How do I make my life work as an ultra-busy gtd-using college student?
September 18, 2006 10:35 AM   Subscribe

How can I perfect my gtd system as a college student with a very specific set of tasks?

I'm an extremely, extremely busy college student trying to balance a heavy worklord with being the head of a statewide, youth-run nonprofit. I recently adopted gtd, but I'm finding it difficult to find a good system for me. I curently use:

-a treo 650 (I'm not spoiled, I used my own money)
-and google calendar.

But I've run into some basic questions:
1. Should I schedule events on my treo or gcal? If I do gcal only, then I feel like using my treo only to store my tasks is a bit wasteful, and I need to have easy internet access (read: takes less than 30 seconds) to gcal at a given moment to make sure something doesn't fall through the cracks. If I use only my treo, I'm missing out on the wonderful google calendar, even though I don't need to worry about the access. If I use both, it's difficult for me to check my entire schedule at a given moment and know I've got everything.
2. I have a very, very deadline-heavy set of work right now, so it's hard just to put things in tasks and feel confident I'll reach it before the date - same goes with studying. Should I just schedule in big blocks of study and leave the tasks for the 'just has to get done sometime?'
3. Those who were superbusy but contented in college: how did you feel like you were both getting great stuff done in the world but also enjoying your college years? Some of my earlier questions might hint that college has been a rather bittersweet experience for me, and it's still something I struggle with.

There are other questions, I'm sure, but I'm on my way to class (yeah, busy) and wanted to get this out as soon as possible. I'll add anything in the comments if they come to mind. I know this might all sound ridiculous, but I'm in a state where I know I need to be as efficient as possible. Thank you.
posted by Ash3000 to Grab Bag (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
FWIW, here's my view:

1) I'd use the Treo; it's important that you've always got a collection device nearby and it's unlikely that you've got constant conectivity to Gcal.

2) Dump everything into your collection device; that's another fundamental precept of GTD. If stuff doesn't go in then you stress because you're not fully in control ("did I forget something?"). Put every deliverable in then review / organise / structure your work load to fit deadlines / priority / importance. Studying, on the other hand, is a project and I'd suggest breaking it up into a series of tasks, each one a separate deliverable (e.g., review class notes on taken on this date by anotherdate, revise reading chapter X by this date, etc).

Can't really talk about number three.

For me a very large part of the value of GTD comes from actually capturing items into your collection device.
posted by Mutant at 11:19 AM on September 18, 2006

First, get DateBk for your Palm. At least try it for 45 days free. While it is a bit more complicated than the built-in apps, it sounds like you are a sophisticated user and will appreciate the added features and configurability, and how it seamlessly integrates to-do and calendar (and memos/addresses albeit less seamlessly).

What I did about task scheduling for classes on the Palm when I was an undergrad was to enter assignments that must be turned in as priority 2, studying for exams as priority 3, suggested reading for class as priority 4, and other studying as priority 5. Each class got its own category. I would generally then work on things first in priority order, then by due date. Every once in a while my obsessive-compulsive desire for a settled rule-based system would be overcome by the realization that I need to study for the exam in the harder class at the end of the week a lot more than the easy class that has an exam tomorrow.

Additionally I tried to form study groups for all of my classes. This meant there was some additional blocked off time for the class. I was always willing to spend more time but I could rely somewhat on the other people to determine how much time needed to be spent. Saved me one more round of evaluation.

I also marked off the day before every deadline or exam as a "crisis" day and blocked off all the time to just study or work on that. Warning: you may need to do this for more than one day. And all the time in finals/reading period.

Why is it you need to use Google Calendar?

how did you feel like you were both getting great stuff done in the world but also enjoying your college years

I didn't always enjoy it so much. But I did get a lot accomplished and I learned a lot. I wish I knew how to answer this question because I think I will be dealing with it for many years. :) Good luck.
posted by grouse at 12:02 PM on September 18, 2006

I don't know much about Getting Things Done, but you could sync your Treo with Gcal by using some kind of intermediary program. For example, I sync my Gcal with iCal, which I sync with my Treo. If you're on a PC, I'm sure Gcal and Treo can both sync with Outlook or whatever it is you kids use.
posted by chickletworks at 12:09 PM on September 18, 2006

3. Schedule in fun time (for example, I always tried to quit working by 8:30 pm on Friday and Saturday nights, unless there was something to prepare for the next day). Take 15-30 minute coffee breaks with equally-busy friends. Remind yourself that it's completely OK to turn in a less-than-perfect assignment or received a B+ on an exam or paper from time to time, as long as it doesn't become a habitual thing. Delegate! (The habitual overacheivers who ended up in a bad place always tried to do too much, and delegate too little. Trust the other members of your organization - but remember that they're busy too).

2) I think grouse's comments about prioritization are spot-on. You need to figure out what tasks are simply not worth your time, and learn to refuse to do them or delegate them without feeling guilty.
posted by muddgirl at 1:07 PM on September 18, 2006

This may be helpful: The Holy Grail of Syncronization, a tutorial on how to integrate data using Schedule World. (I just saw this on Lifehacker, so I'm not sure if it's exactly what you want and I haven't tried it myself yet).
posted by camcgee at 2:14 PM on September 18, 2006

As an EE-major gtd-using college student with a Treo 650, I'd definitely say ditch Google Calendar. Put everything into your Treo, if its with you all the time. If it isn't with you all the time, make it be with you all the time, or find a different way to catch everything.

Schedule your weekly reviews.

I've had a lot of luck with making my reviews be every Sunday, as well as every Wednesday. During the summer I can get by with weekly reviews, but I definitely need the balance of short-term and long-term focus that a weekly review provides for me.
posted by adamwolf at 5:01 PM on September 18, 2006

I use a Treo for GTD, and here is my sugestion:

If you use Windows and can get a copy of Outlook, try the ClearContext addin. It is not free, but there is a scaled-down free version. It makes it very easy to:
- Harvest e-mail addresses from e-mails
- File e-mail by Project (which they call topics)
- Create @Next Actions from e-mail in Outlook's tasks, which will sync with the Treo's built-in Tasks app. Same goes for creating appointments from e-mail which will sync with your Treo.

I also write notes for myself in my Treo SMS application, which I send to my e-mail address, so it ends up in my e-mail Inbox when I am ready to process it. Remember the whole GTD thing about "have as few collection buckets as you can but as many as you need."

Also remember the rule that whatever you use, you have to like it. Otherwise you create a mental barrier to using your system, and your system will fail you.

Good luck.
posted by 4ster at 6:28 PM on September 18, 2006

I actually find the current version of the Palm Desktop excellent and very flexible. If you've used it in the past, try a current version (it used to be really inferior to the other options available; now it's equal or superior and it's my primary data-management app... so if you used it as such it would, of course, be the simplest choice in terms of syncing with your Treo). I'm using it on a Mac, and from what I understand it's better on Mac than on PC.
posted by allterrainbrain at 12:12 AM on September 20, 2006

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