Review, in the LifeTopix People + Services topic, you can view all your recent activity in the “Recent Items” section and easily identify any owners that you’ve assigned to items, as shown in the image below:

LifeTopix contacts-recent

Tapping View/Edit in the screen above enables you to easily view the assignments for this person, as shown in the image below:

LifeTopix contacts-associations

You can also easily contact your selected person via phone, SMS, Twitter, and Facebook through the Person view, which makes follow-ups a breeze.

Checklists and To-do Lists (Notes + Files Topic or Agenda View)

During your Weekly Review, it’s a good idea to review your to-do lists and checklists. I usually reserve to-do lists for lists of items that can be completed fairly quickly and checklists for things such as packing lists. You can view checklists and to-do lists directly from the Agenda view, shown earlier in this post, or you can manage these lists directly from the Notes + Files topic, as shown in the following image.

LifeTopix notesandfiles

Tapping on the tile that shows your to-do list or checklist allows you to view it and check off completed items.

Context Tags

One of the most powerful features of LifeTopix is the implementation of tags. In LifeTopix, Context tags are multi-purpose tags used for the purpose of identification of items. With tags, you can label items for identification or to give GTD Context. When items are tagged with matching Contexts, you can define your own views with your defined groupings.

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.

One way that you can identify items that you wish to include in your weekly review is to tag items with a tag defined as @Review. In LifeTopix, you can use multiple tags on items; therefore, you can implement GTD Contexts, and you can use tags to flag items for review. The image below shows an example of how this appears in LifeTopix:

contexttags

LifeTopix enables you to tag several types of items including:

  • Topic Items: Asset, Event, Gift, Note, Person, Project, Service, Service Provider, Shopping Items, Shopping List, Subject, Trip, Visit
  • Data Items: Appointment, Audio, Bookmark, Checklist, Drawing, Expense, File, Photo, Reminder, Task, Video
  • Log Items: Activity, Health Stat, Medication, Nutrition, Wellness

Tagging Items

One strategy you can utilize is to be cognizant of projects, tasks, and other items you want to include in your Weekly Review and tag them when appropriate. For example, if there’s a document that you plan to review by the end of the week, tag it with @Review.

In GTD, Waiting For is the list of items that you cannot complete because you’re blocked in some way. For example, your TPS report may be due; however, you’re waiting for the new cover sheet. Consequently, you would tag it with @Waiting For. This way, you will make sure to follow up on these items before they become overdue. You can tag items with context tags, such as @Assistant, @Boss, or @Spouse for items that you’ve delegated or are waiting for an answer before you can proceed.

In LifeTopix, you can apply your tags to any of the items listed above by simply tapping Edit in the appropriate screen for the item, such as a task. The image below shows one method for tagging an item. In this example, the item is a task.

set tag

When you perform your Weekly Review, you’ll save time because you can view all your items that you’ve tagged with @Review or other tags in one place, as shown below.

GTD Weekly Review

This view gives you full access to your items with editing capabilities and allows you to view the items by Type, Updated, or Name. You can modify due dates, priority, effort; remove items that are no longer required; and mark items complete — there are several options based on the type of item that you’re modifying.

Keep mind, if you don’t believe you have the discipline to tag your items with @Review throughout the week, LifeTopix includes many other options for organizing your Weekly Review — don’t fret!

Loose Papers – Online File Integration

The Weekly Review is a good time to pull out any of your loose papers that you’ve gathered during the week. LifeTopix supports access to files and notes in Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, SkyDrive, Evernote, and Toodledo and also supports media files such as photos and video. We recommend that you digitize your files, store the files in the Cloud, and access those files via your LifeTopix items.

More Information

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:

Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Prioritizing Tasks in LifeTopix
Best Practices for Getting Things Done with LifeTopix Categories and Contexts
Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Capture and Collect
Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Processing
Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Master Organizing
Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Doing Phase

Your Turn

We enjoy hearing from you. Please share your best practices for using LifeTopix.

GTD® and Getting Things Done® are registered trademarks of the David Allen Company. LightArrow Apps are not affiliated with or endorsed by the David Allen Company.

Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Master Organizing

LifeTopix and My.Agenda are personal organization apps for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch. Both apps are especially useful for those who utilize David Allen’s Getting Things Done® (GTD) method. The GTD method is an excellent method for organizing your life and getting things done. And it’s not just for your work life. I recently stumbled upon this post from April Perry that mentions how GTD enabled this mom to really enjoy her family.

