Implementing "Getting Things Done"


Show Notes

Steve has had a few weeks trying to implement Getting Things Done and has lots of questions for Tyler, the resident GTD veteran. Capturing actions, weekly reviews, selecting the right ticklers, and the surprising joy of physical file folders for actual pieces of paper.



[00:00:00] Tyler: Steve, I completed what might be considered a personal finance pilgrimage two weeks ago.

[00:00:07] Steve: Oh, that's exciting. Where did you go?

[00:00:09] Tyler: Yes, it was a little bit unintentional, but I was visiting a good friend of mine in Nashville, Tennessee, and we were thinking of things we could do, and he mentioned that the Dave Ramsey headquarters is in Nashville, and so of course I had to go check it out.

[00:00:23] Steve: Right. Okay, I didn't know that was in Nashville. But I know you have listened to his show in the past.

[00:00:31] Tyler: Yeah, I heard it on the radio, like, driving around with my dad as a kid, and since they got on YouTube, I've been known to watch a few clips here and there for entertainment purposes.

[00:00:41] Steve: Right?

[00:00:42] Tyler: Anyway, so regardless of what you think of Dave Ramsey, uh, it was pretty cool to visit his studio there. It's kind of an icon of American talk radio, I suppose.

And, uh, they were doing a recording or a broadcast when I was there. Unfortunately, it wasn't Dave Ramsey himself. It was some of his new personalities that they've been phasing in over the last couple of years, but still it was, it was cool.

[00:01:07] Steve: Is it like a, well, I say like a typical radio studio as if I know what one of those

[00:01:13] Tyler: I sure wouldn't know the answer to that. Yeah. Funnily enough, the friend that I visited in Nashville worked for a couple of years as a radio DJ. So he did have a lot to say about that, but imagine whatever he did, but probably with a lot bigger budget.

[00:01:30] Steve: Sure. Yeah.

[00:01:31] Tyler: I will say though, the experience was quite nice. It was, it was like Disneyland quality customer service. Like you walk in, smiling people are greeting you. Everyone gets a free coffee or a free hot chocolate, a free cookie and a free mug.

[00:01:44] Steve: Wow.

[00:01:45] Tyler: Ramsey mug. So I got my free stuff and then, uh, we just happened to be there.

Yeah. For the afternoon broadcast. And they have like a little miniature museum of, you know, Dave Ramsey's history, the company's history. Uh, I don't know. It was pretty, pretty interesting. I never thought I would have that opportunity. So I was, and it was unplanned more or less. So pretty cool.

[00:02:08] Steve: That is fun. You say pilgrimage and that sounds intentional, but

[00:02:12] Tyler: Well,

[00:02:13] Steve: this was like a, an accidental pilgrimage.

[00:02:15] Tyler: once I knew it was an option, I knew I had to do it.

[00:02:18] Steve: Oh yeah.

[00:02:19] Tyler: Yeah. But I did not go to Tennessee with the intention of visiting Dave Ramsey studio.

[00:02:24] Steve: Okay. Did you get any gems of personal finance wisdom from the show?

[00:02:30] Tyler: No, I wasn't listening at all. I was looking around at, at, at the equipment. Uh, I got to stand on the little platform there where people do their debt free screams, like the whole, the whole, the whole thing. And during the commercial break, the personalities came out. You could take your picture with them if you wanted to.

I don't know. It's definitely like a tourist situation there, right? I think a lot of people really love Dave Ramsey and the show and go there and they make it a good experience.

[00:02:58] Steve: That's great. Well, glad you enjoyed it.

Hello there, dear listener. I am Steve.

[00:03:09] Tyler: And I'm Tyler. And this is another episode of It's Not About The Money, where we discuss a wide range of topics related to creating and running small businesses.

[00:03:18] Steve: Tyler and I are both small business owners like you perhaps. And this podcast is our attempt to make sense of this world one episode at a time.

Initial capturing

[00:03:29] Tyler: Today, we're talking about getting things done. More specifically, Steve, you've been reading this book, Getting Things Done by David Allen, right? And, uh.

[00:03:39] Steve: have. Mm

[00:03:40] Tyler: You've been texting me throughout the week about the various things you're reading, so I'm very excited to hear how it's going for you.

[00:03:47] Steve: hmm. So this is the book, uh, Getting Things Done, David Allen. You already said that. Uh, I have very much enjoyed this process so far of reading it. The first thing I'll say is, uh, he recommends that you take like a couple of days to sit down and, uh, dump all of the contents of your brain into your inbox and sort through it and go through all of the physical spaces where you have collected things and like do all of that kind of in a defined period of time.

