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.

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

A Mom’s Guide to Making Brilliant To-do Lists and Getting Stuff Done

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In our modern world, we’re busier than ever — especially when raising children and running a household. We’re rushing from one activity to another, and we struggle to find the time to get everything done that we plan to do. Important tasks fall through the cracks leading to embarrassment and other consequences, such as an unpleasant phone call from a teacher. Sound familiar?

I fully relate to how crazy life can be for parents. I have the unique and fortunate experience of working outside of the home and being a stay-at-home mom. For five years, I focused on parenting — juggling school-related activities, volunteer work, household chores, and equestrian hobbies. Outside of those five years, I’ve worked in the technology industry on teams using cutting-edge project management and software development techniques.

Over the years, I’ve gained invaluable experience in several project management methodologies that you can easily apply to running a household. I’m never a purist – I choose techniques from various methodologies to develop my own time management style.

Specifically, I learned techniques for managing my to-dos in smarter ways, which I’m excited to share to help parents who might be struggling with managing their busy lives and schedules.

The Basics: Why Keep a To-do List?

Studies show that most people can only remember 3 to 9 items at a time. If you’re anything like me, I’m guessing you have more than 9 items to do. If not, I’m jealous. Trying to keep all those items in your head consumes energy that you can put to better use.

David Allen, the founder of the Getting Things Done® (GTD) method for managing life and business suggests that you capture anything and everything that has your attention. Why? Because your head is not a calendar, whiteboard, computer, or notebook — it just can’t hold all of this information efficiently. Capturing everything you need to do will free your mind of trying to remember to pick up snacks for baseball practice or preparing for a PTA meeting.

Studies also show that keeping a to-do list can lead to high self-esteem. Crossing off your to-dos gives you a sense of accomplishment and gratification. If you don’t complete everything, you’re still seeing progress. My mantra is — “progress, not perfection.”

The Basics: What’s a To-do?

When you first make to-do lists, you might blend goals, projects, tasks, and events/appointments — consider they’re all different, which I explain below.

Goals – Big things that you want to accomplish, such as “Have an efficient cooking environment before the holidays“ or “Lose 10 pounds in 5 weeks.”

Projects – Large undertakings that you can break down into tasks, such as “Organized Kitchen” or “Triathlon Training.”

Tasks/To-dos – Smaller items that help you to achieve goals and/or complete projects, such as “Remove expired food from refrigerator” or “Run three miles.” In this post, I’m using the terms “to-dos” and “tasks” interchangeably.

Events/Appointments – Things you must perform at a designated time and/or place, such as a parent-teacher conference. Events can result from goals, projects, or tasks — such as an appointment with a professional organizer.

When making to-do lists, focus on tasks — not projects, goals, and events. Ensure they’re actionable things that you can accomplish in a session. Don’t be afraid to break tasks up into smaller tasks. With practice, you’ll understand how large or small your tasks should be.

You Have a Colossal To-do List. What Now?

You’ve captured actionable things that you can accomplish in a session, and now you have a monster to-do list and you’re more stressed than ever. This is when you tame the beast by putting prioritization into play.

Consider that your to-do list is essentially a list of requirements and think of your family as a high-performing team who prioritizes and delivers various things — homework, shopping, meals, balanced budgets, etc.

In business, the Product Manager of a team typically prioritizes requirements into scales, such as “Critical,” “Important,” and “Desirable.” For example, in the case of a household, “Schedule Carpool” and “Feed the Dog” might fall into “Critical,” while “Vacuum the Office” might fall into “Important.” Also, consider using a “To-Don’t” list for anything you’ve decided is just not important or do-able.

Instead, you might choose to prioritize using the Covey Quadrant, which is described in depth in the book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” by Stephen Covey. The quadrant identifies four categories for prioritization, Quadrant 1 (Important and Urgent), Quadrant 2 (Important and Not Urgent), Quadrant 3 (Not Important and Urgent), and Quadrant 4 (Not Important and Not Urgent).