GTD Lady Post It

We’re constantly incorporating features that are useful for GTD, and we enjoy sharing our best practices for using these features. In this post, I’ll show you how you can use LifeTopix’s features for the Organizing phase of GTD. Keep in mind that our starter App, My.Agenda, can include many of these features discussed by purchasing the Get Things Done Pack as an in-app purchase.

Note: The screenshots in this post were created using an unreleased version of LifeTopix, which will be coming soon to the App Store.

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. Allen lays out five key phases of the GTD process, which include 1) Capture/Collect, 2) Process, 3) Organize, 4) Review, and 5) Do. This post focuses on the Organize phase of this workflow.

What is the Organize Phase of GTD?

When you consider organizing, think about how you would divide your home life and work into various areas. Consider how you would sort your life before you get started. In an earlier post, we discussed using LifeTopix to define each collected item as actionable or non-actionable. Once you’ve completed processing items, you can begin organizing them (or this may be done simultaneously for some items). During the Organize phase, you divide your items into various areas.

Major sections include the following areas:

  • Projects – Actions that require more than one step to complete.
  • Calendar Items – Actions that must be completed at a designated day and/or time.
  • Next Actions – Items that only require one step, such as “call mom.”
  • Waiting For – Items that others need to complete that affect you or your work.

Allen suggests that you also organize your reference material, which are items that do not have any actions associated with them.

Reference material might include:

  • Checklists
  • Items without actions, but need to be retrieved at some time
  • Notes from meetings, classes, etc.

Projects in LifeTopix

During the Capture and Collect phase, you collect items that are subsequently processed during the Processing phase. You might have placed them in a holding area via the LifeTopix Quick Inbox and then converted the items to the proper type of object — such as a Project.

Allen suggests that you create projects for actions that require more than one step. For example, if you’re starting a landscaping project, you will have several tasks such as 1) choose three landscape design firms to obtain bids, 2) set up appointments with landscape design firms, 3) choose designs, and so on.

When using LifeTopix, your first step for organizing your projects is to define project categories (under Manage Categories in Settings) that are relevant for your life. Built-in categories include Education, Health + Activity, Indoor, Media, and Outdoor, as shown in the screenshot below.

Project-Categories-LifeTopix

You can add more categories or delete the default categories — LifeTopix is very flexible allowing you to define what works for you. You can further organize by creating subcategories under your categories. Once you’ve created your categories, you can create a project and break it down into tasks, as shown in the following screenshot.

tasks-projects-lifetopix-gtd

As a side note, you can view your tasks by Open, Undated, and Overdue. And you can assign a status such as In Progress, On Hold, Completed, Canceled, or on Hold, if desired.

Calendar Items and Next Actions

Actions that must be completed at a certain date and time, such as classes, meetings, doctor’s appointments, kids’ activities, etc. are handled easily by LifeTopix. Specifically, LifeTopix allows you to define these items by Appointments, Bill Payments, Events, Dated Notes, Occasions, Medications, and Activity/Wellness. By simply accessing LifeTopix’s Calendar View, tapping the plus sign, choosing Quick Add, and selecting one of the options, you can choose to create dated items such as Trips, Visits, Attending Events, Hosting Events, and Occasions.

LifeTopix gives you a variety of options for Next Actions. You can choose to use reminders, tasks not associated with projects, or to-do lists to organize items that only require one step.

Waiting for Items

At times, completion of your tasks might depend upon the completion of a different task by a family member, friend, or colleague. Or, perhaps, you’ve delegated your tasks to someone else. This is when Waiting For items come into play. LifeTopix handles these items by allowing you to add owner(s) to a task as shown in the following screenshot.

TaskOwner-LifeTopix

You can view all tasks for each person through the People + Services topic. It’s a good idea to create a LifeTopix Group for contacts to which you frequently assign tasks for easy access.

Context Tags

When using the GTD method, it’s necessary to consider the context of your captured items. The context defines how and where the item will be completed. How defines the tools, such as @laptop and where defines the location, such as @home.

In LifeTopix, contexts are completely configurable to meet your needs and items can include zero or more contexts. You can configure tags in the My Contexts view, which is shown in the screenshot below. You can also access all the items defined with these contexts directly from this view.

GTD Contexts LifeTopix

Reference Materials

Reference materials are items that aren’t actionable that include data and files, which may or may not support your projects. LifeTopix allows you to associate several types of objects with projects — allowing quick and easy retrieval.

With LifeTopix, you can associate Checklists, Bookmarks, Local and Online Documents, Audio, Photos, Video, Notes, Expenses, Services, and Shopping items with Projects, as shown in the following screenshot. This eliminates the need to file these items into physical paper folders and files using large filing cabinets.

