I’ve been doing these two exercises almost yearly since I was 18 (nearly 20 years ago). I should’ve kept the results and collected them in a notebook.
The Death Letter Exercise
We’re going to do a little solitary roleplaying exercise. Let’s pretend that you are going to die in five minutes. There is no possibility for survival, but your death will be quick and painless. Also, you remembered (as always) to bring your trusty pen and pocket notebook.
Set the timer for five minutes and write a letter to the people who are important to you. This is your last opportunity to say the things that need to be said.
The Obituary Exercise
- A word processor with word count
- A timer
It’s three years from now, and you’ve just died (perhaps the same way as in the previous exercise). This isn’t the same you that you’d be if you kept doing the same boring stuff you’re doing now. This is the ideal you that you’d become if you got off of your ass and started working toward doing the things you really want to do.
Now pretend you’re the rookie reporter tasked with writing your obituary. You have a limit of 250 words and 30 minutes until your deadline. Your only restriction is that you have to be realistic in that what you write could possibly happen. Don’t pretend that you’ll suddenly become rich or have lots more discretionary time.
Here’s the thing: three years is enough time to learn to do nearly anything you want to do. Actually, if you apply yourself and focus, you can learn to do something reasonably well in a year or two. You can learn to paint or play a musical instrument. You can write several novels. You can lose weight and get in shape. You can fall in love, get married, and have children.
You can do all of these things in three years. Especially if you stop wasting the majority of your day on Facebook and watching television that you can’t even remember tomorrow.
If you practice GTD, and you should, incorporate reading these exercises into your weekly review. If you’re struggling with the higher-altitude stuff, these exercises will help you clarify your vison and values.
It’s pretty sad (and telling) that the iOS5 feature I was most excited about is Reminders. Like millions of others, I installed iOS 5 last night. Like a handful of others (hopefully it isn’t just me), I’ve spent my morning combining my weekly review with transferring my GTD system into Reminders.
Since becoming overwhelmed by the amount of tweaking and fiddling that I was doing in OmniFocus, I’ve been on a quest to find, or hack, the perfect minimalist GTD system. For the last several months, my trusted system has been based in Simplenote, used in conjunction with ResophNotes (like Notational Velocity, but for PC) and iPhone list-making apps that integrate with SimpleNote, such as Listary and NoteTask. This ubiquitious-capture-capable, cloud-synced, text-based system has worked pretty well for me, but it isn’t particularly inspiring. I’m hopeful that Reminders will be the silver bullet that kills my compulsion to experiment with task management software and actually get things done.
What I Require in My Trusted System
I’m a notebook and pen geek, but I don’t use a paper system for my GTD because I’m screwed if I lose or forget my notebook. For me to really enjoy the GTD’s benefit of stress-attenuation, I need to know that I can access my lists anywhere at any time. There are tons of beautifully designed (visually) task-management apps for iPhone that don’t sync with anything, not even a proprietary web service. This is the ultimate deal breaker for me.
If you have an iOS 5 device, you already have the app. You don’t have to shell out $40 for an app with a ton of features you’ll never use.
Reminders isn’t the most attractive (to my aesthetic sensibilities) list manager out there, but it’s not at all ugly. As a graphic designer and artist, I simply can’t use an ugly application, even if it’s extremely functional.
If you have an iCloud account, your lists sync automatically. You don’t have to worry about manual backup. Since I use Outlook at work (calendar and email only, not for GTD), my empty Outlook task list was available the first time I opened the app. You can select which task lists are visable in iPhone settings.
There is no tweaking do be done here. There are no subtasks. No folders. No assigning tasks to projects. These are the things made me waste so much time in OmniFocus, so I consider their absence features rather than omissions.
I’d like to point out that Getting Things Done was designed for whatever tools are available (including paper) and canon GTD, as written, doesn’t require subtasks and pre-planning every action for a project, but relies on what David Allen calls the Natural Planning Model.
I can view, add, and remove items from my iPad, iPhone, and web browser. If my two-year-old drops my iPhone in the toilet, I can wipe away my tears and still access my list.
Moving items across lists
It’s easy enough to move items from one list to another. There’s one too many taps involved, but it’s something I can live with.
Listary does this with SimpleNote lists.
It’s very easy to rearrange the order of items in a list, or the lists themselves.
EDIT: Unfortunately, you can’t rearrange the order of items in a list. This is kind of a silly omission, because all you’d have to do is tap and hold to enable reordering.
Due Dates & Repeating Tasks
Yep. It does this.
This is the thing Reminders can do that my SimpleNote/Listary system can’t.
As I mentioned earlier, there are no subtasks, no folders, and no assigning tasks to projects. Some people really need these things, or think they need them. If you do, I strongly suggest OmniFocus.
Too Much Leather
I don’t really need my list manager to look like a real leather organizer. I’d prefer access to the real estate to be able to see more items on my list. This is really only an issue on the iPhone.
Web App Interface is Clunky
The iCloud calendar is so slow as to be nearly unusable on both my work machine and my laptop.
Difficult to Manage Lots of Lists
I gave up on importing all of my lists from SimpleNote because it’s difficult to add new lists on the iPad once you fill up the initial window. I’m thinking of keeping my non-actionable lists in Pages.
Location-based reminders aren’t enabled for 3GS iPhones.
For the moment, I’m using a 3GS, but I’ve been told that Siri integrates into Reminders. Depending on how well this works, this could be the feature that David Allen has been waiting for all these years.
What I’d Change
- Get rid of the leather “chrome” around the app.
- Make it easier to move items across lists
- Make it easier to add new lists