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Using Paper for GTD: Thoughts of a Gadget Geek

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  • Using Paper for GTD: Thoughts of a Gadget Geek

    I love gadgets and technology. Always keen to try the latest and greatest. I had an all electronic GTD system involving MS Exchange, Outlook Web Access and a BlackBerry. Technically it all zinged along and I could access my lists any time, anywhere. Problem was I was going numb to them and not actually getting as much done as I wanted. I wasn't comfortable with what I wasn't doing. So I decided to give paper a try. I created a hybrid system where my calendar remained in Outlook (and therefore on my BlackBerry too) but I moved my Next Action and Project lists to a Moleskine Cahier.

    I just finished a 30 day trial and my wrap up is here:

    http://freeflowlife.net/2008/07/17/g...rial-complete/

    Along the way I documented observations - what was working, what wasn't.

    Although everyone's circumstances are different I hope you find it of interest.

    Cheers

  • #2
    that's cool!

    Read your blog post, Simon. That's really cool. I have found, in the past, that sometimes I need to change my system. I guess it gives you a new perspective.

    I'm a little numb to my lists right now and may try paper again soon. Thanks for sharing.

    Comment


    • #3
      Definitely gives you a new perspective Barb - I suppose in part because you focus on the process a little more consciously while the change is new. Hope it stays that way for me .

      Comment


      • #4
        Paper vs. 'puter

        Simon,

        You're my buddy from the GTD Study group, right? Talk to me! (private joke)

        I'm a big mind mapper, as I probably have mentioned 80,000 times. If I find myself stuck creatively, I switch to colored pens and paper and get an immediate jolt of improvement. Also, if I'm brainstorming on paper, changing the color of the pen shifts my thinking entirely.

        I read somewhere that this had to do with stimulating different parts of your brain, but I can't remember where. Usually brain-type articles are too graphic for me so I don't finish reading them (blush)

        Comment


        • #5
          Thanks for sharing your experience!

          I'm in a similar position -- also a huge technology person, but I just couldn't get any project management apps to do exactly what I needed, and it impacted my mental confidence in my system. (That's one of the tenets of GTD I feel is really key - trusting your system.)

          A Moleskine works great as a ubiquitous capture device, but I don't like it for next actions or context lists because I can't take pages out or move them around. Instead, I print blank checklists titled "NEXT ACTIONS," "@WAITINGON" etc. and keep them in a spiral notebook. This way, I can rewrite my Next Actions lists every once in awhile so I don't have 10 pages with three remaining tasks each. Rewriting "stale" tasks is also a great way to remind yourself to do them, or to motivate yourself to do them (by not wanting to write it down yet again).

          I do keep my @ERRANDS list in my Moleskine because it's always in my purse when I'm out and about. My spiral notebook does not go to the grocery store.

          Comment


          • #6
            Spiral Notebooks

            Quick question - how do you keep printed lists in a spiral notebook?
            thanks,
            Claudia

            Comment


            • #7
              My "hybrid" system consists of a Palm 755p for Calendar, Contacts, and certain lists, while NA's, Projects, Notes, Agendas, etc. are in a Jr. sized (5.5 inch by 8.5 inch, or half of a letter sized page) Levenger Circa notebook. There are tab divider pages, and it is simple to move pages around, or move pages from another notebook into this one. There is a clear plastic pouch pocket in the back.

              Letter sized reference documents can be photo-copied at 50% of original size, cut and punched, and then inserted into the notebook.

              If a Jr size is still too big, they make a Compact version, that can still have divider tabs and a clear plastic pouch.

              rdgeorge

              Comment


              • #8
                Claudia,

                Sorry, I meant a three-ring binder with hole-punched 8.5" x 11" paper.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by MarinaMartin View Post
                  A Moleskine works great as a ubiquitous capture device, but I don't like it for next actions or context lists because I can't take pages out or move them around.
                  When trying to decide what to do this was one of my concerns with the Moleskine too - I thought it would be really important to me to be able to move sheets of paper around. I wasn't sure if I would re-write my lists periodically (I decided not to as the visual cue of seeing an 'old' next action still on the list was very motivating). I thought if I made a mistake I could just remove the page etc. In the end I decided on the Moleskine for the trial as it was much thinner and lighter than any ring binder or spiral notebook I could get here.

