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Office 365 and Getting Things Done, Part One: GTD Basics

By June 12, 2015September 9th, 2020Blog, Microsoft, Office 365, Office 365

David Allen recently published a revised edition of his blockbuster productivity manifest, Getting Things Done. Over the past fourteen years since the publication of the original edition, the GTD methodology has taken the world by storm, transforming lives from corporate executives, to stay-at-home parents. This course in what Allen calls “advanced common sense” has helped millions of people stay in control of their lives and businesses.

Over this set of posts, I’m going to show you how to implement this system using Microsoft’s Office 365 offering, focusing mainly on Outlook and OneNote. These applications can form the core of a system that frees your mind and energy enough to focus on what really matters to you.

Let’s start with an overview of the process. GTD can be described in five steps:

  1. Collect every thought and commitment you have into a trusted system so that your brain can stop worrying about it. This can seem daunting at first, but Microsoft Office provides plenty of tools to capture everything that comes up, whether you’re at your desk or on the go.
  2. Clarify what each item is and whether or not you need to do anything about it. The key question here is, “Is this actionable?” Many of the things that have our attention don’t actually need anything done with them, and you need to separate those from what you need to do.
  3. Organize actions and reference materials so you know the information you need will be available at the appropriate time. This is where we’ll do the heavy lifting, organizing actions into Tasks lists in Outlook and reference material into OneNote. We’ll also cover the nifty way those two applications work together, allowing you to quickly and easily create new tasks from OneNote or link from Outlook to reference material in OneNote.
  4. Reflect on those lists and reference materials often enough that you feel confident nothing is falling through the cracks. One of Outlook’s great strengths is being able to keep your day’s commitments, both on your schedule and in you action lists, in front of you throughout the day.
  5. Engage with the actions you’ve already thought about without getting hobbled or sidetracked by confusion or indecision.

Seems pretty simple, right? But as with anything, the implementation is in the details. In the next post, we’re going to go over Phase One, Capture. Allen points out that there’s no need to ever have a thought more than once unless you like having that thought. I’ll tell you all the ways you can use Office 365 to keep that stuff off your mind.

Jeff Kirvin, PEI

Follow the Series: See all of Jeff’s Getting Things Done Series by Following the Links Below

Part 2: Collect

Part 3: Clarify

Part 4: Organize

Part 5: Reflect

Part 6: Engage

Part 7: Tips and Tricks


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