Reference_Materials_LifeTopix

And with LifeTopix, you can back up your data to Dropbox™ or other services, allowing you to feel secure about your data. In addition, LifeTopix supports Google Drive, Dropbox™, SkyDrive™, and Evernote™ — allowing you to access files or notes from these services in context with your projects.

Review and Do Phases

A future post will discuss the Review and Do Phases in depth, but keep in mind that when you choose actionable items to complete when you review your action lists daily, you can simply set the Due Date to the current day — with or without a specific time. If you choose not to include a time, keep in mind that your calendar will consider a task without a date as an all-day event, which results in a blocked out day to others viewing your shared calendar.

When you’ve added a due date, the Agenda view will show all the tasks in a list view that are due on the current day. The following screenshot shows the resulting Agenda view after tasks have been given due dates.

Agenda-LifeTopix

Take note that the items that you view on the Agenda view are completely configurable by you. you can choose to show or hide Device Reminders, Appointments, Bill Payments, Events, Expenses, Notes with Date Tags, Occasion Reminders, Projects, Quick Inbox Items, Checklists, Reminders, Shopping Items, Shopping Lists, Tasks, Trips, Visits, Health Stats, Medication, Nutrition, Activity, and Wellness.

More Information

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:

Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Prioritizing Tasks in LifeTopix
Best Practices for Getting Things Done with LifeTopix Categories and Contexts
Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Capture and Collect
Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Processing
Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Doing Phase
Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Weekly Review

Your Turn

We enjoy hearing from you. Please share your best practices for using LifeTopix.

GTD® and Getting Things Done® are registered trademarks of the David Allen Company. LightArrow Apps are not affiliated with or endorsed by the David Allen Company.

Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Processing

LifeTopix and My.Agenda are personal organization apps for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch. Both apps are especially useful for those who utilize David Allen’s Getting Things Done® (GTD) method. We’re constantly incorporating features that are useful for GTD, and we enjoy sharing our best practices for using these features. In this post, I’ll show you how you can use LifeTopix for the Processing Phase of GTD.

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.

Allen lays out five key phases of the GTD process, which include 1) Capture/Collect, 2) Process, 3) Organize, 4) Review, and 5) Do. This post focuses on the Process Phase of this workflow and describes the many ways that you can process your collected items.

What is the Process Phase in GTD?

In an earlier post (Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Capture and Collect), we discussed using LifeTopix to capture everything that’s floating around in your head. Once these items are in your trusted system, they need to move to the next stage of the workflow, which is Process.

During the Process Phase, you define each item collected as actionable or non-actionable. Non-actionable items are reference items or items that you can delete. Actionable items can be further defined in LifeTopix as described in this post.

Generally, those who follow the GTD process take an hour or two out each day to perform the Process step.

How do you use LifeTopix to Process?

During the Process Phase, you define each item collected as actionable or non-actionable. Keep in mind that LifeTopix is very flexible so you’ll find that you can create objects and categories that are suitable for the way that you work.

The following diagram shows the choices for the Process Phase in LifeTopix.

GTD Process Phase

Non-actionable Items

Non-actionable items include items that you cannot or will not act upon. These might be objects that are not important, not your responsibility, or items for reference — such as background materials in the form of notes, document files, audio, or video. These items might never make their way into LifeTopix in the first place and generally reside in your email or voicemail inboxes. If you find non-actionable items in LifeTopix during a review, you can easily delete these items if they’re no longer needed.

LifeTopix includes features enabling you to organize your important reference materials. For example, you can associate local files; checklists; bookmarks; audio; photos; videos; notes; shopping items; and online files from Dropbox, Google Drive, SkyDrive, Evernote, Toodledo to projects so you’ll always be able to find reference information associated with your actionable items.

Two-minute Rule

Generally, during the process phase you focus on making decisions, rather than completing actions; however, if an item can be completed in two minutes or less, then you can go ahead and act immediately.

Items To Do Soon or ASAP

During the Process Phase, you decide which tasks to do right away and soon. If you would like to learn more about prioritizing when using LifeTopix, see Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Prioritizing Tasks in LifeTopix.

LifeTopix to-do lists (checklists) are very suitable for small items that you wish to complete soon. If you’ve defined projects with associated tasks in LifeTopix, you can choose to complete the next action that helps you complete the project. You can define to-do lists on the fly directly in the Agenda view or you can define a task list. Task lists can include dates if you wish to view them in your Agenda or on your calendar. In addition, you can choose to use online tasks from Asana, Toodledo, or Google.

