Can you help me figure out a hybrid paper/electronic system with an iphone or something completely different?
October 9, 2009 8:52 AM   Subscribe

I just need a 'Getting Things Done' system that works. Can you help me figure out a hybrid paper/electronic system with an iphone or something completely different?

I really want to implement the getting things done system, but having a hard time finding a system that works.

I thought I needed an electronic system. I find it hard to lay out a project in sequential order on paper so using a system that allows subprojects where I can shift things around to my hearts content seems right. I enjoyed using omnifocus on a mac.

Partly on the strength of that I got an shared iphone contract with someone. However, I hate using omnifocus on the iphone its fiddly and rsi inducing...and I don't own a mac to do the main work on there. The iphone is good for occasional email and internet on the move but I don't like using it much.

Also stuff doesn't integrate that well...omnifocus can't do alarms for tasks when I need them or integrate with the calendar etc.

I'm quite attracted to the hipster pda idea where you use index cards etc to make a paper based organiser. I like the idea of capturing ideas on paper with mind maps etc. However I find it hard to see how I won't be endlessly rewriting way of rearranging projects and subtasks. Also for phone book, diary etc you can't really beat a pda.

I know it's a bit vague, but I'm basically saying 'help' I've been looking on the net for ages and just can't visualise something that would work for has anyone got any ideas that might work out better. I could use my iphone or could look at trading in for something else..really need to get organised!
posted by Not Supplied to Technology (14 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
posted by phrontist at 8:54 AM on October 9, 2009

Have a look at autofocus. It's not a GTD system - however it's simple and once it's set up (which takes all of about 2 hours) it's self running. The main point of getting things out of your head and into a trusted system of GTD is taking care minus the fiddling bits of GTD list structure. No longer are you tuning contexts and projects. It will potentially turn you into a workaholic, I'd be careful with it.
posted by bigmusic at 9:21 AM on October 9, 2009 [10 favorites]

I'd just buy SimpleNote , and keep your various GTD lists there. That application works like magic, and the web app is really nice. So that might be a place to start, if you want something simple and light.

I use Things. The iPhone application is great. I think it's much nicer than Omni Focus. There is a matching Mac application, but you can honestly use the iPhone app by itself.

Mixing paper with electronic media is a bit convoluted, I think.
posted by chunking express at 10:06 AM on October 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

posted by nickmark at 10:32 AM on October 9, 2009

Here's my hybrid system:

I carry a 4x6 Rhodia pad in my back pocket (in a little wallet-like holder for durability; this is optional). The pads can be found for about $2 each, and—most importantly—the pages are perforated to tear off easily and cleanly.

Whenever I think of something I write it on the pad. At my daily (well, more like semiweekly) review I copy any open items from the pad to my computer system (todotxt with a collection of text files in a git repo). Then I rip off any full pages and throw them away, leaving the notebook blank and empty again.

This sounds like extra work, but since I usually jot down just two or three notes a day, it takes only five minutes a week to get them into the computer. I use the notepad as my mobile "input device" so I can wait until I'm at my desk to type up my thoughts and organize them. I find paper faster, easier, and more reliable than a phone or PDA.

Also, carrying a paper pad lets me capture any important thoughts or information at all times, without carrying my entire task system around when I'd rather leave distractions behind. The real benefit of GTD for me is using the system not just to track tasks, but to cut tasks ruthlessly and commit my attention to fewer things. (This might work for me only because I'm on the maker's schedule, not the manager's schedule.)
posted by mbrubeck at 10:46 AM on October 9, 2009 [3 favorites]

I've recently found and grown to love Org-Mode. Integration with paper is as easy as jotting notes on paper (I have a paper notebook I keep in my bag always) and transcribing them into the system later. Charles Cave has a handy script to print a paper checklist of the outstanding to-do items in the Org agenda.
posted by vsync at 12:05 PM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

And since I saw at least one mention of plain text files in version control, let me say that I was doing that for a while until dependencies and postponed items became unmanageable, and Org-Mode pretty much does exactly everything I was thinking of hacking up on top of my text files myself, and more.
posted by vsync at 12:06 PM on October 9, 2009

Take a look at Behance's Action Method solutions:
posted by daser at 2:09 PM on October 9, 2009

Also stuff doesn't integrate that well...omnifocus can't do alarms for tasks when I need them or integrate with the calendar etc.

Well, you're not really using GTD. There's no need for alarms in tasks, nor a reason for your tasks to integrate with your calendar. That's what reviews are for.

I imagine you're taking bits and pieces of GTD. That's fine. But if you're just kind of using GTD you might have better luck looking for a non-GTD application instead of applications meant for GTD.
posted by justgary at 2:17 PM on October 9, 2009

And I use Things for the iPhone. I can't imagine carrying around a notepad (or any other paper) for GTD. My phone is always with me, always backed up.
posted by justgary at 2:19 PM on October 9, 2009

Since you mentioned you don't have a Mac, for the paper part of your system, I highly recommend using a combination of mbrubeck's Rhodia pads (I don't use the holder) and the Levenger Circa notebooks. I use the Rhodia as my UCD and then move items/notes/references to the letter-sized Circa notebook during my review sessions. I prefer the smaller, 3x4 Rhodia notebook as it fits in my pockets better; for the Circa, I use the big letter (8.5x11) size as I don't like fussing with printer margins and the custom setup needed for smaller paper sizes. If I had the time, I'd learn the org-mode system and incorporate it into my setup.

The iPhone is perfect for calendars and contacts. It's not so good, as you pointed out, for entering bigger chunks of text on the fly (i.e., todo's/reference items/notes). Those should go in the Rhodia and then to paper system. If you want an electronic approach, try something like tiddlywiki, where you can dump it all into one text file and carry it around on a USB wherever you be.

One of the advantages of paper-based systems is that it more difficult to "play" with your todo's and reminders instead of doing them. :)

Of course, you could always turn your GTD system into a game.
posted by webhund at 2:38 PM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

I had the same problems you seem to have with Omnifocus and I recently converted toThings for the iPhone. It's both made everything more pleasant and less RSI-inducing, and I'm also less likely to let things get out of date just because I'm tired of fighting with the UI.

I do have a Mac as well, but I do most of my task maintenance/entry/fiddling on the iPhone.
posted by corprew at 6:01 PM on October 9, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for all the replies. I can't really say what's best as it all takes some trying out, but there are some different and new suggestions there so thanks all for showing me some new directions.
posted by Not Supplied at 6:48 PM on October 9, 2009

I just found a link to Chandler amongst all the Coders at Work brouhaha. Not sure how useful it is for offline work but the concept seems interesting.
posted by vsync at 12:47 PM on October 11, 2009

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