Getting Things Done

Liz Sumner Geek Tools, Productivity Leave a Comment

(This is a speech I gave at Toastmasters last night. I thought it might be appropriate here.)

Start that clock. The passage of time doesn’t bother me, for I am a time management expert and I’m going to tell you how to get things done.


Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers, says that it takes 10,000 hours of dedicated practice to master a skill.

 I’ve easily spent that and more exploring time management and productivity tools.

I have spent hours and hours downloading free trials, taking them for a spin, exploring all the various functions,  tagging, categorizing, adding my projects and tasks– again and again…


I would like to share my expertise.

We’ve all felt that anxiety when we have too much to do. The first step is to make list of everything that’s rattling around in your brain and stressing you out.


David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, calls this Water Mind– the feeling of calm that your system has captured everything and nothing will fall through the cracks.

 Ah but, where to begin? Which tool to use?

Pen and paper is fine, but  it can get messy and is not environmentally sound

Items on a paper list are difficult rearrange if your priorities change.

I prefer electronic tools. There are some very good productivity apps available,  and I use each and every one of them.

For example, Google Tasks– It’s free, easy, integrates with Google Calendar. I use that for lists, things I may buy someday, things I want to take to Italy. I used to use it for Groceries but now I use Wunderlist because I like the interface, particularly on the iphone, less so on the iPad

For work projects I use Liquid Planner. Lisa Sieverts  turned me on to that. It’s a very powerful tool and excellent for estimating the length of time a project will take, that is is you are religious about entering your data. It’s very complex and I don’t always keep up with it.

It’s easier to use ToDo-ist which has handy check boxes, let’s you have recurring tasks, and makes a nice whoosh sound when a task is checked off. But ToDoist doesn’t have as good a view of everything as Liquid Planner.  A good overview is essential.

You also need to be able to access your lists wherever you are. Google Keep puts an easy window on your desktop. SimpleNote, along with GeekTool allows the lists to appear in text on your second monitor. That’s another habit I acquired from Lisa. Thank you Lisa.

And of course you need to sync with your calendar and mobile devices. That’s an important feature.

So is collaboration. Now I’m a freelancer and I work with a number of different clients. We need to be able to manage projects together. There are some superb collaboration tools out there and available for free. I use Podio    with one client.  I use Asana with another and Central Desktop with a 3rd, Teamwork PM.

I can give you a list of these afterwards.

So those are just a few of the tools available. Let’s talk about how to approach Getting Things Done.

For example. This speech. It starts as an item on my calendar.

Then it gets added to the to do list. (or lists)

While my ideas are percolating I make some notes in an outlining app I use called Workflowy.

As it gets closer to the due date I add it to Google Keep, the one that stays open on my desktop.

Later, I move it to the top of the list to show it’s importance.

Then I type it in all caps. Today’s the day. I’m gonna write that speech.

Then I sit in my favorite chair and play Scrabble– part of the process, loosens up the brain cells

When that’s done I make a spinach frittata, can 50 lbs of tomatoes, and mow the lawn.

Humorist Robert Benchley of The New Yorker and the Algonquin Round Table said

“anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn’t the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment.”


And that’s how you get things done.

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