Archive for the ‘productivity’ Category
Found this sitting in my drafts folder from 2010. In response to: Seth’s Blog: #YearInReview What did you ship in 2010?:
- MDFH (work project)
- ASR (work project)
- Built a Windows Home Server
- Set up a media center PC + TV
- Put ducting in attic for AC
(It’s obviously a partial list–and a year old at that.)
In this post, I’ll present what I’ve been using for the last month or so to facilitate GTD. My conclusion is that GTD is meant to be customizable, and it’s sometimes better to develop your own (fully custom) solution than trying to adapt someone else’s to your values.
I do use a computer for this system. This post doesn’t contain the technical details: that isn’t for everyone and I’ll detail that in a follow-up post.
I finally bit the bullet and came up with a system that’s computer-based. I didn’t use any pre-packaged software to do it. I wrote my own “computer program” (a very short and simple python script). The important lesson—that took me a couple years to realize—is that GTD is meant to be customized.
That’s why all the pre-packaged software solutions I tried didn’t work: there’d always be something that bothered me that I wanted to fix. I’d spend lots of time trying to fit a square in a circle hole and it wouldn’t work. The ones that were customizable ended up being time-consuming, because modifying them to do what I want still took a lot of time.
In short, there are things about GTD that you care about that I don’t. Adopting something that emphasizes someone else’s values can prove more laborious that developing your own.
Anyway, here’s the high-level of how I collect and process:
First, the buckets:
- A metal mesh “inbox” at home
- A small
eco greenroom notebook that I picked up at Target(and then ran through the washer/dryer) spiral-bound pocket notebook from Wal-Mart (~$1). I also really like the Pilot G2 Mini pens. (Also available at Walgreens at ~$1 apiece.) These pens write smoother than just about anything else out there, in addition to being very portable.
- I maintain an “Inbox” bookmark folder in Firefox, I use the SyncPlaces Firefox extension to synchronize my bookmarks across all computers (
country and westernwork and home).
- Work and home email accounts.
- When I’m driving, I use Jott (and the free alternative, reQall) so that I can call a number and have a transcribed message sent to my email address. I could carry around a voice recorder (or use the one built into my phone), but I know I won’t be disciplined about reviewing my voice recordings—and I don’t need to since there is a functional alternative.
In addition to these inboxes, I realized I need some “Action-Support” collections for stuff that’s immediately relevant to my next-actions:
- A mesh orange plastic bag that I got from the David Allen seminar (for my at-home action support)
- “Follow-Up” folders in my work (W-FU) and personal (P-FU) email accounts
- Follow up bookmark folders in Firefox (FF-FU).
My latest setup is based on text files: One master set of text files handles the tasks and project lists. A second set (derived through computer automation from the first) merely organizes these tasks by context. I’ll detail it further in my next post.
This last week, I took a GTD training seminar (led by Chris McIntyre). I thoroughly enjoyed it and decided to get back on the wagon. I’ve come up with a system that works for me (so far), but I decided I should post a review of some things that didn’t work.
I started picking up GTD in October of 2006. I decided I wanted work to just be easier. I had recently moved from Freescale to Motorola, which made my commute and therefore my work day much simpler. I wanted more of the same big gains and isolated GTD as a way of making my work-life easier.
I used a Windows Weekly coupon (from twit.tv) to get an audible free download and downloaded the audiobook. I tried to jump in it, surveying as much software as possible. I later bought the book.
I eventually gave up around November of 2009, when I moved from Motorola to Infinium.
Here are a list of approaches I tried:
- Thinking Rock
- TiddlyWiki (MonkeyGTD and d-cubed)
- 2-subject notebook
- 3×5-card based system
I picked up thinking rock because it was described as closely following the GTD methodology. The program itself includes the GTD processing diagram.
The problem was that it was slow—both in terms of the actual application performance, but more importantly, I found that there were just so many fields to populate and task/project entry was therefore difficult.
I got on the Chandler bandwagon pretty early. It’s main attractive feature was the ability to sync between a server (Chandler hub), WebDAV, and email. I liked its ability to “tag” rather than categorize (Chandler collections are essentially tags). However, I often found myself without a computer (especially at home) and therefore without
Out of the computer-based approaches, I probably liked MonkeyGTD the best (tied with Rainlendar). This was an earlier version of MonkeyGTD. Entry was easy. I even created an AutoHotkey script that would add items to the MonkeyGTD file. I was also able to embed my Google calendar right in MonkeyGTD. The print facility (and ability to customize it using CSS) was also very nice.
