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Wednesday, September 15, 2004

GTD Nitty Gritty

I've been trying to put together a fully functional GTD (Getting Things Done) system for procrastination avoidance. Merlin, over at 43 Folders, has posted more insight into his particular (Mac-centric) approach : How does a nerd hack GTD? I borrowed some of his techniques, such as his Quicksilver text-append trick for adding tasks or actions to a particular action list (Merlin has now added a mini tutorial to help you get comfortable with QS). He also posted a template for his standard action list text files.

Here are my list files:

  • @agenda_dad.txt - Stuff to do next time I see my Dad.
  • @agenda_teri.txt - Stuff to do next time I see Teri (I have several of these agenda files).
  • @buy.txt - Stuff I need to buy from a brick-and-mortar store.
  • @calls.txt - Telephone calls to make.
  • @home.txt - Things I can do at home.
  • @inbox.txt - This is my electronic "IN" box. I try to empty it everyday.
  • @work.txt - Things I need to do at work.
  • @offline.txt - Stuff I can do on my PowerBook when I don't have internet access.
  • @online.txt - Stuff for which I need an internet connection.
  • @saw.txt - Stuff I can do to improve myself ("Sharpening the saw").
  • @waiting.txt - Tasks that are waiting on other people.
  • Projects.txt - A list of all the multi-action things I need to do.
  • Someday.txt - A deferred list of stuff that I mighnt get to... someday.
  • Movies_to_watch.txt - Yep, just like it says. Handy in printed form.
  • Books_to_read.txt - More obvious file-naming.
  • Tickler.txt - an electronic tickler file-- there are headings which correspond to each of the 43 folders. I check this file at the same time I check the physical tickler file.
I still haven't fully organized my e-mail to accompany these lists... I can't decide whether to have the same granularity, or to merge all of the actionable e-mails into a single folder and just refer to them from my detailed lists. Any ideas?

Update: I have now defined my e-mail folders, and they are much simpler than my action lists. I followed someone's advice at 43 Folders (I just went looking for the comment, but couldn't ffind it-- there's a LOT of material being added quickly to Merlin's site) and turned off periodic mail retrieval. Now, I fetch e-mails on demand only. No more interruptions from Mail.app!

Everything comes into the INBOX (naturally) when I tell MAIL to "Get Mail", and I then do one of the following with each message:

  1. DELETE it.
  2. If it's junk but Mail.app failed to flag it, I hit the JUNK button.
  3. If it requires action, I use Quicksilver to append the action to my @inbox.txt file and move the e-mail message to the @ACTIONS folder.
  4. If I need or want to read it for informative reasons later, I move it to the @READ_LATER folder.
  5. If it requires no action but I want to keep it, I move it to the @REFERENCE folder.
  6. If I only want to keep something for a few weeks (e.g. coupons that expire), I move it to @SAVE_FOR_NOW.
That's it, really. Unless there are unread messages, my INBOX is always empty.



Blogger Richard said...

I'd love to hear how you are going with this setup a couple of months down the track since you posted.

I've just spent the best part of a weekend getting my head around Vim and it's been a blast! I'm not sure what that says about me as a person, but I'm tempted to move my GTD setup out of Entourage and into text. Or at least dabble for a while with the text file approach.

So your list of files is of great interest to me right now.



3:59 AM  
Blogger Paul said...


It has been an interesting two weeks. I've definitely improved likelihood of getting certain things done, but my system still bogs down if I don't stay on top of it. As many have said, GTD works for people because they work it.

I'm still using Smultron as a text editor to manage all of my lists, and my filing system seems to be working.

I'll be posting a comprehensive "GTD: Two Months Later" entry (or something like that) within the next week.

Thanks, Paul

12:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You wrote: I'll be posting a comprehensive "GTD: Two Months Later" entry (or something like that) within the next week.

Ahem. [points to calendar] =) I've been playing with GTD for as long as you have and am interested in hearing your experiences, if you're still interested in relating.

The more I use the system (or slack of on using it), the more I realize that GTD works, but only if you work at making it work.

8:01 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

You got me! I figured out why I haven't posted as promised... I never added "post GTD follow-up" to my next actions! :-)

I'll get right on it.

8:28 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

Okay, it's up. Please see the new post entitled GTD Three Months Later.


11:34 PM  

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