And I did not do that. And, uh, it. added a bit of stress to that process of like, I'm halfway through dumping all this stuff. Like I know that there is still things in my brain and I know there's stuff in the inbox that needs to get done, like within the next couple of days. And it's in there somewhere, but I haven't processed the inbox yet, that kind of stuff.

So I, if I were doing this over again, I think I would take his advice on. Do this all at once, like sit down and do nothing else except for this for a little while.

[00:04:51] Tyler: that's interesting. How many days would you say it took you to complete that exercise?

[00:04:58] Steve: Uh, it was probably at least a week, maybe a week and a half.

[00:05:02] Tyler: Okay, so it's pretty spread out.

[00:05:05] Steve: Yeah.

[00:05:05] Tyler: Well, I will say good for you for, I mean, you're not just reading this book. It sounds like you are putting it to action, putting it to the test.

[00:05:13] Steve: Yeah, you had mentioned that it is a little more of a reference book, or it's better thought of as a reference book than, uh, like a thing that you read through cover to cover. And I actually haven't finished reading all of it yet. I've, uh, part, what is it? Part three, the last three or four chapters. I haven't got through all of them yet.

So maybe there's, maybe there's something magical in there that I'm still missing, but he, he kind of, uh, it's, it's sort of cyclical. Like he gives you the overview and then we go into a certain level of detail on one thing and then go focus on another thing here. And you're, you're kind of getting the same ideas over and over in different ways as you go through the book.

And I think coming back to it in the future. Will be a lot easier because it can be like I know there was a thing about this Where was that and you can just go to that section and there's all the detail in that piece of it kind of thing

[00:06:13] Tyler: I wonder if what you just said is at the heart of my critique, if you will, of the book, which is that it wasn't an easy, like it's not, yeah, read, readable. No, I shouldn't say it is readable. It reads less like a book to me from cover to cover than it does as a reference manual. Maybe that's why it's because, uh, it is repetitious in that sense.

[00:06:35] Steve: Yeah, I do feel like it could be better organized

[00:06:38] Tyler: Okay. So it's not just me. It's not just me.

[00:06:41] Steve: Yeah, but that's me as a as an armchair Editor with, with no actual, uh, advice to offer in how it should be reorganized. So I don't know any solution there, but anyway, it, you know, his voice comes out, I, you know, it's enjoyable. It's just, it, you have to kind of keep the big picture in mind the whole time you're reading through or you get lost in the weeds.

Unexpected love for the general filing system

[00:07:03] Tyler: yes, yes. Okay. So you're reading it and you are implementing as you go, it sounds like. So what state would you say your system is in right now? Being whatever it is, two thirds of the way through the book.

[00:07:19] Steve: Yeah. Uh, the one piece of it that I have really loved unexpectedly is the filing system. Like physical folders with labels. I went out and got a, you know, a label printer and a whole bunch of folders, which I didn't have before because I'm like digital things, you know, but I, I did have all of this paper.

It turns out I have a whole bunch of paper, like in various places. And I don't know what I was doing with it before, because now it's all. Nicely organized. I've got a whole drawer full of these folders with stuff in it that I have decided is important enough to keep.

[00:07:56] Tyler: Well, that's fascinating.

[00:07:57] Steve: So that, yeah, that's been fascinating.

[00:07:59] Tyler: What are some examples of those papers that you think are valuable enough to keep, but you had just, I guess, lying around or in piles or something?

[00:08:08] Steve: let's open it up. What do we have? Uh, my business insurance policy, which is like, I don't know, 200 pages of

[00:08:16] Tyler: Oh my.

[00:08:17] Steve: stuff that like, I will probably never read it all, but if I did ever need to, it's there. I don't know why they sent me a printed version of it, frankly. Uh, I have a bunch of sheet music in here. Uh, I subscribe to, uh, a printed newsletter called the Kiplinger Tax Letter, and they sent it in the mail, and I like reading those, and those all have their own folders.

Uh, things for, like, around the house, the HOA paperwork, or the HVAC stuff, or, I dunno, there's just a whole bunch

[00:08:56] Tyler: Yeah. Yeah. And where, where was this stuff before you said?

[00:09:00] Steve: Not entirely sure. I,

[00:09:01] Tyler: Just around in the, yeah.

[00:09:03] Steve: around in my office, I think I had a, a, um, like a pendaflex sort of folder that had a bunch of it, but nothing was organized. Like it was theoretically alphabetical by something, but I could never remember what was in, what was in the B section or anything. Cause I didn't actually label them.

They just say B on the pre printed. So now they've got labels and I can find them all now.

[00:09:31] Tyler: That's cool.