Items With Dates and Times

Many objects in LifeTopix can include dates; however, generally when using the GTD method, calendar items should be used for objects that occur at a fixed place or time, such as meetings, doctor’s appointments, or social events. The LifeTopix calendar is the logical place to place these items. Simply tapping the plus sign allows you to add events you’re attending, events you’re hosting, appointments, reminders, occasions, and device events. With LifeTopix, you can also use your online calendars (such as your device calendar, Outlook, or Google calendar) and manage those items via LifeTopix. LifeTopix becomes the central place for viewing multiple calendars.

Ticklers, Items You Wish to Defer, Items To Do Someday

Items without a clear due date, items with a due date in the future (ticklers), or items that you wish to do someday (such as learn to speak another language) can be placed in the Quick Inbox as a holding area. These items should be reviewed often.

Alternatively, you can create tasks (as task lists) or as a part of a project in the LifeTopix Tasks + Projects topic. These tasks can remain undated and you can review them regularly.

Projects

In LifeTopix, projects can be used for just about anything you dream up. You can create any type of project for work or your home and tag the project with an appropriate user-defined context tag. For example, in LifeTopix you can create Health projects; Event projects (for a wedding, graduation, etc.); Education projects; Work-related projects, and more.

Delegation

For items you wish to delegate, you can email them directly from LifeTopix to the recipient and he or she can open them directly in their LifeTopix app on their device from their email inbox. The ability to share is available for Projects, Trips, Notes, Tasks, Shopping lists, Checklists, Visits, Events, and Appointments. Another option for sharing includes using a shared Dropbox account with team members or family members and using Cloud Sync. And if you wish, you can use Toodledo or Asana for your task management, which allows you to share with team members.

More Information

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:

Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Prioritizing Tasks in LifeTopix
Best Practices for Getting Things Done with LifeTopix Categories and Contexts
Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Capture and Collect
Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Master Organizing
Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Doing Phase
Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Weekly Review

Your Turn

Please comment on how you use LifeTopix for the Processing Phase.

GTD® and Getting Things Done® are registered trademarks of the David Allen Company. LightArrow Apps are not affiliated with or endorsed by the David Allen Company.

Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Capture and Collect

LifeTopix and My.Agenda are personal organization apps for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch. Both apps are especially useful for those who utilize David Allen’s Getting Things Done® (GTD) method. We’re constantly incorporating features that are useful for GTD, and we enjoy sharing our best practices for using these features. In this post, I’ll show you how you can use LifeTopix’s features to help you capture and collect things that you’re carrying in your head and that are competing for your attention.

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.

Allen lays out five key phases of the GTD process, which include 1) Capture/Collect, 2) Process, 3) Organize, 4) Review, and 5) Do. This post focuses on the Capture/Collect Phase of this workflow and describes the many ways that you can capture and collect items that are on your mind.

Why Capture Everything?

Allen’s thoughts around capturing everything that’s floating around in your head is of greatest importance because once these items are off your mind, you’re no longer burdened by them. Just like removing clutter from your home to create a relaxed environment, removing clutter from your mind into a trusted system gives you a sense of relief and order.

Capture Everything

Capturing these ideas, plans, etc. allow you to carry through on them and move them through the workflow. LifeTopix and the starter app, My.Agenda, are ideal tools for capturing things and helping you to follow through on items that you must do and goals that you want to achieve.

The Capture Process

Our apps include many features that allow you to capture everything that’s in your head. I’ll touch on the following features in this post:

  • The Quick Inbox
  • The Quick Menu
  • The Agenda View
  • The LifeTopix Calendar
  • The 12 Life Topics
  • The Notes + Files Topic
  • Your Reminders / Siri

The Quick Inbox

The Quick Inbox was designed with GTD in mind. Its purpose is for quickly capturing everything that’s in your head for processing later. It’s perfect when you’re short on time, or for items that are not on your immediate agenda, or for “ticklers,” which are items that have a definite date in the future such as a wedding you’re attending. Most of us keep our smartphones handy at most times so a personal organization app such as LifeTopix or My.Agenda are the natural choices for recording these items that pop into your head or are demanded of you.

You can easily access the Quick Inbox by tapping the Inbox icon in the left pane then tapping the plus sign in the upper right corner. The Quick Inbox displays as shown below.

Quick Inbox

You simply type a description of the item, optionally add an Act by date or you can tap Soon or Someday for items without a clear due date. These items are added to the Soon or Someday buckets — depending on how you’ve defined them, and all dated items are added to the Soon bucket.

