The Project Notebook

GTD for PMs

People frequently ask me “how do you find the time to do the things you do”. Unlike others, I’m not necessarily about multi-tasking — I can’t drive, shave, and read a book at the same time like some freeway drivers. But I do work efficiently and effectively enough to volunteer for PMI and find time for this blog, among others things. This week, I’d like to share some of my secrets.

Know what you value
If you know yourself well, and what you value, you will have an easier time sifting through tasks and prioritizing. I find I naturally select from tasks that support my personal values. Values can drive your actions and direction. If you are unsure of your values, there are plenty of online sites and books which will help you discover your values. At one point I went so far as to create a personal mission statement. Visit Quintessential Careers and Why You Should Know Your Personal Values .

Make personal planning time
Sunday evenings before bed and Monday mornings when I wake up, I mentally review all the key things I have to do for the week. This helps me put the week in perspective. Next, on a daily basis I spend time reviewing my priorites for the day. Looming deadlines go to the top of the list, usually several days before they are due. This helps me remain proactive. I always think about what is the most important and most impactful action I can take. Things rarely happen get scheduled for the last minute.

Make lists
I make mental and physical lists frequently. When I have too much to remember, I start writing things down. As I complete tasks, they get crossed off. When I partially complete something a “/” slash goes next to it. If I’m going to travel, I just update a task list on my Palm Treo so the list goes with me.

Process efficiently
I try to process emails once — if it will only take a few minutes to respond to or requires a short task to complete, I do it on the spot. If it can be delegated, it gets delegated. If I have to process it later, it goes on the list. Any deadlines need to be noted.

Make every minute count
With much to do, use the “spare” minutes wisely. While waiting on line, waiting on hold, and waiting for other things to happen, I micro-task. This may mean things like outlining a blog article or a series of articles, organizing expense receipts, or making short phone calls.

Use the time, cost, quality triangle
I try to timebox each task. I consider the time, cost, and quality triangle to help me decide how much time and how to best fill it. I redefine quality for each task. If I’m working on an internal task and pressed for time, quality can be lower than a task which has a customer facing deliverable. I also adhere to the “no gold plating” rule, especially on internal or personal tasks.

Know when to re-charge
To make sure I don’t burn out, short change family, friends, and loved ones, or just tire out, I have planned down times which I jealously guard. Unless there is a critical emergency or urgent need, these times are dedicated to not thinking about work or tasks.

There are lots of programs, aids, books, and more to help you get things done. I personally find the simpler approach better. There was a time in my life when my “DayTimer” was my “brain”. There were clips and post-its, specially folded pages, and dozens of other “codes” to divide up tasks. Over time, I found I was able to organize all that information more simply. If you feel you need some additional help, consider a visit to LifeHacker GTD Roundup for a compendium of tips and tricks. As always, please feel free to share a tip via a posted comment or an email to

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© 2010-2012 Ray W. Frohnhoefer, MBA, PMP, CCP