Choose a tool for categorizing your to-dos — paper, whiteboard, mobile app, or other software. Divide your to-dos into the above categories or sections of your quadrant.

Help! What Do You Do Next?

Figuring out the jobs that you work on each day or week is unique to you. It hinges on the type of work you do, your family’s priorities, your available time, and special needs that your family might have. When you choose your family’s to-dos, evaluate the time and resources you have available, and the priority of the tasks.

For me, my work and life is very deadline driven. When I don’t have a hard deadline, I establish one for myself, and this method prompts me to get things done. I schedule hard commitments and deadlines on my calendar and fit the other items into the gaps in-between.

I suggest that you trust your intuition. Be fearless about breaking your rules if things aren’t working for you and your family.

How Can Your Family Help?

Sharing is caring. Getting the family to share household priorities can have a profound effect on success. To accomplish this, I look to Agile software development.

Agile software development is one of the most popular methods for creating software in an iterative and incremental way. It was developed by a group of software developers about a decade ago. And it’s become one of the most popular methods for creating software in an iterative and incremental way. Applying this methodology to family life has become a popular trend.

One of the principles of agile is a “self-organizing” team. In a self-organizing team, a group works together to accomplish a goal — and they choose their tasks — instead of waiting to take orders from “the boss.” Yeah, that’s right. You have to relinquish some of your control.

In Agile, the team attends a planning meeting at regular intervals. For families, I recommend the same technique. At this meeting, the family reviews the tasks in the “backlog” (the items you captured and collected) and decides what to do in the next “sprint,” which is a period of time determined by the team. This technique empowers the family to agree on the goals and tasks, and it encourages the family to participate.

Another method to adopt from Agile is the “daily standup.” This is a short session where each family member communicates 1) What I accomplished yesterday, 2) What I will do today, and 3) Is anything blocking me from getting stuff done. A quick, casual “daily standup” gets the family on track and identifies any issues, such as unfinished homework.

What’s the Right Tool for the Job?

For families with children who are old enough to use computers, tablets, and smartphones, I suggest finding technology, such as a personal organization application, that works for your family.

Encourage family members to add commitments, such as travel plans, homework that’s due, carpools, soccer practices, piano lessons, etc. to the calendar so the entire family understands when and where these items are taking place. Find a personal information organizer that enables you to manage the family calendar and task lists in one place. Take advantage of audible and visible notifications to make sure you never miss an important meeting, task, or appointment.

With a mobile personal organizer, your family has access to a shared calendar and task lists at any place or time. For example, when you’re at baseball practice and you’re assigned snack duty; you can instantly add this commitment to your calendar and the items to buy to your shopping list. This way, there’s no excuse for showing up empty handed.

Your Turn

Please comment and share your ideas for organizing your families’ crazy schedules and commitments. Thanks!

The Ultimate Cheat Sheet for Peak Productivity

Happy, Productive, WomanAre you having an unproductive day, week, or perhaps – life? I’m guessing you’re looking for some quick ideas or a no-nonsense plan to help you get back on track. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be here, right? You’ve come to the right place. Weekly, we share tips to help everyone, from the productivity novice to the productivity expert, to explore new and sensible ways to get things done so they can do the things they really want to do with their free time.

Busyness does not equal productivity. Are you the first one into work every day and the last one to leave? Are you rewarded for this behavior? That’s just plain nonsense. Working smarter, not harder is the key to a balanced, happy, productive life. Keep reading to find out how you can amaze your boss and family with your productivity brilliance.

Cheat 1: Fill in Time Gaps with Tasks and To-dos

The Getting Things Done® (GTD) method from David Allen outlines countless ideas for time management. One of those ideas is “contexts.” In GTD, contexts are used to tag your tasks and to-dos so you can better choose what to do and when to do it. Using contexts is a great way to find tasks to do when you’re in between meetings, waiting for kids during their activities, or during other time gaps.

