I tend to wander from one toolkit for Getting Things Done (GTD) to another. Some of the tools I’ve tried include:
- Outlook Tasks
- Outlook with the NetCentrics Add-in
- GTD TiddlyWiki
- Bonsai (outliner)
- Plain text files
- jazzmasterson's coin envelopes and index cards
- handwritten index cards
I hope you see a problem.
What seems to happen is that once my list reaches a certain size (i.e. becomes difficult to tackle), I ‘clean it up’ into a new system. This means I waste too much time in transition from one system to another. Ineffective.
I tend to have lots of projects in various states of incompletion. A really big, cringe-worthy pile. I also tend to pull the, "Ohhhh…. Shiny…" stunt on new tools/technologies.
Here is a partial set of my current axioms:
- Many incomplete projects
- Blackberry 8700c
- Microsoft Outlook email at work
- Moderate degree of 'lock-down' on client's network and computers, including don't-install policy and blocking of POP, SMTP and webmail
- Business-supplied laptop running Windows XP
- Desire not to over-fill my pockets or to carry a 'man-bag' (i.e. a purse)
At the moment, I’m carrying a TOPS Royale (item 25229) hard-cover, 3x5 lined journal ($5 at Office Depot at Perimeter Pointe). It is about the same size as the Moleskine lined 3x5 ($10 at Barnes and Noble outside Perimeter Mall).
This morning, I had the urge to move back to the computer, due to difficulty in finding the things I want to get done *today*. I'm going to try adding a fresh 3x5 card listing the day's priority items to mark my place in the TOPS notebook.
Bounce - I miss being able to shuffle pages. Tried a spreadsheet with tabs for Actions, Projects, Someday, and Reference. Wrote some macros to highlight Projects without Actions and Actions with misspelled projects.
Bounce - Oops! I'm trying to stay with paper, for simplicity. Going back to index cards. Using them pretty much like I was using the 3x5 journal, but I can shuffle the pages. Carrying them in a leather Franklin-Covey 3x5 holder ($15 at Office Depot -- look near the other small-format Daytimers). The FC holder is attractive, but it is too thick for carrying just 3x5 cards, and I've got 7 must-carry cards (driver's, credit, ATM, transit, health, pharmacy, business cards) and the FC doesn't have room.
Somewhere at home I have a 3x5 leather cover I ripped off a calendar. When I find it, I'll carry the index cards in it. At least it fits my shirt pocket.
I'll retain the Someday worksheet in my Excel GTD workbook. I can still capture Somedays on 3x5, but I'll file them in Excel for long-term. MAYBE I could put my Projects into Excel too, with just active Actions in 3x5?
Bounce - So I'm not actually using my index cards. I also feel like they don't really allow me to organize my stuff very well. Outlining seems like it would allow better organization.
- Google Docs - really deals in HTML documents. Could make it appear as an outline, but no ability to expand/collapse outline segments.
- Microsoft Word - Put it into Outline view, and expand/collapse outline segments via the outline toolbar.
- Microsoft Excel - select the rows you want to indent; from the menu select "Data/Group and Outline."
- Bonsai - specialized outliner.
- How to do Projects?
- Separate outline for Projects?
- Just another entry in my GTD outline?
- Put each project into a separate outline, and link from tasks to their Projects. (Note: an item can have 0 or 1 links.) This looks slick from the item-to-project link, but how can you find links to a project from items?
- Put project name in Contact field, or a custom field.
- Hey! Just noticed it can associate icons with Keywords. Using Keywords for GTD contexts instead of Category could have some benefit.
- Can color text by Category.
- Has some maddening gaps.
- How to do Projects?
- Outlook tasks can do a simple outline-by-category
- Remember the Milk is really slick, but doesn't do outlines
I’m going to try using Bonsai:
- Context in Keyword
- OUTLINE (not Item) Category of Projects, with an outline per project, with links from action items to project outline
Used paper for a while. Then I stopped referring to it. Maybe it was because the list got too long. Took a look at ThinkingRock (2.0 epsilon). It felt too slow at first, but after using it for a while, I discovered that it can do capture and processing quick enough. However, the list of action items doesn’t include due date, and I can’t put items in the sequence I want.
