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One item per sheet of paper

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  • One item per sheet of paper

    I am new to GTD...

    What is the purpose of only using one sheet of paper per action item?

  • #2
    Initially writing each item NA on it's own sheet of paper during implementation allows you to sort by context without the need to re-write, which would be necessary if you had written everything on one list of paper. DA's stance is that an initial list would be, if left un-processed by contexts, that even with Next Actions defined, would still be a difficult To-Do to actually act on compared with sorting by context.

    You say you are new to GTD. If you haven't read the book yet, I suspect that everything will sound like gibberish! I highly encourage you to read the book if you haven't already.

    By the way, I didn't at first "Buy" the one-item-per-piece-of-paper idea. But I started doing it recently using 3 x 5 index cards and find it really works well for me.
    Last edited by sablouwho; 08-13-2005, 08:12 PM. Reason: spelling


    • #3

      Originally posted by jdwyre
      I am new to GTD...

      What is the purpose of only using one sheet of paper per action item?
      Another advantage of only one item on one sheet is that when you're processing all the "stuff" you have, you only process one item at a time and are not tempted to glance down a list. You have to make a "next action decision" on THAT item before moving on. This provides tremendous focus.

      This alone worked wonders in my life.

      Pads are really cheap too. At home I use scrap/recycled paper that I bring home from work. I think I've spent all of about $2 a month on paper over the past year.

      Hope that helps.



      • #4
        I like the single sheet of notebook paper for the next action too. Regarding the price of paper, Office Depot had 150 sheets of notebook paper on sale for 19 cents. Now time to go fill my car up with gas....muhahahaha

        Danny Hardesty


        • #5
          Why one sheet of paper?

          1. Clean edges
          2. Total separation
          3. Takes up consistent visual, physical and tactile space
          4. Complete sheets are easy to delegate to others inboxes

          I also know people that use a quarter sheet successfully.

          The finer points WRT #3: as I got used to having every next action take up a certain amount of physical space, I find that my brain is able to properly clarify and identify NAs as a function of the space available and past experience builds those neural pathways.


          • #6
            Originally posted by mikes
            4. Complete sheets are easy to delegate to others inboxes
            Indeed, the portability of individual NA's is a major benefit. For instance, will a call I have to make--it sits in my Calls folder (I use manilla file folders on my desk). Well, let's say I have to call Sharon. I call her and leave a message. I note on the index card the date/time I left the message, then I toss the index card into my Waiting for folder.

            This saves me the hassle of re-writing lists, and it also keeps the pertinent information all together in one easy place.


            • #7
              I'm curious...why is this method more effective than a PDA?


              • #8
                Originally posted by shtriemel
                I'm curious...why is this method more effective than a PDA?
                Some people are happier with PDAs. Some people are happier with paper. People are differently constituted. Look around these boards and you'll find lengthy threads on this very topic.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by shtriemel
                  I'm curious...why is this method more effective than a PDA?
                  This is doesn't have to be an "Either/Or" proposition.

                  David Allen himself uses a PDA, laptop, and paper (he showed us his "stuff" at the seminar, and let us see his context-sorted to do lists--done in Lotus Notes--on the projector screen. For paper, he appears to really enjoy his Note-taker wallet, among other things.

                  In the book, DA recommends using one piece of paper per action *at the beginning*, when you are going through all of your stuff, figuring out "What is this", deciding on NA's, so that they later can be sorted by context.

                  I suspect that the benefit of having this stuff "in your face" in the form of paper, at the beginning, serves as a way to "show" us, in a very physically tangible manner, just how much "stuff" we have.

                  Also, when making such decisions, and recording info quickly and "on the fly" I have found personally, that it is physically *easier* and *faster* to write down this information on a piece of paper, before I "loose" the thought, than it is to enter it directly into a PDA. (I have since given up on PDA's and gone back to paper, but on the posts here and on 43 folders you will find people who use PDA's *and* paper.)

                  The main benefit of paper is its spontaneity--you don't have to turn it on, get into the right program first in order for you to enter input.

                  You are quite right that moving tasks from one list to another (later on, once they have already been captured) can indeed be easily done by a PDA or something like the GTD Outlook Add-in. After the data has been initially captured on paper, there is no reason not to put the information into a the desktop software that comes with the PDA, or into the PDA itself (the decision will depend on each person's preferred form of data-entry). Once that is done, you can get rid of the paper.

                  But for those of us who prefer paper, the single sheet really works great, not as just an initial place to right things down, but also as a way to follow a task through to completion as described in previous threads in this topic.


                  Last edited by sablouwho; 08-15-2005, 11:52 AM.


                  • #10
                    Business size cards work great - very small, portable, and one NA per card.


                    • #11
                      Paper is not easily searchable.

                      The only drawback of using paper (versus PDA) is that paper is not easily searchable. Palm PDAs have global cross-application search mechanism which I find very useful (especially when you use keywords for each piece of information).


                      • #12
                        This is true, though I find I don't need to search my paper files as much as I search my digital files. Also, with a properly setup organizational system, it's easy enough to find something by its location in the system.

                        True, I can't pull out "everything that mentions Dave," but I never need to do that; I need to find the character Dave plays in our game, so I pull out the folder for that game and flip through it until I find Dave's material.

                        This can actually be at least as fast as reading through a hundred search results that are scattered throughout my digital files.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by TesTeq
                          The only drawback of using paper (versus PDA) is that paper is not easily searchable.
                          In the context of using a single sheet of paper to capture a new idea (i.e. when capturing and adding to your inbox, and then later processing and organizing that info) my understanding of GTD is that the ability to search theoretically shouldn't be an issue at this point. This is because the procedure DA advocates is to look at EVERY item in the inbox on a daily basis by deciding what to do with it.

                          Once decisions are made on the incoming stuff, it can then be put into a PDA, of computer, where it will be easily searchable.

                          But for capturing info, I am not seeing how the search function would be a big benefit, at least not in my experience. YMMV, of course.

                          And if someone is adept enough to capture new info directly on their PDA or computer, that is totally great! Whatever works, do it!

                          That is what I like so much about GTD, that besides the concepts themselves, the implementation, in terms of the gear and tools, is so flexible that it allows for, even requires, that ones personal preferences (or instincts, or whatever) take over the helm.


                          • #14
                            Single Sheet that changes context

                            I'm a computer programmer who bills for time worked and like the single sheet idea. For me, the sheet changes context. Initially, it is usually @Computer, but may be @Online when doing web-based work. While I'm working, I write the start time, details of what it took to complete the action, the time when finished, and the billable duration. I then drop that piece of paper in my @StdTime folder (Standard Time is the software I use for time tracking and billing). This way billable time doesn't slip through the cracks and I'm able to spent more time working and less time managing my work.

                            What if doing this NA prompts additional NAs? It depends on energy and time available. If I can do it, I just write it on this NA sheet, keep going and complete both the original and the additional. Otherwise, it goes on it's own sheet of paper, placed under the current one and is filed in the appropriate Context folder when I complete this action.

                            Last edited by eeckberg; 09-16-2006, 11:03 AM. Reason: Icon added


                            • #15
                              Easier for initial processing

                              A few years ago, I "taught" the GTD method and found it easier to show how to collect, process and organize by using one item per sheet (see attachment). You may find it useful...
                              Last edited by aladavi; 09-16-2006, 03:15 PM.