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Just starting out, question about PDA and paper

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  • Just starting out, question about PDA and paper

    Hi all,

    As the subject line states, I'm just starting out with GTD -- as a matter of fact, I think today marks the first week! So far, I've managed to go through my office desk, my home desk (and filing cabinet), my briefcase, and clear out my RAM. I did this in stages (RAM first, then the office a couple of days later, and then the home office last).

    I've been using a PDA (Sony Clie) for keeping track of projects, NAs, calendar, and contact info during this last week. I put NAs into the Todo list, with categories used to separate contexts. I also used Shadow (Palm outlining software) to keep track of Projects, with individual tasks in the projects linked to a NA in the Todo list.

    I also carry a small notebook around for data capture when entering text into a PDA is not convenient.

    Some problems I have noticed:

    1) Any actionable e-mails I get are stored in an appropriate folder (as per the suggestions in GTD), but the NAs themselves are entered into the Palm. Therefore, I have to sync with my office PC, my home PC, as well as keep track of what's in Shadow and what's a NA. Edit: Note that by "sync" I mean manual syncing, and not 'Hotsync' - although I do that too!

    2) I am not sure how to link information that is associated with a NA. For example, if my project is "Organize daughter's birthday party", and I have a series of NAs associated with it, where do I store the information gleaned from each NA? I currently have the invitation list and gift ideas in Memo Pad, and other notes in Shadow (as part of the Project entry).

    3) In addition, if there is information that I want to keep after the project expires, how do I archive that with my (paper) file folders?

    I believe that what I am experiencing here is (a) the feeling of spending too much time on working with the PDA (i.e., working on the mechanics to enable GTD), and (b) a lack of hard edges that defines the proper place for information.

    OK - that's all of the background info. Now, I'd like to present what I plan to do, and would like to solicit the opinions of those more experienced than I to determine potential pitfalls.

    I think that I need to use the Palm for calendaring and contacts, and possibly to store NAs (by context). Then, I think I will supplement the Palm with a small notebook that will be used for data capture, keeping track of projects, brainstorming, and general information storage. The workflow would be something like this:

    1) Capture data in notebook (from meeting, weekly revieew of projects, etc.)
    2) Generate NAs from notebook data, and enter into Palm.
    3) Information generated from executing NAs is entered into notebook.
    4) When project expires, either pull paper from notebook or scan into copier and store with the appropriate paper folder.

    Final note: None of the problems I've mentioned above have kept me from enjoying initial success with the GTD system. I'm only concerned that my lack of a well-defined support system will hinder me from being able to report success months/years from now!

    I think I've dumped everything I've wanted to say into this post. I await and welcome your opinions!

    Thanks,

    Matthew
    Last edited by Starfish; 09-07-2005, 10:34 AM.

  • #2
    Matthew,

    Keep your notebook "clean". After you've taken your notes and processed them (i.e. gleaned all of the NA's out of them), either throw them away OR store them in their respective project folder.

    All of the information that links your NA's with either the data gleaned from them OR the project that they relate to should be contained in the appropriate project folder. Using your example, both your invitation list and gift ideas should be stored in 1 place - your project folder. If you have information stored in too many different locations at the same time, you won't get that feeling of trust that you need in order to make this really work for you. Just like you have one calendar, you should only have one place to park project information.

    The only other thing that I'd suggest to get this really going for you is to get in the habit of doing the weekly review. Getting in this habit will really help bring this home for you....

    Comment


    • #3
      jkgrossi,

      Originally posted by jkgrossi
      Matthew,

      Keep your notebook "clean". After you've taken your notes and processed them (i.e. gleaned all of the NA's out of them), either throw them away OR store them in their respective project folder.

      All of the information that links your NA's with either the data gleaned from them OR the project that they relate to should be contained in the appropriate project folder. Using your example, both your invitation list and gift ideas should be stored in 1 place - your project folder. If you have information stored in too many different locations at the same time, you won't get that feeling of trust that you need in order to make this really work for you. Just like you have one calendar, you should only have one place to park project information.
      That's good advice - and makes me think I should have done a second reading of GTD, as the advice sounds vaguely familiar! Also applicable no matter which system I implement...

      This does bring up another point though - the 4K limit on notes in the PDA leaves me wondering what to do should the information I capture about a project exceed that boundary? Anybody ever run into that limit?

