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new GTDer:suggestions for paper notebook?

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  • new GTDer:suggestions for paper notebook?


    I'm brand new to GTD and would like to learn the system without getting all wrapped up in the various software options.

    Essentially, i would like to use a spiral notebook for capturing all my contexts (calls, @ office, @ home, errands, read/review, waiting for, etc.) as well as my projects and someday/maybe lists.

    Note: the appointments and other dated items would be captured in outlook.

    the problem is that i am unsure of how to put all this into the note book. i have thought of 2 options.

    option 1: should i start with the most used context at the beginning of the book and assigning each context its own page. each context would then be spaced out by leaving 20 or so pages between each? i would add tabs for all of these so they could be easily accessed (the tabs could be more permanent).

    option 2: should i start with any context, giving each its own page, and have no spaces between each. when the page fills up, i go to the next available page. again, i would assign tabs to each context so that they could be easily accessed. the problem here is that i would be constantly replacing tabs (sticky post-it tabs)...

    with both options, i figure the projects ans someday/maybe lists would be towards the end like David Allen mentions in his 1st book.

    both options have merits, but i thought that before i re-invent the wheel, someone else may have "been here and done that" and may have input to share...

    thanks to all who might have thoughts on this.
    Last edited by dmapp; 05-24-2010, 06:16 AM.

  • #2
    There are two articles from David Allen on this:

    A simple one for free in our store:

    The simple one, plus an expanded one on GTD Connect in the Document Library. (You would need to be a Connect member to download this expanded one.)


    • #3
      I used a spiral notebook for quite some time along with outlook for a calendar and contacts. I wrote the system up and named it the Simple Guide to Time Management. It is not purely GTD, but very close and what I needed at the time. You can read it for free on my blog.

      Good Luck


      • #4
        Notebook suggestions

        I use a notebook as well. My setup is different than yours, though maybe something I say will help.

        I use a single (bound) notebook for my Calendar, Next Actions lists, and Projects list. It is organized with three tabs that stick out slightly for near-instant access.

        Before any tabs, I have the Table of Contents on page 1, listing the title/date of each page.

        Following that is my calendar, one page per week, with several lines dedicated to each day. That continues through the end of 2010, then I have a page for 2011, one for 2012, and then "Future calendar". The tab brings me to the current week.

        Following the Calendar are my Next Actions lists. They start the page after the Calendar ends. They are separated by Contexts. The tab takes me to the earliest list that has NA's to finish. I chose not to have a tab per context.

        Following the Next Actions lists is the Projects List. However, the Projects List begins at the END of the notebook and works backwards. This is to simplify the system, because it is impossible to know how many pages the NA's will need compared to the Projects.

        I capture outside of my notebook. I use 3x5 cards that I carry in my pocket. I have also used a spiral bound Steno-type notebook for this, which had the advantage of keeping everything in one place. I moved away from it because I ended up using cards where the notebook was too big, and preferred not to carry around several UCT's.

        I put all other lists: Someday/Maybe, Reference, etc., into a 1/2" 3-ring binder, which stays in my briefcase. I prefer all lists besides the Calendar, NA, and Projects, to be on 8.5x11. This allows me to use notebook paper or printouts.

        This binder has two sections: Project Plans, and Lists. Projects that need one have a mindmap, which I keep in the binder. This layout allows me to add ideas to Project Plans without being in my office/workspace. The Lists has all the rest of my lists, checklists, reference, etc. When the lists exceed one page, they get a file.

        The only one of my lists not mentioned so far is my Contacts list, which is stored in my phone.

        This system is not identical to yours, but maybe some of my ideas will help you tailor your own. I like my current layout, as I need to refer only to my 5x8 notebook to know anything I need to do. I have my UCT in my pocket at all times. If I have an idea, it gets captured. If I need to review what to do, I need only reach for my notebook... I don't keep any action reminders outside of it. It is useful to have my Projects list in the same notebook, as I add or finish several per day.

        In this way, the system is set up to be modular, depending on how frequently I need the information on each list. #1 most frequent is the UCT--is always with me. #2 most frequent: information in the 5x8 notebook--almost always with me, but I can leave it in the car if I'm at the movies. #3 most frequent: the binder--so it travels in my briefcase, which goes with me to each destination, but is most often left in the car.

