In late 2005, out of desperation and after a few months of feeling like I couldn’t make head nor tail of the JCB-loads of projects I had on, I ordered and read David Allen’s Getting Things Done. I’d first heard of it from some truly zealously organised people and I thought if I could gain a tenth of their organisational skills, I’d be well ahead and leaving the pile of mud I felt I was on. [For those unfamiliar with GTD but curious, here’s the basic workflow chart.]
Some months on, I’ve had flings with just about every productivity software for Mac, web-based or else. Quickly running through them, this is what I thought of them:
- Thought I’d be brave and start with the paper low-tech version, as David Allen had given me the urge to leave fiddly technology behind and just throw everything on paper as soon as it crossed my mind. As it stands, I type a lot faster than I handwrite, and I’m much less likely to let my laptop dissapear below stacks of invoices, printed spreadsheets and other desk junk, so I deemed it best to keep it on my computer’s desktop if there was any hope of me keeping this up.
- Having used Basecamp as a single free user before, I thought I’d give it a second go, hoping GTD would help me make better use of it. Not bad, but seemingly I’m a slightly forgetful idiot, and I would slack and forget to log in for a couple of days, letting the more random selection of tasks take over again. Nowadays, I’m a light Basecamp user for work purposes and for shared tasks with others, but not as productivity tool for myself.
- Next I went for the other extreme, the complex kGTD: Kinkless GTD harnesses the power of OmniOutliner Pro to become a hefty productivity tool. Unfortunately, I started spending more time organising kGTD and playing around with it than working, which was completely counterproductive. To put it simply, I was worrying about the cup rather than enjoying the coffee.
- I tried the classic text file recommended by so many users as a low-tech option, but it just turned into an immense disorganised list, causing me to forget priorities by just going top-down through the tasks.
- At the moment, I’m in a steady relationship with Mori, which I’m sure I could use it as more than a glorified stash of text files. But I’m also having an affair with DEVONnote, though we’re still just flirting and I haven’t figured it out yet.
So I’m still hopping around, looking for the ultimate app. I came across the demo for Thinking Rock, which seemed structurally so tightly organised based on GTD that I couldn’t go wrong, but haven’t yet installed it or played with it beyond looking at their demo. It’s not visually the most pleasing thing I’ve ever come across but it looks like it’d do the job.
What I need from a GTD app:
- Easily throw ideas to be processed as they happen (brain like a sieve means everything needs to be written immediately) so that the inbox of ideas doesn’t distract me any further
- Good structure of multiple projects
- Forcing me to deconstruct projects into tasks rather than think it’s too much hassle to break it down any more because it’s fiddly to do so
- Good archiving of old done tasks, for when I start doubting myself about whether something was done or not and when (brain like a sieve… Is there a theme here?)
- Hopefully, good looking and easy to use
What are your GTD apps or techniques of choice? Any advice for a slacking GTD user?
I do feel I’ve gained in mental organisation and planning from the book and its concepts, as well as from reading the blogs of some true GTD geeks. I’ll follow with another post of my top GTD/Productivity tips, but leave me yours too!