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  • difficulty with switching between paper and digital

    Aloha everyone -
    I've spent the last 2 years experimenting with GTD and find I spend more time switching systems than actually getting things done. I've tried an old day timer, then all outlook, then outlook with NA and project lists in RTM, and others. I keep going back to try paper - any advice on how to stay with one system, preferably paper to manage lists? This is probably covered with older threads - so feel free to point me there instead of replying. Thanks!

  • #2
    Originally posted by brianmc View Post
    any advice on how to stay with one system, preferably paper to manage lists? !
    1. No system is perfect and the urge to tinker while super common, is just another way to avoid actually doing things. Perhaps it will help some to remind yourself of this when the urge to tinker hits. David wrote something about this, but no idea if it is still posted.

    2. One other thought--perhaps if you thought through what you liked i.e. what parts of the various systems you have used worked for you, there might be some combination of tools that you already know that might work. For example I like seeing month at a glance on a big paper calendar (or large computer screen at home) and it did not work for me keeping calendars just in e.g. PDA. On the other hand, to do lists work very well for me in digital format. So printing out the calendar to take with me and having the to dos in electronic format is a combo that has worked for me.

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    • #3
      Originally Posted by brianmc

      I deal with this way too much. I'm in sales, work from my home, but travel a bit as well. If you saw my desk right now it has my laptops, a letter and jr. size circa notebook, index cards, and my Blackberry. I struggle mainly with which size notebook to use. I love having the letter size because it has more room and I write big, "but" i hate taking it on planes, client meetings etc. I'm trying to stick with the jr. size for portability and my Blackberry. I use the BB for contacts, calender, and I use "TaskMaster" for my errands lists. Context go in the notebook along with context lists. I need to stick with one sized notebook and the BB, but I still can't decide. Frustrating!!!

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      • #4
        Paper

        Paper does it for me, but I too have switched back and forth between different sizes in the eternal conflict between portability and having enough page space to write on. I finally, and belatedly, realized that I don't have to haul my projects around everywhere I go. (My situation; I realize that others may differ.)

        Right now my calendar is in a half-size (5 1/2 x 8 1/2) 3-ring binder with pages from Uncalendar (search for it). The right-hand page has spaces for one week plus an area for that week's most important tasks. The left-hand page is available for random spontaneous notes and, with regular processing, functions nicely as one of two in-boxes. My other in-box is a wire basket. (Disclaimer: I have no connection with Uncalendar except as a happy customer.)

        My project list is in an ordinary full-size (8 1/2 x 11) 3-ring binder with plain ruled pages, which I have numbered. The first page is a table of contents to my projects. Succeeding pages have the projects themselves. At the top of each page is the project name and location of support materials. The rest of the page is for project planning. So far it's working pretty well. The notebook itself is lean and mean, and allows me to go instantly to the appropriate file folder, book on shelf, or whatever the support material may be, without stopping to wonder where it is.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by brianmc View Post
          Aloha everyone -
          Yeah, you definitely have to work on your work ethics (kidding).

          Originally posted by brianmc View Post
          any advice on how to stay with one system, preferably paper to manage lists?
          I am all digital and never managed to be happy with paper stuff, except when I wrote down everything in one Moulescine. Here's why I think that worked:

          1. With each page filled, I created more of what I called an "artefact". A little temple of my productivity. I could flip the pages and see how awesome I was.

          2. The way the Moulescine notebooks are build played an important role. The haptic qualities of class-A paper, the feel of compactness when the notebook was closed stand out among others. Compared to that a ring binder feels like a tree loosing its leafs in the autumn.

          3. I used colored pencils and a ruler.

          4. I worked my perfectionism into the process of creating the artefact. Turning the pages a history of development to ever finer craftmansship of writing and completing lists was observed.


          I stopped using the system when I got a new computer.

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          • #6
            I also love paper I think mainly because I'm able to take it with me in the meetings, and when I go shopping or so...

            The way I do is that I'm keeping everything digitally in TaskWriter and I print tasks as Excel whenever I need to make a paper list.

