GTD – implementing ‘The System’

Usually a book where the only blurb consists of ‘the personal productivity guru’ makes me throw a book away quicker than you could say QUACK, but I have to admit that I got hooked on David Allen’s Getting Things Done method. I won’t get into the how-to here, because there are plenty of places online where you can look that up, like the fantastic 43folders website. Look around online a little, maybe get the book, and try it out. I started to use it about two weeks ago and I have to say it works fine for me so far. Nerd that I am, I looked around on the internet for some geeky application that would ‘help’ me organized my lists and contexts, but it turns out the way that works best for me is the index card method (much like the hipsterPDA by Merlin Mann). I attached them to my calendar a clip and do a review every other day and this, combined with a physical inbox on my desk, works just fine.

Some of the programs (all Mac, sorry) I’ve tested look great at a first glance, but none of them really delivered, at least in my experience. The prettiest and the one that implements the inbox-process-organize-work-review process best is definitely Midnight Inbox, but this rigidity is also it’s biggest drawback. You can download the trial version and test it, after 14 days you’d have to dish out around $35 and the 2.0 version will be Leopard only. It certainly looks gorgeous, but next to the lack of customization the definite backbreaker for the app is that it sometimes just crashes and you have to restart it, hoping that your data is still there, which also leads to obsessive saving. This is NOT something you want to happen if you want to stop worrying about ‘open loops’!

iGTD (the public alpha iGDT2 release is out, so you might want to give it a shot if you are feeling adventurous. Leopard only, though.) is a freeware application that works stable and fine and is fully customizable in terms of contexts, projects, etc., but is somewhat unintuitive to use. If you want to record your tasks in your inbox you want to do it fast and don’t go through a number of clicks first. This is actually one of the main reasons I ended up using a paper-based system – with every program it turned out that it was quicker to jot down a note on a piece of paper and throw it into my physical inbox than to enter it into one of the programs. Of course, if you are a Quicksilver wiz this might be different.

The third one I tried was Easy Task Manager. Like iGDT you can set up almost everything yourself and it has the added bonus that you can upload your tasks to an Easy Task Manager online account that you can access from every computer, which makes sense when you have a second computer at work and want to keep in sync. Still, the interface is somehow clumsy and I never really warmed up to it.

The main drawback of all these applications, though, is psychological, at least for me. I work on the computer a lot, but I don’t carry it around with me everywhere and I don’t have a PDA that I can sync with my calendar, so that’s taking the benefits out of managing this on the computer. That is one point, but the more important one is that I just don’t trust my computer. And in order for GTD to work its magic you have to TRUST your system and KNOW that the stuff you put in there will stay there and pop up when needed and scheduled. As I said, this is psychological, but there is a larger chance of my computer dying than my index card(s). So for me it’s index cards, plus Stikkit, which I came to love. It’s basically an online post-it box that understands natural language and can mail you reminders. I’m still somewhat undecided between Remember the Milk and Stikkit, but both work fine as reminders, back-up base, and interface between work computer and home computer. Plus, you can share notes on Stikkit with others, which is a great feature. If you use Firefox and Gmail, you can add Remember the Milk to your Gmail Account and access it via Firefox, btw.

Actually, the beauty of GTD is that it is so open that you can (and have) to experiment around and see which method and which tools work best for you. There is a ton of info on the web on how to implement it, which tools to use, etc., so here’s just a little link bundle of things I think are neat:

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