      The only other thing that I'd suggest to get this really going for you is to get in the habit of doing the weekly review. Getting in this habit will really help bring this home for you....
      That's a whole 'nother topic right there, and one which I need to search these forums for and/or post in another thread -- how to actually DO the weekly review.

      Thanks for your input,

      Matthew

      Comment


      • #4
        Never exceeded the 4K limit, personally. I don't really keep detailed notes in my PDA, only because I find it easier to keep paper.

        Regarding the weekly review:

        http://www.davidco.com/tips_tools/tip16.html

        Hope this helps!

        Comment


        • #5
          For me, the most important thing about NAs is to have one central place for NAs. Don't use your e-mails as NAs. If you see an e-mail that represents an action, pull out your PDA and add an NA.

          I'm not suggesting you avoid having an @ACTION e-mail folder. I have one, but I use it as a temporary staging area for e-mails that require action. I often have to look back at those e-mails for information as I'm working on them, so it makes sense for me to keep them in an @ACTION folder. However, all the action represented by those e-mails is in my NA list.

          Comment


          • #6
            2) I am not sure how to link information that is associated with a NA. For example, if my project is "Organize daughter's birthday party", and I have a series of NAs associated with it, where do I store the information gleaned from each NA? I currently have the invitation list and gift ideas in Memo Pad, and other notes in Shadow (as part of the Project entry).
            You can set notes in Shadow for each item, if you don't want to place an individual sublevel for each member of the list you're making. And, having said that, I recommend you use Shadow purely as a Reference system. The linking isn't great, and it makes dealing with your PDA cumbersome to constantly switch between programs when dealing with Next Actions that are redundantly placed in Shadow and the Tasks application.
            That said, I love Shadow and use it for all of my non-actionable lists, like Groceries, Shopping, Reading Recommendations, Product Wishlist. It's a great tool for my PDA.

            If you want to deal with each of your NAs as each being part of an individual project, I recommend LifeBalance. You can set up each Project as a hierarchy of next actions, with each action dependent upon the completion of the actions in its sublevels before it will show up in the context list. You set up your "Places" the same way you set up categories in the Tasks program, with the "@ Home," "@ Calls," "@ Errands," "~ Someday/Maybe" style names. The difference with the places is that they can include other contexts. For example, "@ Home" can include "@ Computer," so that when you select the Home context, you will see the NAs that you can do on your computer. There's a bit more to LB than this, but you'll no doubt discover that on your own if you're interested.

            For collection, I have this unique pad of paper that I found at my university bookstore. It has the length and width of a business card, and consists of two pieces of heavy plastic with a corrugated surface on the outside, and filled with heavy pieces of paper. It has been hole-punched at one end and a plastic ring has been placed through it. A rubber band wraps around the bundle and catches on the corrugated plastic surface to keep from the band from slipping off. It's very well designed, and suits my needs nicely. Perhaps a picture would have been a better explanation.

            Comment


            • #7
              I want to thank everyone for the responses so far. The information provided seems to be platform-independent for the most part, so it helps to focus my thoughts on implementing GTD.

              I am hoping that someone will address what was perhaps a subtle question in my first post: is using a PDA for calendaring, contact management, and perhaps NA lists while using a notebook for the rest simply shifting my current perceived problem into another media?

              Thanks,

              Matthew

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Starfish
                I am hoping that someone will address what was perhaps a subtle question in my first post: is using a PDA for calendaring, contact management, and perhaps NA lists while using a notebook for the rest simply shifting my current perceived problem into another media?
                Hi Matthew,
                I'm not sure what your perceived problem was exactly -- spending too much time with the PDA? Lack of hard edges for information?

                It sounds like you have gotten a great start! I wouldn't yet be too worried about spending too much time with the PDA. It takes time to set up a system to organize all of life's stuff and to establish new habits of using it. I spent a lot of time fiddling with mine at first.

                However, it certainly is possible to set up systems that require too much organizing overhead and maintenance. Over the past couple years of using mine, I have streamlined considerably. Had I not streamlined, I think I would have given up after the novelty had worn off.

