Here is a list of key terms and concepts useful for understanding what on Earth I am talking about in my Wunderlist and GTD series. It is subject to updates whenever I make them, and the items are generally listed in order of importance (relative to my workflow and implementation).
I’ve left the comment section open below so you can ask questions, and you can also email me through my contact form if you don’t want to post it publicly. (Public questions will help future Googlers, though.) I’ll try to help if I can!
Wunderlist Terms and Concepts
- Wunderlist (WL)
- A list-making application developed independently in Germany by 6Wunderkinder and acquired by Microsoft. It is available for a wide variety of operating systems. I use the web app on Windows 7 through Firefox as well as the iOS app.
- A group of 1 or more tasks (although it can contain zero tasks as well without the list disappearing). Completed items from that list can be viewed with one click. Items can be added only to the list that is currently being viewed. There is no limit to the number of lists each user can have (I asked).
- To-dos (a.k.a tasks or items)
- The current Wunderlist term for what was previously an “item.” An item must have a title and can have optional features including notes, a due date, a reminder, and subtasks. I liked “item” better because not all entries on a list are things “to do.” I think “to-do’s” should have an apostrophe. “To-dos” looks like you should pronounce the part after the hyphen like the Spanish word for “two” or the ancient pre-Windows operating system. I’ve expressed my distaste for it to the company. They said they use “to-dos” internally, so they pushed that language to everyone.
- Not “sub-to-dos,” because no one says that, not even WL. Each task/item can have up to 25 subtasks for free users. Premium users get more subtasks.
- Groups of 1 or more (or zero, I guess) lists. Folders cannot contain tasks.
- Smart List
- A default list that shows or hides itself automatically based on the user-defined setting. The ones I have always visible are Completed, Today, and Week. Inbox is a default list, but you can’t delete it. I don’t find the All list useful because I use several lists (as recommended by GTD). I started using stars and the Starred list, but then I stopped.
GTD Terms and Concepts
- Getting Things Done (GTD)
- A productivity methodology described in a bestselling book by David Allen. It is almost always referred to by its initials.
- Next Actions (NA)
- Single, physical tasks you can complete in one sitting. They must begin with an action verb. Every Project should have at least one Next Action, although some single tasks can also be considered Next Actions. If you need to do anything else before you can begin a task, it is not a Next Action.
- Two or more individual tasks plus a defined outcome. The Project is complete if and only if all the tasks have been completed and the desired outcome has been reached. Every Project should have at least one identified Next Action at all times.
- Goals. A Project must have a defined outcome, i.e. how you know when the Project is complete. This can be the last task or a description of the situation after the last task is completed.
- Weekly Review
- The most critical and most difficult part of the GTD process. The Weekly Review is a once-a-week, comprehensive read-through of everything in your GTD system and anything still in your head or your inbox(es). This is the toughest habit to build, but without it, the whole system falls apart.
- Areas of Focus (AoFs)
- The zones that make up your life. They can include relationships, physical or mental spaces, or hobbies. Areas of Focus are kind of like life-long, neverending projects. Another way to brainstorm this concept is Zig Ziglar’s wheel of life, although it’s not connected to GTD. I also found Dustin Wax’s “GTD Refresh” post very helpful when I was organizing my AoFs. These are also called Areas of Responsibility (AoRs).
- Someday/Maybe (S/M)
- Tasks or Projects I would maybe like to do, or that I might do someday. It’s the equivalent of keeping a list of ideas and “that would be nice” goals. If I don’t do them, I’ll be fine, healthy, happy, and all of that. This is a separate list that gets reviewed only briefly during the Weekly Review.