Starting GTD in RTM
Like I said in my previous entry, I’d tried to get into GTD before, and I’d even used RTM to try it. It’s really nifty how you can share tasks with another person. However, without a real system to use it, it always died on the vine. Sometimes you just need someone else to show you the way. And This time however, I had an approach and I started small. The general idea was to just focus on my personal life, and slowly but surely start to integrate the things I needed.
First off, I found this excellent blog on implementing GTD with RTM. That was a great start.
I would use Tags and smart searches to create the functionality I needed. Each project would be a list, and I would tag each action with a context. Then, I would create a smart search for each context – these were dynamic lists. The key to making RTM work initially was the idea to keep the context tags simple (web, calls, errands) and likewise I had a few stock lists to dump stuff into (ps-Daily, wk-Daily, ps-Someday, wk-Someday). If you start with those, it’s shocking how much stuff you can get done.
Then, for projects (despite RTM not explicitly handling projects), you make a list then I would prepend each list with a letter to indicate what it was. [P] for a project list, and [L] For a check list. I realized that I could use RTM to hold my check lists. Another thing that I think is really important and many, many ToDo apps have no clue how important this is to staying organized. Despite the fact that they have the ability to handle creating lists of things with check boxes, they don’t seem to grasp the significance to difference between a Task List and a Check List.
But I digress. Sufficient to say that I find it tremendously useful to have lists of items I can check off when I am trying to complete tasks. My sorry old soggy brain can’t remember very many details. In fact, it reminds of something I heard in college. I had a classmate who posited the “Conservation of Stupidity”. He argued that we all must carry a finite amount of ignorance around us our entire lives, so as we learn new things we have to jettison old things.
So I got into the GTD dance with Remember The Milk. And it worked really well.
Like I said, with RTM you really can enter new tasks FAST. Their short cuts make it simple to capture a lot of information with your keyboard. And being able to save intelligent searches effectively made RTM a nifty database for tasks. If I could organize my projects by step, then use the search to display reports by Context. I could make it work! And it did.
However, RTM does has it’s limitations. The more I used the tool, the more unwieldy it became. First, list management is a pain. It’s part of the Settings, not really part of the task management process. And as I started to follow the true GTD process… capturing everything, I mean ALL of my projects and lists… I discovered that the number of lists became unmanageable. Suddenly I had 5 rows of Lists, projects, and context view reports. Just trying to find the thing I was looking for became a chore. I needed something more. And trying to use Due Dates a surrogate for Start Dates created another problem. How did I really know what was due? I ended up with lots, and lots of badges warning me that I was LATE.
A really good task management system should reduce stress, not increase it with artificial warnings. I needed another tool.
I was ready to step up to some heavy duty planning tool.