Sunday, December 03, 2006

49 Resources on GTD software

Need a GTD application to start getting organised? Why not check first the 49 Resources on GTD software?
You'll find this list at Listible, an online compilation of contributed topic lists.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Two great online note taking solutions: Google notebook and Scrapbook extension for Firefox

Whenever you do some web-based research, be it for a school paper, gathering documentation for any project, collecting reference for an article you are writing, or compiling information about a particular purchase, you need a good system to save snippets of text, images and links.

You will be using the internet and your browser more and more for this purpose in the foreseeable future, and the necessity of a good way to store, access and organize your collected information is crucial.

Of course, you can always copy and paste the text using regular office software, an outline editor or some other program. Or you can just copy images, save PDFs and complete web pages in a particular folder in your computer. But using your own browser to save, organize and access this repository of information is a more practical approach. How?

There are two good, free and easy to use solutions that live right within your Mozilla Firefox browser: the Google Notebook and the Scrapbook extension for Mozilla Firefox (the first one will work, with some limitations, in any browser.)

Scrapbook extension: saving a complete pageThe Scrapbook extension deservedly won a contest for the best Firefox extension organized by the Mozilla Foundation. Scrapbook provides a reliable system to save anything from a page, from an image or a small text selection to whole pages. The saved snippets and pages can be further edited, for example to get rid of non-significant parts such as ads or navigation items; you can also highlight or annotate passages. Scrapbook adds a new panel in your sidebar (which can be accessed at a mouseclick if you add its icon to the program toolbar), some items in the Menu and contextual commands. For example, if you want to save a snippet of text or an image, you simply right-click it and choose Capture Selection.

This extension provides extensive control on the way you save your selections, and you can organize them in folders and subfolders, reorder them, export the items or generate a list of references telling you exactly where you found what. Compiling a list of links for an anotated bibliography is simplicity itself. Scrapbook comes with an excellent and detailed user manual.

To install this extension you only need Mozilla Firefox. Visit the Addons page, install it, restart your browser and you are done. You can also find more information and the detailed manual and tips in the developer page.

example of Google NotesGoogle Notebook makes web research of all kinds easier and more efficient by enabling you to clip and gather information even while you're browsing the web. Google Notebook lives in your browser, you won't be left with a scattered collection of notes, Word docs, and browser bookmarks to sort through; all your web findings will be gathering into one organized, easy accessible location that you can access from any computer. You can organize your notes in sections; all the linked materials are saved the server together with links to the original websites you used to take your notes. Notes can be shared or private; this makes the Google Notebook a good collaboration tool.

To access the full potential of Google Notebook, it's better to install a small extension for Firefox that adds two features: a contextual menu to save selections, and a mini-notebook on the status bar. When you have installed this extension, you can add web clips to your Google Notebook in three easy steps: a) Select content from a web page; b)Right-click and c) Select "Note this (Google Notebook) You can open and close your mini Google Notebook by clicking the icon on your browser's status bar (bottom right-hand corner).

The Notebook can be integrated in your Google homepage by adding the Google Notebook gadget.

Monday, November 20, 2006

My personal GTD workflow

click the image to see a bigger version
This image (click it to see a bigger version) represents the practicalities of my normal organisation system. As you can see, I try to keep it as simple as possible. Otherwise, you must spent your time organising your organisation!

Both the digital and the paper-based sections are equally important for me, but I could skip either the digital or the paper compartments if necessary. If I only needed the digital tools, for example if most of my projects were done in the computer, I probably would need fewer printouts and I could even get rid of the paper organiser, except for the occasional to-do list and other kinds of reminder lists. Similarly, if I seldom used the computer, I would work it out only using the paper-based tools on the outside of the circle.

This method seems to work for me. Note I have put the ThinkingRock program as the centerpiece of the digital section, but you could use other GTD-centric applications as well, either alone or in combination. The list on the right side, GTD-relevant links, points to some of these solutions. But as I said, I prefer the leanest option available, and I prefer using a single program in a single instance (running from an USB drive.)

Feel free to download the bigger graphic and use it with a Creative Commons Licence.

Of course: I would like to hear your opinions. Is your system even simpler? Do you have some brilliant hack? What do you think?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Clear mind: the mind as water state

As a contribution to the Illustration Friday project, I created an image for the theme of the week, clear. A rather abstract concept which admits a great variety of treatments. My concept can be related with one of the central ideas in the GTD method: keeping a clear mind, a mind as water state, with all the worries related to the organisation of your tasks safely removed from your body “RAM” and put into an efficient and trusted external system.
This illustration is made up of some forms suggesting the open space and a head taken from my Capsbats series. This is a digital image made with vectorial shapes (although these heads were originally ink drawings, prior to scanning and tracing.)
If you wish to see a bigger version, just click the picture above or this link.
The bigger version, by the way, makes a beautiful wallpaper for your computer. Use the centered setting and choose a dark blue background color, and you should enjoy the picture while having neat space on the four sides to have your desktop icons arranged.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

ThinkingRock: a GTD-centric organizer

Before posting a few more sketches, I want to recommend ThinkingRock: it is a free software application for collecting and processing your thoughts, following the GTD methodology. It is simple, easy and quick to use.Overview screen in ThinkingRock, a solid GTD workflow
First, I must say I love their slogan: “If you don't have time to download and use this software then you really need it.”

