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Where Would You Start?

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  • Where Would You Start?

    I checked GTD from the library a few weeks back, and have read this web site and lurked here on the message boards. I do not have a palm but am interested in something that would combine word/excel documents with plain old paper. Do people usually use a notebook? Note cards?

    I have 2 home businesses and am in the process of both purchasing one house and selling another. It seems like the perfect time to put some of these principles into action.

    So what is the first thing that you do? If you are using paper, do you take a notebook and write a project on the top of each page? Then make little sublists from there? Do you have a routine to do every day, with daily do-dos?

    I'm just not sure where to start and since I don't have palm technology sometimes the lingo keeps me from understanding exactly how your lists get processed. Thanks for any insight.

  • #2
    You can find some advice on setting up a paper system on this website under the Tips and Tools section, there is a "Paper Organizer - how to set one up" article.

    I would start with the mind sweep as mentioned in the book.


    • #3

      I use a combination of a paper planner and an Excel spreadsheet.

      In the planner I keep all my 'hard landscape' items and I track new ideas for projects or next actions. I do my best to write them down as soon as I think of them. So I keep my planner with me almost always. If I have an idea and the planner is not handy, I get a piece of paper and pencil and write it down, then add it to the planner as soon as I can. This is a critial step for me to keep 'mind like water' thing going.

      In the Excel spreadsheet, I have a number of different tabs. The first is Goals, second is Planning. On the planning sheet, I have listed various roles or areas of responsibilities that I want to think about during the 'weekly review'. The 3rd tab is action items. These are the Next Actions that I have identified to accomplish for the next week. Then there are several tabs for major areas - my Personal Chef business, projects around the house, actions for a second job, completed items, recommended books, movies or web sites, and someday/maybe list.

      This process came after trying a PDA - never quite got to the point where it was second nature to enter things there - and Outlook - which didn't give me the flexibility I wanted to sort and categorize. I still have lots of room for improvement but it is getting better.


      • #4
        There is an excel application designed for GTD called e-dashboard. You can find it at I have never used it but it looks very good.

        People often use notebooks and/or note cards for collection. I use a 3x6 notebook that fits in a nice leather case.

        Others use note cards for NA lists, with a separate card for each context. Once in a while I use an @errands card to take with me when I go shopping. My prime gear, though, consists of a laptop with outlook and the gtd add-in for outlook, and a sony clie PDA. Although I keep my @errands list on the laptop and clie, I find it a little awkward to hold the clie in my hand while wandering the aisles of a store - so that's when I copy the list to a note card.



        • #5
          If you are going paper/pencil, I would suggest looking at Time Design's website, especially the section called "Why It Works." The URL is
          David used to have some affiliation with them, and their methodology is right in line with everything in GtD. Looking at their site helped me get the whole picture a little better.



          • #6

            Thanks I will look at all of these--



            • #7
              The note cards idea reminds me of "Sidetracked Home Executives" - maybe that would have the flexibility for me. All those sites are great and I thank you. I want to find something SIMPLE that I can start and just keep plugging away on. I use Outlook on my PC but I do not have a Palm (or similar device) at this time.

              I will try putting projects on note cards and expanding the 'household' stuff, a system I already know how to work.



              • #8
                This is what I am starting out with.

                I made index cards, the first one with the outcome "GTD is in place" and "define contexts" as the first NA.

                Then I identified - so far about 12 more projects with the outcome on the bottom of the card and a NA on the top. The projects I identified so far were the ones that were "stuck in my head" and driving me crazy.

                I expect to add other projects and have cards in current status and ones in back-burner status at all times. Review will be done by reading through the cards - I would go nuts having to write it all down over and over.

                There is also a card with a list of all the NAs that are shopping stuff, so when I go out next I can do a whole slew of NAs.

                I designed a holder for a 5 x 7 lined notebook that will have pockets for the note cards and will fit with my calendar planner. I am an artful sewist and this will be satisfying for me - yes it is now a project with a NA.

                Ticklers will be on my outlook on my PC.

                All your encouragement is great - as well as many other posts here that I have been studying and pondering. The book was good to read, but the forum has helped me make it come alive I think.



                • #9
                  A high school principal posted recently that he wanted to set up a system using index cards. Here were my suggestions based on the specific needs he was looking for. Hope this is helpful:
                  I am an elementary school principal, so I know what you mean by having lots come your way. Back in February, someone was wanting to implement a system based on index cards and was looking for suggestions. Posted below was my suggestion. As far as how to keep from having a "to-do" list, I suggest separating your index cards by the context for the next action. All of the cards where a phone call is the next action go in one stack, those where the next action is something you have to do out in the building in one stack, etc.

                  Here is one way you could structure a system with nothing but 3X5 cards:
                  1. Have an index card for each project (instead of each task). Write the name of the project at the bottom of the card phrased in such a way that you will know when you have completed the project.
                  2. On the top line of the card, write the next action.
                  3. If you know what the NEXT next actions will be, continue listing them on the card one underneath the other.
                  4. As you complete a next action, highlight it with a highlighter and make sure you have at least one next action listed below it.
                  5. Use the back of the card to make notes regarding details of phone calls, confirmation numbers, and other info related to the project.
                  6. Organize your cards by context. All cards where a phone call is the next action will be sorted together, all cards where an errand is the next action will be sorted together, etc. You could put a rubber band or paper clip around each context.

                  You will be "done" with a card when the project has been completed. In other words, you have accomplished the last line on the card. The card will contain all of the next actions that led up to the completion of the project (you could even date the next actions as you complete them). All of your miscellaneous info will be on the back. You may want to keep a 3X5 file box of your completed projects.

                  This is just a thought of the top of my head. Hope it helps.