A GTD Hack - Next Action Associates

Martin Weber, Chief Customer Architect, Oracle Consulting.

Martin has been working at Oracle since June 2019 as Chief Customer Architect (CCA). Before joining Oracle he worked at Siemens for 12 years in various roles. Since discovering Getting Things Done® in 2015, Martin has integrated it completely in daily life for both work and personal life, and has found that GTD enables him to be more effective while efficiently managing the flood of information in the ‘digital age’.

Who knows this feeling? When, quite often, something crops up in your mind but you don’t have the capacity to externalise that thought and immediately put it into your GTD® system? Perhaps because you are currently driving your car, on the go in the subway, or in the middle of something else that you cannot stop. If you know where I’m coming from, then read on and maybe apply my little GTD hack – which might very well boost your GTD practices to the next level.

First, I’ll give you a little context around how I developed this trick. Five years ago, I had the opportunity to attend a GTD seminar delivered by Ed Lamont. Learning the GTD methodology during that training had a dramatically positive impact on my private and business life, in terms of being able to manage both my workload and also the information overload of this digital age we live in.

BUT there was one little thing which was not solved properly for me, or at least in a modern fashion (meaning electronically) in my GTD practice and implementation. I asked Ed (as a GTD expert) how he deals with the issue mentioned above. His advice was – just make a quick note on a paper notepad which you should always carry in your pocket. Work through that paper every week during your GTD Review® and then put the notes into your system. Yes, that is a solution but is it the one I was looking for which acknowledges the digital age? Probably not, due to efficiency reasons and the very principle of using pen and paper which, for me, is a total no go (we operate a paperless office). Besides, writing something down on paper while you are driving a car is considered quite dangerous…

A year ago, I had a cold and was forced to stay in bed, and I had my iPhone to hand. I browsed through the apps and found ‘Workflows’ (now ‘Shortcuts’). Previously, when Apple had originally released this functionality, I thought “who needs this?!? And what is the case for even needing to use it?” I didn’t reach an answer by myself and therefore decided to ignore it completely.

But on that sick day I discovered my need for workflows and went on to create a ‘digital age GTD hack’ for externalising thoughts which come to mind immediately, and which can be dealt with in a digital manner. Here’s what I did:

  • I opened the shortcuts app on my iPhone
  • Press “+” to create a new workflow
    1. I added the component “dictate text”, and then
    2. I added the component “documents” to retrieve the dictated text and save that dictated text in a variable called “text”, then
    3. I added component “Mail” with the subject created as follows:  Variable “text” + (current date function); in the email-to field I set my email address that I use for GTD as default
  • I then created the app icon on my home screen to execute that shortcut whenever I needed it.

Here is a screenshot of how that looks:

Screenshot of Shortcuts workflow as described above

That’s it! Now here’s how it works:

If you have a thought, immediately press the home screen icon you created in (3), the shortcut starts and asks you to dictate your thought/task/reminder. After finishing your dictation, an email is created automatically containing your thought as subject and in the “email-to” field, your GTD email address is automatically set. Then just hit send and the thought is now electronically in one of your GTD ‘buckets’. When you return to your computer, go through your emails and you can easily file and process that email to the right GTD folder.

I have to say, since I am using this hack my GTD effectivity has been boosted to the next level – hope it works to supercharge your GTD practices too!

[Edited 2 March 2020 to reflect that Workflow has been renamed Shortcuts and to provide a screenshot of the results of the steps described]

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