Category Archives: GTD

Waiting for my copy – 9 Steps to Work Less and Do More

Stever Robbins new book – Get-It-Done Guy’s 9 Steps to Work Less and Do More is do to be released tomorrow, September 14th and it looks to be a good read.

I’ve taken a look at the opening chapters on their website and I’m looking forward to reading Step 3:Conquer your technology, Step 5:Stay organized, and Step 7: Optimize!

I have a review copy on the way and once it arrives I’ll dig in and let you all know what I think – in the mean time check out the their website and you can pre-order a copy of the book over at Amazon.

Post-vacation Inbox Triage

As I mentioned in my last post, Gmail’s Priority Inbox – a great tool, I recently took a vacation during which I managed to almost completely keep my efforts of separating work and home going – just one short call with my boss towards the end so I wouldn’t be blindsided when I returned.

Unfortunately that meant a backlog of email to deal with and I thought I would share how I triaged it.

  1. Delivery/read receipts – I started by sorting my inbox for these and then deleted them.
  2. Meeting requests – next I sorted my inbox for meeting requests and deleted those that had already passed. I then reviewed the remaining and accepted as appropriate.
  3. Forwarded items – typically these fall into one of two categories – items for my information, which were immediately moved to my reference folder, and the second those that required me to take some sort of action. The action items are flagged and filed as appropriate, more on this in a moment.

    Sidebar – I should note here that when I triage my inbox after a vacation I do not follow the two minute rule of David Allen’s GTD system (if you can do it in two minutes or less just do it) instead I’m trying to get to Inbox Zero as quickly as possible.
  4. Response emails – you know the ones, they have an RE: at the beginning of them. I plow through these fairly quickly as most are in reference to emails I sent prior to vacation in most cases these are items that allow me to close out outstanding projects. Like forwarded items I do have to pay attention to those that create new projects as I am frequently copied into an email thread for an already existing project.
  5. Remaining emails – at this point I’m left, for the most part, new items that need to be read and dealt with – delete, file for reference or tag for action.

Now, in item number three I mention that I flag and file action items, this due to my requirement to use MS Outlook (at least for now). I realize that in true GTD implementations these items would get moved to an action list and tagged with appropriate contexts but for me working entirely in Outlook at work just make more sense and is quicker.

So, when I need to take action on an item:

  1. I hit Control-Shift-G which brings up the flag dialog box where I set the flag type and due date.
  2. Control-Shift-V to bring up the ‘Move to Folder’ dialog box where I select where I want the item to live going forward – typically a folder for the associated project
  3. Refer to my ‘For Follow Up’ folder search which pulls in all the items flagged in item 1.

So that’s how I go about the triage of an unwieldy email Inbox when returning from vacation – how do you handle it? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

notebook:”Next Action” tag:@work -tag:@wf

So you’re probably thinking that Scot has lost what few brain cells he has left and is putting garbage in post titles – you couldn’t be further from the truth.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog you know that I’m an evangelist for Evernote. It’s steadily worked its way into just about every aspect of my life – to the point that I’ve gone ahead and forked over the money to be a Premium subscriber. It may not seem like much but this month I pass 200Mb of transfer without really thinking about it – notes to myself, pictures of places, pictures of receipts, scanned copies of documents I think I’ll need later, yes, Evernote has become my “second brain.”

What does that have to do with the subject of this post? An area that I decided to use Evernote was for managing my projects and lists – both home and work. I know, I know, I’m breaking a bit of that “separate work from home,” I posted about a few days ago (read the post) but while it is a single tool for the job using notebooks and tags I can keep the two from mixing together by using search queries.

You would think that as a heavy Google user (okay, most would call me a fan boy) search would come easy, it does but there are challenges when it comes to Evernote. It takes a bit of time to get use to the fact that searches are confined to the notebook you’re looking at so you need to take that into account. You also have to pay attention to how you name things as any given notebook or tag name can only exist once however, more than one note can have the same name (a small blessing). The other search item you need to get use to is that tags have to be called out in the search field, type something in without calling it out and you can get some strange results.

So, back to the post title: notebook:”Next Action” tag:@work -tag:@wf

That’s the search I have saved to pull out all my next actions that I need to do at work. For those that follow GTD you’ll notice the ‘@’ symbol that is typcially used for indicating the various contexts things are done in. In my case the search breaks down as follows:

notebook:”Next Action”

I need to define the notebook that I want searched, I don’t want to worry about where I am in Evernote when I kick off the search so I call it out at the beginning. The quotes you see are necessary as the notebook name has a space in it.