Contexts are typically based on a physical location, resource, or the equipment that’s necessary to complete a task. For example, in your to-do or task list, you could assign a context of @office and @phone for phone calls to complete at the office. Another way to use contexts is to tag those tasks with contexts such as 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 30 minutes, and so on. This way, you can pick up tasks (such as paying bills or answering email) during these time gaps and get more done throughout the day. Consequently, you can go home from work at a reasonable hour and have more time to spend with your friends or family.

Cheat 2: Reclaim Your Schedule

What are some of your biggest time wasters? Discover and identify the black holes of where your time is going. Are you getting lost in news articles online when you should be finishing your TPS reports? Are business trips out of hand? Are you wasting your time in unproductive meetings? Do you have chatty coworkers who don’t respect your time?

Your time is one of your most important assets. Guard it like a mama bear guards its cubs. Block time on your calendar for “Focus Time.” Limit the time you spend on online shopping sites, social media, and news sites – put “Internet Time” on your schedule to remind yourself to limit it. Don’t attend conferences that won’t be beneficial for you during busy periods – send an employee, or request that a peer attend, instead. Request an agenda before all meetings to ensure that the meeting will be beneficial for you. Ensure the people who need to make the final decisions attend your meetings; otherwise, you’re wasting everyone’s time. Use body language to communicate to overly-chatty and gossipy coworkers that you don’t have time to talk – walk to the bathroom, avoid eye contact, or pick up your cell phone.


Cheat 3: Don’t Use Email

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What? Don’t use email? I can see the baby boomers and gen-Xers snickering as they read this line. Unfortunately, email is a necessary tool of life and business. In fact, it’s one of the most important instruments in business communication.

The problem with email is it takes personal interaction out of the equation, and the quality of relationships, communication, and team comradery suffer as a result. In fact, some large companies are attempting to eradicate internal email altogether, such as the French information technology company, Atos.

It’s a fact of life that we cannot completely eliminate the use of email, but we can certainly explore other, more efficient ways of communicating. Face-to-face is always the best form of communication; however, in our connected world it’s not always easy to be in the same room with the person to whom we’re communicating, which forces us to use other forms of communication.

After email, the next best form of communication is the phone or a video conference (such as Skype); however, in our modern world, phone conversations are becoming old-fashioned. Consider using instant messaging and text messaging (when appropriate) to get answers quickly or to communicate important information.

If you’re required to use email due to company culture or the nature of your work, eliminate compulsively checking it. Turn off the instant notifications, and check email in blocks of time to avoid context switching, which kills productivity. Reserve email for times that you need a paper trail of conversations or when you’re sending large documents or reports. Foster an open-door policy and open workspaces in your business or organization to encourage face-to-face communication.

Cheat 4: Simplify Your Choices

Being required to make too many choices and decisions burns away at your time. For example, I canceled memberships to warehouse stores years ago because it simply takes too long to shop there with the multitude of choices – and not to mention the unreasonable crowds. There are too many selections, and I spend more time looking at things that I don’t need, like a six-pack of 44 ounce bottles of barbeque sauce, instead of buying the essentials. Farmers markets and smaller grocery stores are better choices when you’re trying to maximize your efficiency.

Another way to limit your choices is to simplify your wardrobe. Consider basing your wardrobe around a few basic, neutral colors like black and white so everything goes together. Downsize your wardrobe or put pieces away that you’re not using in the current season – stick to a few favorites. What haven’t you worn in the last year? Will you need to lose or gain more than 10 pounds to wear those items? If you don’t like something you bought and you’ve never worn it, give it to charity or sell it through a consignment store. Fewer clothing choices result in less time getting ready for your day.

Cheat 5: Chill Out

By lululemon athletica (Flickr: Balance!) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Don’t have the time to take a break? Keep in mind that those who take regular breaks are more productive because these breaks allow them to recharge in order to have the energy to get things done. Have you ever been working on a difficult task and you take a break from it or sleep on it – and magically the answer comes to you? This is a great example of why breaks are important.

