Notecards, Legal Pads, and Outlook

Oh My!

I’ve been re-examining my personal management system. It is somewhat influenced by concepts found in David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” (GTD) and Mark Forster’s “Do It Tomorrow” among others. Essentially, there’s five aspects about it that I want to talk about:

1) Ubiquity – As much as I’d like to go all electronic (I’m a bit of a tech-geek), I get ideas all the time. So I need something that is always ready to record them. And I’m stuck using some electronic tools that are subpar (my corporate laptop takes  between 10 and 20 minutes to fully boot and has about 1.5 hours of battery life and my blackberry has been hobbled by disabling 3G, camera, and gps… get the picture, but I *have* to use them for certain tasks). I’ve tried a lot of different ways (including text files), but have settled on paper (8.5 x 11″ legal pads for notes and 3 x 5″ notecards for tasks…..and quick capture when a legal pad is unavailable). I keep notecards with me at all times in a wallet designed to hold them.

2) Hybridity – To a certain degree, I’m stuck with the systems and tools provided my employer’s IT department. In addition to paper, I need to work in Outlook, word, Microsoft Internet Explorer v6 (you heard that right….an unsupported version). That’s just a reality any personal management system I use needs to be able to deal with. Factors outside my control.

3) Capture – This point warrants a post of its own, but for now I’ll just say that my preferred medium is a letterhead-sized legal pad with college ruling. I take notes, I record actions, I write questions, I have follow-up items, I have comments, I draw pictures, I make mind maps, there’s lists….you get the idea. This is a very dynamic and free-form mode for me (as it should be) and I need space.

4)Processing – Ok, now this is my biggest opportunity for improvement because sometimes I’m so prolific in 3 that I get a back log and *that is bad* because it breeds reluctance and procrastination. So essentially, I’m experimenting with different ways to get the items I capture in 3 on a series of notecards (based on context)…..or in some cases like email follow-up, in MS Outlook. I think I’ll post more on this as it develops….

5) Action – This involves me going through my lists of action items and deciding “what’s next”. If I feel confident that everything is captured and processed appropriately, then this is the easy part.

6) Follow-up – I’ve started to use flags and tasks within Outlook more effectively with reminders. I used to use them for everything….now just for things that can be quickly followed up with a “What’s the status on this?” email. I’m liking this development very much.

7) Discard – This is new for me. I’m a bit of a packrat by nature, but I’m working on new ways to motivate myself to just throw schtuff out. Whether that means physical items or electronic, the psychological hurdle is the same. If I haven’t used it or acted on it in x-amount of time……why keep it. Discard the task, the extra stapler, the whatever.  What has been key to me is differing shades of “discard” that is proposed by some of the “Autofocus” methodologies on Mark Forster’s site.

So to sum up, 4 and 7 are my sticking points and that is where I’m focusing my fine tuning. I’ll post an update as this evolves. For now, just remember that we’re only renting the coffee.

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One Response to Notecards, Legal Pads, and Outlook

  1. Pingback: Gimmicks for Notecards | Renting the Coffee

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