Saturday, October 18, 2008

Productivity Tools

I have spent a lot of time trying to find the "perfect" system for personal productivity.  Here are a few things that I have learned...

Having a system to capture information is even more useful than I thought it would be.  I use something similar to the system described here, which is based on Microsoft OneNote.  In essence, every day (which means nearly every weekday, and some weekends) I create a new page with the date as the title, and then "dump" information into it.  I add checkboxes for to-do items, etc.  I also keep my "daily log" pages in the folder that synchronizes with OneNote on my phone, so today & the past few days of notes (plus a couple of persistent pages) are always on there.

This has worked out great as a to-do list, since OneNote also lets you see all "flagged" items, including those marked with different types of checkboxes.

This leaves out one very important thing, though - keeping information up-to-date in my own brain.  This is something that all of the GTD Gurus specifically tell you not to do.  The idea being that information and to-do items "take up space" in your mind, and prevent you from thinking more creatively.  There is a point to be made there, but I think that Allen and others take the idea too far.

My take (which really isn't wildly different from Allen's "weekly review" process) if that you should review your own notes regularly.  Things that still seem important the next day (or the next week) probably are.  I also don't think that this process should be overly formal.  Just spot-check some things from last month, last week, and yesterday.  One thing I hate is to constanly review "to-do" lists that I can't yet take action on.  Reviewing thoughts, ideas, and opinions of other people and their ideas is another matter, so I try to keep my "to-do" items down to only a handful, and the other information more verbose.