I eventually stopped using MonkeyGTD when I was put on an important deadline. I decided I needed something that handled both tasks and calendaring in one application.
I then went to Rainlendar. Rainlendar is essentially a calendaring application, but it has some unique and powerful features. Most notably, it allows URL links in tasks and events. (More on this later) It handles tasks very well. It doesn’t natively include GTD identifiers such as project, context, etc. However, they translate very easily to Rainlendar (or any iCal-based application) as category and location. It’s highly customizable in its presentation. In addition, it has a fairly good print facility.
I ended up writing a small Python program to parse the iCal file used by Rainlendar and spit out a task list, by context (location). This allowed me to take things on the go.
I was using Rainlendar with WikidPad. Rainlendar would handle all my GTD stuff and WikidPad would hold reference information and logs. (I did try WikidPad for GTD, but I found it clunky at the time—and it didn’t include a true calendar.)
One of the things I liked the best about Rainlendar was the fact that one could enter locations (“contexts”) on the fly. In most other systems, you have to set up a fixed number of contexts (@Home, @Office, @Errand, @Call). The thing I learned from adopting this system was that contexts should be able to change on the fly. If I want to create a context for drinks with my friends, I should be able to type in @Beer at any time. (Okay, I’d be more likely to put @Cider).
I finally decided that all the time I spent tweaking computer-based GTD applications and researching others wasn’t worth it. I found that a computer-based GTD system was more distractive: every time I sat down at the computer to review my list, I would end up doing something else on the computer.
So, I decided I needed to go back to basics and implement the GTD system in a paper-based form. I’ll confessed: I actually used 2 sections of a 3-subject notebook. The first section would handle “projects” (a GTD term I still don’t like). The second section would handle “next actions” (another GTD term that I like). The second section is divided up into “contexts” (a GTD term that I’m fine with) with a context per page.
I numbered each item in each section. So, each project gets a number and each task gets a number. The numbering format is <pagenumber>.<projectnumber>. So, for example, on page 1 of the “project” section, I might have:
1.1 Personal Blog => 1.1
1.2 Front Lawn => 2.1
Page 1 of the “context” section might have:
1.1 Compare blogging providers for personal blog (1.1)
Page 2 of the “context” section might have:
2.1 Buy grass seed and starter fertilizer (1.2)
So, by placing numbers next to each project, I keep track of the next action for each project. Similarly, next to each task, there’s a reference back to the project.
My weekly review involved going through the project list and seeing if the task was done. If it was, I needed to come up with a new task (or cross out the project itself). I decided that even single-action open-loops would get a project. (I tended to flip-flop on whether this was a good thing or not—and still don’t know.)
The main problem with this system was that weekly reviews were tough. I’d constantly be flipping between the two sections of the notebook. It got very tedious.
3×5-card based system
I next decided that carrying the 2-subject notebook around was too difficult. I decided that I should use 3×5 cards to hold project and task information. (I was using a hipster PDA for capture for a while.)
I formatted the cards as follows:
- Each project would get a card. The project name would be written at the top.
- Each task would get a line on the card.
- I bought a set of plastic 3×5 folders from Levenger, and assigned a context to each folder.
So, for example, my “Front Lawn” project would have its own 3×5 card with the task “Buy grass seed and starter fertilizer”. I’d therefore put it in the @Errands folder. (In truth, I don’t write the “@” on my folders; that’s just for your benefit, since everyone else that does GTD seems to have it.) As soon as I had the grass seed, (possibly at my next weekly review) I’d cross out that task (or check it off) and then write the next action: “mow front lawn”. The whole 3×5 card would then go into the @Home (or @Yard) folder.
I really don’t know why this system didn’t work. It was likely just the effort I put into it. I got lazy. Its main deficiency was that I had to have the right folders at the right time. I would then have to amass all the folders for a weekly review. That’s not hard to do. In truth, I just got lazy.
I recently attended a GTD seminar. I now have more zeal for adopting it. In the next instalment (or maybe the one after), I’ll post what’s I’m trying next: a text-file GTD system.
I asked a coworker of mine what he thought about open source software. He said he “didn’t get it”. I should point out at this point that the said coworker leans to the left. He viewed the open-source movement as communistic, and questioned why software should be free.
I view things a bit differently. Indeed, I agree that the idea that software should be free is communistic. However, I also think that open-source software fills a unique function in a capitalist society.