Simplicity and the triumph of paper. Maybe.

Roger

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As someone who has been very happy with an almost purely paper system, I thought this thread deserved a bump! It's full of wisdom.

Something I haven't seen mentioned yet: Printing out my emails has really helped me get a handle on that whole subsystem.
 

JohnV474

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Agree on the bump

I have moved to a paper system because I need my system to be with me more places. A Palm carries more information for the size, but it doesn't move fast enough (for me) to be able to input or retrieve.

I use the setup described by DA in the Organizing a Paper Planner pdf (free) from this website. Everything else is "stock" GTD also, except no Tickler file (I use my calendar and file the tickled items--I also don't Tickle much).

My binder goes with me to every destination, but I leave it in the car if I'm, say, at the movies.

The only printouts I use are a Phone directory (word processing document with two columns and small font), updated by hand until Weekly Review, and my Project Plans, which are word processing documents in Outline View. The initial brainstorm/mind map (if a project requires it) is done on paper so I'm not impeded if I'm on the road or not at a computer.

I write down emails to respond to, then store the email in a specially marked computer folder.

It's too often I'm not at a computer to retrieve data and a PDA can't move as fast as I need to for mind maps or ad hoc lists.

Now, if I could just fit my filing cabinet on my back, I could do anything anywhere!

JohnV474
 

Pablo

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GTD Paper system for tracking projects and single tasks.

kewms;40672 said:
A little while ago, I posted that I'd trimmed out a lot of the hierarchy in my GTD system. I'd realized that it was too hard to find things, and so I wasn't maintaining the system well, with predictable consequences.

I also realized that I had overcomplicated the context system by trying to split things too narrowly. I have basically two kinds of work: stuff that requires intense focus for long periods, and stuff that doesn't. The high-focus stuff is almost all project-based, and I think of it as "work on XYZ project," not as "@Read/Review" or "@Write" or @anything else. The low focus stuff is almost all context-driven: I plow through a list of @Phone or @Email or @Home stuff, without reference to any particular project.

And finally, I realized that an electronic system makes it easier for cruft to accumulate in my lists. I can merrily drag an electronic task along for months, or even years, without ever having to think about when I plan to do it, or even if I still care about it. A paper system forces me to engage with my tasks much more directly: why do I keep copying that over and over again?

I think that using projects as contexts will help avoid one of the biggest disadvantages of a paper system: having to copy the same items to more than one place. It also simplifies the problem of verifying that each project has at least one NA. The risk is that project-related stuff that is not an NA will creep onto these lists, but the one-page limit should help me catch such problems quickly.

Comments welcome, especially from other retro-paper folks.

Katherine
I also have moved from digital to analog (paper). Two main tweaks in my system are that I track everything via contexts. (1) Every context first page is to track single non-project items (a dedicated inbox if you will ). (2) All projects are tracked via context. Here is where the system shines, I move the project pages from one context (Calls, Errands, Computer etc) to another depending on the next action that I have decided to work on. I also use a Daytimer Today ruler to pick the project that I want to work on first. I too feel like I lose perspective via the electronic screens of phones, tablets and pcs. I like being able to track my progress via the history of my completed tasks.

Pablo
 

Roger

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Pablo;86941 said:
I like being able to track my progress via the history of my completed tasks.
This isn't really specific to paper, but it is interesting that GTD is so silent about what happens to tasks after their completion. Like you, I find it useful to keep them around for a while.

Cheers,
Roger
 

Julia

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Organizing Project Plans/Next Actions by Context

Pablo,

Very interesting idea! I've recently steered away from contexts because of feeling like I need the project/next actions to stay together. Now I have a binder of one-page project plans (project support and old stuff is in project folders) that I just divide up by areas of focus at work.

I miss the contexts, but when trying to keep my lists current with my project plans, I'd have things all out of sync and was losing things. It always felt like my system was a mess.

How do you find the right project page when you need it? (if you're not just working through your contexts)

Thanks,
Julia
 

nunodonato

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Julia,
May I ask WHY do you need that kind of strong link between actions and projects?

Its great to keep them related somehow, in a paper system I used to just assign a number to a project and then write it down on the side of the paper next to the action.

But why do you need it that much? If you are doing your weekly reviews properly, and making sure your projects are clear, well defined and have specific next actions, you don't need to worry about where the actions belong during the week.
Of course there are exceptions to this, but in those cases, there are simpler solutions available. I would definitely not remove the contexts, for me it's one of the things that makes me more productive and able to get the most out of where/when/who/what I am with.

Nuno
 

Julia

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Many of my projects are not necessarily linear and have multiple "moving parts." A perfectly laid out next action may be exactly how I would handle the project given an open morning without interruptions. But reality as it happens does not mean I'm going to just "pick up where I left off" because too much can change. Then I feel like I have 6 different directions to look to pull the project back together if I need to re-evaluate it.

I want to see all of a project together so that when someone I delegate to says 'hey, I'm suddenly freed up from my other assignment, what can I do for you for the next 2 hours' or my boss says 'where are you on the registration event?', I have one place to look.

Right now, if all of my project's next actions were in contexts (yes they are all actionable), then I'm "chasing them down" from my contexts lists to look at the project as a whole.

So if one of my next actions on my @computer list was to look up a number to call an agency to find out about details to include on a brochure it's a lot easier to flip to that project page when an assistant is suddenly available and just be able to say - can you check with the ABC company for these details (it would change from my own next action to handing off a mini-project). I want to maximize her time. If I'm in and out of meetings most of the day she suddenly has free and don't have time to review all of my lists to see what I could give her, then I can't use her effectively.

Sure I could have some items ready for her 'just in case' but if my main big project is going to have me working late if I don't have it done and it's moving too quickly to have some things ready 'just in case', I'd much rather be able to open that project plan and hand off some things on the spot.
 

Oogiem

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Julia;86962 said:
I've recently steered away from contexts because of feeling like I need the project/next actions to stay together.
That strong link is my best argument for an electronic system. I can slice my data into contexts for doing but if I need to I can also easily pull out the entire project and see not only current actions but also past actions. I too want that strong linkage and that's probably why I never last more than a few days on a paper system. I can't stand the hassle of keeping the links current and I am too productive using contexts for doing to leave them off.
 

nunodonato

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Hi Julia,

thanks for explaining. Yes, I can understand the need for that given your style of work. Actually, I think the only "flaws" GTD has is when you try to coordinate work between a team. GTD excels when you are managing *your* commitments, but it can get slightly harder to coordinate team work, delegation, etc.

I have to agree with Oogiem here, I would not want to miss the benefits of the Contexts lists - they are really important - so probably you should look into some digital solutions, which can really help you in having a faster overview of projects and tasks linked to it.
I know Nozbe (www.nozbe.com) is one webapp that is focused on GTD and team-work, you might want to check it out.

take care
Nuno
 
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