GTD as an Educator Part 2

A few weeks ago, I published an article discussing how difficult GTD is to implement as a teacher. It was a pessimistic view, and probably didn’t need to be published, but everything on Medium says write and publish everything.

In the spirit of growth, I made 3 major changes to my GTD system since writing the last article. Though my task management is not perfect, I have seen a significant up-swing in my productivity.

Moving Task Managers

I have experimented with different task management apps through the years which always returned me to OmniFocus. However, I realized if my system didn’t feel like it was working, perhaps OmniFocus wasn’t working as well as I thought.

About a year ago, I gave 2Do a chance based on Federico Viticci’s review, and ultimately gave it up because I missed some features of OmniFocus (defer dates and an Apple Watch complication). Then as I thought about what some of my issues with my system were, I began to consider 2Do again.

Feature wise, 2Do and OmniFocus are similar, and their differences even out in terms of pros and cons. The primary differentiator for me is their user interfaces.

2Do on the Left, OmniFocus on the Right

2Do on the Left, OmniFocus on the Right

From the 12.9" iPad Pro down to the iPhone, 2Do keeps its list navigation visible on the left side of the screen in almost every view. In OmniFocus, the further into a folder or project you dig, the longer it takes to see other task categories. Yes, you can create perspectives to help you see the information you need at the time, but there are still several taps required to change perspectives. The UI is strong on the Mac, but not iOS.

Since switching to 2Do, even without a review mode similar to OmniFocus, I’m finding I miss fewer tasks and don’t have to flag (or star in 2Do’s terms) or set due dates on as many tasks because I can more easily see tasks and make smarter decisions about what to do when I have time.

Shortly after making this switch, something David Sparks said recently in a post on MacSparky about false urgency in tasks validated my decision.

If you feel like you are drowning right now, take a look at the false urgencies you are carrying around and see what you can do about setting them down.

To keep myself from forgetting tasks, I was flagging them in OmniFocus which led to major stress when I didn’t have time to do them immediately. I now use due dates solely for tasks which actually have a due date, and don’t find myself using 2Do’s stars at all. I just get work done.

There is some potential that my increased productivity and decreased stress could be due to my system in 2Do being the new shiny thing. Maybe I’ll fall back into old habits, and if so, you’ll probably read more about that here. For now though, I’m really pleased with 2Do.

Streaks

The 2nd change helping me feel like I’m not doomed to fail at GTD as a teacher has been the adoption of Streaks. I mentioned this briefly in my previous article, but since then, Streaks has become an essential part of my workflow.

The Streaks Complication (Bottom Middle) and my two tasks

The Streaks Complication (Bottom Middle) and my two tasks

Streaks is an app to help gamify the formation of habits. I keep it as a complication on the Apple Watch face I use at school, and have it available on my phone as well.

I have 2 habits I’m trying to manage: a daily (weekday) review of 2Do and emptying my physical classroom inbox at least 3 times a week. Doing this has made sure important tasks and information are not lost, and has replaced the need for OmniFocus’s built in review feature.

Removing Friction from Email

My final change has been with email. As I wrote about previouslyAirmail was my primary email app for awhile due to its fantastic power user features. However, after a few important emails never left my outbox after pressing send, I was forced to move away from Airmail and return to Spark. After a couple months on Spark though, I found myself missing the features of Airmail and wanted to see if it had become more stable. Cautiously I began using it again, and have been quite pleased.

The Airmail feature I most missed while using Spark was its url scheme to help automate to process of email creation as well as the tight integration with 2Do which allows me to create a task from an email with just a swipe.

Using Workflow, 2Do’s Link Actions, and Airmail’s URL scheme, I have created an easy way to remind myself to contact others and remove friction from actually doing that.

Now, when I think of someone I need to contact, I run this Workflowfrom the Workflow Widget in my phone. Workflow will ask me who to email, about what, and if it is a personal or work email. It then creates a task in 2Do in the appropriate list reminding me to email that person. Finally Workflow will create a callback link for me to tap in 2Do which opens a blank email in Airmail from the correct address with the subject already filled in.

This extra automation has given me the freedom where to process a few more emails each time I sit down to do so due to saved time.

So while I still wish there were more hours in the day, my initial thoughts that GTD can’t be done well when you’re a teacher may have been a bit premature. GTD isn’t necessarily the problem. It’s my own habits. Changing those has allowed me to get a lot more done than I ever had before.