What ThinkingRock can do for you is better explained quoting the developers’ explanation:

The philosophy of the program is simple: it allows you to collect your thoughts and process them into actions, projects, information or future possibilities. Actions can be done by you, delegated to someone else or scheduled for a particular date. Projects can be organised with ordered actions and sub-projects. You can review all of your actions, projects and other information quickly and easily to see what you need to do or to choose what you want to do at a particular time.Processing thoughts in ThinkingRock
Why we recommend ThinkingRock:
  • It will help you to store in one safe place all the things you have to do or would like to do one day;
  • Unlike many task management applications, ThinkingRock lets you to group your actions in projects and sub-projects;
  • It gets you moving on your thoughts by encouraging you to think of the next physical action to take;
  • It has good on-line help;
  • We provide free customer support;
  • The data file is separate so you can have the application installed on your home computer and at work, and transfer the small data file between computers; or simpler still: run it from your pen (USB) drive;
  • It is multi-platform (Java): use it on Linux, Machintosh, or Windows;
  • And, best of all: It's free.

I like the export functions of the program: it will generate custom lists of actions, projects with actions sorted by context, an ical calendar with tasks and events, and even print in a Pocketmod format. It’s a great piece of software!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

About GTDrawings

Whenever I’m reading something, and it doesn’t really matter what, be it a breathtaking novel or a boring manual, I just can’t help myself doodling and sketching whatever comes to my mind —and to my hands.

Sometimes the drawings have something to do with what I’m currently reading, sometimes they don’t. They may be completely unrelated. Some of the sketches are detailed representations of some character or situation, with detailed line or textural work and details; others are more careless and impulsive.

Reading David’s Allen Getting Things Done has been no exception. Being such a succesful and enthusiastically envangelised book, I was compelled to create these visual side notes.

Here they are. I’ll post a selection of the sketches (around fifty) and derivative works. The images are available under a Creative Commons licence (see below). Read the licence terms for detailed usage information.

If you want me to create more polished, vectorised or colour versions of these drawings, please contact me for a quote.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Rounding things up

Today we finish with the original sketches I made during my particular reading of Getting Things Done. I hope some of these images have contributed somehow to enrich your own experience or provided an additional insight about the topics covered in the book.
Next weeks I will upload some related drawings.

The someday/maybe category of your organising system may contain those things that lay farther ahead on your future. It is necessary to envision what really matters to you to set the goals (realistic goals) for the next years of your life.

Try to have your colleagues let you lead a well organised work environment. They should follow your advice and use your IN basket to your advantage.

One of the most important things one should get used to is to taking advantage of odd windows of time. Those moments when you really could do some task and save more quality time for other activities or simply leaving more free time. You can do things whenever you're waiting on a queue, on a waiting room, a traffic jam... just have your laptop, pda or your notebook close at hand.

Why 43 folders? You wonder... really simple. That's how you set up a functional tickler file.

A few more notes about GTD

Another selection of my sketches. Note that most of them are either pencil or pen drawings. I drew them on separate sheets of paper (in different places, both in one of my sketchpads, individual sheets and even on the back of envelopes.)

Even more side notes...

In these post I am rather including the maximum of pictures and the minimum of text, because you'll have enough to read with the book and related websites. I will rather include these pictures about specific points that captured my interest.
Additional description is missing because all of these illustrations are already scribbled with some explanation.

Details and howto images

Today I'll add a variety of my visual side notes about Getting Things Done, together with some text annotations about the context for each of them. You may click any image to see bigger versions. If you wish to use some of these sketches, read about the use licence below. You'll also find contact information in case you should need something more polished.

(Deciding the next action depends on several criteria.)

(Never hesitate to process what is coming into your in basket. On to your filing system.)

Well, the image carries a text note. The monster of anxiety and emergency situations appears often when you leave non actioned lists.

In your daily life you will probably have to dance among many different tasks. You must learn to do it with the safe net of a solid GTD system!

A good filing system, be it digital or paper-based, is absolutely necessary for a sound organisation of your work and life.

The formality factor means that some decisions fail because of the apparent complexity of deciding what to do. If you streamline your decision-making with a good system, you will speed up your activities and get rid of stuff.

Keep a big (or giant) stack of fresh folders and a good supply of stationery items. Nothing is more frustrating than putting of your organisation task because you have just run out of folders, paper sheets or whatever item you need.

At a very simple level, the humble lists are one of the most formidable tools to lead a better organised life. But remember that you must follow some basic rules to be able to write effective lists.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Tools of the trade

To have success in getting your life organised, you really don’t need fancy tools or high tech gadgets. A simple notepad and pencil or pen is almost everything you could possibly need if you have a good and sound system.
Some GTD -oriented stationery like a Hipster PDA (see links on the right side) are fine examples of this simple and trouble-free (and electric power-free) approach.

Idea-generation methods and GTD

Some idea-generation methods frequently used as creativity enhancers are also very good for organizing your stuff and get it on track to get things done.
These sketches are related to some passages in the Getting Things Done book where brainstorming, mind maps and distributed cognition are mentioned (click for a bigger version.)

Miscellaneous notes

These are some miscellaneous sketches about concepts such as:

  • the importance of substituting a mess of partial, non systematic lists, by well-structured to-do lists with clear contexts;
  • keeping the calendar as a kind of “sacred territory” only for tasks or appointments with a very specific time allocation;
  • the back-of-the-envelope planning idea, frequently mentioned in the text;
  • the usefulness of brainstorming techniques as a way of organizing your stuff;

As usual, you can click the image to see a bigger version.

1000 Heads: the book

1000 heads, my illustration book

My artwork at Flickr

Inspiring books for the creative type

My GTD (Getting things done) illustrations

I conceived this blog basically to share my visual side notes of the Getting things done process. My most recent posts about GTD software and related topics have “masked” the original posts.

You can access most GTDrawings in the archive of december 2005 and january 2006.

Here's a miniature with most of my sketches: this is what you will find, commented and in larger sizes, in those previous posts.

See also the article about GTD drawings.

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