Like most people who follow GTD, I have modified the system to better suit my needs. That is one of the wonderful things about GTD. It allows you to modify and adapt it to your specific circumstances.
One area I modified a couple years ago was to separate out my routine tasks from my project tasks. I define routine tasks as tasks that need doing no matter what I was doing in my life. These tasks didn’t necessarily take my life further forward, but rather they help me to maintain my life at its present level or status. For example, “take out the garbage on Tuesday and Thursday evening”. Obviously does not move my life further forward, but it has to be done every week. Other tasks that may be considered routine would be “prepare weekly sales report”, or “complete monthly stock take”. These tasks are generally part of your job, And certainly don’t move you further forward in your life.
By taking out these routine tasks from my project tasks, it enabled me to see the tasks that would move my life forward in a positive way, without the noise of routine tasks that didn’t take my life further forward. In my todo list manger of choice (Todoist) I can set up filters to filter out the routines and only leave tasks that will move my life further forward in a beneficial and positive way.
Too often these days, the noise of all the things we have to do drown out the important tasks that help to move our lives forward. I consider checking and replying to email a routine task. Rarely, if ever, does checking email move my life further forward. “Research new ways to contact potential customers” is something that could improve my career or life.
There are so many ways we can improve our lives through knowledge and through actions, but there are also so many ways our lives can be side-tracked by routines that must be done. Being aware of the tasks that improve your life, your career and your relationships is really the first step to improving and growing yourself to a better person. If you lump all your tasks together in to one long todo list, you are never going to be able to see what will help you to improve and what will leave you in the same place year and year after year.
I learnt this through my own personal experience. Two or three years ago I used to have a long list of things I wanted to achieve each year. And each year I found myself not really achieving anything. For sure I got all the things that needed doing done, but I never felt my life was progressing. I then realised that the biggest problem I was having was I was just completing tasks on my todo list and these were inevitably the things that had to be done to maintain my life. The tasks that would move me forward, develop me as a person and take me to the next level rarely got done. They were the hard tasks, the tasks that needed a lot of thinking about and planning and so, I consoled myself in the knowledge that each day I was ticking off fifteen to twenty tasks. But those fifteen to twenty tasks were taking me nowhere. They were just keeping me afloat with no forward momentum.
It was when I separated out routine tasks and focussed on two or three projects at a time that I really started moving forward. Of course the routine tasks still needed doing, they always do, but I was able to maintain a level of focus on the tasks and projects that would really move me forward and each week when I did my weekly review I could see how much progress I had made with the important, life changing projects. This provided motivation to keep up with those tasks and resulted in me writing and self-publishing a book late last year as well as many other similar projects that had been on my list of things to do for a number of years.
It’s the focus you get when you remove routine tasks out of your line of sight, that gives you the momentum that takes you forward and to achieving amazing things. We all have the potential, we all have great things lurking inside us, we just need to be able to see those things clearly and without the distraction of the noise that comes from taking the garbage out, the dog for a walk and the weekly sales report.
If you really want to move your life further forward, to improve yourself and become a better version of yourself (and I know there are many people who are perfectly happy where they are right now) then consider taking out the routine tasks that don’t move you life further forward, and create a list for routines. Then for your projects, create only two or three and make sure you focus on these each and every day. You will be very surprised how much you can get done in twelve months and this should give you inspiration to keep going.
For more information on how to set this up in Todoist, a few months ago I published a blog post on the Todoist blog that went into detail of how I set this up. You can view that post here.
Carl Pullein is the author of Your Digital Life: Everything you need to know to get your life organised and put technology to work for you, a book about how to get yourself organised in the twenty-first century