[00:09:32] Steve: Anyway, it's fun. So I enjoy the experience of like something new is in the inbox. Hey, it needs to be filed. Let me get out the printer and print a little label. And like, it's a fun little ritual, you know, which he makes a big point of like your filing system has got to be fun or you won't do it.

[00:09:45] Tyler: Yeah,

[00:09:47] Steve: And so,

[00:09:49] Tyler: well, that is just utterly fascinating to me actually, because it's been years since I first implemented GTD and I distinctly remember having a really similar reaction to you. Like I remember going to like Office Depot or whatever it was and like being like, what is a label printer and like buying one and not being sure how to use it.

And then ever since then, yeah, it's just like a little bit of a, a joyful moment. Anytime it's time to make a new folder.

[00:10:13] Steve: uh huh. At one point last week, maybe I, uh, ran out of labels. The cartridge that the machine came with ran out and I hadn't ordered any more yet. So I was like, Oh no, I've got this, a couple of things that need to be filed. Get these labels here tomorrow.

[00:10:29] Tyler: Oh, that's funny. Okay. So I have to admit, uh, when we started talking about GTD, this wasn't what I expected and I think that's, uh, but which is fine. That's, uh, the, the, I guess this is what, uh, the book would call reference materials, right?

[00:10:45] Steve: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And I, uh, I have had to refer to a few of them here and there. Most of it is just going to sit in there and I will probably never, ever look at it. But I like the idea of if, uh, the kind of the, the test to do, if you have something Sitting here. You don't know whether to throw it away or to keep it.

If you, he says, if you have any doubt, just file it. And then later on you can decide to throw it out. That's totally fine. But for now you kept it, you know where it is. You don't have to think about it anymore. So that's kind of been my philosophy.

[00:11:23] Tyler: Awesome. I also like that you've got your sheet music in there. I, uh, currently all of my sheet music is just in random piles around my, my other room. So I should, I should implement that. That's a cool idea.

[00:11:37] Steve: Yeah. I've still got a whole bunch that is that way, or like it's in a binder cause I needed it for a performance at one point. And so it's all still in the little sheet protectors in that binder, but. I don't know how to find any of that, except for going through the whole binder. So, I really ought to just take it out and file it.

Capturing actions

[00:11:54] Tyler: Oh, how interesting. Okay. What about the, uh, well, okay. So you're using a, uh, a literal physical filing cabinet for your reference material. What about for your actions? What are you using for those, to capture those and organize those?

[00:12:12] Steve: Yeah, and this I think is the bulk of the system and where it really has its power is organizing actions and projects and Like some days and the, the tickler file has been surprisingly useful as well. So we should talk about that, but I'm using Todoist for it, which I was using before, but I kind of burned down all of the projects that I was using the, uh, projects in Todoist's term, which is, I don't know, just like a folder of things. Basically, but I got rid of almost all of those and I have just an actions project and a projects project and a someday and a tickler and an errands. I don't know why I made that a folder instead of a context, but whatever, or a label. Yeah, but anyway, they're in their own folder. The thing that I haven't quite figured out, and I kind of want to ask you about this is, um, well, two things.

One is when I'm on my computer during the day, I'm primarily in day job mode. And so I still have a separate project for the stuff that needs to get done for the day job.

[00:13:25] Tyler: Yeah.

[00:13:26] Steve: Uh, that stuff, uh, is not in the projects and the actions folder. Everything else is in my life, except, well, except for, um, the, the tax business.

And there I'm still trying to figure out if I should use Todoist for that stuff, or if I should use my, uh, practice management system, because it's also got tasks and workflows and jobs and like, it's got a whole thing that works really well for that sort of work. And so I'm. It's still kind of figuring out, is it going to be easier for me to keep track of that stuff in Todoist where everything else is, or in its own system where it's discrete and I can make automations around it and

[00:14:07] Tyler: Right.

[00:14:08] Steve: client, uh, contact information's all linked up there and every, I don't know.

What I wanted to ask you though is. Uh, does it make sense to, to do that kind of thing where like all of the projects for a certain, for the day job or whatever it might be, uh, are in their own thing versus just being in the projects folder with everything else?

[00:14:31] Tyler: Yeah. So basically what I hear you asking is, first of all, should you, and if so, how should you separate day job from personal action items within your system?

[00:14:44] Steve: Mm-Hmm.

[00:14:44] Tyler: Is that what you're asking?

[00:14:46] Steve: yes.

[00:14:46] Tyler: Okay. Ooh, I love this question because I find it very controversial and I myself have tried both things. So in my current setup, I do not differentiate between work and personal.

