The difficulties of finding the perfect GTD system

Last week I wrote a post about a fairly negative review of OmniFocus by Matt Neuburg. This prompted some interesting comments regarding the relative pros and cons of OmniFocus and Cultured Code’s Things.

This got me thinking. It’s interesting, isn’t it, how everyone gets different things from different software? I’ve tried a number of GTD apps (as covered in earlier posts) and the only two I used for any length of time were OmniFocus and Things. There were many other applications that just didn’t suit me, and yet others swear by them. There isn’t a perfect application to suit everyone. (And never will be.)

Everyone who has read Getting Things Done by David Allen seems to have a different take on it. We all come up slightly different variations to suit the way we live our own lives. And therefore we all have different needs when it comes to software. Features important to me include simplicity (in adding tasks and then viewing them) and the ability to create repeating tasks. I also want it to be enjoyable to use (or I’ll end up losing interest). So far, for me, Things comes closest, although it’s still some way off of perfect. Other people have priorities such as iCal integration or online access – features I’m not that fussed about.

A common problem for GTDers seems to be the difficulty settling with one system. Many of us chop and change regularly, tweaking here and there, trying to get it just right. “If I change to this new system I’ll be so much more productive.” I’m terrible for this. And I still haven’t got it right yet. GTD is an excellent method in theory but its implementation isn’t as easy as it would initially seem. Hence we’re all in search of the perfect application to help us in our quest to be more productive. But since we all want different things from GTD we all want different features in our GTD app.

Is it a good thing that there are so many GTD apps out there? Does choice lead to freedom? For me choice has meant many many hours fiddling with different systems trying to find “the one”. Things works pretty well for me but I still have this niggling doubt that there might be a better way. Forget digital and go to paper maybe? Aarrgghhh…if only I could find the perfect system!

 

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Dissatisfaction with OmniFocus

There’s a really good review of OmniFocus by Matt Neuburg on Tidbits today. He has even included two screencasts to illustrate his points. He’s fairly critical of the user interface. His dissatisfaction completely mirrors my feelings.

I used OmniFocus when it was still a beta but gave up on it once I discovered Things from Cultured Code. The problem I had was it was so complicated. And the UI quirks really annoyed me – particularly the one where you try and change the size of a column and the whole window shrinks. No such problems with Things. It’s easy and intuitive to use and generally behaves as you would expect a Mac application to behave.

Matt Neuberg has one criticism that I disagree with. He doesn’t like the fact that you have to manually tick a project as complete once all the tasks within it are complete. Things also works this way. I like this because I don’t always list all the tasks within a project right at the start. Sometimes I just note down the first few and add more tasks as they become apparent. So occasionally I have a project that may look completed but it isn’t as I will be adding more tasks in the future. Any projects that should have been marked as completed but have been missed get picked up in my weekly review.

I’m struggling with ubiquitous capture

There’s a very useful post today on gtdfrk’s excellent Getting Things Done blog that lists 10 tips to optimise ubiquitous capture.

This is something I have been struggling with for some time. Initially, when I used to use OmniFocus, I used my iPhone to send myself emails. I’m rarely without my iPhone so it was certainly ubiquitous. But it took too long to just add a quick thought. After a few weeks I found I wasn’t bothering anymore. I would try and save thoughts up in my head to add to OmniFocus when I was back at my computer. Which clearly was not going to work.

Then I decided to join the cult and bought a Moleskine pocket notebook! The trouble is it’s too big to carry around all the time. It’s not a problem if I’m out or at work – I can take it in my bag. But if I’m around the house (or I’ve popped out without my bag) it won’t fit in a pocket. Fine for men who have bigger pockets but us women struggle! So now I just use my Moleskine to keep my shopping lists.

For the last few days I have been carrying a pad of Post Its around with me in my pocket. I always carry a pen with me if I’m out. At home there are pens everywhere so there’s no need to actually keep one on me. So far it’s working okay and I have more hope for this system than the previous two.

I especially liked gtdfrk’s 10th tip: Tell other people why you are writing things down if they give you funny looks. I’ve certainly had plenty of funny looks – most of my friends think I’m bonkers with my lists and GTD. Maybe I should tell them I’m writing a note because what they’re saying is so interesting I don’t want to forget it – and then see what they say!

It’s time to apply GTD to my life

I have only finished reading Getting Things Done in the last week. I found the last three chapters a bit of a slog – too waffly for me. But now that I’ve finished it I really need to start applying it properly.

Actually, over the last two months I have gradually been implementing the principles. I started by maintaining to-do lists on the computer. Initially I used Omnifocus but ultimately I chose Things, having tried out virtually every other Mac GTD app along the way.

I spent three evenings with my husband doing an initial “collection”. Our dining room was the dumping ground for paperwork, journals, all sorts of rubbish. We filed loads of it and shredded and threw away even more. I have made three piles of “things to read” based on whether I think it will take under 15 minutes, between 15 and 30 minutes or over 30 minutes to read. Actually, I’m really pleased with my reading piles – I’m finding I’m actually starting to get through them as I can easily choose something to read that fits in with how much time I have to spare. (The idea for sorting my reading material like this came from Ready-Set-Do!, an app that I liked but ultimately discounted as it was too slow.) Read the rest of this entry »

Goodbye OmniFocus, hello Things

No surprise there. It was obvious as soon as I downloaded Things that it was just what I was looking for. Here’s why it beat OmniFocus.

OmniFocus was the first GTD app I tried. I found it by chance after seeing its beta release mentioned on MacUser in November. At this point I’d barely even heard of Getting Things Done. I’d seen it mentioned in a couple of other blogs but didn’t really know what it was. Anyway, I thought OmniFocus looked interesting, watched the screencast and immediately downloaded it. Read the rest of this entry »

Thank goodness I didn’t buy OmniFocus yet

In my previous post I briefly described all the GTD apps I have tried and why OmniFocus, although not perfect, was the best choice for my right now. I had decided the next time an update appeared (which I thought was likely to happen yesterday) I would pay up. Then yesterday, as I was looking over my RSS feeds, Daring Fireball mentions the Things beta is available. So I scoot over to the website and download it. And oh my goodness is it good. Read the rest of this entry »

Only 4 more days to make a decision on OmniFocus

I’ve been trialling the OmniFocus beta for a few weeks. If I buy it just now it will cost $40. However, the price goes up to $80 on Tuesday when it comes out of beta. I’m definitely not willing to pay $80 for a GTD app but $40 is reasonable. So I’ve only got 4 more days to decide if I’m going to buy OmniFocus or not.

There are a lot of other GTD apps out there just now and more in development. I want to be sure I’m putting my money into the right app for me. I’ve downloaded and tried loads of others (Midnight Inbox, iGTD, EasyTask Manager, Actiontastic, Ready-Set-Do! and Bento) as well as Backpack and Remember the Milk. More on these in future posts. At the moment OmniFocus is probably the best. But it’s not perfect. Read the rest of this entry »