When you’re ready to process these items, you can easily convert them by tapping on the green arrow and then tapping Convert as shown below.

QuickInbox2

When using the Quick Inbox, you can convert the items to tasks, notes, appointments, reminders, projects, trips, visits, attending events, hosting events, shopping lists, or gifts as shown below. 

QuickInbox3

Once these items have been converted, you can add details that support the next stages of the workflow — (Organize, Review, and Do). Keep in mind, you should set a time each day to review and process these items that are waiting in your Quick Inbox so they don’t fall through the cracks.

The Quick Menu

The Quick Menu gives you access to many important features for capturing information, such as the Quick Inbox discussed above, Quick Add, and the Quick Log. You’ll find the Quick Menu as indicated in the image below.

Quick Menu

Through Quick Add, accessible from the Quick Menu, you can add tasks, shopping items, checklists, notes, appointments, reminders, bookmarks, files, expenses, projects, events you’re hosting or attending, trips and visits, service providers, assets, audio, drawings, occasions, bills, photos, videos, device reminders, and device events.

Quick Add

When using Quick Add, you can move directly to the Processing step and add all the details of the entry immediately, if you wish.

The Agenda View

You can also capture items directly in the Agenda view, which is the view that shows your to-do lists/checklists, and what’s important today, tomorrow, and the next seven days. The Agenda view is a perfect place to add several types of items to the Quick Inbox described earlier, or through Quick Add.

Agenda

Through the Agenda view, Quick Add allows you to add tasks, shopping lists, notes, appointments, reminders, expenses, projects, events you’re hosting or attending, trips and visits, occasions, bills, device reminders, and device events. When using Quick Add, you can move directly to the Processing step and add all the details of the entry immediately, if you wish.

agenda quick inbox

The LifeTopix Calendar

For items that need to be scheduled at a fixed time such as meetings, doctor’s appointments, or social events, the LifeTopix calendar is the logical place to capture them. Much like the Agenda view, simply tapping the plus sign allows you to add events you’re attending, events you’re hosting, appointments, reminders, occasions, device events, and device reminders as shown below.

calendar

The 12 Life Topics

You can capture any type of item through the My Topics view by tapping one of the cards, and you’re given full access to all the details of the entry. You can see an example of the My Topics view below. The 12 life topics include Tasks + Projects, Shopping, Events, Travel + Places, People + Services, Health + Activity, Finances, Home + Assets, Education, Notes + Files, Media, and Bookmarks. To learn more about the 12 life topics, refer to the 12 Life Topics.

12 topics

The Notes + Files Topic

For those who prefer list-based notes for ubiquitous capture, LifeTopix or My.Agenda provides the flexibility to capture these notes directly from the Notes + Files Topic. And they allow you to capture these notes via voice/audio, text, and through free-hand writing. You can also add checklists/to-do lists from the Notes + Files topic. You can share these notes via social media, email, or text messages.

notes+files

The Notes + Files topic is also the perfect place to capture reference materials such as class notes, meeting notes, coupons, health docs, manuals, financial items, legal docs, etc. You can attach a file to these notes, take a photo, or use online notes (such as Google Docs or Evernote).

As a side note, if you want to access the Notes + Files Topic quickly, you can add All Notes to the Hot List view for one-tap access.

Using Siri to Add Reminders

If you like to use Siri to capture items you wish to be reminded of, you can simply tell Siri what you want to be reminded of and where. For example, you can say, “Remind me to pick up Timmy from Soccer practice at 7:00 p.m. today.” Siri launches the Reminder app and requests confirmation. With the LifeTopix integration, you can automatically view these reminders in your Agenda view, My Calendar view, and your Events Calendar. You can open the reminder directly from LifeTopix to edit it or mark it as complete. You can also create new entries in the Reminders app from LifeTopix topic

More Information

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:

Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Prioritizing Tasks in LifeTopix
Best Practices for Getting Things Done with LifeTopix Categories and Contexts
Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Processing
Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Master Organizing
Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Doing Phase
Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Weekly Review

Your Turn

You’ll find in LifeTopix or My.Agenda that there’s several ways to capture everything that’s in your head. Hopefully the items that I touched on will get you started to living a more productive, stress-free life. Please comment!

GTD® and Getting Things Done® are registered trademarks of the David Allen Company. LightArrow Apps are not affiliated with or endorsed by the David Allen Company.