I just use contexts. So, um, my contexts are typically based around the tools I have at my disposal. So I've got calls, computer, email, errands. Home and phone. Those are my contexts. So because I work from the same physical space, whether I'm doing personal stuff or work stuff, because I work remotely at home, uh, it just doesn't make sense to me right now to separate them, but you totally can.

I've got a friend, I tell him that, and he just. hates that I combine everything. Cause he likes to be in like, you know, complete separation of work and personal. And I think there is definitely something to be said for that, depending on, you know, the headspace that you're in or how you work best. So I would say try, try both and see which works best for you.

[00:15:53] Steve: Okay. That makes sense. I think the reason that I still have it this way is that there's just a whole lot of stuff in the atComputer filter,

[00:16:06] Tyler: huh.

[00:16:08] Steve: where most of the day job work things would end up, and, when it comes time to do something, I don't want to necessarily sort through the whole list and say, which ones of these are the things that need to get done during these eight hours when I'm working,

[00:16:22] Tyler: Uh, yeah. And so if, if, if. Cause remember context doesn't have to be physical or based on tools. It can also be in Mo based on like. So like, if your context is day job at the computer, then you should have an action list that's specifically for your day job at the computer. And you can do that quite, uh, easily in Todoist.


[00:16:46] Steve: yeah. Okay. That makes sense.

[00:16:48] Tyler: my action lists tend to be short enough at this point where I can have both personal and work at computer. And I can just like, look at it and know, oh, this is personal. I won't work on this. I won't work on this right now. I'll work on this one, which is work because I'm at work

[00:17:06] Steve: Mm hmm.

[00:17:06] Tyler: again, that really irritates some people and I have done it both ways.

So I don't think there's a right or wrong way, but, but, but I think maybe the principle that David Allen talks about is only expose the actions to yourself that you can work on in that moment. So I think. It'd be worth separating them out by a work at computer and personal at computer. And if you want, when we're not recording a podcast, I'd be happy to show you how, how you can do that with filters.

[00:17:39] Steve: Yeah, filters are fun. So, I've got a couple of those set up.

Weekly review

[00:17:45] Steve: Okay, here's another question for you. This quote from the book is page 219 in my edition. Aside from your calendar, if you don't have at least 50 next actions and waiting for's, including all the agendas for people and meetings, I would be skeptical about whether you really had...

He's talking about, uh, I think at this point talking about, um, making sure that you get everything written down and into your system, uh, is I have, well, let's see, what do I have? I have way more than 50 things of like stuff that can be worked on

[00:18:27] Tyler: Uh huh.

[00:18:28] Steve: now. Is that, does it ever get smaller or is this, uh, like, I guess I'm trying to figure out is this, it still feels a little overwhelming and I.

I don't, I, I know that it's not all getting done. Yet, which is maybe fine, but I'm just trying to figure out,

[00:18:50] Tyler: Sure. Yeah.

[00:18:52] Steve: am I doing it wrong?

[00:18:53] Tyler: Uh, probably not. Well, I mean, yes, probably you're doing it wrong. I only say that because it's taken me a lot of practice to even get where I am. And like, as I talked about in a previous episode, like I, I tend to, you know, my system has entropy. It suffers from.

I think just doing it and then tweaking and improving as you go is totally fine. In terms of having that many actions on your, you know, action list, I would say first, do you have to do all of those things anyway? And if the answer to that is yes, then it's probably better to have them in a list than in your head.

[00:19:35] Steve: Yeah, I agree with

[00:19:37] Tyler: And if you don't really have to do all of them, then you can just delete them. Or put them in someday maybe.

[00:19:43] Steve: Yeah. Okay. So maybe it needs some more evaluation.

[00:19:48] Tyler: but, but I think the beauty of it is you, that list can get absolutely, you know, infinitely long. Hopefully it never does. But, um, and you should just have the peace of mind knowing that you've captured it. And in your weekly reviews, then you can take a breather, take a moment to reflect on that list and kind of winnow it down or further refine, if that makes sense.

So, so I would say my inbox and my action lists kind of get messier throughout the week. Messier and messier is like things come in and stuff comes up and things don't get done when I thought that I would, you know, all that happens is just real life. And that's why the weekly review is so important because that's when you kind of bring things back to order.

[00:20:30] Steve: That makes sense. How long does your weekly review typically take?

[00:20:37] Tyler: You know, I don't time it, so I don't know. I also don't do it every week. So here I am, a hypocrite, hypocrite. Um, but sometimes I do it more than once a week. So it's, I do it whenever I feel like my system is getting, when I, when I feel that out of control, like sensation, I'm like, okay, it's time to do it.

So I kind of do it more intuitively these days.

[00:20:59] Steve: Okay.

