Open Source Computing and GIS in the UK

Travels in a digital world

Evolving GTD

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So Leif let out my dirty secret, that I regularly carry three moleskines with me, so I thought I’d better come clean about my burgeoning habit. As all GTDers know, coming up with a system that works for you is an evolving process. I have been through a digital phase (wasn’t free-range enough for me) and several incarnations of an analogue phase. My current system has been stable for a month or so and, you know, it just feels like it works.

Like Kathy at Creating Passionate Users, I’ve gone for a modified PigPog approach. I originally chose a moleskine because I truly believe that if you’re going to stick with a system of any kind then you want good equipment. Personally, I’m more inclined to persevere with something if I’ve made an investment in it. I also wanted something that was robust enough to survive the bottom of a rucksack every day.

Moleskine Front

So, I’ve gone for the squared notepad, with post-it note tags separating my various sections. My GTD system has been pared down, as I found when I first started out that too many contexts and lists got in the way. First, I have an inbox, and that’s working pretty well as my primary “bucket” for data capture. The squared notepad helps me to maintain a system for writing each item down and keeps it clear and tidy. Basically I start with the date, then a context in the form @C (at computer), @W (at work) or @H (at home). Then there’s the item itself, which can spill onto as many lines as I need to capture the details (and often the project that it’s part of). Finally, if I’ve done the item and am now waiting for someone else to follow it up, it gets a big W in a circle. Sometimes I need to write down two steps to an item (which breaks the golden rule of next actions, I know, but helps me remember the next stage too). Then items get linked with an arrow. When I’m done, they get crossed out, and when I’m down to a few items left on a page the incomplete items get highlighted.

Moleskine Inside

Following on from the inbox section are “Projects at Work” and “Projects at Home”. I use the project sections for free-form thinking about a project as well as next actions. As I start a project page (and only as I start it) I number it, but in the form PW1, PW2, PH9 etc, depending on whether it’s a home project or a work project. This is easier than numbering the whole notebook when you first get it. I often need to continue on to a new page when I get really into a project, but I just reference the old and new page number (eg “continued from PH3”, “continued on PH11”).

Finally, I have a “someday/maybe” section, but I confess I haven’t used it yet!

Additionally, I use the very front of the moleskine to hold Hipster PDA day planner pages. I don’t always use these, but find them very useful when I have a busy day ahead.

Moleskine Two is a memo planner. Originally I went for a vastly over-packed Hipster PDA approach, but found I was only using one or two sections regularly, so I cut down. Moleskine Two now contains spare day planners, book lists, note paper, shopping lists and mind maps. There is some spare space in it for holding, well anything small and vaguely pocket planner sized.

Finally, and least importantly, I have a moleskine diary. I honestly don’t use it all that often, as I have reluctantly adopted a digital approach to this single aspect. I use Google Calendar for pretty much everything I need to put on the calendar because I like the interface and the ability to set email and text reminders.

In summary, I’ve been attempting the GTD approach for about six months now, and it has taken me this long to really find a system that works. I am an avid consumer of GTD and organisational blogs and they have been enormously helpful when it comes to getting a system that works, but in the end it is down to what works for each person to the extent that it becomes as much part of their life as brushing their teeth. I wouldn’t say I’ve got that far yet, but I’m working on it!

Posted from Lancaster

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