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Getting started, analog or digital implementation?

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  • Getting started, analog or digital implementation?

    Quick background :
    I'm a student meaning that I'm roaming at the campus throughout the day (attending courses, working at the computer lab, the library,...). Nevertheless, I'll work most of the time at my desk on or near my computer.

    I have a problem with the analog/digital divide:
    On the analog side I have heaps of notes about ideas/todos/idea of articles to write and I wouldn't mind using a low-tech paper system.

    On the digital side most of my projects are done on my computer.
    I have huge text files with things to do, reference material, project related stuff, ...
    I don't use email much (only check about once a day).


    Weither I put the gtd system on my computer and I'll still have a small analog part (physical inbox, printing/writing stuff I'll have to do out of my office).

    Weither I implement a paper based gtd system and I'll have to dump all the notes that are on my computer and lose the computer convenience (e.g.: this page talks about this project I have, I'll paste the URL in my todo.txt file)

    I have no idea what to choose ! The more I think about it the less clear it becomes

  • #2
    I don't think this is a simple either-or decision. Some things (URL's for example) are inherently digital, and are best kept in digital storage. Other things (to-do's, appointments, etc) can be kept wherever you feel most comfortable.

    I, for example, am currently operating in a hybrid mode. My to-do's (projects, next actions, someday/maybe, and waiting-for) are kept on paper using a hipster PDA. My calendar is electronic. My project support materials are mostly electronic, but I occasionally need physical storage to keep things like brochures, tickets, snail mail, etc.

    Ultimately, it comes down to: what do you trust, and what is going to be easiest for you to stick with.

    Whatever you do, don't make it more complicated than it has to be. That way lies madness.

    If you're having trouble deciding, then just try something -- even if you think there might be a better option you haven't explored yet. Give it at least 30 days, then evaluate.

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    • #3
      PS. For your project support materials (eg. your giant text file)...

      Consider splitting the giant text file into individual files for each project. Then keep those files close to where you'll be using them.

      I use multiple computers. The one I use for work contains text files, bookmarks, MS Word docs, spreadsheets, code, etc. for work-related projects. My home computer contains the files I need to support the things I will only do on my home computer. For stuff that I might want to work on in both places, I either put it on a USB drive, on a shared hosting server, or some other web-based service (eg., I use del.icio.us for URL's that I may want to reference from any computer).

      Also, make certain you always carry "capture materials". For me, this some blank 3x5 notecards and a pen. If you think of something you want to do or research, just jot it down and process it later that day -- this might mean transcribing it into your text files.

      Finally, be certain that your project support files don't become a dumping ground for both to-do's and reference material. Your to-do's belong on "project" and "next action" lists. It is OK to keep a project plan in your reference file, but that should serve as input to your next actions; not as your to-do list.

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      • #4
        I agree with jknecht. You don't have to choose. Use paper for some things and digital for others. Whatever works for you.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by jknecht View Post
          Finally, be certain that your project support files don't become a dumping ground for both to-do's and reference material. Your to-do's belong on "project" and "next action" lists. It is OK to keep a project plan in your reference file, but that should serve as input to your next actions; not as your to-do list.
          Can you expound on this? I beleive that as you are thinking about and brainstorming a project you will generate a lot of todo's and reference info and just plain ideas that should all properly go in the file or files (physical and/or electronic) that are related to that project. Sure the specific next actions may not all be listed and at least in my projects a lot of things are actually mini-projects in and of themselves, but still a lot of todo stuff should be in the project file.

          Why think of it again if you've already thought of it once?

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Oogiem View Post
            Can you expound on this? I beleive that as you are thinking about and brainstorming a project you will generate a lot of todo's and reference info and just plain ideas that should all properly go in the file or files (physical and/or electronic) that are related to that project. Sure the specific next actions may not all be listed and at least in my projects a lot of things are actually mini-projects in and of themselves, but still a lot of todo stuff should be in the project file.

            Why think of it again if you've already thought of it once?
            My point was not to say that you shouldn't do project planning and/or store future todo's in the project support materials. In fact, I agree with you that the project support files should include a project plan if it is in any way complex.

            Rather, I was trying to suggest that the next action should not STAY in the support file. The next action belongs on a 'Next Action' list within the correct context so that you don't have to go hunting through all your project support files in order to decide what needs to be done next.

