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”What’s 43 Folders?”
43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

Getting Things Done

GTD is a personal productivity system and book by David Allen that we like a lot. Read: Getting Started with ‘Getting Things Done’.

Dr. Contextlove or: "How I learned to stop worrying and love iCal"

A favorite topic of GTD'ers is the contexts that we each choose to identify the times, tools, or locations by which a given task can or must be undertaken. This is a highly personalized decision, and I've learned a lot from seeing how other people are doing it.

Since I see it's been a while since I've talked about how I'm using contexts, here's an update that reflects how I'm now using Kinkless GTD and iCal to keep things wrangled.

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43F Poll: What's your biggest GTD strength and weakness?

Two polls over on the 43f Board:

My own answers?

  • Strength: Collecting.
    Dude. I'm a viking at collecting. Remember I'm the guy who invented writing things down on paper. So. You know.
  • Weakness: Review.
    It's sick that I know know know this is the most important stage of GTD, and I still eat the booger. Need to work on this, big time.

When it comes to GTD, what's your strength and weakness?

Tool Updates: D*I*Y Planner; GTD Tiddly Wiki Plus

There's been some interesting activity lately on two of the productivity tools that a lot of our readers like to follow.

D*I*Y Planner 3.0

D*I*Y Planner 3.0 (Classic/A5 Edition) | D*I*Y Planner

Douglas Johnston has recently released v 3.0 of his Classic/A5 D*I*Y Planner. If you haven't seen this before, Douglas has put together a Creative Commons-licensed version of the plain-paper templates usually associated with Costly Paper Planners. But he's added some lovely design touches as well as some creative templates that are meant to support GTD and other popular productivity systems. Douglas says, of this version:

Way more professional and extensive, covering not only time/project management but also lifestyle, health, creativity and more (e.g., life balance, storyboards, diet tracker, finances, exercise log, story submissions, etc.). Nearly 200 pages of templates are included.

While, in my opinion, the recent 'net obsession with "things you can print at home" has gotten out of hand -- y'know they have graph paper in stores now? -- Douglas has added a lot more than blue quadrille lines here. This is thoughtful stuff, and if you love the immediacy of paper but don't want to spend a fortune on a big folio from Staples, this may be right up your alley.

N.B. Fans of a tricked-out Hipster PDA can look forward to an index card edition late next month. Until then, the 2.0 HPDA edition is still available on his site.

GTD Tiddly Wiki Plus

GTDTiddlyWiki Plus - your simple client side wiki

Although I'm a little confused over exactly who's doing what to which version (why does my brain freeze up whenever I see words like "wiki" and "plus"?), it appears that GTD Tiddly Wiki Plus is a project to revive the popular (but stalled?) GTD Tiddly Wiki. According to Ted Pavlic, on the 43F wiki:

GTD TiddlyWiki Plus is much better than GTD TiddlyWiki because it is not a derivative of TiddlyWiki; it actually is TiddlyWiki. This means that plugins and macros can be added and the system can be upgraded as new versions of TiddlyWiki come out.

I haven't spent much time with this new release, but I'm intrigued by the idea of "plug-ins" as well as the idea that Ted plans to afford a "kGTD-like usage" for the GTDTWP.

I played with the last release of GTD Tiddly Wiki last summer, and I think it's a fascinating chunk of functionality. It's not really my particular cup of tea for everyday usage, but I really recommend you have a look for yourself. I get so much mail about the best way to "live" on two or more computers, and -- at least from a "GTD system" standpoint -- this seems like one novel solution.

Flow: How action and awareness get things done

A few good links and snippets on Flow -- a topic that's come a couple times before here and on the group, but which seems more germane than ever given a lot of what [the royal] we have been talking about lately. More deets on buying the book at the end, although there seem to be plenty of chewy resources on the web if you just want an introduction.


From c2:

"Flow" is a mental state of deep concentration. It typically takes about 15 minutes of uninterrupted study to get into a state of "flow", and the constant interruptions and distractions of a typical office environment will force you out of "flow" and make productivity impossible to achieve.

From wikipedia:

As Csikszentmihalyi sees it, there are components of an experience of flow that can be specifically enumerated; he presents eight:

  1. Clear goals (expectations and rules are discernable).
  2. Concentrating and focusing, a high degree of concentration on a limited field of attention (a person engaged in the activity will have the opportunity to focus and to delve deeply into it).
  3. A loss of the feeling of self-consciousness, the merging of action and awareness.
  4. Distorted sense of time - our subjective experience of time is altered.
  5. Direct and immediate feedback (successes and failures in the course of the activity are apparent, so that behavior can be adjusted as needed).
  6. Balance between ability level and challenge (the activity is not too easy or too difficult).
  7. A sense of personal control over the situation or activity.
  8. The activity is intrinsically rewarding, so there is an effortlessness of action.