[00:21:00] Tyler: And I try not to spend more than a half hour on it. I mean, I. You know, I have a little checklist, it's in my system, so I can just, you know, do this, do that, do that, do that, and I just can like quickly work through it. And again, it's taken practice, uh, the things, it's a lot of decision making, right?

So it's like, have you seen the flowchart that's on like every other page of that book? Like the, the GTD flowchart? So really you're just asking those questions over and over and over again. So like, is it actionable? Yes or no. Right? That's like the first one. When we capture thoughts, we tend to often capture thoughts that are not actionable, or at least not clearly articulated as an action that we can take.

And so,

[00:21:46] Steve: but there might be an action in there somewhere and you've got to tease it

[00:21:50] Tyler: yeah, like, what really is this? Yeah, um, let me see if there's any, I mean, I don't know, I've got 13 items in my inbox right now, so, um, are there any here? Yeah, so I've got one, two, Well, two at a glance, there's probably more in here that are not actions as they're currently captured. But it's enough to remind me like when I do my weekly review and clear out my inbox, I can either, you know, turn it into a real action or delete it.

Because it was just a thought that I had that's not really that important as it turns out.

[00:22:27] Steve: Okay. That makes sense.

[00:22:28] Tyler: Like for example, this one's kind of silly, I've got something in my inbox, it just says, Beard grooming, which is kind of, uh, I, uh, what is that? I don't even know. I think, um, I'm, I'm interested in trying out some different things, like some, maybe some beard oil or like some wax or something. I don't know.

Just like things I don't currently do other than just trim my beard. Um, but like that's beard grooming is not an action. Like, what does that even mean? I don't know. It's just a thought that occurred to me in the middle of the week. And I, so I put it down to think about it later.

[00:22:58] Steve: right. You just throw it in the inbox. Okay, I like this heuristic of when it starts to feel out of control, it's probably time for a review, whether that has been a week or not.

[00:23:10] Tyler: Yeah.

[00:23:11] Steve: Okay, because I do feel a little bit out of control, but there have been times throughout this implementation process where it felt in control, and so I understand the signal that you're talking about.

[00:23:25] Tyler: So what, uh, I'm curious that the list that you were talking about that has more than 50 items on it, is that within a single context or is that like total, like all the things to do in your whole system?

[00:23:35] Steve: That's total. All of the individual contexts have 20 or fewer items in them,

[00:23:44] Tyler: So I guess,

[00:23:46] Steve: like a lot for each one of those. Cause, uh, like if I'm sit, well, like home, for example, is like a bunch of projects that need to get done around the house or, well, either single action thing or the, an action that will, uh, further a particular project.

[00:24:06] Tyler: So, I mean, I, this is a subjective, of course, but, uh, to, I would say that's not even that, that many. So it might feel, I mean, that's again. If it feels like a lot to you, it is a lot. So I'm not going to try and tell you it's not a lot, but I would say it's not unusual to have that many because, because again, the idea is you should have everything.

Every commitment you've made, like everything should just be in there. Everything, which can, everything is a lot. Everything is a lot.

[00:24:35] Steve: It is. Yeah,

[00:24:37] Tyler: Um, and so, yeah, I wouldn't let the sheer number, whether it's high or low, really like dictate how you feel about it. Um, what I would pay attention to if I were you is when you sit down to actually work and you pull up a con, uh, an action list for the context that you're in, do you feel like you can just start working on it without, you know, too much thinking, like you just, okay, I'm in my computer context. I pull up my computer list and I just kind of like start at the top and work and get as many as done as I can in this kind of focus mode. And if you're able to do that, you will be really surprised, I think, how quickly the list goes down.

[00:25:15] Steve: Okay, that's a good suggestion. Pay attention to that next time.

[00:25:20] Tyler: I also think, uh, that as a new GTD er, if that's a term, um, it's pretty common to spend more time clarifying, which I think is the step that it's called in the book, right? There's capture. Clarify, uh, like you're going to spend more time at the beginning, clarifying and organizing your system then probably feels good, I would say, because you're building it, like it's, it's a new thing.

Right. And so you're still trying to figure out, Oh, where does, where would I put something like this? Whereas, you know, with a few weeks, a few months, a few years, even under your belt, it just becomes kind of second nature. And the system becomes like the water that you're swimming in and you hardly ever think about it.

You're just kind of doing the stuff.

[00:26:08] Steve: that's encouraging to hear.

[00:26:10] Tyler: I hope, I hope it's true. I mean, I myself, it, I, I, I don't know if it's like a feather in the cap for the system or like it, it should be like a, you know, a bad thing about it because I think it, I think it actually does take practice to, to develop this as a skill. I think it's a super valuable skill that like everyone should learn because it can massively improve your life, but I, I don't think you should feel bad at all if you're like, read the book and your first version of this, like, doesn't quite work out the way you hoped it would.