Don’t try to do everything – you’re not Superman or Wonder Woman. Review your schedule and prioritize. Find tasks and to-dos that can slide so you can give that time back to yourself to nurture your health and wellness.

Feeling stressed? Focus on meditation or practice yoga to reduce stress and anxiety. Numerous studies show that yoga and meditation can help you to manage your stress, lower your blood pressure, and improve chronic health conditions.

Your Turn

What’s on your Productivity Cheat Sheet? Let us know in the comments 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.

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 ItemsAppointment, Audio, Bookmark, Checklist, Drawing, Expense, File, Photo, Reminder, Task, Video
  • Log ItemsActivity, 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.

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.

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 includes 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.

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!

Your Family Calendar, All in One Place

Organizing your calendar and schedule is a big challenge when you have a lot going on — and most of us do. And if you’re a mom who’s organizing the whole family, it’s even more challenging. Learn how LifeTopix and our starter app, My.Agenda, come to the rescue.

Transcript

Organizing your calendar and schedule is a big challenge when you have a lot going on — and most of us do.

And if you’re a mom who’s organizing the whole family, it’s even more challenging.

Between Zumba, baseball games, meetings, carpools, and clubs, you feel like your drowning and it’s practically impossible to keep it all straight.

This is when LifeTopix and our starter app, My.Agenda, come to the rescue.

LifeTopix is a central hub for your tasks, projects, shopping, events, travel, and more. My.Agenda is a starter, more economical version of LifeTopix that enables you to start small and expand as your organizational needs grow.

As the central hub of your life, LifeTopix works with all your calendars, including Outlook, Google Calendar, Yahoo Calendar, your device Calendar, and others. You just need to configure these items in your device’s Mail, Contacts, and Calendars Settings.

So Why LifeTopix?

You might be wondering why you would use LifeTopix instead of your standard device calendar or a free online calendar.

There’s lots of ways to justify it – with 12 big reasons. The 12 Life Topics, which are intelligently designed topics that manage more than just calendar events.

These topics are connected and in one place, which eliminates the app hopping that you do when you install a flock of apps to do many different, disconnected things.

For example, when your contacts and service providers are linked to your calendar events and other items, you can easily contact them if you’re running late in just a few simple taps. You never have to open your device’s contacts or search for an email address again.

And don’t worry about getting lost with LifeTopix’s location services, you can always view your destination on the map.

LifeTopix keeps the whole family on the same page because it uses cloud services such as Dropbox, SkyDrive, and Google Drive for device-to-device sync. Because of this, LifeTopix or My.Agenda becomes the perfect place to share your kids’ doctors appointments, playdates, sports, and other events with the whole family.

And LifeTopix gives you other options for sharing. You can share items via email, text, or social media with friends or family members.

Before you get started with Cloud Sync, all you need to do is go to www.dropbox.com and set up a free account for the family to share.

Once you’ve set it up, everyone in the family can point LifeTopix to the Dropbox folder using LifeTopix Settings.

Next, Voila, everyone can start using Dropbox sync.

You’ll find another video on our website or youTube channel that describes these steps in detail.

Now everyone can be on the same page about what’s going on from appointments, to checklists, to bill payments and more — we’ve got you covered.

Now that everyone’s sharing the same calendar, you can easily add all types of items to your family’s agenda without a lot of nagging.

And your weekly review is a piece of cake with this handy agenda view.

We know you have a lot going on, keep track of it and keep everyone in the loop while on the go with LifeTopix.

If you want to learn more go to www.lightarrow.com or find LifeTopix or MyAgenda at the Apple App Store in the Productivity section. Thanks for Watching.

More info at the Apple App Store:

LifeTopix

My.Agenda

Productivity Secrets from a Seasoned Mom

With Mother’s Day right around the corner, this special holiday reminded me of how overwhelming motherhood can be. Whether you’re a stay-at-home mom taking care of children, a mom running a home business, or a mom who’s working outside of the home, the responsibilities can feel monumental. No matter what your situation might be, you can benefit from the tips I’ve included in this post to help you get things done and be productive.