Best Practices for Getting Things Done – Prioritizing Tasks in LifeTopix

4254784LifeTopix 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.”

1. Context

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.

3. Energy

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.

4. Priority

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. Simple Contexts

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. Task Contexts 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. Estimated Time

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. Medium Energy 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. Assign Time 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. gtd4   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.

More Information

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:

Best Practices for Getting Things Done with LifeTopix Categories and Contexts

Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Capture and Collect

Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Processing

Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Master Organizing

Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Doing Phase

Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Weekly Review

Your Turn

Please comment and let us know how you’re prioritizing and choosing tasks. Thanks!

GTD® and Getting Things Done® are registered trademarks of the David Allen Company. LightArrow Apps are not affiliated with or endorsed by the David Allen Company.

GTD Best Practices for Getting Things Done with LifeTopix Categories and Contexts

LifeTopix

GTD Best Practices

The LifeTopix app includes many features to support David Allen’s Getting Things Done or GTD ® method, and it also provides powerful project management features that are essential for those who wish to gain control over their busy personal and professional lives. In this post, I’ll show you best practices for using contexts and best practices for categorization of items — using real-life examples. Categories and Contexts might seem to be similar concepts; however, you will learn that they are applied differently in LifeTopix.

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.

GTD has reached the level of a cult following and GTD fans believe the system changes their lives for the better. Many believe that GTD has helped them to do so much more — with much less stress.

What are GTD Contexts?

In GTD, Contexts are typically based on a physical location, resource, or the equipment that’s necessary to complete a task. Productivity is increased when you’re not “switching contexts.” For example, you’re more productive if you return phone calls during blocks of time, rather than switch to a different task — such as graphic design or coding. 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.

What is Categorization?

In Project Management, Categorization allows you to differentiate projects from each other. It’s used to identify a set of items with similar characteristics or properties. Categories can be broken down further into more granular subcategories, supporting a hierarchical approach. There are no official, agreed upon categorization of projects, but suggested categorization is described below.

Lynn Crawford, professor of project management at Bond University, Australia and visiting professor at Cranfield University, School of Management (UK) has summarized project attributes and characteristics as:

  • Application area or product
  • Stage of life-cycle
  • Grouped or single
  • Strategic importance
  • Strategic driver
  • Geography
  • Scope
  • Timing
  • Uncertainty
  • Risk
  • Complexity
  • Customer
  • Ownership
  • Contractual

One or more of these could be used to categorize projects.

LifeTopix Contexts Best Practices

What I’ve found is in the modern world, we have access to our equipment 24/7 via laptops, smartphones, and tablets; therefore, the “Tools Context” seems to be antiquated, unless the tools are very specialized for your job or your company disallows work outside of the office for security reasons. In addition, if you perform all of your work at the office and all of your equipment is accessible at the same time, location-based Contexts might not make sense. As a result, Contexts should be based on your individual situation. You might consider using Contexts based on other attributes, such as @someday-maybe, @on hold, @risk, or @assistant.

LifeTopix provides two basic Contexts, which include Work and Home. These location-based Contexts may be modified in any way that you prefer. The following screenshot shows an example of Contexts that you could possibly begin with.

Contexts in LifeTopix

Tapping any of the items above shows the details of the items associated with these Contexts.

Errands, Home, and Office are location-based Contexts. They allow you to separate your work and personal life, and to also group errands that need to be run while you’re on the go.

Someday – Maybe is a list for your creative future plans that you don’t have the time or resources to pursue at the moment. When you have a great idea that comes to mind, you can assign the Someday – Maybe Context to it so you won’t forget it when the perfect time comes along to get going on those projects.

Waiting For is the list of items that you cannot complete because you’re blocked in some way. For example, your TPS report may be due; however, you’re waiting for the new cover sheet. Consequently, you would tag it with this Context. This way, you will make sure to follow up on these items before they become overdue.

Assistant is a Context for items that you can delegate to another resource. This will remind you that you can take these items off your plate, but also that you need to ensure they’ve been completed.

LifeTopix also supports a Quick Inbox (with Soon and Someday categories) for ideas you want to capture quickly. You can use this as a placeholder, and process these items later and apply the proper Contexts. These items can be quickly converted to Tasks, Notes, Appointments, Reminders, Projects, Trips, Visitors, Events, Shopping Lists, or Gifts for Others.

You should note that in the current version of LifeTopix, you can only assign one Context to an item. In a future update, you will be able to assign multiple Contexts to each item.

