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GTD and Disability

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  • GTD and Disability

    First off, I'll say that I'm still quite new to GTD. Predictably, I started feeling empowered as soon as I began collecting all of my "stuff" somewhere outside of my own head for once. I feel that I could use some suggestions from the greater community, however, because of what some might consider a unique situation.

    What I'm trying to figure out is the best way to work around my physical disability. I have a mild form of Cerebral Palsy, which, while I have been able to function reasonably well (although, I'm sure, nothing close to what my potential is), requires the use of a wheelchair and affects my fine-motor control to a considerable degree. I can write legibly by hand, for example, but nowhere near as fast as I can type.

    I understand the importance of having a small number of "buckets" that are accessible in as many contexts as possible, so that one won't miss out on the opportunity to record some bit of useful information. However, GTD's emphasis on notepads and file folders is a bit intimidating for me because of my physical limitations. At the same time, I do want to use GTD to realize my full potential, and not just as a safety net when things get out of hand.

    I do have a laptop that I take with me to school, but it wouldn't be efficient to pull it out every time I had an idea. Would a digital voice recorder be a good investment? If so, can anyone suggest particular brands or models? I just had that idea while writing this post, so I'll also start doing my own research on that front. I still have to work out where to place a physical inbox.

    I am a post-secondary student; I have taken a number of ideas from DA's approach to college life outlined here. Also, I went ahead and made a free Tracks account at I still feel like I'm missing something, though. Any general suggestions around implementing GTD in this case would be greatly appreciated I will likely use this thread to document my progress, and any observations that I have.

    Thanks in advance! I look forward to getting to know you and working on this together.

    Last edited by cautha; 05-26-2009, 05:06 PM. Reason: Forgot to mention wheelchair!

  • #2
    A voice recorder does sound like the best option. I've never used one, so I can't recommend one.

    I use Jott as a personal voice recorder; it's a US$5/month service. I call the Jott phone number, record a short message, and the message is automatically transcribed and emailed to me. Works well for me.

    You could keep a Hipster PDA in a shirt pocket, if you ever decide to go down that route. I'm a big fan of that particular solution.

    Have you considered a digital PDA? iPhone or Blackberry?


    • #3
      It depends

      I would say it depends on your field of study whether a voice recorder would work i guess.

      When I get an idea, it sometimes is in the form of math, diagrams or in other ways that are easier to capture on paper. This is why I like paper over voice, but if your idea's are more like: "I need to look up whether A is suitable for B", I think voice is a good way to go as long as you clarify and process everything you capture.

      I agree with Brent that a Hipster PDA is a nice solution for capture. I also carry one. Perhaps a combination of both? Sometimes you might not want to capture a voice message because you're in a crowd.

      Some questions and ideas:

      Keep your lists in a place that you can easily access. You say you type fast, so perhaps you should keep your lists in a computer. Do you always have your laptop with you when you want to know your options? If not, perhaps you should print a copy regularly and merge everything in your weekly review.

      Do you have the possibility of accessing the Internet a lot? If not, maybe you should not go for a web-solution.

      Remember that it is a methodology. It does not prescribe a specific tool of way of implementing. You should look for a solution that suits you. Keep in mind that the system is there to support you, not the other way around. If something doesn't work for you, try something else.

      Keep us posted!


      • #4
        The Hipster PDA does sound cool; I'm a fan of minimalism. I guess I have to decide whether to go with the dirt-cheap option and learn to write more quickly, or bite the bullet and get a digital recorder.

        As far as digital PDAs are concerned, I don't know much about them, but they seem to be a bit busy -- I don't need something with tons of features. I am due to get a new phone, though, so maybe an iPhone is in the cards.

        Thanks for your reply!


        P.S. Did a quick search, and Jott is apparently available in Canada now. There's a similar service called Reqall, as well, in case people are interested. It seems to be slightly cheaper, but might not have as many features.


        • #5
          The "voice recorder" I use is my work phone voice mail; I probably leave myself more messages than anyone else. Not sure if that'll work for you in your case, but perhaps it will.


          • #6
            I am disabled as well, although i don't have the issues with fine motor control, i still don't get along with pen and paper. My joints and tendons tend to slip out of place.
            Luckily GTD is very tool agnostic. The emphasis on paper in the book is really on the basis of cheap implementation. Use whatever works for you. Dictation, snapping pictures, secret code, barely legible scribbles....

            I personally am quite fond of my iPhone. I use and love OmniFocus, but there is certainly a wealth of free list managers. If you struggle with motor skills the iPhone keyboard can be good or bad. It's not tactile, and the letters can be a bit hard to hit, like all mobile keyboards, but if you keep your finger down, you can shift from the wrong letter to the right one. It's definitely a matter of taste and trying it out. And as a bonus you can use the iPhone as a voice recorder as well.

            For me, both GTD and the iPhone have been a good thing, disability wise. GTD has helped me a lot with keeping up with the right tasks when i have the energy for them (although i still struggle with that, there is a thread a few pages back), and generally avoiding to waste energy i could use better. Having the right tools, and knowing what you could be doing is worth a lot


            • #7
              GTDAcademic: I do like math, but I don't plan on studying it. I'm in between schools, at the moment; particularly attractive, though, is the joint Law degree/Masters of Social Work offered at McGill University in Montreal. I just hope I get in

              I do find myself at a computer fairly often, since I try to take my laptop everywhere, but I don't always feel like pulling it out.