[00:26:43] Steve: Okay. That makes

[00:26:44] Tyler: Cause mine didn't. Maybe I'm just telling you that to make myself feel better, but yeah, practice makes perfect for sure.

Picking the right contexts

[00:26:53] Steve: All right, uh, here's another question. I've got a bunch of contexts for like at computer, on phone, at home. Uh, I have one called research, which is sort of nebulous, but it's like things that I need to learn about or look up

[00:27:14] Tyler: huh.

[00:27:15] Steve: whatever. But my question is, um, I'm trying to figure out a balance between, do I have the right contexts and am I looking at them frequently enough? Like, does the context actually occur frequently enough that I will look at the list and do stuff on it? Uh, cause like, Home, for example, like, there's a bunch of stuff on there, but I don't think I've looked at that list in the last two weeks.

And so none of it's gotten done. Well, actually, some of it has gotten done, just because it came up in my brain anyway. Uh, and I should go check them off now, but, does that make sense, what I'm asking? Like,

[00:27:55] Tyler: Like what, what, at what point is a context worth it or not worth it to have as a separate context?

[00:28:04] Steve: uh, yes, maybe that, and also... Um, do I need to build into my daily schedule of like, I have some time where I'm on my phone so I can do the on

[00:28:21] Tyler: Oh, that's a good question. I don't

[00:28:25] Steve: Because otherwise I will never look at that list and it will never get done. Or, well, so maybe the, maybe the question is really, is that the right context to use if I'm not ever thinking about it in the sense of, I'm just sitting here with my phone, let me pull out the list and see what I ought to do with it.

[00:28:44] Tyler: I think that's a great question and a question that could be resolved by a weekly review. So sorry to be a, to be a broken record on that. But yeah, cause I think what, what happened is as you know, one of the parts of the weekly review is to review all of your action lists. And so you would notice during a weekly review, like, Oh, I didn't even look at this action list all week.

I wonder why. And then you could reevaluate, okay, like, do I need to move some of these actions to a context I'm more naturally in, or is it like totally okay that I didn't do any of these things? Cause I was never, you know, are they really that important if I didn't do them, those kinds of things.

[00:29:25] Steve: Mm hmm.

[00:29:25] Tyler: you can either move them at that point, check them off or, uh, take some other action, like maybe you, yeah.

I mean, schedule a time every day to be on your phone. I, I dunno, I think you could play with that a little bit and see. Try a few different things.

[00:29:42] Steve: All right, that makes sense. So what I'm hearing is, uh, the fact that I am not very good at doing the weekly reviews yet is coming out

[00:29:48] Tyler: I, yeah. Well, maybe you haven't

[00:29:51] Steve: my results. Yeah.

[00:29:53] Tyler: it's, I mean, you haven't been doing this very long. I mean, you might not have even had a chance to do it for, if any weekly reviews and, and, uh, cause yeah, that's like, uh, none of this matters without some kind of regular review because otherwise all the questions, like these questions you're asking, they never get resolved.

Right. And then you just give up and get frustrated cause like, um, you're missing stuff, but, but. You know, again, with time, like what's nice, at least in Todoist and probably many other apps as well, you just have a list of your action lists. And so you can just like click through, like, let's look at this one.

Skim. Look at this one, skim, what am I missing, you know, and often, I mean, always, I would say during a weekly review, I find some things, particularly in the waiting for context that actually did get completed, but I didn't check them off because, you know, I was waiting on someone else to do it. Like I didn't get notified that whatever, right.

So it's kind of a time to clear out all the, the junk and extra stuff that, um, has eluded your attention. Otherwise,

[00:30:58] Steve: yeah, I can see from getting this high level view of the system that the weekly review and the context are going to be probably the most powerful parts of it for me, uh, and so this is encouraging to know that once I get better at that practice, it will, it will start to run more smoothly.

[00:31:20] Tyler: yeah, I think that's true.

"Waiting" and "tickler" lists

[00:31:22] Steve: Okay, so I want to ask you about, uh, what was it? Oh, uh, the, the waiting context. I've found that to be. Uh, fun and very useful, especially when I'm like trying to get documents from tax clients of like, okay, I emailed them on this date asking for XYZ. I can't do anything else on their project until I get those things.

Uh, but I don't want to forget what it is. And I don't want to just like write it down in their notes in my client file. So I throw something in waiting and say, I'm waiting for so and so to send me this. And have a date on it of like when I requested it. So that's been nice. Or like I'm waiting for this package to arrive and when it does, then I need to go install the thing.