Not all of these components are needed for flow to be experienced.

From The Man Who Found the Flow:

Of the eight elements, one in particular emerged as the most telling aspect of optimal experience: the merging of action and awareness. In Seven Pillars of Wisdom, T.E. Lawrence sounded a similar theme, when he wrote that "happiness is absorption." As the thirteen-century Zen master Dogen pointed out, in those moments when the world is experienced with the whole of one's body and mind, the senses are joined, the self is opened, and life discloses an intrinsic richness and joy in being. For Csikszentmihalyi, this complex harmony of a unified consciousness is the mode of being toward which our own deepest inclination always points us.

From Interfaces for Staying in the Flow:

In summary, interfaces that are targeted at improving user's ability to stay in the flow shouldn't underestimate the importance of speed in supporting creativity, quality, and enjoyment. Every time there is an interruption, literal or conceptual that gets in the way of users concentrating on their tasks, flow is lost. Slow interfaces, which I define as any that get in the way of users acting on their work as quickly as they can think about it, are problematic.

Online places to pick up a copy of Csikszentmihalyi's book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience:

GTD: Boing Boing Mark gets it

Mad Professor: Getting Things Done

Getting Things Done has occasionally been criticized for lacking a focus on what I call Capital Letter Nouns -- as an action-based, tactical toolset for managing life's verbs, it was never intended as a top-down treatise on generating Big Life Decisions. I happen to think that's a big part of what makes it so appealing to people (esp. the techies who crave "actionable items") -- it takes you as you are and says "Okay, let's get to work."

But, funny thing: the folks who stick with GTD past the experimental try-on phase often discover it gives them sharper insight into their goals and values than some of the theoretically more lofty systems that are out there.

It's always satisfying to see folks make that big breakthrough, and that's what I hear Boing Boing's Mark Frauenfelder saying over at Mad Professor:

I bought the book and read it last year, and incorporated a lot of what I learned into my daily routine. But I re-read the book recently and came back with a deeper understanding of what the book is really about. The best summary is on page 19: "The real issue is how to make appropriate choices about what to do at any point in time. The real issue is how we manage actions."

That's the GTD process in a nutshell. It's about setting up a system that allows you to quickly review every single thing you want to do -- large (writing a book) and small (changing the wiper blades on your car) -- so you can decide on the best next physical action you can take to elicit the changes in your life that you desire.

Get those verbs under control, folks, and it's a shitload easier to even see the big nouns.

Ganging your mosquito tasks

Not all tasks are created equal. Our to-dos all differ in priority, complexity, time requirement, and context, so it’s probably daft to always capture and expose them in an identical way. I have a little trick for dealing with this that’s been working really well for me.

Back in the day, my to-do list was an egalitarian nightmare of inefficiency — verb-centric “next actions” through they all were, I commonly faced a task list that looked something like this:

  • call Alice about Foo project
  • fix line 125 of bar.php
  • fix line 349 of bat.php
  • take out kitchen recycling
  • buy milk
  • buy index cards
  • sweep the decks

Now, the problem here might be self-evident to you smarter people, but I was missing an important concept: there is such a thing as too granular a task to track as its own event. In this instance, I was cruftifying my landscape with items that were way too detailed or tiny and, consequently, I’d turned my task list into an undoable roller coaster of un-focus. Just as “projects” are composed of “tasks,” I like to think that “tasks” themselves can often be collected into silos of small “mosquito tasks.” And my solution, as ever: text files and alarms.

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Using lists to expose "soon" and "long-term" items

Drowning in To-Dos? Get Organized! [Datamation]

Good overview of GTD includes some interesting thoughts on "time-sensitive" to-do-lists:

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Board highlights, 2006-01-31

Some of my favorite recent threads on the 43 Folders Messageboard are -- perhaps not surprisingly -- about Getting Things Done. Stop by and join the Talmudic discussions of everybody's favorite productivity system.

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kGTD Tip: Link to sites, files, and more

This is technically more of an OmniOutliner Pro tip than a strictly kGTD trick, but it's so useful that I wanted to make sure my fellow fans are aware of it.

The beauty of kGTD lies in its single-minded focus on managing your tasks in the context of the projects with which they're associated. Add too much else (or get lazy with your level of commitment to what you've added) and the system starts to fall apart. And yet it's so useful to have easy access to the people, websites, and documents that you'd like associated with your tasks and projects. OS X to the rescue, because OmniOutliner makes it very easy to drag and drop virtually any kind of Mac data object into a given OO document -- and, consequently, to keep the non-task corners of your world never further than a click away.

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43F Podcast: Fresh Starts & Modest Changes

43 Folders - As an antidote to the surfeit of New Year's resolutions, we'll be looking into smaller, less dramatic adjustments (that don't require a drunken promise or a pointy paper hat). Our series starts Wednesday.

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An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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