            Of course, once you have completed the next action, you may need to consult your project support materials in order to know the next next action; and if you aren't going to do that next action right away, it should be recorded on your 'Next Action' list. The cycle repeats from there.
            Last edited by jknecht; 07-30-2008, 12:47 PM.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by jknecht View Post
              the next action should not STAY in the support file. The next action belongs on a 'Next Action' list within the correct context
              Thanks, that makes sense.

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              • #8
                Paper or Digital

                Originally posted by Brent View Post
                I agree with jknecht. You don't have to choose. Use paper for some things and digital for others. Whatever works for you.
                Actually the system David Allen describes that he uses is very hybrid. He says he collects low tech - paper and pencil - since it is much faster, but that he organizes high tech - palm device - essentially because it is compact and allows him to be productive anywhere (for which he has a high bias).

                I sitll get caught up in having everything in one or the other, but I am finally getting away from it...

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                • #9
                  Don't try to set up the "perfect" system

                  I struggled with this for a while. If you try to be too perfect in setting up your system, you'll never use it. Just get something working and evaluate regularly whether or not you like it.

                  Paper is easy to start with, but if you want small and compact, go digital with your calendar and lists (that is, if you have a Palm or other PDA to go with it).

                  I do mostly digital organizing, but I still have a low-tech "Read and Review" bucket for things that take more that two minutes to read. I don't type those on lists. Also, I have support material in both paper and digital form. I manage both in a similar manner; having two mediums causes me no grief at all.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by ellobogrande View Post
                    having two mediums causes me no grief at all.

                    Yes. After all, we live in a world of many mediums.

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                    • #11
                      Thanks for all the input.
                      I have been putting off the initial collection because I couldn't decide on a system. I'll just go with txt files on my computer plus a few physical things and see how it goes.

                      Tomorrow's gonna be fun!

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Monkeyget View Post
                        Thanks for all the input.
                        I have been putting off the initial collection because I couldn't decide on a system. I'll just go with txt files on my computer plus a few physical things and see how it goes.
                        If you're referring to putting your action lists in .txt files on your computer, I caution you that your lists will be out of sight and out of mind when you don't have your computer on and with you. So, when you have access to a phone but not your computer, do you have easy access to the list of all the phone calls you need to make? If not, your mind won't trust your system and if that happens, it's almost not worth having one.

                        If you want to keep your GTD system (calendar, lists, etc) in digital format, I strongly suggest you get yourself a PDA. David Allen uses the Palm, and I do, too.

                        If that's not an option but you still want to store things digitally and perhaps print them into a paper system for portability, I suggest you use organizing software like Microsoft Outlook (if you use it for e-mail already) or Palm Desktop, which is free. If you chose to get a Palm later, you could simply synch your data and you're in business.

                        Good luck!

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                        • #13
                          One thing you might want to consider. The reason I've based my system on a PDA is that I want to have the basics with me wherever I am e.g. if you are at class, or any place out with your friends you can have a PDA with you and have schedule, all phone numbers, list of homework assignments, etc. with you.

                          Paper is nicer for some things, and I've dabbled with keeping a paper calendar IN ADDDITION to the calendar in my PDA.

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                          • #14
                            Next Actions - On Computer

                            I'm a very tactile person and have just set up my system to be predominantly paper-based. However, I do a fair amount of emailing (unfortunately have to keep up three systems) and currently have a @Reply folder on each in addition to a paper-based "On Computer" next actions list. I'd prefer to be able to consolidate these 4 lists into one. Does anyone have any thoughts on how to do this? Does anyone separate "email" versus "on computer" (non-email) next action lists?

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                            • #15
                              Contextualized system

                              I've been tinkering with my "system" for years and by now it's sort of contextualized. I keep my calendar on paper; I find PDA's too fiddly and not providing as good an overview. My lists etc are either on the computer or on paper in with my calendar (filofax loose leaf) depending on the context of the lists. The only drawback with a paper calendar is that it won't "ping" me, so when it's critical that I'm reminded of an appointment, I set the alarm on my cell phone.

                              Given that you don't have much e-mail, if it were me, I'd go predominantly paper and tweak it from there, ie move things to the computer when I got frustrated with the paper stuff.

                              Best wishes!
                              Christina

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