[00:32:11] Tyler: Could I give you a couple of pro tips on the Waiting since you're using Todoist specifically? Okay, I'll tell you my favorite thing. So I like to use the comment feature in Todoist to leave myself a note about like what, so I'll have, I've got, I'm just looking at one right now for my work, my day job that I delegated to a member of my team.

And so like in the notes, I said, you know, asked so and so to do this and then automatically includes like a timestamp on there. So. So if I ever need it as a reference, I'm like, Oh yeah, I totally asked that person to do this on this date and they never got back to me. So like I can, it just helps having that information if I need to follow up with that person.

So that's thing number one is you can leave yourself notes and they're timestamped, which is great. And then the other thing would be, I actually tend to use the waiting sometimes like its own particular file. So if I need to follow up with somebody, I'll just assign a due date to the waiting, uh, the action I'm waiting on.

[00:33:08] Steve: okay.

[00:33:11] Tyler: Cause then on that date, you know, I tend to look in the today view at least once a day and it'll be there. I'm like, Oh yeah, so I need to follow up on that thing I'm waiting for.

[00:33:19] Steve: Yeah.

[00:33:19] Tyler: necessary.

[00:33:23] Steve: Okay. And that, that leads me into the other one, the tickler file. Uh, which is also great. I like it. Cause I can schedule things like, don't forget to send the food bank donation with the kids on this

[00:33:38] Tyler: Uh huh.

[00:33:39] Steve: Like, like we've already purchased the food. It's in the pantry. Like, cause that was in, you know, wrote that on the shopping list or whatever.

We've already got it, but I don't want to forget that morning in the rush of getting the kids out to school. So I'll actually send it with them. So I'll put it on the tickler file, like 6 30 that morning on that day, whatever. So that's really nice. Some of them are like, for example, I need to renew my. PTIN, which is the, uh, an IRS thing, preparer tax identification number or something. I forget what it stands for. I should know that, but anyway, you have to renew it every year. So I have it to recur on November 3rd, I guess. Uh, cause then I have two months, so it doesn't need to happen on that day.

And so what I've been doing is it comes up from the tickler file and then I add a separate task to the inbox, or maybe I'll assign it directly to a context, if it makes sense. And then I might put a due date on it of like, it has to be done by December 31st or something so that I can still track it, but then I'll check off the one from the tickler file.

So it will recur next year on November 3rd. But do you have anything like that? Uh, and, and how do you handle those kinds of situations where, like, you need to be reminded on this day, but it doesn't have to happen on this day? Ha

[00:35:01] Tyler: Um, I may have been waiting my entire life for someone to ask me this question. And I'm just realizing it, so,

[00:35:09] Steve: ha

[00:35:10] Tyler: uh, thank you, Steve. Um, I don't know. I feel like I have a little bit of an ingenious, uh, solution to this, but I'm also a ridiculous nerd for this kind of stuff and it's probably not. Okay. So I have two Tickler files.

One is just the regular one. And then I have a separate one specifically for recurring, recurring things, which I call a routines. That's the name of the, the Todoist list.

[00:35:33] Steve: Oh, okay. Yeah.

[00:35:35] Tyler: And I've got currently 66 items in the recurring Tickler file, so this, so, so, um, that's what I do. I guess that's the short answer. Uh, the longer answer in more detail is, is all of these tasks have their own...

Like frequency, right? So some things I, I basically have a chore chart in here for like cleaning my house. So I break up all the class, the house cleaning tasks into like their various frequencies and put them as subtasks under like clean house or whatever. Right. So, uh, what you said is you're using the tickler file to remind you that a thing has come up that needs to be basically entered into your inbox or entered into your system again, right?

[00:36:18] Steve: Right, some of them are that way. Some of them are actually a hard due date.

[00:36:21] Tyler: right, right. So in my routines tickler list, uh, I actually use them as the actual task to be completed.

And so I put, I use the actual date that it's due, um, they're recurring. Um, but because of the way Todoist works, uh, on the recurring tasks, you have pretty flexible options for how it recurs. You can set it to recur. Uh, a certain amount of time from the due date, or a certain amount of time from the time that it was last completed.

So this works really well for things, speaking of cleaning the house, where like, uh, I basically my house cleaning chore chart is my, um, Right. It's not necessarily reality. So like I, I might put in like, Oh, I should clean the toilets every week. Right. Well, I actually don't. Cause sometimes they're not that dirty and sometimes I'm busy or sometimes I'm lazy.

Right. And so instead of making me do it again, uh, a week from the last, like, what if it was due on Monday? I didn't do it till Friday. I don't want it to prompt me again to do it on Monday, right? Cause it's only been two days since the last time I did it. So it'll just start, it will smartly recur, um, a week after the last time it was completed.