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            • #7
              The Truth about Paper vs. Digital

              It's best to start with paper, but eventually you have to tailor a hybrid solution that will work the best for you. I had the same experience and eventually had to design my own system.

              About the closest you can get to an all-digital system is purchasing a Fujitsu ScanSnap.
              Last edited by Todd V; 08-08-2012, 01:59 PM. Reason: Updated the link

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              • #8
                brianmc,

                Here is an earlier thread with discussions about paper systems:

                http://www.davidco.com/forum/showthread.php?t=5803

                And one of an individual's experiment with paper/hybrid system:

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


                My apologies for the long post, but I thought I would share my experience with paper versus digital. I have also been practicing GTD for almost 2 years now and initially experimented with paper vs digital. I initially liked paper because it was more "real", tactile and visual, which helped me remember my calendar and next actions and was generally more convenient (e.g. no boot up time, doesn't crash, can jot down notes quickly). I tried different paper-based systems using 3x5 note cards, lists written down in a Moleskine notebook, loose leaf lists in a binder, etc.

                There are several discussion threads on this site and other GTD blogs on the topic of paper vs digital vs hybrid arrangements. For me, I have concluded that digital, in general, works best for my specific situation but the right answer depends on the individual.

                For several years, I was a consultant traveling every week and so the digital path provided me with a greater level of flexibility and mobility. In the past year, I changed jobs to reduce my travel and finally have my own office/workspace (vs a temporary one - as a consultant, I was always borrowing a temporary conference room or cubicle). Yet, I continue remain MOSTLY digital, with only a couple of caveats. Below, I provide a little more detail of my set up.

                1) Calendar: Because my company uses Lotus Notes for scheduling, I keep all my calendar information in Lotus Notes, which sync with my Blackberry. The nice thing is that meeting invitations that arrive via email can be processed and will sync up nearly real time with my Blackberry. This is handy when impromptu meeting requests arrive at various points during the day because I have a high degree of confidence that my calendar is up to date and that I won't be double booking myself. I obviously have the option to print if I want to see and carry around my daily or weekly schedule. But I have found that on some days, meeting schedules are so dynamic that the schedule that I print in the morning is obsolete by noon.


                2) Contacts: I pretty much have always kept my contact lists in digital format (previously in various Palm devices and now on a Blackberry). It is very convenient for me to call someone or look up an address when it is digital. I also keep notes on other items such as birthdays, names of spouses or kids, etc. which makes recalling such items when I need it very convenient.

                3) List Manager: My list manager is digital. Nothing fancy. I just use the Task function in Lotus Notes, which syncs with my Blackberry and vice-versa. Originally, I did play around with paper next action and project lists...but after a while I became frustrated because I found myself doing a lot of rewriting or shuffling actions from one context list to another (e.g. an initial action@call would become @waiting for or triggered @online or @agenda next actions). I found updating my lists easier digitally (e.g., copy / paste).


                The other nice aspect of my digital list manager on a Blackberry is that it is always with me in case I need it. For example, just the other day, as I was driving home from work, I decided to stop by the Home Depot because I knew I had to get some items there, but didn't immediately remember what the items were. So I pulled out my Blackberry, filtered my next actions to see just the @Errand-Home Depot list and bought the three items I needed. In another example earlier this year during my annual physical exam, I was able to review some of the health questions with my doctor that I had captured in my @Agenda-Doctor list. Again, it was in my Blackberry and readily available at a moment's notice.

                Finally, a general aspect about digital that is very positive for me is the ease by which I can back things up and the associated peace of mind that it gives me. Each week, I back up my Lotus Notes databases and Blackberry information on an external hard drive. For paper, you can indeed copy or scan paper lists and calendars to back them up, but I feel the digital process is more efficient.

