Getting Things Done This Autumn
It looks, feels and smells, like autumn has finally come. It’s raining two times a blustery day and it’s cold like on Moon chilly nights. Some day this week I caught light cold and still suffering from aching throat. The heat wave had left unexpectedly, then the door bell rang, and in a fraction of a second we are welcoming the autumn in all its colorful beauty.
Our today’s journey has been canceled as meteo-channels forecast rains all over the area, but still there’s a hope it wasn’t the last time this year when we could set off for a long cycling trip.
This week I discovered one amazing personal time management technique. You know I’m an addict when it comes to productivity and organization. It’s my obsession, and I’m always open to learning something new to improve and develop personal skills. As it comes, the technique is extremely famous among business people. What I started exploring is Getting Things Done methodology brought to us by David Allen.
The set of methods and rules helps you stay on top of things at all times, unload your memory by pushing the agendas and to-do’s out of it to some convenient persistent storage, lets you focus more on what is going on right now and improve you next task selection skills. It’s no way a panacea from all the daily job troubles, but still it helps to hack your life and tackle with it one step more effectively.
My immediate victory was that since half a year I could make a deep breath of relief watching my Thunderbird inbox emptied and transformed into a tidy actions list (I’ll give you a tip about what software I used of course.) It was the result of an intensive review effort I had Wednesday evening. All the sheep were separated from the goats and important things stayed. I converted them into concise lists of concrete actions, so that they didn’t return to my inbox. Then I spent two wonderful working days in pure action picking tasks from my new actions list one by one for immediate unconditional execution. Surprisingly, I made much bigger progress than usual and the explanation I found in the book by David — I was no longer spending time hesitating about the choice to make. I always picked the right task.
The book I mentioned is entitled the same way as the technique — Getting Things Done. It’s written in clear language although frankly speaking I skipped over the first few chapters scanning them briefly because they are too narrative to my taste and bring very little practical advice. However, I would highly recommend reading them to those who doesn’t feel motivated enough to start. These chapters contain numerous invigorating real-world examples full of sense and value.
While the technique by itself is nothing really complex and doesn’t require some unusual tools, but files, a pile of printer paper, a pen and boxes to hold your “stuff”, I felt that it won’t work well for me because mainly (and it’s 99% of time for sure) my job is closely tied to electronic materials (email, documents, graphic files etc) and I need some software tool to support my updated workflow. I Googled and Digged through out the Internet only to find very few specialized desktop and web-based application for GTD, which I didn’t like. Continued looking for something really simple, sitting in my system tray, working perfectly without a mouse and taking very little memory to be almost invisible in all terms, brought its results at last.
To my greatest surprise I found a Delphi application KeyNote which is convenient and quick note taker with hierarchy of pages and multiple notes per file. Unfortunately the author — Marek Jedlinski — had terminated the support long ago with some dim explanation of his current programmer’s block. As a fellow programmer, I can reassure you, Marek, that having little blocks each day and big ones at least once a month doesn’t really actually give an excuse for getting things undone. One way or another it’s all very personal and not really the point. The point is that this little nice application fits my workflow and requirements extremely well at the moment. I would love to say thank you to Marek for this free bit of useful software. It’s a big luck that I found it on the ever growing Net and it’s elevating. It has no GTD specific features, but quick and reliable interface allowing to paste any reference materials (files, pictures, links etc) into a note body. I like it and recommend to give it a whirl.
This is all news for today. Perhaps, I’ll continue reporting my progress as I move on. Let me know if it’s interesting to anyone though. Maybe I’m just flooding?
Comments from the past
Markus Merz on 09/02/2006
That’s a very lovely memo to everybody :-)
It reminded me that I had installed KeyNote a long time ago for the very same purpose but had given up on it because I was not able to remember all the useful shortcuts.
Also the import feature is very confusing at the beginning because a) KeyNote only imports one type of file at once (i.e. _.txt but not _.bak) and b) if you don’t have an existing child in a node you can’t drag & drop files into that node. You first have to create a new child.
It is also not very common standard that you can’t select multiple items.
But beside these annoyances KeyNote is a very mighty tool and I can only add my vote to your recommendation.
And NO you are not flooding! I absolutely love to read such notes and I can assure you that you are not the only one who wishes to get that crowded inbox organized. I am green with envy that you managed that task :-)
And it can’t be said often enough: Thanks for BlogBridge!
Greetings from Hamburg where autumn is also on the horizon.
Aleksey Gureev on 09/02/2006
Hi Markus, haven’t heard from you for ages! Thanks for additional facts about KeyNote. Most wonderful thing is that it doesn’t look like a thing of a past: modern GUI, modern features. :)
Markus Merz on 09/05/2006
your site wasn’t available to me on Sunday so I couldn’t come back earlier.
Well, I am around all the time. Just recently I have joined the BlogBridge forum and added some nagging :-)
I follow your blog in BlogBridge (Thanks again :) and have started to use KeyNotes again because of your reminder. I have already started to create some to-do lists successfully got things done. It is much more efficient to do it this way than to do it with i.e. Palm desktop or Outlook or any ‘you name it’ online application. KeyNotes has some issues but is very powerful. It really is a pity that the developer is not working on this application anymore. All the new fancy trends like tagging or microformats from web pages will never be included :-(
If you have too much time you should write a converter from KeyNotes XML to OpenOffice. This can’t be too difficult.
Just checked my inbox for your last mail in my archive. It’s from June 30th, well, that are ages in Internet speak :-)
Aleksey Gureev on 09/05/2006
What are the benefits of converting KeyNotes to OpenOffice?
KeyNotes work perfectly on my end too. I’m building a process around 5-7 pages named (Collected, Today, Next Action, Some Day, Thoughts) and put items and actions in bulleted lists on them. I use Ctrl-~ to call the notes window and Esc to leave it. The auto-saving is set to when I close the window. This way I almost don’t notice when the notebook comes and goes; and I never bother saving notes explicitly. It nicely integrates into my workflow.
One other interesting feature I noticed is ‘Minimize on N idle minutes” (something like this). It hides inactive window automatically. Having minimize to systray feature in BB, we could use this too. It’s VERY convenient as we always tend to leave unnecessary windows open until nothing can be found in the overcrowded taskbar.
Aleksey Gureev on 09/05/2006
Yes, and thanks for your comments on our forum. I immediately entered several tickets into our BT. :)
Markus Merz on 09/08/2006
Re KN -> Oo: Benefit would be to have an actual office program with all whistles and bells taking care of the XML data.
Re KN keyboard: Yes that is nice. But on my W2K the escape key for closing KN does not work. I have no idea why? I am using Alt-F4 which does the same when combined with ‘don’t close, minimize instead’ :-)
Instead of Ctrl-~ I use the standard Ctrl-Shift-F12. But Ctrl-~ is a good ‘grip’!
Yes, save when minimize and minimize to tray is great.
Aleksey Gureev on 09/08/2006
I set the Esc to work this way in the options: General Settings / Program Hot Keys / On Escape: Minimize.