LifeTopix Categories Best Practices

Categories and subcategories are very powerful in LifeTopix. The number of subcategories are limitless, but Project Management best practices experts recommend that you keep the number of subcategories to no more than three. Projects and Tasks share categories and subcategories.

You manage categories in LifeTopix Settings. In the following example, I’ve created several subcategories for “Marketing Projects” for a fictional Marketing agency. These are the “products” or “services” that the agency offers for its clients. You can view a screenshot of these categories below:

Categories in LifeTopix

Once your categories are set up and you’ve assigned categories and subcategories to LifeTopix projects, in the Tasks + Projects topic you can view all of the Marketing projects for which the categories and subcategories have been applied. In this example, projects are created by “client” so you can easily see which services/products have been agreed upon by each client. For each client’s project, you can also attach all supporting documentation (bookmarks, files, audio, photo, video, notes, expenses, services); actions (tasks, checklists, shopping items); and schedules (appointments and reminders). You can view a screenshot of the projects and their subcategories below.

Project and Subcategories in LifeTopix

And when you tap one of the Categories or Subcategories, such as SEM, you can easily view additional subcategories that were created for more granularity (such as Landing Page Optimization and Adwords/PPC, which are sub-components of SEM). You can also view which clients’ projects these services/products apply. You can see an example of this below.

Project and Subcategories in LifeTopix

As you add items throughout LifeTopix, you will see how important it is to leverage the Category fields. For example, you’ll be able to better locate, evaluate, plan, and resource projects and other items that you’ve created in LifeTopix based on their categories. When viewing the history of your projects, you might identify that some categories of projects contain more risk than others and that some projects yield more payoffs. And projects of different categories require varying sets of best practices; therefore, applying categories will help you choose the appropriate documentation. Categorization will help you make future decisions based on past performance.

Conclusion

Now that you understand the differences between Contexts and Categories and how to leverage them in LifeTopix, it will be easier to initially set up LifeTopix to support GTD. And as you use LifeTopix and GTD more and more, you will find LifeTopix is flexible enough to add new Contexts and Categories as you progress.

Keep in mind that Contexts apply to Assets, Events, Gifts, Notes, Persons, Projects, Services, Service Providers, Shopping Lists, Subjects, Trips, Visits, Appointments, Audio, Bookmarks, Checklists, Expenses, and Files — not just projects and tasks. Categories apply to Assets, Bookmarks, Events, Expenses, Notes, Products, Projects/Tasks, Service Providers, Services, Subjects, Log Entry Units, and Shopping Item Units. This enables you to apply project management techniques to everything you do in your life — resulting in a more efficient, happy, and productive YOU!

More Information

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:

Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Prioritizing Tasks in LifeTopix
Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Capture and Collect
Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Processing
Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Master Organizing
Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Doing Phase
Best Practices for Getting Things Done — Weekly Review

Your Turn

Please comment on how you use Contexts and Categories in LifeTopix or other GTD and/or Project Management tools.

GTD® and Getting Things Done® are registered trademarks of the David Allen Company. LightArrow Apps are not affiliated with or endorsed by the David Allen Company.

7 Small Steps for Big Productivity Rewards

Overthinking, analysis paralysis, brooding, reflecting, deliberating — whatever you call it, it’s the nemesis to productivity. Have you considered using a productivity system such as David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD), but you feel overwhelmed and paralyzed before getting started? Do you debate whether the system is right for you? GTD works great for many people and they swear by it, and others believe it’s too complex or limits their creativity.

Productivity systems should be based on personal motivation, needs, and objectives. It’s important to find the system or tool that’s right for you — and sometimes this means starting small or inventing your own system by using a variety of best practices. And if you find you’re spending more time managing your system than getting things done, it’s time to simplify or re-think it.

To help you get started with the basics, we’ve created this quick summary. Keep reading to be up and running without the overhead and expense of a heavy productivity system — no seminars or training sessions — just practical advice.

1. Capture Everything

Productivity gurus, such as David Allen, have coined the term “ubiquitous capture” for the practice of capturing everything. The idea here is to always carry some sort of tool to capture ideas, to-do, messages, diagrams, notes, etc. because we simply can’t remember everything. There’s several tools for capturing these items from a simple notebook, index cards, a journal, a note-taking app, to an all-in-one organization app, such as LifeTopix. This is fundamental to productivity success, and it also helps you remember and act on your spontaneous creative ideas.

We recommend to go even further, and categorize these items. Associate these items to their value — whether it is emotional, strategic, creative, tactical, health-related, etc. This will help you determine their importance within your life.

