How moving away for GTD and to-do list made me more productive

So for as long as I can remember I have been setting New Years resolutions and goals. There was actually one year I achieved my resolution, that was the year my New Years resolution was to not make a resolution.

Wait. Now that I think about it, I failed there too. Grrrrr.

The best part is at the end of this post I give you a sure-fire way to make sure you accomplish your goals this year.

A few months ago I switched things up a lot.

I have had a looooooooong to do list for a long time. I have managed my to do list in Evernote, and am glad I do.

I also have been a long time admirer of David Allen’s GTD (Getting Things Done).

My only problem with my system has always been I spend way to much time managing my system. GTD is a great system, and Dan Gold has a great and inexpensive ebook on running your GTD system in Evernote (affiliate link), but it is not for everyone.

At the end of the day I often wondered, what did I get done today? I never really feel like I was moving the ball forward enough even when I check off a long list of task items every day.

Things have changed for me in a big way

Recently things have changed, and I could not be happier.

I have completely got away from being run by my to-do list and now I focus on desired outcomes.

This is not an understatement, since I moved to an outcomes system I have upped my productivity by at least threefold, if not more.

How does outcomes work?

So you may be wondering how does this outcomes thing work? The amazing thing about it is, it is so simple.

What I did was figure out three things I wanted to accomplish over the next year.

Then I gave myself a couple of big goal or outcome for the month. And of course that goal/outcome was working to get me towards my overall outcome for the year.

Every Sunday night, when I do my weekly review, I think of three things I want to accomplish this week. Not a to-do item, but a completed outcome that moves the ball closer on my monthly outcomes list.

And to break it down even further, every morning I come up three outcomes in my business I want to accomplish today, and one personal outcome.

I always make sure there is one personal outcome too so I make sure not to over focus on business and forget my personal life and health and fitness.

I also make sure that the first things I do every day are those outcomes for the day. Nothing else gets done before them. This does take some discipline. I can assure you after you start seeing the results multiply it becomes a lot easier.

I first started doing this system a few months ago and the outcomes have been fantastic. In a months time I accomplished more towards the growth in my business that I had accomplished in six months before that. I had a laser focus on the outcome and a daily reminder of what that outcome was.

A problem I ran into

The system was not without it’s problems early on. One example is a bathroom I was trying to remodel.

One of my outcomes for the week was finish the remodel job on the bathroom. It was started already, I just needed to clean the walls down, paint, get the toilet in and get the new vanity in.

Really wasn’t that much more work.

On Sunday night I set the goal and on Monday I set the outcome of working on the bathroom. Well I didn’t really get any work done on Monday. Then the next day I set the outcome of finishing the bathroom. Again not much in the way of results.

This was a new system and obviously wasn’t working the way I wanted. Then the next day I took a closer look at the system. I set my outcomes for the day smaller which was to dust all the walls off. I ends up dusting the walls off and taping everything off. The next day my goal was to paint it. Which I did and the next day the goal was to get the vanity in.

Before I knew it my weekly goal of finishing the bathroom was done.

What I have learned

I have learned it is indeed important to keep your why front and center. If you want the goal of making $10,000/month that goal is very hollow for most people. But if your goal is to be able to take your family on a cruise in six months and get health insurance for your family. Well to do that you need to make the $10k a month, but the emotional connection of why you want to do it is much greater than a dollar symbol. So make your outcome the trip and the health insurance, not the $10k/mo.

Set an aggressive monthly goal that is attainable and really break that down. I have learned how quickly you can really get things done if you just do something, one small thing a day to move you towards your goal.

I had a marketing goal for this month that was something I had been wanting to do for close to a year now. I set it as an outcome for January, and every day I have done just a little something to move the ball forward on it. Well today is the 8th day of the month and after today’s outcomes are complete I will have completed this item that had seemed so big to me in the past that I kept putting it off.


Want to totally kick butt on your “goals” or “resolutions” for 2013? Here is what I would recommend you do, and if you do it I can almost assure you that at the end of the year you will win.

First take a look at those goals and resolutions again. Figure out the why. Why do you want to accomplish this, what does it really mean. Why do you want to make $10,000/month. Why do you want to have three closings a month. What does that really mean to you. What would you really do if you hit those goals.

Now take that why such as “I would buy health insurance and take a cruise” and make those your outcomes instead of the goal of $10k/mo.

Now break that down and figure out something that you can complete in January to move your towards that goal. Maybe a new marketing campaign you have been putting off. Maybe a new website overhaul. Whatever it is make that an outcome for the month. When you have completed it, it will have moved you towards your outcome of the health insurance and cruise because it is getting you in position to make more month.

Now break that down a little further into what I need to complete this week and finally three things I need to do today, in which at least one of them has to be something that moves you towards your weekly outcome.

And finally now that you have your three outcomes for today. Do them. Do them now. Stop reading email, stop looking at Google Plus and Facebook, stop everything else. Get those three outcomes for today done now, then worry about all the other little things.

This system has really recharged me.

If you feel like this system is something you want to implement but really need help doing, contact me here and see if maybe I can help.

PS about two months after I started this system I was introduced to a system called the “Agile System.” The Agile system is very similar to what I do, but has a lot more to it. You may want to read about it, but for me after I read it I saw many similarities, but my system was just a lot more simple and the basic parts of the Agile System.


Photo credit creative commons flickr


  1. Bojan - Alpha efficiency says:

    Really glad to see more people jumping off of GTD bandwagon. Lately I’ve been steering away from it, and finally broke with it a couple of weeks ago officially.

    Wrote about it on Alpha Efficiency, and it spurred enormous discussion. Entire LinkedIn GTD community was buzzing about it, until the moderators deleted the topic.

    Some of the comments that GTD-ers left were cultish and freaky, and that kinda solidified my permanent decision not to be a part of that weird community.

    You can check out the mentioned article here, I believe you would find it interesting

    • Dean Ouellette says:

      Thanks… yea i have no problem with GTD in of itself, it has a lot of great concepts that I think could help most people. It was just not for me. I ahve been using it off and on for years now. Finally i said, why am I forcing myself to use something that is just not me… time to create my own systems. and I have had a lot more success since then. It may be right for some, but no system is right for everyone.

  2. Hi Dean

    Just wanted to say thanks for all the good info. I teach Evernote and Productivity classes to Realtors in Austin, TX and LOVE your material. Will be mentioning you as a resource in future events.

    One question what do you use to keep track of tasks while you’re mobile? Reminders on iOs? Outlook tasks? An app (i.e. Track Tasks-syncs with Evernote)?


    • Dean Ouellette says:

      Thanks! And if you want to sign up for an affiliate program for your classes.

      I use tags to keep on track of my tasks

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