        Hope this helps!


        • #5
          Simplify. Use Outlook for your Project, Someday/Maybe and @context lists too.

          Originally posted by dmapp View Post
          Note: the appointments and other dated items would be captured in outlook.
          Simplify. Use Outlook for your Project, Someday/Maybe and @context lists too. Print them when necessary. There's a great GTD® AND OUTLOOK® 2007 SETUP GUIDE (free for GTD Connect members).


          • #6
            Where do general notes fit into your system


            I found your description of your system very interesting. I have something similar - except I use a separate calendar/diary to note future events, reminders etc. But I use an A5 size notebook for my various lists. I also use a binder for project material (but I keep the project list at the front of the binder - however I think I prefer your idea of including it in the notebook). One question I have is where do general notes fit into your system. Do you keep a separate notebook or pad for meetings etc.

            Regards ... Colin


            • #7
              General notes

              Originally posted by kenmont View Post

              One question I have is where do general notes fit into your system. Do you keep a separate notebook or pad for meetings etc.

              Regards ... Colin
              Thanks for the kind words.

              I'm afraid I don't understand your question. I'm not sure what you mean by "general notes", so I'll describe a typical situation and you can tell me if it answers the question.

              Let's suppose I am in a meeting and want to take notes. I keep blank 8.5x11 paper in my briefcase, either in a clipboard or (more recently) in a Gold Fibre Writing Pad (spiral bound at the top). I take my briefcase to every location, though I often leave it in the car (while in stores, restaurants, etc.). So, if I am in a situation and want to mind map something or take notes bigger than my 3x5 UCT could handle, I take out my pad and start with a fresh clean page.

              I have found several advantages to a separate notebook for this purpose. It bolsters the well-defined boundaries between Inbox and Organization. Psychologically, it feels good to have a blank sheet in an empty notebook... I get more inspiration that way--though I couldn't explain why. Lastly, I think it looks sharper/crisper to onlookers, in the way typeset labels do.

              When my notes are taken, I put them in Inbox, and then Process them for any Projects/NA's, etc. I do NOT put them anywhere in my planner or binder. Those are downstream from the Inbox and are dedicated to Organized material. I treat that as sacredly as my Calendar.

              FWIW, after being Processed, my notes end up like any other Inbox item: as Trash, Someday/Maybe, Reference, or Project Support. Let me emphasize that this is only AFTER I have plucked out the actionable areas of them during Processing.

              I tried to answer what you meant, so I cast a broad net here. Hope it helps.



              • #8
                P.S. Colin...


                P.S. I don't carry my Project Support materials with me, so that makes a difference. I have too many Projects and too much Project Support material for that to be realistic. This means I have to pause before leaving to ask myself if I have what I'll need. I may take a few seconds and skim the Errands I'm going to run or the Projects I'm going to work on, and take the appropriate things in an Action Support folder, in my briefcase.

                When I tried to go paperless, I carried everything everywhere, but that tended to be an excuse for not doing the thinking I needed to do before leaving the house.

                If I had to carry Project Support materials, like if I were a nomad that used GTD, I would have to go nearly paperless, just due to the bulk... and then try to find that elusive watertight digital structure.



                • #9
                  thanks + one quick question

                  Thanks to all for your interesting comments. they have certainly helped give me a better idea.

                  JohnV474: your system looks interesting. i will into it in greater detail.

                  Kelly: i had already read the white paper on this. unfortunately it didn't answer my direct question. thanks for the link though.

                  i guess the main question that is still niggling me is the issue of contexts in the spiral notebook. should each context be followed immediately by another or should they be separated by a series of pages? generally speaking, what i can see by the responses no page should be left blank.

                  in other words, if i fill up the calls list on a given page and it is followed by the errands list page and countless others, i should go to the next available page which would be at the end of all of the context lists. i would then write the context calls at the top of the page and proceed to fill up this page. whenever each of the context lists would fill up, i would then choose the next available page and add in the particular context. essentially leapfrogging in no particular order.

                  no tabs should be included except if i were to have my context list at the front of the notebook and the projects and someday/maybe lists at the back (and whatever else that may be relevant).

