ONE master list that's separated by @contexts or multiple @context lists?

Discussion in 'PUBLIC: Discuss the GTD Methodology' started by topshelf, Mar 24, 2019.

  1. topshelf

    topshelf Registered

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    I am hoping someone can help me with my quandary here.

    Currently, I use a single .txt file to hold and organize my list of projects, next actions, waiting for, and someday/maybe items.

    For example:

    @PROJECTS
    - item 1
    - item 2
    - etc.

    @AGENDAS
    #PERSON x
    - item 1
    - item 2
    - etc.
    #PERSON y
    - item 1
    - item 2
    - etc.

    @ANYWHERE
    - item 1
    - item 2
    - etc.

    The good: By using one master list, I don't have to go back and forth between lists. An item should only be on my calendar or on that master list.

    The bad: With such a large list, it's easy to become overwhelmed by and numb to the list.

    For capture, I either use 3x5 index cards or Google Keep, depending on what I have available. I'm a psychotherapist, and I can't readily use my phone or other electronic devices to capture thoughts in the middle of a session with someone. Most people don't mind if I make a note on paper, thankfully.

    I have an @AGENDA for every client. It's not unlike me to have 50+ agendas at a given time.

    I've considered going lo-tech and using a binder and divider tabs to separate my lists. Part of me thinks it would be nice to have a separate page dedicated to a particular person under the @AGENDAS divider and tab. However, carrying around a large binder doesn't seem all that practical. A .txt in Dropbox seems like it would be much more ubiquitous. (I use .txt because it's easily accessible on any electronic device, ubiquitous, easy to back up, and not dependent on software.)

    I've also considered making separate .txt files (like separate pages in a binder), but that seems somewhat unwieldy, unlike sheets of paper, especially given the large number of @AGENDAS I manage.

    -----

    I don't want my questions to get lost in the weeds above, so here they are:

    Do you use ONE master list that's separated by @contexts or multiple context lists? Why do you keep the lists the way you do?

    For those of you that have an extensive list of @AGENDAS, how do you manage those?

    Has David ever addressed this? If so, where can I find that information?

    Thank you!
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2019
  2. Gardener

    Gardener Registered

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    Where do contexts fit into this? It sounds like each item would appear twice--once for its project, and one for its context.

    I definitely wouldn't include Someday/Maybe in this list--part of the purpose of Someday/Maybe is to get things out of sight when you're working on your day to day stuff.

    My personal lists live in OmniFocus (everything but Someday/Maybe) and Scrivener (Someday/Maybe). OmniFocus allows me to have each item only once, because I can view lists from Projects mode or from Context mode. I can also narrow to view one project, several projects, or all projects, and the same for contexts.

    My work lists are in flux, but if I could use OmniFocus at work, I would.

    This sounds like a job for a software application--a database, or one of the GTD or To Do or list manager tools. Is there any specific reason why you don't want to use one?

    OK, I guess that's the reason, but...this just sounds pretty complicated.

    I use OmniFocus, which allows me to view my data in any of those ways--one master list, lists separated by context, lists separated by projects, and so on.

    I would probably create an Agenda context with a sub-context for each agenda.
     
  3. TesTeq

    TesTeq Registered

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    The main and very important reason is "proprietariness".
     
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  4. TesTeq

    TesTeq Registered

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    Have you ever tried to use TaskPaper format supported by many applications?
     
  5. lisaGTD

    lisaGTD Registered

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    I work in the NHS. The turning point for me was buying the GTD Outlook 2010 Methodology guide as this is also the email software we use. I'd really recommend it as it's made me so much more efficient as managing my lists.
     
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  6. David Parker

    David Parker GTD Connect

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    If you're happy using 3x5 inch index cards for capture, then why not use them for your lists? You could have separate cards for each @context and each #project.

    I used a 3x5 system for several years. It was easy to maintain and didn't need an internet connection. I'd be happy to share the details if you're interested.
     
  7. topshelf

    topshelf Registered

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    This is my main reason and secondary is the fact that I can access .txt from any device anywhere. The software comes and goes, but .txt files are forever (I hope!).
     
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  8. topshelf

    topshelf Registered

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    No, I've never tried TaskPaper. The only software application I've ever used to manage my lists (besides whatever I used on a Palm when I was a kid) was Google Keep.
     
  9. topshelf

    topshelf Registered

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    Do you think this guide would be useful to me if I don't use Outlook? I use Gmail and Google Calendar.
     
  10. topshelf

    topshelf Registered

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    Generally, I'm happy using 3x5 index cards for capture. I've used Field Notes, composition notebooks, A5 notebooks, spiral-bound notebooks, etc. for capture and either they're too big to be carried ubiquitously, or stuff tends to get "lost" inside them. Index cards fit into my back pocket, and it's easier for me to remember to process them.

    I'd be interested in hearing how you used them and why you decided to manage your lists differently.
     
  11. topshelf

    topshelf Registered

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    I'm not sure what you mean when you're asking where my contexts fit into this.

