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  • Pulling it all together with the right software

    Hi

    I'm totally new here and to GTD. I happy I understand the principles but I don't know how to put a system in place to most effectively manage my tasks.

    I work with a PC, Windows XP and Outlook 2007. I am happy with Outlook 2007 in terms of diary management but not in terms of tasks. I want to use mindmapping software and will probably go with one of these 2:

    http://www.mindjet.com/us/

    http://www.conceptdraw.com/en/produc...ap/reviews.php

    BUT I am not sure if they are suitable for organising my tasks and actions that come out of the mindmaps. Has anyone used this software with MindManager?

    http://www.gyronix.com/resultmanager.php

    Does it provide the link between MindManager and Task Organisation and Outlook? Or would I be better looking at something like the Outlook Add In.

    http://gtdsupport.netcentrics.com/buy/indexd.php

    How does it compare to products like these:

    http://www.thinkingrock.com.au/demos.php

    http://myticklerfile.com/

    http://www.mylifeorganized.net/

    http://airbladesoftware.com/manual#introduction

    http://www.orionbelt.com/products.html

    I am so confused!! I work well with systems when they are in place and I am very visual. What I don't want to do is to 'waste time' entering the same information in multiple places in multiple different ways.

    PLEASE does anyone have any thoughts on this? Even if it is just to say 'avoid that one on your list' or 'this worked for me'.

    THANK YOU in advance. Fi

  • #2
    I used the MindManager/ResultManager combination for a while. It works as described in the documentation, with good synchronization with Outlook (although I used it with Outlook XP, not 2007) and excellent capabilities for viewing your tasks in different ways. Both are very powerful products. Both are very well designed.

    With that said, I no longer use that system, and would not recommend it for an initial GTD implementation.

    My experience in this forum is that many people tend to over-complicate their GTD setups, especially at first. The overhead involved in using and maintaining an unfamiliar set of tools AND developing a new set of habits can be overwhelming.

    The MindManager/ResultManager package is also fairly expensive. Yes, trial versions exist, but if you're developing GTD habits at the same time, you may find that the trial period isn't long enough to accurately evaluate the software.

    So my advice would be to keep your initial setup as simple as possible, with as few changes to your existing tools as possible. Once you've been using GTD for a while, you'll be in a better position to decide what you do and don't need.

    Good luck!

    Katherine

    Comment


    • #3
      I second Katherine's post. It's easy to get carried away with the whole software thing. If you're not careful, you fall in to the "play with my sytem" mode and never get out.

      Fi,

      One of the easiest ways to get started wiht GTD is to just order David's Folders and GTD Checklists from the store and use an entirely paper system. That would be much easier for you if you find getting started on the computer overwhelming. Obviously, calendar is best kept in workgroup software, but if your not interacting with a large team, maybe a solo paper based system would work better for you.

      You could even use a hybrid system like myself. Some lists in software (Outlook at work) which is the place where I mainly need those items, and some at home (Paper, or Outlook-home computer list) which is where I need those lists ... very context driven. I don't think you need every list with you all the time, as long as you can capture ideas and put them back in your system quicky. I also don't worry about sychronizing anything but my calendar. That's another time waster ... getting sychronization software working for stuff you really don't need to synchronize. So, one resounding vote for paper lists here.

      Comment


      • #4
        With the risk of sounding repetitive... I also agree that it's important to learn the habits and best practices of GTD first rather than focus on tools which can actually divert you away from these.

        Just like you, I started on Outlook. Then I tried loads of other tools before coming back to Outlook and deciding that it is more than adequate. When you say you are not happy with Outlook Tasks, I wonder if you mean the inability to have actions listed under each project. You can try the GTD Add-in which deals with this (and other tricks to do this without the Add-in) but I find that a link between actions and projects is most efficiently just remembered in my head. There have been numerous threads on this issue... Basically, the simplest solution (and perhaps the most boring in terms functionality) is the best.

        Also for mindmapping, I have tried software for this and have also reverted to paper, although now and again I use FreeMind which is also more than adequate, and as the name suggests, free.

        Good luck.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Fiona View Post
          I am happy with Outlook 2007 in terms of diary management but not in terms of tasks.
          Okay, so you've got the diary implementation in place already. That's good.

          Originally posted by Fiona View Post
          I want to use mindmapping software and will probably go with one of these
          Do you normally use mindmapping software? If not, is now the right time to start? Remember, you'll be having to learn lots of new habits just for GTD, and you don't want to overload.

