Searching for a New System...

I've been using a sort of GTD system for a while now. I was pondering some of my commitments and time at lunch today and realized that GTD may not be the best for me.

I'm a highly task oriented person. So, initially, GTD seemed good. What I'm finding is that I'm a bit too tied to the task list. I have a large family and need to factor in more time for them. But since I tend to go too far with task lists, I seek your opinions on the three options below:

1. Retain my quasi-GTD system, and factor in more for all obligations
2. Scrap it and find something better
3. Go for an expanded scheduler

Right now, I handling it all in a Harvard Elite Planner, which I like: I can see and entire week at once, I can build in to-do's that don't have a calendar appointment. It only schedules from 7:30AM to 6PM, so maybe that's the issue. In any given week, in addition to work which doesn't live in my Harvard, I have church responsibilities, Sunday School or sermon preps; managing the church website; my own blog; coffee roasting; household repairs/projects/maintenance.

I will gladly hear any wisdom offered.


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couple questions...

Are your tasks/projects such that require extended periods of time?(1-4 hours in a day or longer) Or are they shorter and more haphazard, requiring longer lists?

Do you want/need hours listed? or would blank day-pages serve you better (you only list the times and details for times you have meetings)?

Are you committed to a week-at-a-time, or would you prefer a daily, or maybe something else? 1-page-per-day/week? 2-pages per?

Just trying to get a grasp here, between some conflicting thoughts I have. ;-)


a few answers...

Thanks jon. Here's my answers:

Projects are usually shorter. There are some weekend projects upcoming that will be all day affairs; otherwise, I tend to work through lunch on private things, like sermons, Sunday School stuff, website, etc.

I prefer hours listed - I've tried blank, but I'm not diligent enough to write in the dates. The more ready to use, the better. And that's been a bear to wrestle with as I've worked on a circa/Harvard mashup.

I prefer week at a time, 2 pages per. That's been the most efficient use of space for me. Smaller is frequently too small; this size isn't always full, but does get eaten up sporadically.


-- Coffee and Books, the pleasures of life


...You just about nixed all my ideas! ;-)

Whilst I ponder your predicament, just one thought... if you are really struggling with fitting times into the ones that Harvard give you, you ought to seriously consider a 2-page-per-week that doesn't list hours. I learned this trick, believe it or not, from my Palm handheld! One other benefit of this is that quarter and half-hour time slots fit in better.



I actually started another revision of the Harvard last night. What I'm thinking of doing is running it 12 hours per day, allowing for half hour increments per day. I'm starting to realize I shouldn't schedule down further; as I've pondered, I'm realizing I'm trying to squeeze to much into life. So, my supposition now is that reducing the scheduling window should free up life a bit.

And for whatever reason, I love having the week on the left and a list on the right. I guess I need to look at some of the templates here a bit more closely.

And while I'm at it, Jon - what are you using now?

-- Coffee and Books, the pleasures of life


not so easy!

For those "hard landscape" items that don't have any give, I keep in my Palm, with alarms--gotta have alarms...

For daily work, I have been using the PCEO Emergent Task Planner forms--my work tends to be longer projects, where I need to spend a couple hours or more on them. With the ETPs and a timer, I stay pretty well on track. ;-) For "inbox" items and tasks, I use a combo of the ETP form (it has space for these things) and A7-sized hpda sheets and/or a PocketMod. The PocketMod goes in my palm's case, right behind my Palm. They go well together. ;-) Also, if I'm on the go, and not sitting at my desk working, it acts as my "inbox" and task list.

It's not very sophisticated, and the only "forms" I am using are a small number of the DIYPlanner A5-sized templates printed using the PagePacker program, onto a PocketMod. But then again, my life is fairly regulated, and simple--but then again, all the odd things in my life would never find a way to organize, so I am forced to let my "organized" life work around the chaotic middle. ;-)


PCEO Emergent Task Planner !!?

Google is my friend :)
The Printable CEO™ VI.1: Emergent Task Planning

This looks worth taking some time to examine. First glance says it is not only a planner form, but a tracking form. Very nice.
"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson)

There ya go!

Although, I've gone back to the version 1.0 forms, because I print them out at A5, and don't like the space that the divisions take away from my writing--besides, I don't need the extra bits anyway. :-)


I have ditched GTD.

I found that having anything with more than a few steps considered a "project" was just too much tracking and breaking things down for me. When I follow a system, I like to follow the system in a mildly compulsive way and with GTD it is easy to get lost in the trees and lose sight of the forest. I spent way too much time turning "get the oil changed on the car" into "look up number of garage, call garage to schedule appointment, arrange for ride from garage to work, arrange for ride from work to garage, pay for oil change" etc. and putting each step into a checklist. I went through my "projects" and suddenly had an overwhelming list of a couple of hundred "todo's" and "next steps" and couldn't find anything because it was all in my new "reference" files or filed by a project I lost track of in the clutter of so many todo's. I know what my next steps are, I don't need to write them down, I just need a list of the bigger things to do "get oil changed" to prompt me throughout the day to do the next steps I know already.

