Recently, I’ve become pretty focused on Getting Things Done. I first heard of it via the Treonauts blog, which led me to 43 Folders. That was at least a month ago and I’ve been tracking not only what GTD is, but how I might be able to connect with a system that works for me.
In my quest for the perfect personal system, I’ve tried a few tools and think I am finally getting to where I feel comfortable. One of the lessons I took from the book is simplicity. Find a system, that is simple yet comprehensive and something that will also encourage you to use since it’s always handy and actually fun to use.
The initial thing I thought about while considering my options was how to best integrate my Treo into the mix… The Treo immediately became an always-with-me tool after my purchase. Since it’s there, I want to be able to review as well as add or revise items all the time. The initial trick with the GTD system to get things out of your head and into your system so you are free to think about other things, rather than stressing about what you need to do (mind like water anyone?).
For me, the search came down to two tools… I know there are many others to potentially review, but for me it was all about either Life Balance or Tasks. Life Balance is a very slick piece of software from Llamagraphics that runs on Mac, Windows and Palm. Tasks is a great system I’ve written about previously which runs on a web server (or your local machine if so inclined) of yours, or there’s even a hosted service if you like.
They both can do the job and really it comes down to personal preference or perhaps price. I’ve already paid for Tasks which runs $30 while Life Balance costs about $80 for both a Mac and Palm version. I’ll let my previous post about Tasks, (which i titled Getting it Done well before I heard about the book) serve for usage and as my review.
I did spend some time reorienting my Tasks set-up to my new outline in Life Balance so things were similar and there are definitely things I like about Tasks — like hiding checked items and clearing them from view. Tasks maintains an archive of things so you can easily find past items via search. It also supports adding items to your datebook, but you can’t easily (enough) add things back upstream. Since it’s a connected application, you have to fire up Blazer or your mobile browser of choice to edit. I like the daily reminder over email, but wish I could create more custom alerts for individual items or trees.
Life Balance has really grabbed my attention for now as the central point of organization for my GTD system. There are overlaps in philosophies which make creating a system for yourself pretty nice. To start, you create an outline of ideas and projects. During setup you can import your current To Do and Datebook entries and assign them a home within your outline which is an added bonus. This outline defines the To Do list which can be sorted by Place if you’ve defined things in such detail. This is a great way to specify views of things to do if you divide your time in varying locations or simply if you break up how you want to be thinking about what you want to do. While It’s important to consider where you might be doing these activities, in my opinion that is not critical to success. More critical, is how you assign priority and whether you want a due date included in your calendar. Life Balance creates datebook entries (un-timed so they appear at the top of that day) for any item you assign to the datebook. You’ll need to edit the specific entry in the datebook if you want to create an alarm or reminder.
The nice thing about both the LB and GTD way of thinking is that it is not only OK but strongly suggested that you include as much if not all the things you want to do – regardless of timeframe. This lets you see what it is you want to achieve and set goals for yourself. Life Balance has a balance mode that shows graphs of how you are doing against these goals. I have not use that aspect of things too extensively, but I do revisit my outline with a pretty high degree of frequency and figure out what I have to add or revise.
I like the way this system of thinking works for me. It allows you to focus on smaller bite size chunks of information which is certainly easy to process and enabling… I’d suggest the book or audiobook if you are pressed for time 😉 I think you’ll find it a valuable experience and I’d definitely be interested in hearing what tools you find useful or ways you use the tools I’ve mentioned.