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Fractal Implementation, or, On the Dangers of David Allen's Finger

BnugWiki : GtDBackToBasics

While doing some file pruning yesterday, I ran across a printout of a page I’d visited (and linked to, via del.icio.us) back in January.

In it, BigNosed UglyGuy throws down a sobering bitch-slap on the impulse to tinker endlessly with your GTD system—to try and catch yourself as you start into the inevitably fractal “Cycle of Implementation.” All the better, one hopes, to stop your meta-work before your head slips—completely efficiently, mind you—up your butt. Quoting:

  1. First, understand that the primary focus should always be the projects & tasks at hand, rather than the mechanics of the methodology.
  2. Scrap (or freeze for the time being at least) the extant implementation - trying to retro-engineer is just backward tweaking…
  3. Start again immediately with just tasks — a To Do list (minimal notes) and hard landscape stuff in Calendar…
  4. Only when the basics are working smoothly, start reintroducing the elements of one’s preferred implementation…

Yep. Brilliant, and right on.

This is my stake in the ground about GTD: if you can stay focused on drawing from its best practices to get more of the important things in your life accomplished, then you’ll be a happy kid. For real. But if, like a seeming majority of people I encounter these days, you allow yourself to obsess endlessly over the minutest details of implementation and maintenance—well, you’re screwed. You’re wasting your time.

Not to rely too heavily on the Zen parables here, but keep checking yourself: are you gazing at the moon, or just staring at David Allen’s finger?

Teri Lester's picture

Hey Ella, I'll go you...

Hey Ella, I'll go you one better on the Mead 5-Star.

I'm too big-boned to be happy with anything on my hips - hipsters, cell phones, (shudder) fanny packs all make me cringe.

My life-system is two sturdy pockets in every pair of pants and skirt that I own. (I even put pockets in my wedding dress, not kidding.) In one pocket are paper and plastic: driver's license, money cards (debit, credit, gift), actual money, any receipts or notes that I've collected since my last dump. The other pocket is metal: keys and coins and jangly things.

My note system has to fit in the credit card pocket, and I have not found any notebook that small (although I haven't been to the Hello Kitty store yet).

Instead I am using adding machine tape. I fold it accordion-style to the same size as the width of the credit cards. (Not the length of the card - the tape is slightly wider than a credit card, and that would not work because it would get ragged.) I make about 20 folds, and end up with 42 2"x2" notespaces, a little pile of paper almost the same thickness as a credit card.

I write from both ends - one end is usually a grocery/stuff to purchase list and the other is for everything else. As I do things, I just tear off that sheet (unless it's in the middle, then I cross it out). Or if it's involved I can tear it off and put it with the appropriate project paperwork.

When I get near the end I just start using another set. It's not a problem to have two sets in my pocket at once.

I found a little collapsing pen - Zebra, two for $5 (about 10 feet from the snazzy $20 Ion pens) and it is also just about the length of a credit card, so it has the honor of being the only metal thing in the credit card pocket.

I have a little setup on my desk so that in odd moments I can sit and fold a few sets of tape. It's a therapeutic little bit of handwork. This is the best way I have found of having pen and paper constantly with me and easy to use.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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