                A couple opportunities I see to streamline your system. I am not a fan of maintaining separate projects and NA lists. The manual syncing of projects and NAs will be tough if you have a lot of them. Projects are collections of actions, so the outline treatment of projects in Shadow is very natural. However, Life Balance is much better suited to structure the data of projects and actions because it is specialized for this purpose. The Outline view shows the relationships of your projects, (subprojects, subsubprojects. . .), and actions, while the ToDo view shows only the actions you can do in a particular context. It's the same data for actions whether you are viewing them as part of their parent projects or in your context-based ToDo lists. Thus no manual syncing is required.

                With LB you never have to check or review to make sure every project has a NA defined to move it forward, especially if you get in the habit of expressing projects as successful outcomes. If you complete all the actions defined for "Daughter's birthday party is complete," then that parent project will show up on your ToDo list: "Daughter's birthday party is complete." You will immediately know that you need to figure out what to do next and can switch to outline view and enter that NA. This dynamic linking of projects and actions greatly simplifies weekly review.

                Life Balance unleashes the power of contexts because contexts can include other contexts. Contexts can even have open hours and closed hours. Actions can also be scheduled in several useful ways. They can be scheduled by due date with lead times, allowing you to enter them yet not see them till you need them, without the additional overhead of using a physical tickler file for them. If a series of actions need to be completed in order, you only see the one you can do next, until you check it off. Then the Next Action appears automatically. Another scheduling option for actions is routinely; I have tons of these. Actions can also be scheduled by Palm DateBook, so they are linked with the built-in calendar.

                Another great feature of Life Balance is prioritization. When you have a lot of NAs, choosing the most important at the runway level can become quite a pain. Life Balance does a beautiful job prioritizing with minimal overhead. I have found that both on the runway and in review, Life Balance's algorithm saves me a lot of overhead and helps me feel good about my NA lists.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by andersons
                  Hi Matthew,
                  I'm not sure what your perceived problem was exactly -- spending too much time with the PDA? Lack of hard edges for information?
                  Hi andersons,

                  Having had the evening to digest the useful information provided here, I would say the first - which is caused by the second .

                  Your suggestion of LifeBalance (and the other posts I have read about the software on this forum) has me looking into installing a trial version to see if the software has promise. For the present moment, however, I think I am going to go with the two-pronged approach I outlined above. I don't really like keeping/entering project support information in my PDA, so it makes sense to me to offload listmaking (projects, agendas, ad-hoc lists, etc.) onto a notebook and to use the PDA for calendaring, contact storage, and possibly NA lists.

                  I'm still not quite sure about where to place the NA lists - and I may need to experiment with that. I'm leaning toward placing the NA lists onto the PDA, and using the notebook to keep track of status on projects. That way, when it comes time to do weekly review, I can look at the project status to decide if there are any more NAs to be generated to keep it moving forward.

                  I think maybe I should have named this thread, "Matthew's getting started with GTD, and needs to dump his thoughts into words in order to evaluate the evolving process, and would appreciate any comments"

                  Thanks all,

                  Matthew

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Starfish
                    I don't really like keeping/entering project support information in my PDA.
                    Ugh, I agree. I hate entering information into my Sony Clie too, so I avoid it as much as possible. However, I like having all the information with me at all times and in one place. I enter most information via the desktop and HotSync. When I started using Life Balance years ago, there was no desktop version, but LB could import from the built-in ToDo list. So when planning, processing, reviewing, or mind dumping I would use the Palm Desktop to enter multiple actions. In ToDo list view I use keyboard shortcuts like Alt+N for new ToDo, etc.; so entering the data is fast. Of course now LB has a desktop version, but even without it, fast entry of actions is possible in this way.

                    Really, a PDA with a portable version of everything that is also in an integrated system on a desktop computer is ideal, IMO.

                    I don't know how well you like your Clie or if it has one of those thumb keyboards, but I have found out that mine stinks at Graffiti recognition. It is extremely slow, so I have to slow down when I write and also write many letters twice. This is a major reason I hate entering information directly into the Clie. My spouse has a Handspring Visor Edge which is much older than my Clie, but its Graffiti recognition is ten times better than the Clie's. I can write fast without rewriting on the Edge! I am close to buying a Visor Edge and tossing my Clie in the trash. Although the desktop will probably always rule for data entry, I'm looking for much better data entry in my next PDA. Treo 650?

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I have a Clie and an old Treo 90. I've had no end of problems with graffiti so have "downgraded" to my Treo with thumboard.