Productive Mom

I consider myself somewhat of an authority on juggling multiple responsibilities. I can completely relate to stay-at-home moms and working moms alike, as I’ve been both — and now I’m the parent of a teenager who will soon be off to college. In my situation, I’ve taken on the majority of the parenting responsibility because my spouse’s career always required a great deal of travel. Consequently, I’ve picked up some wisdom over the years that I hope you will find useful — “things I wish I would have known when I was 20.”

A Place for Everything and Everything in its Place

The author, Charles Augustus Goodrich popularized the phrase, “a place for everything and everything in its place.” The phrase was first published in an article called “Neatness” in 1827. Many years later, this phrase still stays true. Removing clutter and having a home for everything can drastically reduce stress and free your time. Essentially, this means that you should store similar items together and make sure frequently used items are stored in an accessible place.

According to an article from Psychology Today, there are many reasons that clutter causes stress, but the one that stands out the most to me is, “Clutter inhibits creativity and productivity by invading the open spaces that allow most people to think, brain storm, and problem solve.” Another side effect of clutter is it’s difficult to quickly find the things that you need to use. From lost keys to misplaced bills — even your favorite jeans; it’s frustrating, time consuming, and it costs you money in late fees and buying duplicate items. And don’t be afraid to trash or donate the things you don’t use. You won’t miss that stuff. I promise.

There are several inspirational people and websites for learning about organizing and enjoying a clutter free environment. You can find great ideas from the popular de-clutter websites or by viewing organization and DIY examples on Pinterest. You can learn great ways from the community about processes and ideas to find your way to that blissful, organized haven that you deserve.

Make Time For Yourself

A happy mom is productive and stress-free mom. Consider this research taken from the workplace. According to “Happy Workers are More Productive” published in the Guardian, “Happier workers, our research found, were 12% more productive. Unhappier workers were 10% less productive.” The article continues to explain that economists have continuously overlooked that human emotion is a key component of productivity, rather than skill building or education.

The logical conclusion is if you schedule the time for yourself to include the hobbies and activities that make you happy, you will be a better you – less stressed, more productive, creative, and more motivated. If you’ve set your hobbies aside because you’ve been raising children, think about the activities that bring you joy, whether it’s running a marathon, writing a novel, or knitting a scarf — and make some time in your schedule to pursue these activities. And if you’re concerned that you don’t have time due to your parenting responsibilities, exchange childcare with friends or family.

Plan Meals and Make them Simple

Our family has a weekly ritual of grocery shopping together every Sunday. First, we take into account our weekly activities, work-related dinner commitments, and travel schedule and make sure everything is on the family calendar. With our busy lives, it’s difficult to have a meal at home every night so we’ve learned not to be too ambitious and we plan when we’ll have dinner out.

I like to keep a collection of easy-to-make recipes that suit the entire family and recognize our food intolerances and allergies. Making a fancy meal on a weeknight is a difficult endeavor for me because I don’t particularly enjoy cooking. Some moms swear by preparing meals ahead of time during the weekends. If this strategy works for you — go for it. It’s a great time management strategy to group similar tasks together. Personally, I prefer to prepare meals that take 30 minutes or less. I use a variety of meats, vegetables, beans, pasta, and rice and keep it super simple every night.

Apps are a great way to keep your grocery list organized, and you can find a variety of apps that can help you create your grocery lists. I recommend LifeTopix or My.Agenda as your shopping app because they allow you to keep a database of shopping items with their sellers, locations, and prices and you can re-use these lists and items time and time again. This takes the guesswork out of your weekly or bi-monthly shopping trips.

Too Much Stuff Wastes Your Time

If your family is anything like mine, you’re attracted to shiny objects and you’ve spent a lot of time accumulating stuff. And then something happens. You discover the costs of ownership (time and money!), and you find that these objects really don’t make you happy. We learned this lesson and made deliberate choices to reduce our material possessions. Now, we don’t make purchases without careful consideration of the costs and time involved in owning that object.