          Originally posted by Fiona View Post
          I am so confused!! I work well with systems when they are in place and I am very visual. What I don't want to do is to 'waste time' entering the same information in multiple places in multiple different ways.
          Indeed, that's a waste of your precious time. The ideal GTD implementation doesn't require you to enter anything more than once.

          Originally posted by Fiona View Post
          PLEASE does anyone have any thoughts on this? Even if it is just to say 'avoid that one on your list' or 'this worked for me'.
          My bestest, shiniest advice is to start with paper. Paper for your project lists and NA lists, and folders or trays for your containers. Reasons are:

          1) Paper is effectively transparent, which means you won't have any learning curve, so you can concentrate wholly on learning GTD habits.

          2) Once you get au fait with GTD, you'll then have time and knowledge to be able to evaluate any software apps you fancy, whereas now you won't know whether the glitch you find is in your GTD or your system.

          3) You only have to enter things once, and entry is a breeze, particularly compared to some of the ornate data entry interfaces on some software.

          4) If you're very visual, as you say, you may find it helps to be able to spread out all your projects (I have one piece of paper for each, so my Projects list is a tray containing these sheets) or shuffle them or re-organise them in some way.

          5) Software implementations offer the chance to procrastinate wildly by investigating new software toys, and playing with current ones. You need to focus on the system, not the wrapping.

          Where I'm coming from: I'm a major software geek (ex-developer), and I use all paper except for email management. It works, it's easy, and it's cheap. It's the simplest implementation there is, and simple is good.

          Really, think seriously about at least starting with paper. After six months or so, you can then look into software toys, but paper will offer you the easiest entry path and the simplest implementation.

          Comment


          • #6
            People make good points on the value of paper-based systems and the risks of too much focus on tools. On the other hand, most people following these boards by definition are probably somewhat guilting of "fussing with their systems", whether they be paper or electronic .

            I find "electronic" mindmapping to be liberating from a planning point of view. It is visual and flexible and allows using both sides of your brain in a way that is hard to explain. If you try to do the same thing with pen and paper, you lose the ability to move things around and re-balance as your thinking evolves.

            A key to GTD is understanding the difference between "projects" and actions and identify the "next action". A mind map is a great place to work backward from your goals to the next actions (need tires -> buy tires -> check prices -> call John to get get phone number to check prices).

            I would agree with folks that evaluating and learning both MindManager and ResultsManager at once in a 21-day trial is difficult. I'd recommend springing for the $229 basic version of MindManager 6 and working with that for awhile. It is a worthwhile software investment for brainstorming alone and can be well utilized in a "paper" GTD implementation. You can always upgrade to the Pro version later for $120.

            Once you get comfortable with MindManager, you can have a look at ResultsManager with a 28 day trial. ResultsManager provides a faithful implementation of GTD that is particularly powerful in a multi-user environment and for seamless project/action connection management. It allows you to line up a sequence of tasks ahead of time, but limits your "to do" list to the "next actions". In any case, you probably should just pick one system and stick with it. Jumping from one to another is not a good use of time.

            I started with the MM/RM software (not knowing what GTD was) and slowly learned GTD over time. I think having the "guard-rails" in place via ResultsManager helped with that process vs. trying to learn and populate a full implementation on paper as a beginner.

            One key to GTD that David Allen points out is that a system that captures 100% of your "stuff" is much more effective that one that captures 95%. I would worry that collecting and managing 100% of my "stuff" on paper could require some strong GTD skills and/or a lot of transcription work to keep your lists clean. Sometimes transcription is good, as it forces some mini-review work, but sometimes it is better to have that maintenance dealt with by software behind the scenes, so you can focus on the work.

            You can find some background on ResultsManager at (http://activityowner.com), where you'll see I've been a bit guilty of "fussing with my system".

            Comment


            • #7
              unstuffed, could you elaborate a bit on the pros and cons of using one piece of paper for a projects list vs. one project PER sheet of paper? How many projects do you have (or how big is your desk?!) that you can really see all your projects at once?
              Originally posted by unstuffed View Post
              4) If you're very visual, as you say, you may find it helps to be able to spread out all your projects (I have one piece of paper for each, so my Projects list is a tray containing these sheets) or shuffle them or re-organise them in some way.

              Comment


              • #8
                Do not use any new tools.

                Do not use any new personal management tools for GTD implementation. Any tool that you are currently using (Outlook, PDA, Paper planner) is good for GTD. There is no requirement to learn new tools - just learn GTD methodology. GTD is about the process - not about the tools.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I personally use Outlook and a Blackberry and feel that this provides a complete GTD system for me. I have used a mindmapping tool for brainstorming on projects, but I don't use that as a management tool. For me the mind map is to brainstorm ideas and then I take "outputs" from the mind map and insert them as clear actions in my system.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    There is no right software...

