My Secret to Getting Things Done

David Allen had a smash hit on his hands when he created and shared his GTD (Getting Things Done) system with the world. What he may not have counted on is that the system would be so popular that the GTD “industry” that sprang up around it has made it so complex as to defeat the purpose.

So what are we to do? It’s a fantastic system and has been proven to work for even the most busy of people. Of course, there are some of us who are not quite so busy, or some who are not always able to stay connected to the Internet, or even some who just do not trust technology or cannot use it well.

I had recently encountered this problem. I still have my 43 folders rolling right along and they are a great asset at work and at home. My inbox situation, however, has never been sane or working. When I first encountered GTD, I started to implement it simply in my e-mail inbox (which has never suffered or been cleaner thanks to Merlin’s Inbox Zero, but that’s another story).

I hopped from GTD software to GTD software testing out every new offering that put up a web site and slapped on a “Beta” tag. This past week, while I was switching back and forth between two applications updating identical to-do lists and trying to decide which one would win my “GTD Flavor of the Month” award, I just closed them both, and gave up. I considered moving my To-Do list and GTD system into 37signals Backpack as I love it and use it on a daily basis, but then I happened upon Todoodlist.

I remember hitting upon it from an RSS feed from some site, but I cannot remember where. It doesn’t matter now, because it has been one of the best finds of the year for me. So what is Todoodlist? It is a good old-fashioned paper/pen(cil) system of handling To-Do lists, calendars, and more. Over lunch, I headed to the office supply store and the art supply store (I am picky about pencils and you should be, too) and had my new system in the form of several notebooks and some comfortable new writing instruments. Todoodlist is my secret to getting things done.

Nick Cernis has written an excellent book titled Todoodlist of course, detailing the system along with some wit and wisdom. For a meager $14, you can download it in electronic format and check it out for yourself. I don’t want to delve into more details lest I infringe upon the work itself, but here’s how Nick describes the Todoodlist.

The Todoodlist was built with at-a-glance prioritisation and categorisation in mind. It builds upon the strengths of the paper list by adding the bits that were missing, together with an element that even electronic lists lack: fun! Paper productivity is now perfect.

I could not agree more. This system is a relief from the electronic overkill and works anywhere you are. In addition to Todoodlist, Nick Cernis has a really good site called Put Things Off. The About page says,

Put Things Off (PTO) helps freelancers, entrepreneurs and busy people work smarter, play harder and live the lives they love. PTO talks about productivity, freelancing, business, software, travel and much more.

A useful guide on the site is called Inbox Heaven. It integrates the Inbox Zero philosophy and extends it to keeping everything together when it comes to electronic correspondence. I am going to tackle it this week and see how it works. I have a hunch it will be fantastic, although it may take some time to get acclimated. Whatever happens, the Put Things Off site is a great resource and is well designed. I have added it to the Sites list in the sidebar, and I’ve only just begun to dig into the guides and articles. Drop by today… and don’t forget your pencil.