Michael’s Scribbles: 2008-04-06

I did these ‘scribbles’ posts for a couple of days, then nothing. I didn’t stop typing them up – I just didn’t write any in the first place. Now that I am scribbling again, I’m doing it in a different place. I’m experimenting with using my Mini Filofax again. It’s a bit of a trade-off, as these things so often are. The area of paper to write on is quite a bit smaller than in a Moleskine, so I’m using a lot more pages. On the other hand, though, the paper is better, and I can have separate sections for other things. I’m not keeping a real GTD system at the moment, but it’s still useful to have some lists, like a wish list and a shopping list.

It’s quite possible I’ll be back to the Moleskine within a day or two, or that I’ll try to stretch my jeans pocket to cram in my Pocket Filofax. I have a worrying amount of fun trying them, though, and that’s the important thing.

GTD with Emacs PlannerMode

Latest Update: Removed PlannerLove – the site is sadly departed, and the domain has been bought by some domain squatters.

Sacha is currently writing the book on Emacs. When it comes out, it would seem rude for me to not buy a copy and read it. And she’s a small powerhouse of infectious enthusiasm, which will drag me back to Emacs. So, I’m giving up early and going back now. I know when I’m beaten. I’d just got myself nicely settled as a Vim user, too…

Recently, I’ve been trying out a new way of doing GTD, and it seems pretty good to me. In the end, it was Emacs I couldn’t cope with using, but if you get on with Emacs, this could be for you. Let’s start with a disclaimer this time, though…

  • This is one for the geeks.

It’s all based around using the Emacs text editor, which isn’t the easiest thing around to use, even just to edit a text file. It balances a couple of elisp programs on top of that, too, which let you do all sorts of clever things, using nothing but plain text. If you’re geek enough, though, and the idea of keeping everything in plain text appeals to you, this is one fast GTD system…

GTD: Processing Whilst Collecting – Is It a Problem?

Once you’ve been doing GTD for a while (however half-assed your implementation), you start to find yourself thinking in GTD terms. You spot something that needs doing in the living room, and your mind jumps straight to “Hmm – tidy side table needs to go on @Home.” The problem is that this isn’t how GTD is supposed to work. You’re supposed to just capture the fact that the side table is a mess, and process that note later. Once you get used to doing it, though, you shortcut through the steps and just find yourself wanting to stick the item straight on the appropriate list.

GTD – The PigPog Method

Last Update: Added a link for Gretchen (one of the people who helped create the PigPog Method), to her new site – Girls Can’t WHAT? – inspiration for girls who can.

This article describes how I actually implement the GTD system using my iPaq and Microsoft Outlook, though it could be done just as well with almost any computerised lists. It’s my solution to the GTD problem of linking next actions to their project. If you don’t know what GTD is, you’d probably best start with my introduction. If you do GTD, but use paper and pen, have a look at MarkTAW’s Cascading Next Actions method – similar, but designed for paper users.

GTD is all based on David Allen’s excellent books. You’ll get far more from reading the books than from any web site.


Filesystem GTD

I’ve done GTD in an assortment of different ways over the years, and one idea I’ve kept coming back to, but never quite used for long is running the whole system in the computer’s filesystem. The idea is that GTD is just a matter of lists, and the list of files and subfolders in a folder is a list, so the one could represent the other. Most of the stuff I actually work with is in some sort of computer file, so it would seem like a sensible way to do it.

I’ve tried it out, and it does work. I’ve got a PDA again now, though, which makes a pretty convincing argument for keeping everything in Outlook tasks, so I didn’t stick with it for long. In the time I’d been trying it out, though, BigNosedUglyGuy had been asking about it, so I put some notes together to let him know what I’d been doing. That also means I’m halfway through writing it up – might as well finish the job and post it…

Doing GTD Without Doing GTD


I’m not really doing GTD any more. There. I’ve admitted it.

That feels better. Why? Well, it’s just too much to manage for the stuff I actually need to track. I can’t use a single system, as work related stuff has to remain at work, and personal stuff has to remain outside work’s systems. I suspect most people are in this situation, unlike the upper management level people David Allen tends to address his writing and seminars to.

At work, everything has to be in a specific online system, and there isn’t really the time to duplicate all that in another system to apply GTD to.

GTD Methods

Latest Update: Just correcting a few links.

If you don’t already know what GTD is, you may want to have a look at our GTD Introduction explaining it. This article is just a look at a few of the different ways that GTD can be implemented. It’s not very in-depth on any method, and is only really intended to give you some ideas before I cover the method I use – GTD – The PigPog Method.

GTD is all based on David Allen’s excellent books. You’ll get far more from reading the books than from any web site.


As I mentioned in our GTD Introduction, one of the unusual things about GTD is that it presents you with a complete workflow for managing all the stuff you have to do, so it might seem like there’s not a lot of scope for different ways for implementing it. However, there’s a surprising range of ways people have found, some following the GTD system exactly, some varying from it in a few ways. In this article, We’ll cover a few different ways, just to give you some idea of the variation that’s out there. It’s not going to be comprehensive – I’m probably only even aware of a fraction of the ways out there. My article is about how I implement the GTD system, so it seems like a good idea to cover a bit of the variety out there first – the way I do it isn’t the only way.