              A combination of HPDA/voice recorder/laptop seems like it would keep me on track. In class, I tend to take brief notes and expand them when I have a chance to collect my thoughts -- presumably, the HPDA would work the same way, and the voice recorder would be for when I was too lazy even for that

              I do plan on installing Tracks locally on one of my machines, but even though I have limited experience setting up a web server with PHP/MySQL, I find Rails pretty confusing, at least on Windows. When I do manage it, I'll be able to export all of my stuff from the website and stick it on my local drive. Granted, this would all be much easier if I switched to Linux or OS X on a permanent basis. If worse comes to worst, I'll just have to wait for Bitnami to release version 1.7 of their Tracks stack. (Wow, that was fast. It's now at 1.7 I may have to give it a try, since I do like it.)

              I appreciate all the input! I certainly have lots to think about and try.



              • #8
                Originally posted by Linada View Post
                And as a bonus you can use the iPhone as a voice recorder as well.
                Cool! I didn't know that. I'll have to try one out.

                @Roger: That's a good idea, too, and definitely cost-effective. Before I can phone my work phone, though, I need to get a job



                • #9
                  Digital PDAs don't ahve to be complicated, but you'd need to select one that you were happy inputting stuff into.

                  The main options for input are -
                  • using the stylus for handwriting recognition (it's quite fussy on accuracy, so may not suit you)
                  • tapping on an on screen keyboard with a stylus (a lot easier than handwriting recognition, but the "keys" are quite small - on my Palm Tx the letter keys are 3.5mm square)
                  • using a plug in keyboard (you can even get a fold up soft keyboard)
                  • using a PDA which has a built in keyboard (sizes are variable, but obviously a lot smaller than a laptop keyboard).

                  good luck with whatever you choose



                  • #10
                    After a quick search, I found this article on Canadian iPhone plans, and I'm hoping that the situation has improved in the year or so since the article was written. I find it hard to believe that even Mexico has (or did have) better-priced iPhone plans than we do in Canada. Oh, well . . . that dream is not entirely dead -- I'll check w/ my cell provider -- but for now, I'll take it as a sign to explore other options

                    My initial impression is that tapping with a stylus or using a built-in keyboard would be the easiest, with a built-in keyboard possibly being less annoying. At the moment my mobile is a Sony Ericsson W810i, and despite how small it is, I have gotten used to using the keypad for text messaging. Unfortunately, I can find very few digital PDAs on the market that don't double as phones.


                    • #11
                      Just got off the phone with my go-to technology guy and he said that for the price of a good digital recorder -- with an SD slot, and possibly support for Dragon NaturallySpeaking, which I use sometimes when generating ideas for papers and such -- I'm looking at $300+ anyway and I might as well get an iPod Touch.

                      Has anyone here used the microphone attachment that can be bought for an iPod Touch? This solution is kind of attractive to me if it would work, because then I (presumably) have all of the features (and apps) I like about the iPhone without the actual phone and the outrageous data plan.

                      Furthermore, just out of curiosity: for anyone that has used the Touch's microphone, how well would it be able to record a lecture? This isn't something that I would absolutely require, but it does interest me.

                      The reason being, tech also mentioned something that he often recommends to students who digitally record stuff, which plugs into a recording device's microphone jack. The student gives the prof a clip-on mic, and is able to get a much better recording that way, compared to recording from atop a desk. However, I don't think that the Touch could accommodate such a thing, so I'm interested in knowing how capable the Touch's microphone accessory is.

                      Thanks, as always.



                      • #12
                        Originally posted by cautha View Post
                        urthermore, just out of curiosity: for anyone that has used the Touch's microphone, how well would it be able to record a lecture?
                        The more important factor here, is were you place the microphone. If the lecturer is cooperative in some way it could be very well possible to get hight-quality sound from some pocket microphone. On the other hand bad positioning or genrally bad accustics in the hall can be a challenge for even high-end equipment.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Cpu_Modern View Post
                          On the other hand bad positioning or genrally bad accustics in the hall can be a challenge for even high-end equipment.
                          Good point. I'll have to keep that in mind.

                          So, has anyone used the microphone accessory for the iPod Touch? I'm kind of excited to try the app "Things"



                          • #14
                            I'm a little confused... are you trying to record personal notes, or classroom lectures? For lectures, the easiest would be to plug into the lecture hall's sound board -- if the lecture is amplified the hall will have one -- with whatever recording device you like. Depending on the university's disability policy, you might be able to get them to record (and possibly transcribe) lectures on your behalf.



                            • #15
                              Sorry: the main purpose would be to record personal notes.

                              Re: lectures, I was just curious about how good the microphone for the Touch actually is, and whether or not it would be possible.

                              EDIT: I should say that the majority of my classes take place in what is just a large classroom. There is a lecture hall, but it hardly gets used.
                              Last edited by cautha; 05-28-2009, 11:57 AM. Reason: More information