                  I only discovered once using the Moleskine Cahier that the second half of the pages are actually perforated so could be torn out if need be.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Barb View Post
                    Simon,

                    You're my buddy from the GTD Study group, right? Talk to me! (private joke)

                    I'm a big mind mapper, as I probably have mentioned 80,000 times. If I find myself stuck creatively, I switch to colored pens and paper and get an immediate jolt of improvement. Also, if I'm brainstorming on paper, changing the color of the pen shifts my thinking entirely.

                    I read somewhere that this had to do with stimulating different parts of your brain, but I can't remember where. Usually brain-type articles are too graphic for me so I don't finish reading them (blush)
                    Probably the same reason I have to print out final drafts of important documents to review them sometimes. I read them in a whole different way and mark them up with a pen. Trying to do the same on the computer just doesn't seem to work.

                    And yes I'm the same one from the GTD Study Group. You must have detected my accent in my typing

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Computer lists electronically and others on paper

                      I have lots of bits to my system, but won't bore you with all of them. I've been using mainly paper for tracking projects and next actions, but felt resistance to writing (penning) web addresses and other things that were already in an electronic form. So now I manage anything e-mail in e-mail folders (that is e-mails to reply to, e-mails waiting for e-mail responses, current event information in e-mails and e-mails to read that take longer than 2 minutes); I manage all next actions that require a computer, online or offline, as outlook tasks; and the rest on paper (for ex, talk to husband about, errands, phone calls). My project lists and someday maybe's are also in outlook tasks as I use the computer to do the weekly review.

                      Oh, I also do calendar on paper, because I have so many sources for meetings and appointments and I find it by far the fastest and easiest way to keep it all in one place. I find when in a meeting deciding on the next meeting that I'm looking at the right page in 1-2 seconds whereas it takes the "gadget"-people 10-15 seconds if not more, not to mention the painstaking entering of the meeting details. The patience it takes!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by sdhill View Post
                        I love gadgets and technology. Always keen to try the latest and greatest. I had an all electronic GTD system involving MS Exchange, Outlook Web Access and a BlackBerry. Technically it all zinged along and I could access my lists any time, anywhere. Problem was I was going numb to them and not actually getting as much done as I wanted. I wasn't comfortable with what I wasn't doing. So I decided to give paper a try. I created a hybrid system where my calendar remained in Outlook (and therefore on my BlackBerry too) but I moved my Next Action and Project lists to a Moleskine Cahier.

                        I just finished a 30 day trial and my wrap up is here:

                        http://freeflowlife.net/2008/07/17/g...rial-complete/

                        Along the way I documented observations - what was working, what wasn't.

                        Although everyone's circumstances are different I hope you find it of interest.

                        Cheers

                        Simon,

                        Your 30 Day trial has intrigued me and has made me want to try my own experiment with a paper hybrid system. I have been at GTD for almost a year now and have been using primarily electronic lists managers (Palm Desktop to Outlook to now Lotus Notes) to track next actions, waiting for's, projects, etc. as well as managing my contacts and calendar.

                        What I find is that initially my list management works well, but as time passes, I struggle to keep my next actions and project lists meaningful and up to date (even with weekly reviews). This becomes particularly problematic when things get really hectic, like the current stage of my project where there are multiple fronts and associated next actions that must be tracked in a very short timeframe. During these times, I revert back to simple paper to do lists of next actions and find that I am able to better focus on them during the day.

                        The problem when I do this is that I now have next actions and project lists on both paper and electronically. If there is a "lull in the battle" or during weekly reviews, I try to type all the paper next actions and projects back into my electronic one. It feels very inefficient, but at least for a moment in time, all my things are on one list manager.

                        Perhaps, subconsciously, I am trying to tell myself that my preference is to work on paper lists. I have resisted going more to paper up until now since I like the convenience of key word search and security of easily backing up of my electronic versions.

                        I think I will give the paper / hybrid version a try for a few weeks. I read your blog for some ideas. Let me know if you have any other key tips, especially after working your hybrid process for a few months now (?)

                        Thanks,
                        David

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