    I have a list of projects that might include something like "fix sidewalk." Under my list of projects, I have lists of next actions separated by contexts. For errands, I might have "buy Quikcrete" and "pick up boards from x."

    @PROJECTS
    - fix sidewalk

    @ERRANDS
    - buy Quikcrete
    - pick up boards from x

    Hmm. This sounds complicated to me. It'd drive me nuts to use multiple different software applications for list management. It seems like you're creating more inboxes for yourself to manage.

    Could you give me an example? There's a chance I'm already doing this if I'm imagining your way correctly.
     
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2019
  12. thomasbk

    thomasbk Registered

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    Check out WorkFlowy. It's basically a text-based list with links.

    If I asked you to write a report I would put it on my one master list as: 3/25 Asked @topshelf for report #wf

    Anything in WorkFlowy started with @ or # is a link. So if I have a weekly meeting with you, I would click @topshelf and instantly see everything I want to discuss with you across projects, waiting fors, and next actions. It's my agenda list without having to actually create a separate list.

    It is software, but it has a light footprint because it's just text.
     
  13. TesTeq

    TesTeq Registered

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    TaskPaper is primarily a set of rules for labels in a readable standard text file. There are many apps that handle "date", "done" etc. labels automatically.
     
  14. mcogilvie

    mcogilvie Registered

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    Rather than recommend software that might or might not work well for you, I’m just going to say it: relatively people do what you are currently doing, because it is unwieldy and hard to manage. Paper is easier, and many commercial software programs are easier. I’m not going to pretend that there is a magic answer that will eliminate the friction in your system. As David Allen says, it is always appropriate to ask “why” questions until you reach some sort of ground floor. You have to ask what your requirements are, why you have them, and what you are willing to do.
     
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  15. Gardener

    Gardener Registered

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    I see--I think. For me, "buy Quickcrete" would be an action that is tied both to the project "fix sidewalk" and the context "errands". I had assumed that when you said you had a list of projects, you were listing the project tasks under the projects. But it sounds like you're listing them under contexts and just remembering which project they go to? That wouldn't work for me, but I think it works for a lot of people.

    Sorry, I was unclear--Someday/Maybe absolutely could be in OmniFocus. I just choose to put an absolute minimum in my active lists and everything else Somewhere Else.

    To me, more inboxes is a small price to pay for minimalist daily lists, but that's definitely a personal preference--though I wouldn't call this an inbox. Someday/Maybe is already "in", processed, and stored.

    OmniFocus allows hierarchical contexts. So I have a context of "People", and then under that, Jane, Fred, and so on.

    I'm a Mac user, so I can use OmniFocus from my laptop, my phone, my iPad, and I think if I upgraded I could use it on the web. And, if I get tired of OmniFocus, I can export--I'll lose some of the linking subtleties, but that's a reasonable trade for me. I understand that that doesn't have the software independence of text, it's just that the software independence isn't valuable enough for me to give up what I'd give up by going to text. If I went that far, I think I might take the next step and go to paper.
     
  16. David Parker

    David Parker GTD Connect

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    Here is a general description of what the 3x5 system looked like. The link to the downloadable templates won't work as the website doesn't exist now. But if you're interested I'll share the templates with you.

    The wad of cards that I carried when I used this system was about half an inch thick and I had a small index card box to keep spares in.
     

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  17. topshelf

    topshelf Registered

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    I'm not sure I understand your comment entirely.

    Are you saying that no matter the system (e.g., .txt, paper, software application, etc.) project, next action, waiting for, and someday/maybe lists are hard to manage?
     
  18. topshelf

    topshelf Registered

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    Thanks for posting this! I'll take a look.

    Besides using 3x5 index cards for capture, I've been using them to make day-specific lists that I carry with me. In the morning, I review my calendar and then my master list. From these, I create @AGENDA, @ERRANDS, @WORK, etc. lists as needed. If I can complete items on these 3x5 index card lists, I delete the items in my master list when I process at the end of the day.
     
  19. cfoley

    cfoley Registered

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    I used a system similar to yours for a long time. It was a set of text files stored on a folder. Great system. Almost as flexible as paper but available on any computer or phone.

    To answer your question: When my lists were small, I would have them in one file. When they were larger, I would split them up. In your case, I would probably have a different file for each client.

    One tip: use a programmer's text editor if you aren't already. 'Sublime Text', for example, lets you open a folder which gives you a panel on the left where you can click on each file. You also get tabs like a browser as well as other handy things like the ability to sort the lines in a file.
     
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  20. Geeko

    Geeko GTD since 2017

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    There is no right or wrong in choosing your system. Don’t let other people make you crazy ;)
    If your one big txt file works for you, keep it. If you feel like you have to change something, change it. If you say that this single long list overwhelms you, try to split it up in different lists. You could also have a look for task list plugins for your editor. Depending on the editor you use there are many text-file based solutions available.
    If you want to switch to some other long-serving system, you could try ics calandars and task lists. There are several clients for almost every OS out there and syncing is easy with a CalDAV server.
    Just a few ideas. I hope this sparks some new ideas :)

    Cheers,
    Tristan
     

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