GTD for Bloggers: The Art of Stress-free Blogging

72 Comments

The ever-popular productivity book Getting Things Done, by David Allen, caught on fire within the last few years through the power of blogs. And while many a blogger has fallen in love with GTD, and in fact many GTD blogs have been created, it’s time that a “GTD for Bloggers” was created.

In this post we’ll look at how bloggers, one of the quintessential types of web workers, can use GTD to get themselves more organized, get more done with their work day, and stop letting stuff slip through the cracks.

This is GTD, blogger style. It tailors the system to fit the needs of bloggers — and incidentally, can be used in the same way by almost any web worker. [digg=http://digg.com/tech_news/GTD_for_Bloggers_The_Art_of_Stress_free_Blogging]


Collect
The first step in GTD is collecting everything that comes into your life. In the full GTD system, that includes paperwork, mail, ideas, phone numbers, email, tasks, assignments, voicemail. Bloggers, however, do just about all of their work online, and that affords them the opportunity to achieve the Holy Grail of GTD:

One Inbox. If everything is done online, you should consolidate everything coming into your life into one inbox, greatly simplifying your work and making everything more organized. And my recommendation is to use your email inbox as your inbox — I prefer Gmail, but you might have your own favorite.

  • If you have multiple email addresses, have them forwarded to a single inbox.
  • If you have ad notifications, and notifications from the different blog services you use, have them sent to your single email inbox.
  • Reader comments? Have WordPress (or whatever system you use) send the comments to your inbox.
  • Bookmarking stuff to review, or have ideas for posts? Email them to your inbox.
  • Have tasks that need to be completed? Email them to your inbox.

Process
Now that everything goes into one inbox, you’ll need to work on the next phase — processing. Here are some tips for doing that.

  • Set aside 1 or 2 processing times. If you’re processing your inbox throughout the day, you won’t have much time for much else. I recommend two processing times — one in the morning, and one in the evening. I’ve actually been moving to just one processing time, and it hasn’t hurt me at all.
  • Process to empty. When you do process your inbox, process it to empty, as GTD recommends. Start at the first email, and dispose of it: do the task (if it takes 2 minutes or less), reply, add it to a Context List (if it takes more than 2 minutes to do), delete it, forward it, or archive it. If there’s a task that you’re not going to do right now, don’t leave it in your inbox, and don’t use a separate folder or label for your to-dos. Separate your tasks (aka Next Actions, in GTD terminology) from your inbox. See the next section for more.
  • Reader comments. If you get a reader comment sent to your inbox, reply to it right away (if you plan on replying). Don’t let them pile up. Whether you decide to reply or not, delete the notification in your inbox.
  • Reader emails. I’d recommend replying to reader emails right away (well, not as soon as they come in, but while you’re processing email). Otherwise, they could really pile up, and then you’ll never get to them. When you’ve replied, just archive.
  • Advertising stuff. Notifications of new ads, or payments? Act on them immediately if they take 2 minutes or less, or add it to the appropriate Context List.
  • Blog maintenance. You probably also receive notifications from WordPress, or your site’s host, or other services you might use. Act on them immediately, or put them in your Context Lists to do later.
  • Fellow bloggers. I also recommend responding to emails from fellow bloggers right away, if possible. These can result in great opportunities to help each other grow in the long term. Keep your message short, so it doesn’t take all day to process your inbox.

Organize
You need a system to organize all the stuff in your life. As you are doing everything online, you don’t need a physical filing system. I recommend that you keep everything organized by putting all your information in one place. My suggestions? Backpack works well for lists, or use an online GTD app such as Vitalist or Nozbe. Here’s how you’d use them to organize all the information that relates to your blogging:

  • Context lists. As you only work in one context (online, at your computer), you could just have one long context list. However, you might find it useful to break them up into different types
  • Other lists. You’ll also want to keep a list of your current projects, a follow-up list (“Waiting For”), and a Someday/Maybe list that contains items you aren’t going to do now, but want to do later.
  • Reference system. I like to keep lists of post ideas, a schedule for posting (including posts for my blog and other blogs), reference info related to my blog, and other information, all in one service (again, such as Backpack, Vitalist, Nozbe or others).
  • Ticklers. These are basically reminders of things coming up, such as a guest post you promised to write for another blog, or a blog carnival you want to participate in. Here’s where you could use another service — actually, the services mentioned above can give you date-based reminders, or you could use an online calendar such as Google Calendar or 30 Boxes.

Do
One of the problems with the way people implement GTD is that they spend too much time fiddling with the system and their tools. You’re a busy person — you don’t have time to do all that. Pick a tool, and stick with it. Now spend your time actually writing your posts, and responding to comments, and making your blog better. Some suggestions for this phase of GTD, as it relates to bloggers:

  • Posts as projects. Each post you write is a small project. You could call it a single task, but in reality, writing a post usually consists of a few actions: research, writing, linking, finding an image, and any other things that go with posting. When you work on a post, focus on one of those actions at a time, do it quickly, and then focus on the next action.
  • Defined outcome. For each post or project, it helps to write a defined action. For bloggers, that could be the post’s headline: write the headline first, to define exactly what you want the post to be. Don’t write a vague headline, but one that will tell your readers (and you) exactly what to expect from the post.
  • Next actions. A next action, in GTD, is a physical action, not a series of actions. So instead of writing “Add XYZ Ad Service to my blog” (this is a project, not an action), you would focus on the next physical action required to move that forward, such as, “Read XYZ Ad Service instructions” or “Get code for XYZ”. When you’ve completed that next action, cross it off, and write the next action required to move the project forward.