                      Whilst I miss the hi res screen, my productivity has increased immensly - it was getting so bad that I was letting a lot of things fall through the cracks because adding items on the Clie was so frustrating.

                      I've found the battery life on my Treo much better too.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by andersons
                        Ugh, I agree. I hate entering information into my Sony Clie too, so I avoid it as much as possible. However, I like having all the information with me at all times and in one place. I enter most information via the desktop and HotSync.
                        Entering info via the desktop is a problem area for me since I have to decide which desktop is the primary conduit (office or home?). On top of that, I would really prefer that the office desktop not contain personal records, and to a lesser degree that the home desktop not contain office records. I'll have to admit that the source of the problems described in earlier posts stem from self-imposed constraints, and not technological constraints.

                        Really, a PDA with a portable version of everything that is also in an integrated system on a desktop computer is ideal, IMO.
                        I'd have to agree - as long as text input could be made to be as nearly efficient as natural handwriting, AND viewing documents originally formatted for a desktop monitor is in place.

                        Yeah, I know - I'm basically asking for a portable computer in the form factor of a PDA...

                        I don't know how well you like your Clie or if it has one of those thumb keyboards, but I have found out that mine stinks at Graffiti recognition. It is extremely slow, so I have to slow down when I write and also write many letters twice. This is a major reason I hate entering information directly into the Clie. My spouse has a Handspring Visor Edge which is much older than my Clie, but its Graffiti recognition is ten times better than the Clie's. I can write fast without rewriting on the Edge! I am close to buying a Visor Edge and tossing my Clie in the trash. Although the desktop will probably always rule for data entry, I'm looking for much better data entry in my next PDA. Treo 650?
                        I do notice that Grafitti recognition seems to be worse than with other Palms I have owned - definitely an aggravating factor! I've been looking at the Treo 650 also for the integration factor, but then again, asking for the world in the form factor of a PDA when the technology hasn't caught up yet seems to be asking for trouble

                        Thanks for the discussion and food for thought,

                        Matthew

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Starfish
                          Entering info via the desktop is a problem area for me since I have to decide which desktop is the primary conduit (office or home?). On top of that, I would really prefer that the office desktop not contain personal records, and to a lesser degree that the home desktop not contain office records.
                          I see. I have synced to both my office and home machines but not every day, just once in awhile so far. I am not sure what kind of trouble I'm going to run into with this. Life Balance conduit seems to work intelligently syncing the 2 machines and the Clie, but I seem to get duplicates in the built-in apps, plus the default categories that I have deleted keep returning like dandelions or something.

                          Keeping office and home stuff separated on 2 machines does sound tricky. Good luck!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by CrustyGeek
                            I have a Clie and an old Treo 90. I've had no end of problems with graffiti so have "downgraded" to my Treo with thumboard.

                            Whilst I miss the hi res screen, my productivity has increased immensly - it was getting so bad that I was letting a lot of things fall through the cracks because adding items on the Clie was so frustrating.

                            I've found the battery life on my Treo much better too.
                            Originally posted by Starfish
                            I do notice that Grafitti recognition seems to be worse than with other Palms I have owned - definitely an aggravating factor!
                            OK, now with concurring complaints from other Clie users, I am becoming ever more convinced I need a new Treo. (conveniently ignoring any cautions to be realistic about PDAs. . .)

                            The Clie also has a very slow screen refresh. And the OS crashes and loses all data when the battery gets low. And the battery indicator is not accurate; it has crashed when there is supposedly 25% power left. And the battery life is bad.

                            Actually I am scared about the complaints I have read about Graffiti2 on the new Treos. I cannot afford for writing recognition to be any worse than I have now, and I really need it to be better. As I described before, I enter about 90% of my stuff via the desktop and then sync it into the PDA. And I bite the bullet and enter the rest directly when I need to but only because I know I really need to capture it. The writing recognition is just barely good enough to keep me using it and bad enough to be really frustrating.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by andersons
                              The Clie also has a very slow screen refresh. And the OS crashes and loses all data when the battery gets low. And the battery indicator is not accurate; it has crashed when there is supposedly 25% power left. And the battery life is bad.
                              Wow! And I thought it was just mine, since I bought it secondhand - I assumed that I just needed a new battery...

                              As it turns out, a recent OS crash due to low battery caused me to lose all data as well. Fortunately, this was pre-GTD (that's a weak positive spin, but there it is).

                              Matthew

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