                A few caveats to the digital aspects of my set up where paper is still involved:

                First, I do have a DAILY TASK LIST on paper. On it, I only write down 3 to 5 key next actions that I want to accomplish that day after reviewing all my context lists either the evening before or early in the morning. This way, I am able to clarify for myself the FOCUSED or CRITICAL items that I want or need to accomplish before the chaos of the day begins. I realize that this may not be proper GTD methodology, but it is a slight modification that has worked for me. I also realize that the day could turn to chaos if emergencies flare up and my list goes out the window...but at least I have a starting point for daily goals. I have also found that on most days I am able to accomplish the items on that Daily Task List (without too many emergencies completely blowing it up). One of the nice things of having it on paper (it's first page in my letter-sized Levenger notebook), is that it is in front of me throughout the day. Even as I run to meetings or are on conference calls or get distracted by someone stopping by my office, I can always be reminded of what I need or want to get done that day.

                Second caveat to digital: I do print out my Project and Next Action lists on paper to work through during my weekly reviews. I have found that I am less distracted by incoming emails or other online temptations by working with the lists on paper rather than looking at them on the screen. It is easier on the eyes and I can review them anywhere (e.g., in the back patio, on the living room couch), which gives me more flexibility.

                Third: I do still take meeting notes on paper once in a while. In general, I try to capture notes digitally (I type faster than I can write and I can quickly send the notes out to everyone in attendance). But there are times when jotting down notes in my notebook is more appropriate versus clicking away on my laptop (e.g., short impromptu meetings, interviews with clients where I want to do more listening, etc.).

                Anyway, I hope this helps and good luck on your GTD journey.

                Mahalo and Aloha,
                David
                Last edited by djc2008; 07-30-2009, 08:59 AM.

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                • #9
                  I have always used digital to deal with anything that comes my way, but as of late I realize that sometimes I'm stuck in places without my laptop and only my smartphone. I jot notes and add events to the calender on my phone, and forget to transfer it to the laptop. In addition, while I'm doing paper-based work sometimes I like to disconnect the computer so I'm not distracted by it. This means I have no access to my projects list, etc.

                  As such, I've recently switched over to plain paper. I use a Moleskine now and it's absolutely amazing - I can't imagine why I never switched sooner.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by VivianLeeMIT View Post
                    I have always used digital to deal with anything that comes my way, but as of late I realize that sometimes I'm stuck in places without my laptop and only my smartphone. I jot notes and add events to the calender on my phone, and forget to transfer it to the laptop. In addition, while I'm doing paper-based work sometimes I like to disconnect the computer so I'm not distracted by it. This means I have no access to my projects list, etc.

                    As such, I've recently switched over to plain paper. I use a Moleskine now and it's absolutely amazing - I can't imagine why I never switched sooner.
                    Can you tell me about Moleskin which you have used ? Thanks!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      UCT, Moleskine, Binder

                      I use paper, and have predominantly used paper during my GTD experience. I have modified my gear several times, like any good GTD'er--gear tweaking can become a near-obsession, but I digress...

                      My current paper setup is my favorite thus far. it is simple and FAST, even faster than the last setup which I thought was fast.

                      I carry a bag/briefcase with me to every destination. If I'm home, it's there. If I'm at the office, it's there. If I'm at the movies, it's in the car. The reason for this will be explained below.

                      I use 3 sizes of paper so I can use the advantages of each of them. There is no "ideal for everything" size, so this is the simplest system I've found to use the benefits of each.

                      have a UCT, a Moleskine, and a three ring 8.5x11 binder. The UCT is ALWAYS in my pocket unless I'm naked or underwater. The Moleskine is with me anytime I am somewhere I may want to review my Calendar, context lists (Next Actions), or Projects list. The binder is kept in my briefcase.

                      The way it works is thus:

                      Going about day to day I may only have my UCT on me. I scribble my thought down, tuck the card into the back of the UCT or a pants pocket until I am back to my briefcase. My briefcase contains my portable Inbox, which I toss into my permanent intray when I'm back at the office.

                      The Moleskine contains my Calendar, next Actions list, and Projects LIST (not plans or support). The idea is to just have a very portable way of carrying information in way that will not be misplaced (no dropped 3x5's) and yet not be too bulky to set next to me at dinner. It is a very inconspicuous size at 5x8 or so.

