Getting Things Done Better than Ever–with Siri

David Allen

David Allen, author of Getting Things Done



I am a big fan of David Allen’s Getting Things Done approach to getting and staying organized. In the past decade, I have attended two of his one-day seminars and read his book carefully at least twice. I got lots of things done using his rigorous, common-sense method. Eventually, though, I didn’t keep up with the Weekly Review sessions that are crucial for continuing success with GTD. I became a backslider.

Siri, the sassy voice-activated iPhone helper, came to my rescue. When I realized that I could set up the GTD system in the iOS Reminders app and tell Siri to update my lists any time I thought of something new–well that was too good to pass up. I paid $10 to download a PDF titled “GTD and iPhone/iPad Setup Guides” from David Allen’s website, and I got to work.

Here are the lists I created in Reminders:

MacBook Air – for everything I can do on my computer.

Home – for things I need to be home in order to do, either in Denver or Cambridge.

Projects – “Any desired result that requires more than one action step,” to quote the master.

Calls – when I have time and a phone handy.

Errands – when I’m out and about.

Someday Maybe – Projects that I’ve kicked down the road a bit.

Waiting For – Things that other people have committed to do, with the date when they made the commitment.

Now here’s the beautiful part: I can press and hold the Home button on my iPhone 5S, summoning Siri’s opening beep, and then add an item to any of the above lists without typing a single letter.

In other words, if I realize that I need to call my mother with details of my upcoming flight to Boston, I press and hold the iPhone’s Home button and, after the beep, say, “Add to Calls list: Mom on flight details.” Siri comes on to confirm that she got it right, and if I say yes, she adds the item to the Calls list. Via iCloud, it syncs with my iPad and MacBook Air within seconds.

In our Ford Focus, as soon as my iPhone is automatically paired, I can press and hold the Home button while the phone remains unseen in my pocket, and the Siri beep will sound in the car’s speakers. I need to speak clearly to her and to aim my voice at the rearview mirror, where the microphone is. If inspiration hits while driving, I can safely enter a Next Action immediately.

Walking down the 16th Street pedestrian mall here in Denver, I don’t have to have a conversation with Siri that others can hear. If the phone is unlocked, I can bring it up to my right ear, activating Siri’s welcoming beep, and give her the GTD instructions as if I am talking to someone on a real phone call.

It has taken me a while to learn the rhythm of Siri’s communication style. When you summon her with the Home button, you had better be ready with what you’re going to say, because if you pause she will think you’re done.

What’s fun gets done, and Siri is making GTD a lot more fun than it used to be. I just gave her one last request before heading to bed tonight: “Add to MacBook Air List: Proofread blog entry and post.”

“OK, I can add this to your MacBook Air list in Reminders,” she replies. “Shall I go ahead?”

“Yes,” I say, softly so as not to wake up Darlene.

“I’ve added it,” she says.

I don’t have to, but gratitude leads me to tap the microphone icon once more and say, “Thanks.”

“It is I who should be thanking you,” Siri replies.

I would add this: David Allen and company should be thanking Siri for making GTD better than ever.



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