Thursday, September 04, 2008

Exploring GTD

I read Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity some time ago, but I stopped at the prospect of organizing everything I had in order to get started.

Now I've come back to what I see as the essential ideas, and I'm giving it a try. As I see it today, the essential ideas for me are

  • Create lists of tasks organized by their context—the place I'll be when it makes sense to do them.
  • Don't prioritize inside those lists unless there's a hard deadline (a meeting to attend, for example).
  • Review and update the lists frequently.

There's the question of how to manage those lists. I tried HipsterPDA, but it felt wasteful to use new 3x5 cards when I had lots of scratch paper and a decent amount of disk space available. I tried scratch paper (the backs of advertising letters I receive, a habit I learned from my colleagues at my first job), but they get messy. I tried using various TiddlyWikis, but I'm not always at my computer when I want to write something down or check a status.

I'm currently using a hybrid:

  • I use GTD TiddlyWiki, partly because it's made for GTD, and partly because it claims to print tiddlers on 3x5 cards (something I haven't had to do yet).
  • I use folded-up scratch paper to record new things as they occur to me; I transfer them to GTD TiddyWiki unless I take care of them first.
  • I use Patrick Rhone's Dash/Plus scheme for annotating to-do items recorded on paper (found initially via Joe Ely's article).

So far, it's helping me, perhaps only in proportion to the rigor with which I use it. I've still got too much that's not in the system, but I'm working to incorporate more of my stuff in the system (or to get rid of it, if I can).

How do you focus your attention on the important things effectively? If you're a user of GTD, do you have any suggestions?

If you want to figure out where your time is going, I still recommend the time log that's part of the learning log package Bob Williams and I produced.



Blogger dannielo said...

For implementing GTD you might try out this web-based application:

You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, schedules and a calendar.
A mobile version and iCal are available too.

Hope you like it.

06 September, 2008 02:20  
Blogger Brad Trnavsky said...

Bill, for making notes on the fly I am a big fan of Jott. It lets me leave voice mails for myself that are transcribed to e-mail and sent to me as reminders.

09 September, 2008 00:06  
Blogger Tal Galili said...

Hi there. I subscribed to your blog for the statistical side (though I don't always get to read you much - but sometimes I do).

In any event I am also into GTD things, and I would like to recommend you several links. one is the a great blog called: which deals with these issues (I am assuming the lifehacker you already know).

Another site is a time logging program for computer use. called
I use it - and it is great.

also, there is a GTD addon to firefox. I stopped using it since it was too big, but good luck in maybe trying to use it yourself.

Tal galili.

20 October, 2008 10:41  
Blogger Bill Harris said...

Thanks for stopping by. Yes, I know of lifehacker, but I didn't know of I've subscribed now.

I took a look at, too, and I'm intrigued. I may try it out.

Since you're interested in numbers and in productivity, you might be interested in the time tracking tool I developed some years ago. Check out timelog.xls at

20 October, 2008 22:08  

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