GTD for Impulsive Creatives

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Updated

Note: This guide was last updated 3/18/2024, and will be updated in April 2024 to include another newsletter article on Quarterly Goals.

As a solo business owner and avid volunteer, there’s a lot to keep tabs on.

Here are my productivity methods. Your mileage my vary.

Weekly Admin

This process is absolutely crucial to my productivity. I schedule time in my calendar for business admin, domestic chores, financial assessment, communication follow-ups, and general self-centering in regular cycles.

The general system has served me well for a decade but seasonally adjust timing to find the right days and times where I’m most productive. Sundays work best for me, and I try to conquer each domain in 30-minute sprints.

Tasks are documented and set to recur in Apple Reminders. I’m not reinventing the wheel each session, which saves a lot of time without letting things fall through the cracks. Grouping tasks by action lets me perform similar actions together: Groom, Prep, Check, Capture, Assess, Pay, and Update.

Important notes:

  • This checklist isn’t about performing a task. It’s about checking in to see if a task needs attention. If there’s nothing to do, I check it off and move on.
  • If a task takes longer than 10 minutes to complete, it goes into a task manager for later so the rest can be completed within the session.
  • If you calculate each minor thing, it’s probably 30 tasks per week. This is a very organic process and requires some periodic change and testing.
  • I have many other routines, as well: Morning, Evening, Monthly (for things like bills) and Quarterly (for deep cleaning and goals.)

Task Manager

I capture every task in Obsidian, and aggregate a list using the Dataview plugin.

Every task entered is assigned under a larger project file and given a due date. These tasks cannot be a perpetual weekly routine task because those already live in Reminders.

The key here is to not be visually overwhelmed by the sheer amount of “things I gotta do” and put the focus on the tangible one-offs instead. I use this process for my business, too, and leverage Obsidian Canvas as a make-shift Gantt chart.

The piece of mind of owning my notes in local Markdown files was worth Obsidian’s huge learning curve. But it’s not for everyone!

Asana and Notion both have decent free versions and good mobile apps. Use your task manager of choice if you have one already. Here are some key features to look for:

  • Online account or sync to access via desktop and mobile
  • Painless restructuring of your tasks and categories
  • Due dates and Important flags

Milestone Lists

My favorite spreadsheet is the one I’ve been updating since 2009. It contains all of my long-term goals, the criteria required to achieve them, the steps I made that lead to achievement, the dates I either wish to finish or actually completed that goal. It helps prioritize my efforts. I’ve even dropped some engagements and commitments when I see how little it actually aligns with my values.

Quarterly Goal

Long-term goals are nothing without a plan of attack. I start every quarter by selecting three areas of focus (business, hobby, personal, health, etc.) and give each a SMART goal.

I recently transitioned from Yearly Goals where I focused on three goals simultaneously to just one tangible goal per quarter. The previous system gets too taxing whenever business is booming, and I’d rather double down on building new habits over 30 days than constantly juggling three half-hearted personal commitments. Overall, regular goal-setting and results really amp me up, and this process is still evolving as I learn my limits and see where I fall off track.

Self Care

Operating a solo business is risky because any downtime means the pipeline has stopped. I constantly stress about this, which in itself can be unhealthy. So here are my top-lined parameters on how I maintain my health.

  • 8 hours of sleep, without question.
  • 20 minutes of exercise, even if it’s just stretches.
  • 20 minutes of morning grooming, to avoid the freelance slump.
  • 90 minutes of relaxation away from my keyboard.
  • 10 minutes of break time for every 50 minutes of work.
  • Stretches and eye breaks every 15 minutes.
  • Avoidance of dairy and refined carbs.
  • 1 cup of tea before 1pm.
  • 1 beer or 2 servings of an aged spirit max.

There’s also a mental framework that helps me:

  • Setting today’s achievable outcome
  • Shunning society’s perception of “normal”
  • Constantly assessing goals to see if they really fit me
  • Identifying what other types of work might yield better results
  • Being real about success and failure

Apps and Services

Flow

A well-designed Pomodoro timer for Mac, iPhone, and Apple Watch. I’m over here waiting patiently for the global timer sync – start the clock on one device and see it everywhere.

You Need a Budget

Budgeting spreadsheets and Mint just wasn’t working out for me. I recently joined this service, but the concept resonates with me and I think I’m getting the hang of it. Definitely check out their beginner webinars so you can see what I’m talking about.

Calendly

Scheduling meetings with people is a real time waster. I pay for this service to save everyone the back and forth via email and my clients are really appreciative of the service.