Thursday, March 01, 2007

Still trying to find a system

As you all know, if you've been reading my blog, I have 3 fixations: the absurd, cats, and gadgets. The latest gadget-focus is on a system to be productive.

How difficult can that be? Well, if you type "GTD" [Getting Things Done] into a search engine, you'll be innundated with options, ideas, and lifehacks. For a start, try the Ultimate GTD Index.

Tips and tricks abound, and there are loads of web applications all vying for your attention, trying to be your solution.

Well, I'm narrowing down my solution. Wanna hear about it?

I use Gmail. If you haven't found it yet, go get thee an account. Huge memory, archiving, Google searching of emails, conversation management, great labeling system.

I've added the GTD Extension to my Firefox, which is really just a ramped-up system of labeling your emails. A couple of added shortcuts that I've come to like, but they're only available if you're on a Firefox that's got the extension.

My start page is Netvibes. Sign in from any computer, and all your settings are there -- your email accounts, bookmarks, to do lists, feeds. I'm turning it into my office.

The viable To Do lists. This is a hard one. I'm still toying with just using Netvibes' to do list capabilities, but now I can put a Remember the Milk module on my Netvibes page -- and there's just so much more you can do with its functions. And I've added IMified to my gmail contact list, which enables me to send my To-Dos directly to Remember the Milk. Very simple and elegant!

Dealing with documents. This is a tricky one. Do you need a place to just store docs online to access them yourself, or do you need to share them? Or is it bigger than that? Perhaps you need to create an Excel spreadsheet or a PowerPoint presentation, but you don't have these programs on your computer. Two options: Get the OpenOffice suite on your computer -- free and easy to use. Or, get an account with ThinkFree, where you can make these docs online. (I've had some problems with ThinkFree, some recent changes have made it less intuitive, and I couldn't access a spreadsheet. In all fairness, the support people got right back to me, but I've been too busy to follow up on the problem. My bad.)

I would really hesitate to use Google Documents and Spreadsheets (accessed through your gmail/google account) -- it looks really docs right from your Gmail account, but then once you change them, you have to download them to the computer you're on, then email them. You'd think, being so closely tied to your email account, that you'd be able to email the docs directly (What if you're on a computer where you don't want/can't download?) -- but no, they want you to invite your people to sign up to a Google account to be able to share the documents.

At the moment, I'm partially using Zoho Projects for one of my jobs. I say 'partially' because I'm working with people who don't function like I do, all online, so they're not using it with me (and I can't make 'em. Boo hoo!). But it has a nice feature where I can upload files with no fuss.

The Internet is always there, but the providers fail. I'm not always in front of a computer, so yes, there is one dimension still needed: the paper standby. I still use my daybook, the Polestar Business Calendar, to keep track of appointments and on-the-go notes...with help from the ubiquitous post-its.

Does all this obsess you as well? What are your solutions? I wanna know.



gtdfrk said...

Hi Lori,

Thanks for mentioning the GTD Index. As the creator of the GTD Index I can definitely recommend using that page as a starting point for all of your GTD questions.

I think we all fight the battle you mentioned one time or another - but beware, GTD does not depend on the gadgets you use. It is a major pitfall to keep tweaking and tuning your GTD system, or to try to find the perfect gadget to do GTD - I know because I've been there... and sometimes still are :)

Perhaps a last pointer, if I may, is my post on my own GTD blog where I describe my own experiences with (trying to) implement GTD into my personal and professional life. I just wrote a blog entry about 10 Simple Tip to Start Getting Things Done. One of the tips is to start low tech (i.e. pen and paper) and worry about upgrading your system later with hi tech gadgets when you feel comfortable using GTD.

Anyway, I hope this helps! Good luck on your journey in GTD-land! :)

Kaj Kandler said...

For those that are not on best friends terms with, we have created Plan-B for It is loaded with screencasts (short videos) and a smart search engine that helps you to find what you are looking for.


Lori said...


Oh, thanks for stopping by -- and I hear you about playing with the gadgets getting in the way of actually GTD. I have yet to apply the full scale 'sort-through-all-aspect' of my life procedure. I will, soon, but I thought I'd start getting my system in place.

And I like your tips -- esp. keeping it simple, then making it simpler! Very nice.

Thanks! I'm quite proficient at using word processors, but the other programs in Open Office are ones that I want to use more (now that I have 'em). In the spirit of KISS, though, I have to control my desire to play with these programs, teaching myself. I can waste hours that way. Right now, I need a complex spreadsheet for a project I'm working on, so I gave the specs to a geek on the project who will make it for me!
What I really need to learn is the db program!

mad said...

The irony about all this technology is that it hasn't made life easier -- it's just made it that much more difficult to navigate!

Lori said...

Truer words...and all that.

raincoaster said...

With a Palm or Sidekick etc, you don't need to transfer information into your computer manually, which is a huge advantage. Mind you, my Handspring crashes all the time, and loses the data I've so lovingly stored so my preference now is for things that put that info on the web as quickly as possible. Google's servers aren't as likely to fail as my hard drive.

Also, do you know Lifehacker? Great site, got you written all over it.

Lori said...

Oh, that's a recommendation to get a Handspring! :p [What is it exactly?]

I've got the major GTD blogs on a Netvibes tab -- courtesy of What's the Next Action. And yes, Lifehacker is on it.

raincoaster said...

A Handspring is an old kind of Palm. Nowadays I'd get a Blackberry or Sidekick.

Just took a fabulous course called Mission Control; seriously, if I impliment even a third of this stuff it could be life-altering. The course started with the speaker asking us all to think of the totality of all we have to do and handle...

Then he said "and you're here so I can teach you how to get it all done and handled, right?"

And we nodded.

"Well," he said, "I have some bad news for you: given the totality of all that you have to do and handle, you can't do and handle it all. Sorry."