Use judgement for projects

I struggle with this too, during the times I follow GTD closely. My problem is that too many things like the oil-change example starts to make my weekly review a huge chore of several hours which it should not be and which I don't look forward to and doesn't provide the feeling of control that it should. And I feel like - gee, I managed to change my oil before GTD - why am I analyzing my activity now? (Well, actually, the fact is I didn't manage to change my oil, but that's another story - pay attention to that little red light!)

What I have done is interpret 'a project is anything that can be broken down into several steps' to be 'projects are things that need to be broken into steps.' Nevertheless, there is some advantage to breaking everything down - because if you're really got the system going, it's good to take a look at what needs to be done during a period of open time, you can fit in "I'll just call Bob now to see if he can give me a ride". To be frank, I'm still working this issue out - be interested to see how others do this.

Me too. Sort of?

Hi. I too can get way too lost in the todo's and next steps. My problem isn't the next step - it's remembering where I stopped so I can pick up the project quickly and don't need much time to reorient myself. Most of my todo list is my inbox. When I actually write it down in my planner, I either intend to shelve the project for a time or I've had some time to think about what should be done (but haven't really started it yet), or (and this is most likely) it's a future (unscheduled) project.

GTD and project actions

I found this thread on the 43folders board which mentioned a similar predicament when trying to do GTD. It goes some way to explaining how others deal with the problem. In short, aside from the obvious 'whatever works for you' answer, for smaller projects you don't need to go through the whole project planning and writing down all the actions thing. And for larger projects, if you think you will need to know further actions once you have completed the first ones, then take whatever materials you need with you so you have them to hand when adding the next action.
If you're interested, it might be worth giving that thread, and the blog post linked from it, a read.


Hmm.. the link didn't seem to work. Here it is:

I fixed it for you

You left out the double quote after the URL
"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson)

Thanks. I take it mere

Thanks. I take it mere mortals can't edit their comments?

I noticed that

It used to be that we could edit our own posts, at least for a while, but that feature seems to have gone away. Anyone know why??

I never finish anyth

Well, one obvious reason

Well, one obvious reason this week, which I just realized after you asked why, is for the competition, so you can't change a wrong answer to a correct one later. I'd imagine there are numerous other instances where editing can be abused.

Not just this recently

It was a whiel back you coudl do it - I haven't tried in a while. Maybe it's been this way since the conversion? Anyone?

I never finish anyth


Aargh - a typo I can't fix!

I never finish anyth

I bet that's why

Because I edited a comment just recently. This is very new--and I bet it is the contest--well, I suppose either Doug or Eferris must answer that one before we know definitively...


That's correct

The good news is that, yes, I am of The Inner Circle
The bad news is that I cannot "play" in the contest. But it is fun to watch.
"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson)

Weekly Planning from the Core

I just printed the Weekly Planing pages, pp 28-29 (2DC) from the 2007 Core package. Might work, but I'm not sure yet. The great thing with Circa is that I could add pages between weeks for extra space to compensate for the loss of the Harvard style.

-- Coffee and Books, the pleasures of life

I often get lost in the

I often get lost in the tasks and forget to spend time with people and on art work. I've found by listing the time I want to spend with people as a task in my planner I actualy follow through on it as I've actually set aside that time and another task(s) can't be scheduled then.

Me too

That's part of my realization lately. I'm backing off of some obligations, which I can back away from, to re-orient life in general. Then, and only then, will I resume those other obligations.

-- Coffee and Books, the pleasures of life

Add family / church to your to-do's

Taking a page from Covey that time management is not so much prioritizing what is on your schedule as it is scheduling your priorities, I put on my daily task list my devotions, I put in SS lesson preparation (on several days with Saturday having a "finalize SS lesson" task. I also will block out time for specific activities, those key things like, "take Sue to dinner", "shop with grandkids", "hot chocolate with Elisa", etc. That way, if somebody calls and wants to know if I'm available Monday night I can apologize profusly and honestly state, "I have an appointment from 7 until about 8:30" -- because I do. I will also block out planning time, reading time, etc.

I looked at the Harvard and quickly decided it was way more than I could handle.

By the way, don't be afraid to keep a "ta da" list -- those things that you get done that were never put on your "to do" list!

The Passionate Pilgrim
-- Excellence through Simplicity

Great Ideas...

That I've been looking to implement. What are you using? Covey's stuff? Something else?

Your description highlights one failing of the Harvard: repetitive tasks. It's a failing of many paper systems, but the bound Harvard makes it even more difficult.

-- Coffee and Books, the pleasures of life

A New Solution

I may have come up with something at lunch. Here's the thought, sketched out only on dead trees!

8.5X11 landscaped, to produce classic sized calendar.
Harvard-esque with a Deferred Actions area on left edge of left page; Date/Week/Month info at top left. Each day, starting either Sunday or Monday would run down the entire page, fitting approximately 5 on one page, the remaining 2 on the right page. The remainder of the right page would be to do/notes/etc.

The days would run from around 6AM to about 22:00.

A very, very rough sketch from MS Paint is up here.

My thoughts are that with all days even, I can more easily block out time with uniformity, do quicker blocks of scheduling, easier to see, etc. The time block also will help me plot out true priorities.

-- Coffee and Books, the pleasures of life