Review
Once a week, you should do a review of your system to make sure it’s all in place. That means doing the following:

  • Process your inbox to empty. Any things that remain in your email inbox should be processed as outlined above.
  • Check your calendar. See if there are any past or upcoming events that trigger things that should be added into your system.
  • Brain dump. Get everything out of your head. Things you want to write about, ad stuff, maintenance stuff, things you want to do with your blog, things you want to check out. Write it all down, and process it.

It might also be interesting to do a weekly review post on your blog. Each blogger could handle this differently, but you could do a review of your week’s posts, or a review of your life or your work, or a review of some of the best reader comments.

72 Comments

Matt Belcher

Hi,

Great article thanks. Some really great tips there.

I also find that creating a to do list before you stop work for the day is a great way to keep you focused.

Thanks again.

Matt

yvonne

Hi,
Great site!!!!! Good health is very important with the high cost of medical coverage. We need to have a healther lifestyle by taking care of our health eating and exercising and also avoiding stress. I am a cancer survivor and I know. Our health is our greatest asset. Keep up the Good Work!!!!!

alex redmond

I have been using this system for two weeks now and I have to say that it has changed my habits massively. I now actually get things done instead of surfing unimportant internet sites all day in the midst of supposedly working.

Moore253

Thank you so much for this post. I am new to blogging and article submission, and this will really help me. I just have been winging it for the last few months. One thing that has been helpful is einformatiosource, it’s this great new site that allows me to get increased visibility for my work whitch allots me feedback that I need to get better. Anyone looking for the same, should check it out.

Roland Kopp-Wichmann

Das Problem mit Büchern und Tools zum Thema “Zeitmanagement” ist doch: die Menschen ohne Zeitprobleme wenden die Tools einfach an. Die Menschen mit Zeitproblemen kennen zwar auch die Tools – wenden sie aber nicht an!

Warum ist das so?
Über die psychologischen Hintergründe dabei habe ich einen Blogbeitrag geschrieben, der vielleicht dazu interessant ist:
http://tinyurl.com/2km9ly

trademark registration

This is a fantastic site for info on Bloggers and moderators, especially those new to the whole blogging experience. I recommend it to anyone interested in starting their own blog.

Fred

I think GTD is a splendid method for getting your life “sorted out” and it certainly is the best way to get ahead with your Blogs, as well as any other stuff you’re up to.

I visited a great seminar lectured by Göran Askeljung, Director at immediate effects where he went thorugh the essentials of GTD and how to apply it to your favourite PIM, like Outlook or Entourage.

Most of used Outlook, so he focused on that. Since then I have experienced the pros’ and con’s of GTD, mostly pro’s though! The con’s are limited to not going through your reviews regularely…

If there’s a seminar I would recommend, it this one.
Cheers

Jort

For processing feeds I use GReader and tag all the items I want to read with the @read:later tag. In this case you have always a list of items you want to read later. You can also use delicious for that.

metroknow

I like the idea of processing to empty, but I don’t see a way to archive my “need to keep” items in gmail. I can label them, but gmail avoids the concept of moving mail to folders, archives, etc. — And there is mail that definitely need to keep, and want to have available directly from gmail, so I can’t just process and delete. So any suggestions on how to archive with gmail so that visually your inbox is “empty”?

hak

Great ideas Leo.

No matter what tactical system I’ve used (Outlook, VitaList, Lotus Notes, iGoogle, etc.), I keep finding the same strategic system coming into play: My life is truly lived in different contexts. Accordingly, I find myself organizing by those contexts: day job, family, pre-med student, blog publisher, and age-group athlete.

For the moment, I’ve found a combination of iGoogle, with tabs set up for each of those contexts, helps me keep my bookmarks, RSS feeds, etc. under control.

As Leo wrote, it’s an online world and iGoogle has given me the best “dashboard” to help me manage that world.

Laura

@hochman
If you use Gmail and Google Reader, I highly recommend the Better Gmail extension for Firefox. You can have your mail and feeds open in the same tab or window, almost as if they’re one inbox, but the content isn’t combined. And either one can be closed/collapsed if you’re trying to work in one mode or the other.

Dave C.

@Leo: Regarding Marshall’s question, the last thing I want is to treat my feeds as inbox items. Forget pretending you need to or can get to every item you receive via RSS. If you’re smart and have a big RSS appetite, you are already subscribed to much more information than you can handle, and that’s ok. I think if you see these as tantamount to to-dos or emails, you’re sunk. Think river of news, and let information flow past your attention without having to attend to all of it or even necessarily process it. Marshall is right to point out that this is at the crux of staying on top of your world, for the type of blogger that this advice seems to be geared towards.

Leo

@Marshall: Well, I use a Greasemonkey plugin to put my Google Reader into my Gmail inbox (it creates a tag called “feeds”). But if you want to have a second inbox for feeds, that’s fine too. There’s no mandate that you have only one inbox — but it does help.

engtech

I like using the iGoogle (stupid name) homepage instead of gmail. I keep gmail trim, but all the gadgets on iGoogle show me my blog/comments/incoming links/recent feed titles at a glance.

Marshall Kirkpatrick

How do you write a blog without reading feeds? There’s no mention of feeds in this post and there’s no way I’m letting my feeds get mixed in with my gmail inbox. Hmmmm…

BC

Thanks for the tips. Will follow them and see if helps manage all of the online clutter.

Copes Flavio

Thanks for the tips, Leo! I especially liked the last one, the weekly review post! I just created a weekly alarm in my iCal to handle that task. I think one of the best GTD tools for the Mac is Journler, http://journler.com/
I use it as a personal block notes for everything.

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