                    I agree with the comments above that various people have made.

                    For my two pennies, I'm an Outlook with the NetCentrics plugin user.

                    I've found that the plugin really helps me process emails (primarily) but also categorising tasks (and keeping the categories consistent). The problem I've found is that I am (still) in the habit of putting due dates on next actions even if they don't necessarily absolutely have to be done on that day (i'm in the would be nice to... trap).

                    I can recommend the recent update, as the project view allows you to see what's happening on a project level.

                    I'd recommend giving this a go as you're already familiar with Outlook - once you get into the habit of getting your email inbox to empty, the rest of it doesn't seem quite so daunting.

                    Good luck !

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I use MindManager and Outlook 2007

                      I guess I will buck the paper trend, because I use MindManager Pro 6 and Outlook 2007 for my GTD system, and it works very well for me. I use MindManager as the "back end" of my system--the place where I do my next action entry and project management. Outlook 2007 serves as the "front end" of my system--it displays my next-action list, calendar, contacts, etc.

                      In MindManager, I have a project list map that has topics for each of my projects. Using the Outlook integration, I insert Outlook tasks into my maps. I mark the ones that I want to make “next actions” with a due date of today, so it will be displayed in the to-do bar in Outlook. All other items dumped into the map are either assigned a future date (so they show up on my NA list on that date) or are left without a date for scheduling in the future.

                      Everything that is marked due today shows up in my To-Do bar in Outlook because I’ve configured my views per Michael Linenberger’s “Total Workday Control Using Microsoft Outlook” (IMHO, a must-read if you’re using Outlook for task management). This gives me a list of actionable “widgets” to crank and is displayed right next to my calendar, which makes managing my tasks and hard landscape possible in one view. When I mark something complete, it disappears from my Outlook to-do bar and is marked complete in MindManager, so there is little repetitive data entry to keep everything synced. Plus I get a nice little list of actions I’ve completed for each project.

                      While paper is simple and may or may not work for you. I love my system for the following reasons:

                      1) My system solves the age-old issue of tying the master project list to the next actions list. I see all of the actions that I’ve dumped for a project in MindManager. However, I work from my To-Do bar in Outlook, which only displays what I’ve decided to act upon now.

                      2) This system actually has little overhead to it. Beyond entering action items, all I really have to do is assign or change due dates for my actions to manage my next action list. Uncompleted items (gasp!) are automatically carried over to the next day and flagged with red, so there’s no recopying a daily next action list. Completed items instantly disappear from my next action list.

                      3) I can drag and drop items to/from my “someday maybe” list as necessary.

                      4) It really speeds up my weekly review. I can see all of my projects in one place (my project list mind map) and can tell if a project doesn’t have NAs assigned or aren’t progressing because they arean action is “hung”. Since my tablet PC has my meeting notes, project support materials, and calendar in one package, I can usually work my way through my weekly review mind map in about 30 minutes.

                      Of course this system is bound by having a computer handy, but I use a tablet PC for everything (task and project management, meeting notes, document creation), so this isn’t that big of a problem for me. For situations where using my tablet is impossible, I use index cards or a free service called Jott (which I learned about herein the David Co forums) for capturing stuff. Jott allows me to leave voice mail which is transcribed into emails and sent to my work inbox. The index cards, of course, are just tossed into my inbox for processing.

                      My overall suggestion would be to use whatever system you think would work best for you and stick with it for a few weeks. If you feel like it’s not working, give something else a try. I’ve been doing GTD for a little over a year, and my current system has been a work in progress over the course of that year. I can really see the difference in my productivity since I’ve been using it, so the effort and cost invested in has definitely been worth it.

                      BTW, I wrote a blog post about my system that has a couple pictures. You can find it here

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        The GTD Big Picture

                        I think it's more important to get a good grasp of the GTD big picture and then finding tools (digital or analog) that are compatible with the way you work. For example I use a lot of web based tools because I work out of my home office and I need to be able to access my information from the road.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by ActionGirl View Post
                          unstuffed, could you elaborate a bit on the pros and cons of using one piece of paper for a projects list vs. one project PER sheet of paper? How many projects do you have (or how big is your desk?!) that you can really see all your projects at once?
                          I'm not unstuffed, but I can say that I have 11 projects at the moment. And I don't even make progress on all of them every week. I could certainly keep track of each one on one piece of paper, and spread them out on my desk.

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