Ready-Set-Do! – a review

Ready-Set-Do! by Todd Vasquez is very different to all the other GTD solutions I have tried. It isn’t an application as such – it is a collection of AppleScripts that use ordinary folders on your Mac.

The initial download takes ages as it is huge – as well as the AppleScripts it also contains a lot of help fils and two QuickTime movies. Once downloaded, you run the installer. After lots of noise from my hard drive, various windows opening and closing and being asked to empty the trash, I was all set. You’ll end up with a load of new folders on your desktop (and anything previously on the desktop has been moved into its own folder). A word of advice for those trying this on Leopard. You’ll need to drag the Ready-Set-Do! folder to the right side of the dock to create a stack. You’ll also need to open the RSD folder and drag folders nine and ten to create their own stacks. (A blip with Leopard – there are no problems with Tiger.)

I would highly recommend watching the QuickTime tutorial movies. They are excellent and take you step by step how the system works. Basically the whole thing sticks rigidly to the Getting Things Done principles. It would be hard to follow if you didn’t know at least the basics of GTD.You start by clicking 1. Empty you head. Here you note a brief description of each of your to-dos. Nice and simple. Then you move on to 2. Get inbox to empty. This is where it begins to follow GTD strictly. You are asked if the task is actionable or not. If it is actionable, is it reading, a project or an action? Can you complete it in 2 minutes – if yes you do it now. If not, you asign a context and then you’re done. It’s actually quite long winded and I find it much quicker to add to-dos in more traditional apps such as OmniFocus and Things.

Inbox items and processed tasks can be viewed in the inbox and actionable folders respectively on the desktop. As they are ordinary folders you can add tasks and contexts directly if you want instead. Actually I think this is the quickest way to do it.

Once you’re ready to start doing some of your tasks you click folder 3. Get some actionables done. You then select the context you want to work with and make decisions regarding each task – delegate, do it now or postpone or mark as completed. And that’s the basic workflow. It’s quite similar to Midnight Inbox (which I’ll cover in more detail in another post).

Projects can either be added directly to the projects folder or at the time of processing your inbox. Projects are really complicated. There are a large number of options, split into whether you want to add more clarity or more action to the project. For large complex projects I think this method is probably very helpful. But for me, with my most complex current project being “start a vegetable garden”, it’s too much.

At the beginning of the tutorial you set up daily and weekly reviews on iCal which automatically trigger the appropriate scripts. I found the daily review to be more than I was needing but the weekly review is excellent. You are taken through your calendar, tasks and projects step by step. As it is so thorough this could take a good couple of hours if you had a lot to manage. However, I think this is actually a really good feature – too easily people seem to let the weekly review slip but this would keep you on your toes. At the end of the weekly review you are asked which 3 projects are your priorities for the coming week. A TextEdit action list is then generated based on this. The list is grouped according to context and can be printed. Your actionables are also colour-coded depending on priority. Finally you are presented with a productivity report, giving information such as your most productive day and time, average time per task and your current “belt status” (white for a beginner, all the way up to a 3rd degree black belt once you’re really productive!).

Other newly added features that I haven’t really tried out – automatically adding emailed to-dos and tagging projects.

Positives – I really like the weekly review. It takes a long time to get through it but you know you’re not going to miss anything. For those who want to stick closely to GTD this system works very well. You can almost hear David Allen telling you what to do as you’re working through the scripts! (Of course, for some this may be a negative and it’s relatively inflexible.) The method encourages you to think about your tasks and it’s more difficult to ignore them than in some other apps. Something else I really like is script 6. Get some reading done. Tasks that have been processed as reading are put here, along with how long it should take to read. When filing paper reading material you are recommended to make piles depending on how long each piece takes to read to make it easier to find when needed. I think that is a brilliant idea and am definitely going to start filing my reading material like that.

So what are the negatives? The biggest problem is it’s slow. There can be long pauses as some of the scripts run, leaving you wondering if it’s crashed. (There is a workaround suggested for this in the readme file but it made little difference for me.) I also wasn’t keen on the way it works with projects. RSD assumes all projects are big and complex and needing a lot of management. It doesn’t work well for small two or three task projects. I found myself just entering them as individual tasks instead so as to avoid the “get clear on projects” script. (However, I think it works extremely well for large projects.)

I think what Todd Vasquez has done is fantastic. He has written something that is true to Getting Things Done in a very simple way, just using folders. But this isn’t for me. At the moment it’s too slow. Partly because it just runs slow but also because of the time it takes to enter tasks and projects. I just didn’t feel I was making the most efficient use of my time working with Ready-Set-Do! (other than the weekly review). But I found it to be an interesting GTD app that will be perfect for some.

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2 Responses to “Ready-Set-Do! – a review”

  1. Todd V Says:

    Thanks for the independent and thorough review. As you mention in your post, RSD is a very unique approach to getting things done on the mac. And it does take some getting used to. It’s chief point of departure from other GTD applications on the mac is that it works with the file system of the Mac OS so users can actually do things their own way, choosing to use the scripts they like (e.g. the Weekly Review) and not use others they don’t (e.g. Get Clear on Projects); or just simply manually make changes on their own with the file system. The advantage is not having to worry about having your data locked into a file format or becoming too dependent upon a software program that may get bought out by some company or stop its software support.

    I also just wanted to note that the next version of RSD is currently in development – hope to be released in the next month or two. Among the improvements will be speed, some new shortcuts, and the ability to fully customize everything about your RSD experience.

  2. Rachel Murphy Says:

    Thanks for your comment, Todd.

    I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for the next version. As I said above, there were some elements of Ready-Set-Do! that didn’t work for me but others, such as the weekly review were excellent.

    I forgot to add in my review that I also really like the Get Some Reading Done script, especially the way it asks you to choose what to read based on how long you have. I have now started sorting my paper reading material into piles depending on how long each article will take to read and have found I’m more productive as a result.


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