I could use Remember the Milk, but I got sidetracked with its Twitter interface.
I’m thinking about going back to Bonsai, due to the flexibility in displaying the items I want in the sequence I want.
When work tasks come in fast and furious via email, Outlook tasks are quick capture. I’m going to try using Outlook Tasks again. Projects go into Task subfolders; I’ll use Smart Folder (search) to get the top-to-bottom view of all Tasks, regardless of location in Task or sub-folder.
I used index cards for awhile. One task per card. One project per card. Then work got very, very busy, and I wasn’t able to keep up, and the index card stack got to be so big it was tough to carry. This was one of the longest stretches with a single system that I’ve ever had.
I’m going back to Search Folders in Outlook. You can’t create a Search Folder that searches for Tasks via the user-interface, but I’ve got a little VBA code to create search folders for my contexts. I wonder why I stopped using this system before?
- .All Tasks
- .Completed Tasks
- someday (category name)
- today (category name)
- waiting (category name)
<br /></strong> <br />There are at least 4 ways of handling projects in Outlook. There's the list-of-projects in a Note (or in a special Task); I think of this as the "just like paper" method. You can use folders within the Tasks folder for projects; this method necessitates the Search Folders, so that you can get a cross-project Next Action list. You can use Contacts as projects, linking Tasks to these Project-Contacts in order to see the tasks for a project. There is the Category-project (name something like [project-name-here-including-square-brace]).
- Simplest to implement
- Resistant to tinkering
- Easy to export to Excel via copy/paste
- Highly resistant to Microsoft cutting features from Outlook.
- Can't list all tasks associated with a project.
- No good place to store project notes (unless you go with one Outlook Note per project, effectively making Note = Project).
- Extra work required to associate a Task with its project (e.g. enter project name in the Task body).
- No good way to convert a Task to a Project.
Conclusion: I don’t like it because of the non-linking of Tasks with their projects.
- Easy to group all tasks with their project.
- Projects can have sub-projects.
- You have to use Search Folders created via VBA in order to list Next Actions across all projects.
- Hard to print a list of projects. (You could write VBA to export a list of folders/projects to a special Note or Task).
- Hard to export to Excel. (You could write VBA to export a list of folders/projects to a special Note or Task).
- No good way to convert a Task to a Project. (You could write VBA.)
- No good place to store project notes (unless you use a specially named task such as ".readme").
- Highly dependent on Microsoft retaining Search Folders and VBA in Outlook.
Conclusion: All of the current problems can be worked around at set-up time (i.e. not cumbersome after implemented). It is workable.
- Groups Tasks with their projects.
- Easy to export to Excel via copy/paste.
- Good place to keep project notes (in the Contact/Project).
- Projects can't have sub-projects. (You can actually do this with Contacts in obsolete editions of Outlook.)
- Dependent on future editions of Outlook continuing to allow you to associate Tasks with Contacts.
- Poor aesthetics unless you use a custom form.
- No good way to convert a Task to a Project (unless you use VBA).
- Some of the time you'll get "Bla1 Bla2" and other times you'll get "Bla2, Bla1"
Conclusion: It is workable, but the Lastname, Firstname issue is ugly.
- Group Tasks with their projects.
- Highly resistant to Microsoft cutting features from Outlook.
- You'll have to use VBA to export a project list to Excel.
- No good place to store project note.
- I find [project-name] aesthetically displeasing.
- Mixes project names with context names.
Conclusion: I really don’t like [project-name].
Current overall conclusions:
Contact-projects and folder-projects are both workable. I don’t like seeing "Contacts" in a Task for the project link, and I really don’t like the Lastname, Firstame showing up in the Contacts field of a Task.
I’ll use project folders, with VBA to generate a project list into a ".Project List" Note, VBA to switch between Task and Project, and store project notes in a ".notes" Task as the first folder in a project (when I have notes). Flag Next Actions.