Getting Things Done… Better

The weak link in my GTD implementation was the “trusted system” for keeping and reviewing my actions and projects. I’ve done it on paper, but I also had to carry my Palm T|X to have my addressbook handy. (I have thus far capitulated to having a mobile phone, which I use only sparingly when absolutely necessary, but still have avoided a smartphone because they’re vastly overpriced for the use I’d make of one.) So I returned to my trusty peditPro text editor on the T|X, and have been using it for quite a while. The trouble in the system is the device interface. GTD is about overcoming the limits of human behavioral patterns, and the Palm Pilot, even the T|X, just doesn’t allow for an easy enough interface to manage the “trusted system.” I would find it a daily chore just to enter the text needed for processing actions and projects. Of course, I pressed on, not really perceiving that problem. Norwegian-Americans are often really good at that. (I think it’s the German part of me that finally brought me to my senses, but it could be the Scottish.)

Then came the babies. Twins. I was needed so constantly at home, 24 hours a day, for the last seven months, that about a month into it, I just stopped using GTD altogether. None of my projects were moving forward, and no actions were getting done. It was survival mode, and I’m okay with that. My wife has always needed sleep more than I do (her personal motto is carpe requiem), so I knew that she and the family would need my full attention for a while. I missed two regional pastoral conferences and every winkel until the 2012 synod convention. Somehow, we made it through Lent and Easter, and I think I even preached sermons. Well, there’s audio on the web site, anyway, so somebody preached.

But I gradually began doing more and more at church again, and God began sending guests to our services, and church activities were fruitful and multiplied. Fortunately, I have come to realize that I’ve been keeping a sizable to-do list in my head, and that it’s not working. Unfortunately, it took several system failures for me to realize it. So as I posted the other day, it’s time again for GTD. And now I recognize the weak link, and I come to the point of this post.

Turns out there is an abundance of GTD resources that many people have developed. It was a bit overwhelming just sifting through them. But I think I found my solution. First, the main requirements:

  • It should allow me to implement GTD, as described in David Allen’s book Getting Things Done.
  • It should be very portable. My Palm T|X excels here, and is hard to match.
  • It should have a large capacity, including an address book.
  • Centralized data storage is a plus, if it’s accessible from multiple locations, and can be backed up
  • Data should be secure.

A Ruby-on-Rails web application called Tracks was enticing, because I could keep my data on my own server, even if it’s hosted online. But the Ruby on Rails support at the web hosting companies I currently use is either non-existent, or not very fully implemented.

So after looking around, I’ve settled on a smaller Android tablet computer coupled with an online service called Toodledo. Right now, I’m saving up for the tablet, which will probably be a Google Nexus7. It’s bigger than my Palm T|X, but not by much. The larger size alone may solve the physical aspects of the “weak link” in my GTD system. But there are also several Android apps written to sync with Toodledo. The one I’m most interested in trying is called Ultimate To-Do List. If it’s anything like it’s described, it should be excellent.

While saving up for the tablet, I’ve been starting my transition to Toodledo. I’m amazed at this tool. It’s exactly what I want in a GTD to-do list, and easy enough to use that it doesn’t feel like a chore. I’ve only been through part of the listings in my Palm Pilot, and already my mind is beginning to get unwound. The creative juices are beginning to flow, and the old sense of GTD control is returning. I look forward with anticipation to having everything back in a trusted system, and out of my head.

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