In this case I’m only interested in those items that are tagged to be done at work.


For those items I have delegated off or I am waiting on a response for I tag them ‘@wf’ for waiting for. This search parameter takes all of the ‘waiting for’ items out of the work list as they are not items I need to take action on – someone else needs to.

What’s left on the screen at this point is just the next actions I need to take at work – now I just pick and chose the ones I want to work on based on available time and energy.

So that’s just a peak into the way I use Evernote to help with my GTD system, it’s not the only tool I use as GTD is about method not tools but since I’m at my computer nearly all the time at work it makes sense to use it.

Of course since I have the iPhone app as well so I can take my lists with me.

Do you use Evernote for GTD? Why not share your experiences in the comments?

GTD is about method not tools

“So, what program do you use to manage your to-do list?”

[For those that aren’t aware of GTD, or Getting Things Done, check out What is GTD?]

It’s a question I often get and quite frankly, in my humble opinion, it is the wrong question to ask, a better question would be:

“How do you manage your actionable items?”

The reason I say that is when it comes right down to it the tool or program doesn’t matter. I’ve gone nearly digital in my tools and work flow but as it has often been pointed out to me I have no loyalty to a particular tool – I use what’s best for the job at the time. The real nut to crack is changing the way you deal what is coming at you, not how you store it for later consumption.

Case in point, I just recently moved another blog I run to a new domain. After I had purchased the domain, changed the DNS server entries and saw the site come up I stepped away from the computer. Of course after leaving the computer behind I promptly thought of several action items that I still needed to attend to.

Did I rush back to the PC to get started on them?

Nope, I didn’t have the ability to do that where I was.

Did I pull out my iPhone and enter them in some to do list manager?


I grabbed a notepad and pen I had with me and scribbled down the action items that were in my head:

  • Upload new header graphic
  • Install mobile theme
  • Update Google Analytics code
  • Update all internal links (used this plug-in for this task)
  • Remove appointment from group calendar (not related to the above but it popped into my head at this particular moment in time and needed to be done at the computer as well)

The piece of paper was then ripped off and stuck in my shirt pocket. I could have taken a quick snapshot and sent it to myself (which I frequently do) but to be honest I knew that when I got back to my machine these tasks were going to be my next ones to accomplish so why bother? It was time that I didn’t need to spend as the tool at hand was sufficient for my needs and I don’t need a record of them now that they are completed.

From a GTD perspective my shirt pocket was the inbox I tossed everything into – the processing was done when I got back to the PC – each task could be accomplished relatively quickly (less that 15 minutes each) and as I had the time available completing items right off the “inbox list” just made the most sense. If I hadn’t had the time then which ever tasks were left would have gone on the @computer list.

So the next time you start to ask someone about what tool they are using stop and think for a moment, is the reason you’re asking because you’d like to find a good tool or because you really want to know what their workflow is?

reQall goes Android and gets a facelift

reQall has always been a favorite of mine when it comes to managing a to-do list, so much so that it is one of the few programs I’ve paid the upgrade on.

What’s not to like, you can dictate your items to the service, they transcribe them and it can be configured to communicate with your Google or Outlook calendar (a Pro feature). Where it fell down is that it did not have an Android based client – that is until yesterday. On May 13, reQall released the beta version of its Android client. Unfortunately I do not have an Android based phone but I did get a peak at it over the shoulder of another and it looks nice, it’s responsive and functions as expected.

The release of the Android application was nice but they also updated their web interface and it is a huge improvement over the previous version. Along with cleaning up the user interface they have also introduced a number of features including categories and a much requested feature by those that follow the “getting things done” or GTD teachings of David Allen, tagging. For those not familiar with the GTD the system relies heavily on using contexts to group your tasks and up until now reQall has not been able to to that as you were limited to work arounds – now you can tag a item, with more than one tag if need be, and afterwards use those tags for search criteria.

All in all a nice application and a nice upgrade – if you don’t use reQall now’s a good time to check it out.

For a full rundown of the new features just released check out the reQall website at:

To grab the Android beta application, on your phone goto: and download it.