So that's, that's one nice feature about it, um, for, for those types of recurring things. And so by, uh, doing, taking advantage of that feature and then also just like, um, postponing things that are not quite ready. Like, let's say I get a recurring tickler to do something. But I'm actually not going to get it to do it that day.

I'll just like push it off till the next day or the day that I think I'll get to do it. So I just, I, I, I like freely reschedule those. But I actually use them as the task proper. And then when I check it off, I've got the recurring setup so that it'll come back at the right time.

[00:38:16] Steve: Yeah, that makes sense.

[00:38:18] Tyler: Cause it's nice. So like, let's say your business license thing, maybe you want to set it at the beginning of November as a tickler file so that you remember to start working on it at the beginning of November. Um, so in your, in your way of doing things, that's your trigger to like add it to your inbox and get it into, you know, back into the system basically.

Right. Of potential actions. What I would do is be like, cool. Thanks system. For the reminder on the 1st of November, I think I'm actually not going to do that today. I might do it, uh, at the end of this week though. And then I would just change or I'd postpone that to the end of the week. But when I check it off, it would still recur on the 1st of November again next year.

[00:38:56] Steve: Okay, that makes sense. Because now that you explained that, I think part of the reason I didn't want to use the task is because I was worried it would mess up the recurrence in the future.

[00:39:07] Tyler: Right. And it turns out you have control over.

[00:39:09] Steve: You have control of that. Yeah. Okay. Sweet.

[00:39:12] Tyler: Which is a much more succinct way of saying what I just said. So yes, you have control over when it recurs. And so I, I like to use, take advantage of that to make, to avoid duplicate entries,

[00:39:26] Steve: Nice. So we've, we've covered the main stuff I wanted to ask you primarily.

Inbox processing

[00:39:35] Tyler: Well, I, I have a question for you. Uh, other than the. Surprise of how much you're enjoying the filing system for the reference files. Is there anything else that you've experienced that was like a light bulb moment or something that you thought was kind of a breakthrough for you personally, in terms of productivity?

[00:39:57] Steve: Uh. Yeah, one of them was, uh, he says, don't let things stay in the inbox after you process them. Like you start at the top of the inbox and you go down one thing at a time. And before you are done processing that thing, it must leave the inbox. It must go to its proper place. Uh, and I have, well, I have lots of inboxes.

There's the Todoist inbox. There's several email inboxes. There's the physical inbox on my desk. There's like YNAB, because we have to mention YNAB every episode of, uh, like transactions that need to be, uh, cleared, that kind of stuff. TaxDome, my practice management software. And so some of those inboxes, I am very good at doing that kind of top to bottom. Processing, everything leaves the inbox as soon as the processing is done. And some of them, uh, I like the email is the typical culprit here where it's like, I, I know there's potentially something in here that I need to deal with today, but I don't have time to go through all of these.

So let me just triage this real quick and pick out the ones that I need to deal with and the rest of them are staying in the inbox, uh, you know, for better or worse. I have found that when I can do the top to bottom, everything gets cleared out. It's much more satisfying and, uh, there's less mental residue leftover of like, there's something that needs to be dealt with and this, this inbox over here, it's like, no, it's, it's done.

That, that inbox is empty. Anything new that comes in, I will deal with next time I process that inbox, but I don't have to think about it in the meantime.

[00:41:40] Tyler: Ooh, that feels good. Cool. Yeah, that's interesting. I think we should do another episode at some point specifically about weekly reviews, because that, that could be a whole topic unto itself. And I, I'd be curious to compare notes on how we're approaching that. And

[00:41:56] Steve: give me a few more

[00:41:57] Tyler: yeah,

[00:41:58] Steve: Actually, actually start doing them properly.

[00:42:01] Tyler: yeah. Um, and then also I think it would be fascinating to talk to each other about our approach to email management, because that is like a subset of this that is.

[00:42:10] Steve: Mm hmm.

[00:42:10] Tyler: Massive for any knowledge worker in this day and age, right? How do you handle the email inbox specifically? And how does that play into your larger system?

[00:42:21] Steve: Mm hmm.

[00:42:23] Tyler: Okay. Well, I think we've, yeah, we've gone far enough down this rabbit hole probably for, for one day.

[00:42:30] Steve: Mm hmm. Well, thanks, Tyler. And thanks for convincing me to read this book because it has been very useful so far. I like where it's going.

[00:42:40] Tyler: Oh, I'm glad to hear that. Thanks.

[00:42:45] Steve: That's it then. You can email us hello at notaboutmoney. com and we'll see you again on another episode of It's Not About The Money.

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