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What's the frequency, Kenneth? OR: What's the status of your trusted system?

So, I was at Target, Fry's, and Staples within the last week, and I had a strange revelation: I have settled into my tools for the most part. There are a couple of things that I would like to do like replace the cheap cardboard file folder holder thing I have been using with a rope case from Levenger and buy a letter-size Circa. And buy a nice paper trimmer. But those things can wait until I have the funds.

But, by and large, I am settled on my tools. I have two great label makers, an awesome pen, a pencil and clic eraser, and a rope case for index cards. I have a couple Moleskines and a Junior size red leather Circa. I am using MailTags, Act-On, and DockStar with Mail.app for managing Dynamic Digital Organization setup working well. I am effectively tracking my calendar and tasks on my W600i.

More importantly, I don't feel drawn toward every new app I come across. (With the exception of my digital reference system. I'm almost positive I have settled on Journler, but the lack of encryption is problematic.) When I see something new (case in point, iGTD) I just shrug and go, "My system is working for me quite well."

Moreover, I have shrunk GTD to fit (phrase lifted from Ethan Schoonover's description of OmniFocus) my work. I don't keep separate lists of NA's by context. "HERESY," you declare, and indeed you may be right. I work off my projects list more often than anything else because it works for me! If I find it doesn't in the future, I will adjust. But what I won't do is adjust for the sake of adjusting or for the sake of canonicity or orthodoxy.

This is all great, right? Of course it is. The problem is that now I have stopped faffing about trying to get the perfect coffee cup and I have to actually drink the gd coffee! Of course, this is the goal, to enjoy the coffee and not to give a damn about the cup as long as it doesn't have a hole in it. I guess the next thing is to decide what blend to enjoy and keep the cup full.

I guess what I'd like to know is are there any of you who have settled into a good system and are enjoying the coffee? Is there one last component that you're struggling to get a trusted grip on?

[Admins, feel free to move this to another part of the board if you think it might belong there better.]

mdl's picture

About a month ago, I...

About a month ago, I was thinking of giving up GTD altogether. But thanks to the encouragement of the fine folks in the forum, I stuck with it, and now feel much more confident in my system.

The key for me has been greater discipline in processing my inbox and consulting my action lists.

I use a hipster PDA. This is truly an all-purpose tool, which has revolutionized my everyday habits. In addition to GTD, I use it for academic brainstorming and notetaking. I have approximately 50 cards in all: reference notes, project and someday/maybe lists, action lists, and calendar. To my surprise, I've managed to work from monthly calendars on 3 x 5 cards. I write really small, and if I need additional space, I use a symbol next to an event or reminder and put the notes on the back of the card.

One of the biggest frustrations I had with my hipsterPDA was that I couldn't flip through recent musings in the same way I could with a Moleskine. The same was true of project reference notes. The solution: in my bag I carry two additional hipsters. One contains my recent academic notes and jottings in chronological order. The other contains project reference notes, organized alphabetically by project. So simple, yet so powerful.

Manilla folders + labeler = life-changing. In pre-GTD days, I used to have a bunch of big, overflowing hanging files, which were black holes for paper. Everything that didn't fit into one of my major, generic categories got stuffed in a drawer or set on a random pile. Now, when I have a new project or incoming item, I don't hesitate to start a new folder and/or folders. Scanning these folders serves as a backup reminder of the stuff on my projects list.

I used to be a Microsoft Word addict, but ever since I switched to the hipster + legal pads + manilla folders, I've found that text files (and versioning) best parallel the clarity and simplicity of paper. All my index card notes get entered into a huge text file database. Meanwhile, I draft papers/presentations on legal pads and finish them in VIM using LaTeX. In other words, I finally have a workflow, rather than a bunch of stagnant, difficult-to-search word files.

My biggest temptation to change the system.... This fall I'll be making the transition from student to teacher. Along with this upgraded status will come a corresponding upgrade in clothing/appearance. I'm wondering whether the binder-clip hipster can survive this shift; I fear it might be too bulky and inelegant for an inner jacket pocket. I'm eyeing a Levenger Pocket or International Briefcase. But the Levenger product has two disadvantages vis-a-vis the hipster: it can't hold nearly as many cards and it lacks visibility. (Right now, one side of my hipster displays my current list or weekly agenda, while the other side always holds a blank card for capture.) I'm also worried that it's difficult to switch cards in and out of the writing surface.

So that's my system. Right now, I don't feel too much desire to change it.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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