2. Understand “Importance” vs.“Urgency”

Knowing what’s important, rather than urgent is essential to move the needle forward. For example, imagine you’re in charge of Engineering at a large corporation and there’s a need to develop an innovative, new platform that’s a gamechanger in the industry. You know this project is an essential element to success. If you’re a leader and you ignore this objective and instead jump on small tactical improvements, you’re putting urgency ahead of importance. Or perhaps, you’re a mom raising young children. You may feel that it’s urgent to vacuum your house every day, but the importance of reading books to your children will certainly pay off in the long term.

Scheduling uninterrupted time every day, week, or month to knock out these big projects will help you move the needle to achieve your most important goals and objectives.

3. Break Big Projects into Tasks

Mark Twain wrote, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” This seems obvious, but many of us fail to break these big projects down into manageable, actionable tasks — and the result is procrastination.

Large projects seem daunting and it’s difficult to get started. For example, imagine you’re planning a pool party and you need to prepare the swimming pool for the event. Perhaps you’re having a hard time getting started. To fully understand the scope of the project, the tasks you can delegate, the length of the project, and the tasks you can let slide, it’s important to break the project into manageable chunks.

After breaking up the project into tasks, it might look something like this:

Project – Prepare Pool for Party

  • Treat pool with chemicals
  • Backwash pool
  • Vacuum pool furniture
  • Powerwash pool deck
  • Net pool
  • Fix volleyball net
  • Vacuum pool
  • Sweep pool deck
  • Lay out towels
  • Fix basketball hoop

When you consider everything that needs to be completed for the entire party, this list gives you the information to make smart decisions about outsourcing, delegating, and letting some tasks fall to the wayside.

4. Prioritize Your To-do Lists

A to-do list is a list of tasks to complete within a specific period of time. The most important items should be listed first. Project management professionals recommend applying the 80/20 rule or “Pareto Principle” to many elements of business — including your to-do lists. In the early 1900s, Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto created a mathematical formula that described the unequal distribution of wealth in his country. He observed that approximately twenty percent of the people ruled eighty percent of the country’s wealth. In the 1940s, Dr. Joseph M. Juran, a management consultant, attributed the 80/20 Rule to Pareto, calling it the Pareto Principle.

When applying the Pareto Principle to productivity, it reminds us to stay focused on what matters the most. For example, consider the above example for preparing the swimming pool. Using the Pareto Principle, theoretically, approximately two of those tasks are of high value. If you choose to complete those two tasks, you’ll get a much bigger return than if you’ve completed several of the lower value tasks.

5. Keep Everything in One Place

Whatever tool you choose, make sure you capture everything in one place. It’s important to use one app or platform that’s the hub or single point of access for all of your data. Without this, you’re wasting time locating the information you need. For example, if you’re using five different iPad apps for your productivity system that aren’t integrated or associated, your constantly searching for information and the data is presented out of context. When data isn’t related, it’s difficult to locate trends, such as a relationship between practicing meditation and improved productivity.

6. Schedule Using a Calendar

A calendar is best suited for time-based items, such as appointments and events; and many productivity experts believe that to-do lists should be kept separate from your calendar. Using a combination of both a calendar and a to-do list is ideal because they serve different purposes. Your tool should allow you to create a to-do list separately from your calendar, but present it on your calendar if you choose to do so.

Another tactic for using your calendar efficiently is to block off time for focusing on your tasks or projects. When colleagues schedule meetings, they will see that you’ve blocked off that time. Make the most of it — keep a journal to help identify the productive times of the day and schedule these blocks of time to complete your list of to-dos. These productive times can be based on your children’s nap times, your natural rhythms, the slower times of the day at the office, or other environmental factors.

7. Reduce Distractions

There’s many ways to reduce distractions, but they vary depending on your life. If you’re at home and raising children, managing distractions might be more difficult because the day can be quite unpredictable. Regardless of your situation, journaling to learn the natural rhythm of the day will help you find the best times for working on your projects. During this time, if your situation allows it, turn off the phone ringer, shut down email and social media notifications, and resist from surfing the Internet or watching television. Focus for 90 to 120 minutes, and take a 20 minute break. See our post about Ultradian Rhythms for more information.

If you work from home, make sure you work in a quiet, solitary place. Consider if you’re out of sight, you’re also out of mind and less likely to be interrupted by family members and pets. At the office, shut your door or wear headphones to signal that distractions aren’t acceptable. Let your coworkers know when you’re not available for discussions or socializing.

We hope this helps to get you started with a productivity system in no time. Please comment and let us know your top tips for getting up and running quickly.