“First comes thought; then organization of that thought, into ideas and plans; then transformation of those plans into reality. The beginning, as you will observe, is in your imagination.” – Napoleon Hill
Ah time. The one thing we all have the exact same amount of yet we always complain that we don’t have enough. I’ve read a lot of books and listened to a lot of audiobooks on the subject of time management including:
- Getting Things Done by David Allen
- Time of Your Life by Anthony Robbins
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
- The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss
I’ve found that each technique has it’s own strengths and weaknesses, and thus I’ve taken bits and pieces from each and created my own system that works for me.
First off, I really like the idea of Anthony Robbins "Results First" paradigm, where a person first creates "Categories of Constant Improvement". A "Category of Constant Improvement" is an area of your life that you want to improve. Generally, categories are divided between Personal and Professional categories, but are not necessarily limited to that. Entrepreneurs with several businesses may want categories for each business that they manage. However I will stick only with personal categories for this article for simplicity.
To give you an idea of what a Category of Constant Improvement could be, here are my personal categories:
- Physical health and fitness
- Emotional health and strength
- Marriage and Family
Once you have your categories, you use the acronym RPM for Results, Purpose, and MAP (Another acronym for Massive Action Plan).
When looking at each category, you ask yourself "What results do I want in each of those areas?" In each of my categories, I have long-term results (1 year or longer) that I would like to have, and shorter-term results (3 months). Based on these results, I describe why I want those results (to create motivation around these results), and then I describe the tasks that get me closer to the results I am looking for (my massive action plan). This is a great way to make sure you are working on the tasks that are getting to where you actually want to go. Here’s an example:
My Physical Category has the following:
Results (present tense)
- I am an Ironman
- I have outstanding energy and health
- I weigh 180 lbs
- To have mental clarity for accelerated learning and results
- To have outstanding energy to accomplish all of my goals
- To be completely healthy so that I can enjoy the fruit of my labours
- To have unbreakable self-confidence in myself
MAP (Massive Action Plan)
- Run 2 times this week
- Swim 2 times this week
- Bike 2 times this week
- Drink 2 ozs of wheatgrass each morning
- Drink fresh carrot juice each morning
- Perform meditation every morning
I use Evernote to store my categories and the corresponding results, purpose and MAP. Evernote gives me the capability to sync these plans across all my computers and most devices.
I really like RPM for initial planning. However, in the midst of your day when new tasks are flying at you and new ideas coming out, rarely do you take each task and put it into the corresponding category. Here is where GTD comes into play for me. While both GTD and RPM have their own products, I prefer to use the free online service Remember The Milk with the Google Chrome browser and the Google Extension A Bit Better RTM . I like to use Remember The Milk (RTM) because I can have all my tasks in 1 place so long as I have an internet connection, without having to sync across all the different computers and devices that I use.
When new ideas and task fly at me during the day, I use RTM various input methods to store these ideas and get them out of my brain and thus reduces my stress level. I prefer to use RTM’s web site for inputting new ideas, but you can also email new tasks to your list, or use the Iphone or Android apps to add tasks on your phone (Requires a Pro account for $25/year).
This allows me to capture all of my TODOs in a list and get them out of my head so I don’t have to worry about them. Then, once a day or so, I go through my inbox and sort them into each corresponding category of constant improvement, add what I believe to be length of time to complete it, put a due date (if needed) and also tag them with one of the following GTD tags:
- Computer (Tasks that require a computer, but not the internet)
- Web (Tasks that require the internet)
- Errands (Any errands I have to run)
- Calls (Phone call I have to make)
- Anywhere (Tasks I can do anywhere)
- Delegate-VA (Tasks I want to delegate to my virtual assistant)
- Delegate (Tasks I want to delegate to someone other than my virtual assistant)
- Someday/Maybe (Tasks I may want to do someday, but not in the near future)
Then when I am going through my day, I may want to knock off all my phone calls, which may cross-cut several different categories. But with Calls tag, I can just search for all my calls, and complete them one after the other.
Here’s a screenshot of my Remember The Milk setup:
So… how do you set up RTM to utilize this system?
To set up Remember The Milk, first create a list for each Category of Constant Improvement by clicking “Settings” from the main page, and then clicking the “Lists” tab.
Next, set up your GTD tags but clicking the “Tags” tab. Next add a tag for each GTD tag that you want to have.
Finally, I like to set up a few smart lists that allow me easy access to all my tasks for each GTD tag. To create a smart list, go back to the main page by clicking the Remember The Milk logo. Then in the search box in the top right corner, type:
This will bring up all the tasks that are tagged “calls”. Then click the “Save” tab, give it a name and click the Save button. You can do this for the rest of your tags or only the tags you want to access all your tasks. To create smart tags for the rest of the tags listed above, use the following smart list commands:
I also like to see all the tasks I have due today, tomorrow, and this week. To create these lists, use the following smart list commands:
dueWithin:”1 day of today”
dueWithin:”1 week of today” AND NOT due:today AND NOT due:tomorrow
Finally, as stated in “The 4-Hour Work Week” by Timothy Ferriss, I like to set shorter term goals (3 months) to keep me focused and to put Parkinson’s Law into effect (A task will swell in perceived importance and complexity in relation to the time allotted for its completion). To do this, in each category I will create a task prefixed with “3 MONTH GOAL” and then tagged with “3monthgoal”. This makes my goals stand out from my normal tasks and also allows me to create a smartlist to view all my 3 Month Goals at a glance.
That’s it! Now you have a functioning RPM/GTD/4HWW hybrid time management system! Let me know what you think and especially if you have any tips or advice; I am ALWAYS looking to refine things and make things easier/faster/more fun. Most of all, tweak your time management system to the way you like it. My system works for me but it is important for you to play around with yours to figure out what works for you. But hopefully this may give you some ideas and/or a place to start developing your system.