Friday, March 07, 2008

My nascent GTD system

Getting Things Done is everywhere on the net. I read the book a few years ago and it's really very inspiring. Who wouldn't want "mind like water," but how making it actually happen is going to take some effort.

I've emptied my brain and put it all in lists many times and tried a ridiculous number of software programs, but haven't ever really got the hang of it, shifting from one system to the next. My latest incarnation feels right, but I've said that before. I always experience a temporary boost in productivity, but I really think that's just because I've spent time reviewing and prioritizing all my "stuff." Still, I'm only cautiously optimistic about my new system.

So, what am I using now? Google notebook. I'm basically following these instructions, except that I'm not using a Next Actions notebook with a section for each context (@computer, etc.). Those instructions were written before notebook had tags, so I'm leaving the actions with the projects and tagging (labeling in google-speak) them with contexts. This avoids the problem of losing the tie between projects and next actions that lots of people (like myself) find troublesome.

I can also now keep a link to mail. I've always lamented the fact that gmail didn't have a single URL per message. Well, now apparently it does! Those guys must have updated the software. Now I can use the notebook firefox extension to select the text in an email and create a new note, which automatically creates a link to the email. Unfortunately, outlook web access doesn't have a unique URL for each message. You can open as a web page and that kind of does it, but then you don't see all the messages meta-data and if you move it to a new folder, the link breaks. A long time ago, I tried notebook-like application called evernote, which could link to outlook mail, but it was a desktop app with a local file that wasn't portable unless I carried a thumb drive around. (Of course now evernote is working on a web version.)

In violation of GTD principles, I've added @today and @thisweek tags. This way if I lose focus on just what I *need* to be doing right now, I click on those labels. In the week I've been using this, I've found this very convenient. "Today" and "this week" covers my most common short term horizons. When I do a weekly review (probably Friday afternoon or Monday morning), I can label things with "@thisweek" as I come across them. (Maybe I should add a @thisFY -- fiscal year?)

What do I do when I finish a task? At first, I just deleted them, which didn't really bother me too much, but then I had a better idea. I created a new "Journal" notebook. I make a new section for each day, 2008.03.06, 2008.03.07, etc. Then, when I complete a task, I select "Move" and select "Journal" and section "2008.03.07." That way I know what I did today. Pretty neat, huh?

So far my annoyances with this system are:
  • Keyboard shortcuts. Geez, are there any? I can't find any documentation although I accidentally figured out that hitting the right arrow twice at the end of a note begins a new one.
  • Not being able to create links with my work email quickly. I usually just annotate "from:Fred sent:3/06/2008" which I can cut and paste into windows desktop search and find it in a jiffy, but it's not ideal. I could forward to gmail, but that has its own issues, and it takes several minutes for the forwarded mail to arrive.
  • Google notebook's mobile version doesn't support labels. One workaround here is to put my mobile contexts (like @errand) into a next actions notebook like he does.

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