iPhone Life magazine

Getting Things Done on the iPhone

         When Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone at MacWorld on January 9, 2007 he called it “an iPod, a phone, an internet mobile communicator” – three devices in one. The subsequent evolution of the iPhone into a computing platform with the launch of the app store a year and a half later meant the functions an iPhone could perform were limited only by developer’s imagination. There are many excellent apps that enable you to track the news, sports, the weather, or find restaurants, movies, your friends (and even public bathrooms), play games or listen to music. And there are many not so excellent apps; I am talking about you, iFart.  But of the over 60,000 applications for the iPhone, how many increase your productivity? How many help you “Get Things Done”?

Getting Things Done® in a Nutshell

         Getting Things Done® is a productivity methodology developed by David Allen and popularized by his book of the same name (see his web site for a more detailed explanation). Allen asserts that people feel overwhelmed and stressed because they cannot internally retain the large number of tasks required of them, or to recall them at the time and place when they can be done. Without consciously prioritizing tasks and goals ahead of time, we deal with them when they “blow up”. Getting Things Done® is Allen’s way out of this predicament.

         The first principal of GTD® is to off-load what needs to get done from your head to some external media, what Allen calls a bucket: folders, a notebook, an inbox (physical or electronic), a computer program, a PDA – or an iPhone. More important than the choice of media is a strict adherence to a regular workflow process to review the tasks. 

         GTD® suggests an way to organize the tasks waiting for attention:

Next actions: For every task, the next action that must be taken to, and the context in which that task can be accomplished.

Projects: What Allen calls “open loops”, something that requires more than one action to complete.

Waiting for: An action that is dependent on someone else.

Someday/Maybe: Things that are not a priority now, but might or will be in the future.

         Finally, no productivity system can be efficient if so much time is spent organizing tasks that there is not enough time left to do them.

From your Inbox to your iPhone

         Although GTD®  can be implemented in a variety of ways, some implementations will be more efficient and easier than others. Success or failure may depend on picking the right tool to implement Allen’s methodology and different tools may better suite the needs of different users. The iPhone’s combination of mobility, small form factor, internet access, and connectivity would seem to make it the ideal device to support Allen’s Getting Things Done®  system. Apple recently devoted a web page to Getting Things Done®  apps on the iPhone

         Most users, including the extremely prolific technology author David Pogue, use their electronic inbox as a simple to do list. Not many of us share David’s unique situation – he works from home, has a spouse who takes care of his administrative overhead, and admits to never suffering from writers block. The mere mortals among us need something more than on overflowing inbox to keep us productive.

         iPhone Life is planning a series of blogs and articles on the top Getting Things Done®  apps for the iPhone.

OmniFocus (Cindy Downes)

Things (Bryan Schmiedeler)

reQall (Bryan Schmiedeler)

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Bryan Schmiedeler's picture
Bryan Schmiedeler has been a programmer for 14 years, working with enterprise database systems on the iSeries using RPG. He also writes client and web-based applications using Lotus Notes, and specializes in iSeries/Lotus integration issues. He uses a MacBook Pro, iPhone, and an iPad at home in Overland Park, Kan. He can be reached at www.appleinfocus.com or bryanschmiedeler@me.com.