                      The Calendar is just a section of pages. First page: past dates/events I still want to be reminded of. Middle pages: 1 page per week for the month. Last page: Upcoming dates (beyond the ones I have dated). I prepare one month of pages at a time, but do not care that August and September are not adjacent, for instance.

                      The Binder contains my Project Plans, Lists, and Reference. If I have just created a new project, I write the project on the list (Moleskine) and instantly start a mindmap, which gets tucked into my Project Plans--until I have a project plan, that is the place to write stuff.

                      If the project warrants it, the mind map then gets converted into a single word processing file in outline form with a TABLE OF CONTENTS (which contains all the headings i.e. moving parts of the project). I print page 1 of each file and that is my project plan.

                      Anything new to add to each project gets written by hand onto my mindmap or Project Plan until the next Weekly Review.

                      The binder also contains any list I can come up with: Vocab words to look up, good quotes, movies to see, someday/maybe, etc. If it is not specific to a project and I may add to it, it goes into Lists. Example: my Address book is in Lists because I add to it regularly. Same with Accounts Payable, etc.

                      The reference section of the binder is similar to Lists, except they are not things I typically add or subtract from. Example: GTD workflow chart, GTD Weekly review sheet.

                      By having my briefcase with me to every destination, I have access to all of the information I need to be productive anywhere.

                      I also have a small external hard drive that carries an updated copy of all of my desktop's data so I can access those from my laptop if I need to. For running around town, I just keep a copy of my Documents and Inbox items from the desktop on a USB flash drive.

                      This writeup makes it sound more complicated than it is. The binder and Moleskine are the central hubs - binder for less-accessed stuff and Moleskine for the most-accessed stuff (Next action lists, Calendar, etc.). Neither one gets cluttered up this way.

                      Hope this gives someone some ideas.

                      JohnV474

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by JohnV474 View Post
                        If the project warrants it, the mind map then gets converted into a single word processing file in outline form with a TABLE OF CONTENTS (which contains all the headings i.e. moving parts of the project). I print page 1 of each file and that is my project plan.
                        JohnV474
                        John, would love to see an example of this outline with Table of Contents - sounds exactly like something i should be doing!

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                        • #13
                          I too have been struggling between "system/technology" ideas.

                          I got into GTD when I had my iPhone and was looking for a Task List application for it. I quickly started to encounter the phrase "GTD" in the app reviews, and it was not long before I bought the book (and joined the forum!).

                          I had been trying a couple of very basic Task List apps, but moved to Things fairly quickly. Being unimpressed with the relationships between the developers and their customers, I eventually moved to OmniFocus for the iPhone and Mac.

                          Then...I fell off the GTD wagon for a little while (as many of us seem to do). I was still doing my Weekly Review, but it was more lip service than anything else. Also, I started to realise that I didn't want to be "tied" to any company's IT technology (friends of mine use Android, Google Calendar, Microsoft Outlook, Lotus, etc.).

                          In 2006 I had bought a FiloFax, and had really been enjoying using it that year: before I got the iPhone.

                          Suddenly I realised that pen 'n' paper was still the way to go for me. I restocked the FiloFax just before Christmas 2009, and I am now back in a full paper system, and feeling much better about things. For me, it is just so much more versatile: easier to make sketches, easier to share the info with someone else (just rip a page out of the file, photocopying for multiple parties if necessary).

                          Rejuvenating my FiloFax has really given my GTD the kickstart it needed. I see a lot of people talking about Moleskine on here, but very few with FF - does anyone else use this system?

                          For me, it's calendar, journal, projects and tasklists all in one

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                          • #14
                            ^^ *raises hand*
                            Filofax devotee here too (since 1985). I've tried numerous systems over the years, digital and paper, and paper has always won out, and of the various paper options, Filofax works the best for me, both aesthetically and in practical ways.

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                            • #15
                              I have an A5 Finsbury and a Personal Classic Filofax. I like the Classic the best because of the smaller footprint.

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