So I’ve been reading some blogs for a bit now. Many of these blogs are about various bits of Mac nerdery, partially because I’ve been doing some searches on Mailsmith and my new favorite program, OmniOutliner (more on OO later).
For one reason or another, many of them mention GTD. GTD, or Getting Things Done, is some system created by David Allen that helps you organize your thoughts and life in order to be more productive. This is all good and fine, but I don’t think I am ready to organize my life to that extent, or at this point in time, even pick up the book to check out the GTD system.
This doesn’t mean that I haven’t tried to be a bit more productive. As nice as it is to lazily sit around the house, being lazy only ever feels good topping off bouts of activity. There are several key components to achieving this goal of doing more with my time.
These past couple months for Mike and I have been quite busy. One of the principle guides we have used is a weekly schedule of what we should do on which night. We sit down Sunday evening and draw up a plan for the week.
It’s worked quite well for us. I recently picked up a copy of OmniOutliner. Fantastic program, perfectly suited for this kind of thing. It excels at making lists and outlines (as if you couldn’t figure that from the name).
We’ve already kind of got the weekly list down. I’ve been keeping some other lists sporadically as well. A list for what needs to get done on a busy day at work. A list for what needs to get picked up at the store. A list of what CD’s I want to buy. Why leave this stuff up to the mercy of your memory when you can jot it down in 2 minutes?
I have to wear an ID badge at work on a lanyard around my neck. The technician whom I work with all the time always has a pen and a sharpie clipped on the lanyard. At some point, I followed suit. It became so convenient to always have a pen on me at work that I started carrying a pen around in my pocket.
I’ve been using a uni-ball Roller Deluxe Micro. Its a good pen; it writes smoothly yet doesn’t flow too much. Best of all, its what the lab stocks in the goodies cabinet, so I have an abundant supply of them.
Of course, if you have a pen on you all the time to write down ideas, you need…
One could carry around PDA to jot your notes down. Let’s face it though; while a PDA is cool that you can sync back to your computer, its a pain in the ass. Its a matter of convenience, and for convenience, pen and paper rule. Some resort to a stack of 3×5 cards and others use notebooks. The Moleskine notebook seems to be a popular brand in the above mentioned “cult.” The Moleskine/Fisher Space Pen combo seems to be very popular, though for some, it sounds like there is trouble in paradise.
I hate to jump on the bandwagon, but after trying a PDA out the other year, a small notebook does make sense. Maybe I will resist, maybe not. I kind of agree with Dale Keiger about these little books.
At some point, one needs to collect all dated items in one place. This could be pocket planner, an electronic calendar, or a crap load of sticky notes. Whatever works for you. I’ll probably stick to the calendar software on my computer since its free and it can email me reminders.
Putting it all together
While GTD seems to be working great for some people, I think the key to these kinds of systems is to pick a plan of attack and stick to it. A to-do list is meaningless if you don’t check it periodically, or if you don’t add new items to it as needed.
There are several things that all of these approaches have in common:
One must be able to write down ideas as they come. This is where the pen, the notebook, and/or the PDA fit in.
These ideas must then be filtered and organized in some manner, prioritizing by date and importance. This editing/organization process most likely happens in reviewing the notes for entry into the…
Centralized database. Whether this is an old fashioned planner, notes written on a calendar, or some fancy software, one needs to be able to access the important bits in a fashion that facilitates performing the next action item. Whatever physical form this takes, it is essentially a to-do list/date book combination.