                  I agree with TesTeq that the GTD outlook add-in would be benefitial. yet i would like to go 'paper' to get the feel first. of course the other issue with going electronic is the fact i have an iphone and can not use sync with the outlook add-in... plus i like what i see with the eproductivity modification for LotusNOtes. this looks great too! at the root of all of this is my need to not be processing the same email from the iphone, desktop and/or another location countless times. i figure IMAP is the best way to go with gmail handling all of my mail so the folders created will be reflected anywhere where i setup a gmail inbox... if i can get that going and being able to sync with the iphone, i will likely transition to electronic sooner than later. i am a the owner of a small service business and am also it's primary site tech; so i do everything in office (with a secretary) and am on the road a lot. the need to be fully portable is important and not to be repeating the same steps in countless different places is super important.

                  regardless of all of these perms and coms... i want to keep things simple at the beginning in my pursuit to learn GTD...

                  if anyone can write back a yes or no regarding how i plan to setup my contexts, i would appreciate it.

                  Last edited by dmapp; 05-25-2010, 12:13 PM.


                  • #10
                    If you truly want a paper-based system, and are considering a spiral notebook, consider spending a bit more and use the Levenger Circa system. Such a notebook has the advantages of a spiral notebook (thin, can fold back on itself) with the advantages of a 3-ring binder (can add tab dividers, can punch and add printed pages). You would need a Circa punch also.



                    • #11

                      looks like a great product! thanks for the tip!!!



                      • #12
                        No Outlook extensions.

                        Originally posted by dmapp View Post
                        I agree with TesTeq that the GTD outlook add-in would be benefitial.
                        I haven't mentioned the Netcentrics' Outlook Add-In software. There's a separate GTD® AND OUTLOOK® 2007 SETUP GUIDE that does not require any Outlook extensions.


                        • #13
                          General notes

                          Originally posted by JohnV474 View Post
                          Thanks for the kind words.

                          I'm afraid I don't understand your question. I'm not sure what you mean by "general notes", so I'll describe a typical situation and you can tell me if it answers the question.

                          I tried to answer what you meant, so I cast a broad net here. Hope it helps.


                          Thanks for the additional information (and my apologies for my ambiguity). Yes you did answer my question. I think we have a similar set-up except that I use a spiral bound A4 sized notebook for recording notes from meetings, conversations, telephone calls, and all the odds and ends that come up during the day. I record action items either in the notebook or in my separate notebook for actions (which is set up similar to yours). If I capture action items in my notebook I transfer them to my separate notebook. I tend not to use contexts, but list all my actions in the one list - something like Mark Forster's Autofocus (version 1) or Stephanie Winston's Master List. Also I have a separate binder for projects - and list my projects at the front of the binder.

                          It's fascinating to read about all the different approaches that everyone has to "getting things done".

                          Thanks again for your reply and all the best.

                          ... Colin


                          • #14
                            Try using a table of contents

                            I have used moleskine notebooks for my lists and capture. I number the pages of the notebook and leave the first 2-3 pages blank. I then list my Next Actions and Project lists on the blank pages and note the page number where it is located creating a table of contents. I also place a Post-it tab on the next blank page making it easy to find for my next capture item. When a list is complete or expands, I just go to the very next blank page, title it and note it in the table of contents. If I capture something that I may want to retrieve in the future, I note that in the table of contents as well. Simple, clean easy.

                            Hope this helps,
                            Kevin S.


                            • #15
                              Don't use fixed page notebooks

                              Hello. I'm a paper based GTDer. For 3 years.
                              I've experienced the "tiny bit of resistance" that make the difference in your mind between using something or not (like filing a document in your general purpose filing system A-Z or piling it "to File").

                              Regarding your paper based GTD system, I'd advice you note to go to Moleskine or spiral books. Your contexts will expand at different speeds so you'll need to have different parts expanding at different speed. Should you need o cross reference pages, number them or whtever, it'll add to the "tiny difficulties" to use the system and you'll end up not using it.

                              Do prefer a system where you can add and remove pages. The GTD filer as sold by DavidCo used great for that (though I don't own one for the international shipping costs are too high). Also, Levenger Circa notebooks are great for that (see|pageid=1749)

                              On the plus side, adding, removing, sorting pages is fun. That's important for a system you'll be using all day long, everyday!