For example, it might seem like a great idea to purchase that pretty new boat, but before you know it you’re spending more time on the weekend caring for it then you are wakeboarding or swimming at the lake. Believe me — I’ve been there! Simplify. I can’t stress this lesson learned enough.

Delegate and Outsource

Delegate and outsource as much as you can. The most difficult part of delegating is letting go — especially when it comes to asking children to complete to-dos. Children of appropriate age are very capable of performing chores such as emptying the dishwasher, folding laundry, cleaning their rooms, dusting, simple cooking, and other chores. They might not perform the chores up to your satisfaction, but in turn they’re learning important life skills and their ability to perform the chores will improve over time. And, of course, sharing responsibilities with your spouse and completing projects together is imperative.

If you have the means, hiring help to clean your house or take care of lawn maintenance will free your time so you can focus on enjoying family time, learning new skills, practicing your hobbies, or reaching fitness goals. It basically boils down to how valuable you believe your time is and your budget.

Schedule Appointments and Tasks on Your Calendar

When managing your time, you can learn a lot from the GTD (Getting Things Done®) method, which is a popular work-life management system from David Allen. According to the GTD method, actual appointments at their assigned time and tasks that have to be done on a specific day should be listed on your calendar. I can’t stress this enough.

Here’s an example. Like me, I’m sure you have many responsibilities for childcare that can be as simple as picking up a notebook for school to a repeating music lesson schedule. Everything that I need to remember, which must occur at or by a designated time, goes on my calendar or these items will simply fall through the cracks. And as your children mature and have their own smartphones, they can schedule tasks, appointments, and reminders on a family calendar via the tool that they use. I’m finding this process gets my son into the habit of scheduling everything on his calendar, which is helping him to develop good time management skills and habits. I recommend that you try using one of our apps, LifeTopix or My.Agenda, for recording appointments or tasks. They’re amazing for managing your family calendar.

Make Actionable and Realistic To-Do Lists

Did you know that there’s a specific psychology behind why to-do lists and task lists work? Surprisingly, our unconscious minds are wired to continuously nag us about items that we’ve left undone and goals we haven’t reached. This is referred to as the Zeigarnik Effect. Research indicates that once you’ve made an actionable and realistic plan, these nagging thoughts will soon come to an end.

To-do lists are quite useful tools for getting things done, but they can be counterproductive if done incorrectly. Consequently, to make them effective, to-dos in a list should be reserved for small, actionable items that you’re definitely planning to complete. An example of an actionable to-do is “schedule a personal training session,” rather than, “get in shape.” Tasks should be reserved for larger items that cannot be completed within a few minutes. If the deadline is unsure, place these tasks in a Soon or Someday holding area.

Don’t Over-schedule Activities

Parents understandably want to give their children all of the opportunities that life has to offer by providing activities such as sports, dance, education, music, etc.; however, finding a good balance is a challenge. When you find yourself driving from activity to activity and eating all your meals in the car; it’s time to re-evaluate the pros and cons of the activities. Make sure you’ve allowed some free time so your kids can just be kids.

Every child is different. Many are very motivated and love every minute of their extracurricular activities, while other children loathe going from activity to activity and long for free time. Pay attention to your children and their reactions and don’t be afraid to back off if the activities are affecting their ability to experience life in an unstructured way. Keep in mind that studies show that free play is very important for the development of social skills and emotional health.

Scheduling these activities on your calendar helps you to visually examine and evaluate how much time is involved. If you’re child is taking music class, make sure to schedule practice time on the calendar so you can see the entire scope of the commitment. I’m reminded of the quote by St. Francis de Sales, “It is far better to do a few things well than to undertake many good works and leave them half done.”

 

We’d love to hear how YOU stay productive and if you’ve learned any tips along the way that we can share with our readers. And, if you’re an organization or DIY expert, please feel free to share your website or Pinterest boards.

Happy Mother’s Day!