Those are my thoughts. I'd love to hear yours. Not just about your specific list manager (although by all means, spill!) but about the state of the "productivity software" industry in general and the so-called "GTD solutions" vs. those that position themselves more agnostically.
I've evolved to a rather minimal GTD list management set-up, prizing a lack of friction over everything else. I like manual sort in my lists, and move things up and down to reflect my current sense of urgency and importance. I require synced lists in an all-apple environment. I have implemented this kind of minimal system in several programs: Reminders, Things, OmniFocus and Clear. Although I like them all, Clear and Things revealed some bugs and flaws, including a tendency to crash at high rates of data entry, i.e., rapid typing of multiple list items. On the other hand, Reminders and OF have rather lazy syncing. It took a lot of work to get OF down to a minimal implementation. My context lists are actually single-action project lists, and I only use OF contexts for next actions where I want to ease geolocation. I have suppressed the project and start date columns, so most next actions only have the action itself. All "remaining" items appear, and I have hidden all the tool bar and view bar. I make minimal use of perspectives, and I prefer manual sorting to using flags. It's simple and clean, and I like it. I like the reliability of the OF sync, and the comparatively rich import actions. OF 2 may or not break this set-up, but I don't think it will. So I think it is OF for a while. From my perspective, almost all "GTD" software is overbuilt except for clear, which is a little bit under built.
I've used NetCentrics add-in, eProductivity (<-- loved this! but moved away from Lotus Notes and too complicated to install it on new computer), OmniFocus, a few others, and tried a bunch more. I am now in Evernote using my own setup (I tried TSW, reviewed the DAC version, and tried a few others).
After all this, I must say it's generally not the tool ... it's the implementation, and specifically it's the implementation that really works for you and your technology ecosystem.
So I try new tools every once in a while but my overarching decision factor on whether I invest in setting up a new tool is whether I am more attracted to it than the one I am currently using. If I'm attracted to it, I'm more likely to stick with it and build it as a trusted tool.
One (little) thing that I like about the "GTD apps" is the fact that they usually come with the "multidimensional" GTD framework built in out-of the box:
- Next, Someday, Waiting
- Contexts (Tags)
- Tickler (often called Scheduled or Start date, though)
In other apps (those that are not "underbuilt", anyway), such as Toodledo, you can easily set all this up yourself, but you typically have to live with having these essential lists in some unintuitive part of the many and/or with some unintuitive name.
First, I find that many such tools that bill themselves as good for GTD get some basic GTD principles wrong. Second, I find that even if they get it spot-on (rarely the case in my experience), they lock me into someone else's vision of GTD. There are many ways to "do GTD" correctly. Finally, I find many of the so-called dedicated GTD solutions are overbuilt in one or more respects, likely by companies throwing as much you-know-what at the wall to see what will stick and give them a competitive advantage. The result is often a product that is difficult to use and for me unsustainable over the long term.
I agree with much of this, but not entirely - I think much of this actually applies to non-GTD apps, too. All I want is something simple - simple for me; nothing standing in the way for how I can do my things simply. Many apps are underbuilt, and you have to shoehorn your system in, use lots of manual workarounds, and still not get what you want. Others lock you in with some rigid ideas about how you should be doing your things. And many apps offer an awful lot of what I would see as totally unnecessary. The trouble is, though, that we all seem to appreciate different things. A lot of development work seems to go into areas that I do not appreciate, e.g. location alarms, calendar integration, Evernote integration, email integration, performance/checkoff reviewing, pomodoro timing and what not. Heck, I do not even need due dates
An app that I have experimented with more and more, even "live" recently, and probably will continue using, is Doit. They claim to be GTD, but I would say they are just as much, or even more, catering for time management, which I am allergic to. But overall they seem to improve and implement new things very quickly, and have a large customer base (probably because they cater for time scheduling as well, and offer calendar integration etc). I figure I might well be able to get more of what I am lacking from them - if 10% of someone's rapid development is of use to me, this can be faster than having even 90% use of somebody else's ultra-slow development. Doit have announced that they will introduce manual sorting at all levels this winter, which is something I really appreciate, and they will improve their filtering functionality and parallel/sequential capabilities, which I appreciate. They already have 4 hierarchical levels and colored priorities, which I appreciate. And they have all the regular GTD lists. Plus they have, and have announced, a ton more that I could not care less about.
I use Doit.im too, but that's mostly because it's got a decent Android app. It's not perfect by any means, it could do with a drag and drop function, but they do projects pretty well, and I like the schedule feature among others. More importantly I feel secure that they are always looking to improve the functionality of the product and they are very responsive.
For pure GTD you can't really go far wrong with Wunderlist though. Nice and simple lists which could serve as contexts and it's on every platform. I find the mobile app is a little slow to load though and anything which provides resistance to quick entry is anathema to me.
For the most part, I agree with you with one caveat: in my experience there are some tools so cumbersome they can contribute to the tanking of a GTD implementation.
Anyway, what I was getting at was that many products advertised as "GTD solutions" in my view are anything but. They often get the methodology wrong and offer cumbersome features that add drag and provide no payoff. Whereas the "agnostic" solutions I've tried have proven to be better choices for GTD. I was curious as to how others felt.
I think I muddied the conversation by writing much and saying little (as per usual). Note to self -- brevity is the soul of wit.
You're probably right and I just don't give these tools any attention.
They often get the methodology wrong and offer cumbersome features that add drag and provide no payoff. Whereas the "agnostic" solutions I've tried have proven to be better choices for GTD. I was curious as to how others felt.
I agree with you almost completely.
If all you want to do is GTD "as if on paper" I think you are 100% correct. I assume that any simple list manager, such as Google Tasks or Wunderlist will do the trick. Anything beyond that is just an added complication.
If you are looking for "computer enhanced GTD", i.e. if you want to make use of capabilities that computer technology potentially could offer, which paper technology cannot, while still using GTD, I think you are still 80% correct. Most apps seem to get it "wrong" (but may offer some little benefit here and there). I think a good example of this is how even "GTD" apps normally do not have a Tickler. What they do have instead is "Scheduled" - and even if (obviously) you can use this as a Tickler it becomes obvious (from the the way the feature is implemented) that what the developer had in mind was hard scheduled calendar actions - no trace of the uncertain nature of a real tickler (which could end up in Trash or anywhere).
In other threads the question has been raised about what GTD really is. To me the main point of GTD is not the exact wordings on the exact lists of the "paper version". To me, the essentials of GTD are:
situational task selection (context, energy etc) as opposed to predetermined (time scheduled) task selection
reviewing (being aware and in control of your stuff), as opposed to the "bag-it-and-tag-it-and-forget-about-it" ideal that so many seem to be striving for (as if they are aiming to be unaware of everything and expect something in their pockets to beep out orders for them to follow at the right time - as soon as they come close to a certain shopping mall or when the calendar approaches a certain date)
I'd be prepared to contend that both situational task selection and reviewing can be made much more efficient and with greater clarity by a well designed computer app than would be possible on paper. But I totally agree that most "GTD" apps have very little of this - they strive in all kinds of other directions instead, often even encouraging distinctly non-GTD practices such as unnecessary hard scheduling.