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There is no GTD system...



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TheGriff

Posted: Jan 19, 2010
Score: 1



This is an opinion post more than a post about how Toodledo can or cannot be used to implement a GTD system.

It always amazes me how many in these forums complain that Toodledo is not a GTD system and that one has to 'hack' things together to make it work for use with GTD. The fact of the matter is there is really no GTD system; one has to develop their own.

Short of the few products endorsed by David Allen there is nothing out there that is a quick, fits for everybody system. The fact that we each have to create our own system is taught right in the book by David himself. He also cautions people to not get too bogged down in the details of their systems, yet day after day I see people here doing just that.

Toodledo is an excellent program (website and iPhone) for each of us to implement our own systems that makes no pretense of being a one size fits all system for everyone. The fact is each of us has to design a system that works for us while being careful not to over design.

One must keep in mind that in David's eyes a GTD system could be as simple as a stack of index cards. All any GTD system has to do is keep track of next actions by context, projects and some reference lists such as Waiting and Someday/Maybe.

Consider that in David's world a project could be tracked on an index card that lists the desired outcome and a list of actions necessary to complete the project and you can't help but realize that functionality is completely native to Toodledo. Whether you choose to implement projects as subtasks, my preferred method or folders, you will find it works very well to track exactly what David describes.

So where's the disconnect? It's in the assertion that the system should some how automagically tell you what to work on or automatically promote the next task in your project to Next Action status. The idea that a GTD system has to keep track of task dependencies and display tasks in a GANTT chart is completely ludicrous and definitely not supported by the GTD book.

It is important to separate the functions a personal time management system must include from those a system for corporate project tracking must have.

In the index card system described above you would have to manually re-write the next action from your project card to your next action card for the appropriate context once you complete a task. Is it really that hard to change a few flags within Toodledo to promote next actions given what's needed in a paper system?

David believes each and every one of us should make a determination of what to do in the moment based on context (what's available), time and energy. The task "call Mom about Christmas" is just as relevant in the system as "call Microsoft about spooler crashes" when I'm sitting at my phone at work. Why? Because I have to make a decision between those two tasks based on my time and energy.

Let's say it's 4:50p and quitting time is in 10 minutes. The call to Microsoft will take a good hour and the call to Mom will take 5 minutes. Anything else I can do with the tools available will take more than the ten minutes I have or more concentration than I feel I can muster. The choice is simple...I call Mom.

The point is that a GTD system is not meant to think for you, it's meant to store information so you can free your brain for decisions and creativity. Toodledo more than fills that role.

I urge you to really think about this post before complaining that Toodledo can't do this or that and that lacking somehow invalidates its use as a GTD system. Step back to consider how complex a system you're trying to build and I'm pretty sure you'll find yourself at odds with what is taught in the book.

I apologize for the harshness of this post. I've tired of seeing daily posts about how there is no perfect GTD system and how people are just making due with Toodledo. How much time are you spending trying to find "the perfect GTD system" that could be better spent doing the tasks already stored in Toodledo?

There is no GTD system, you must make it yourself.

Background: I've been kicking around the time management arena for the past 17 years after attending my first Franklin time management course. I'd been searching for "the perfect system" from the time I switched from paper to the original Palm Pilot until I discovered Toodledo. Toodledo is both simple enough and so highly customizeable that I've finally stopped missing paper. A large part of my successful implementation owes to trying to keep the system as simple as possible. There are certainly improvements that I'd like to see made but nothing so changing that I feel I've hacked Toodledo to work for me. I'm happy to answer both questions about how I use Toodledo and criticisms of this post.

-Griff
mossman4x4

Posted: Jan 19, 2010
Score: 0



I agree 100%. I recent as a couple of weeks ago I was asking the question, "why is there no GTD software program?" But as you said there can be now "one size fits all" solution. Toodledo has; however, become the tool for me that cuts the drag the most. I've gotten away from paper too except for notes dropped in my inbox - and that is getting less and less with the use of Evernote - and a calendar section in my planner. I'm still refining, and always will be, but I'm spending way more time completing next actions.
Proximo

Posted: Jan 20, 2010
Score: 0



I agree with TheGriff

A GTD system does not actually do the thinking or work for you and this is true. I also agree that your System needs to be tailored for your specific needs and that GTD was not designed to be a complicated GANTT type project management tool.

What I want to make clear at least from my point of view is the complaints about Toodledo as a solution for GTD. I have mentioned in many of my post that I have quit hacking or modifying Toodledo to focus on what's important, which is Getting Things Done.

The complaint most GTDers have with Toodledo is not about the expectation that it must somehow magically do the work for us.

David Allen himself said in a recent blog that if you feel more comfortable with a Digital System that you should use one and if you like paper to use that. The SYSTEM you choose can be a combination of both. David Allen himself has said that in today's world many GTDers are going with a Digitial System as much as they can, but you will always have a combination of software and paper to deal with.

The complaints about Toodledo are based on the fact that as a Digital Solution for many of the GTD requirements, it simply does not accomplish the goal of a Digital GTD system.

eProductivity is a 100% Digital GTD system that David uses. Omini Focus, Things, Thinking Rock, Vitalist, Nozbe, Nirvana, etc. are all designed specifically for GTD and therefore as a Digital Solution they accomplish the GTD needs in a simple way that is tailored to what David Teaches.

Toodledo is powerful and still my application of choice, but it's not designed for GTD. You can make it work, but many of us get frustrated when core GTD activities are either too complicated with Toodledo or just can't be done.

I don't think anyone is asking for Toodledo to do the work for us.

In Toodledo's defense. I will say that we can't expect Toodledo to focus only on the GTD way of doing things because Toodledo is an open design to fit many different productivity styles. The complains or wishes from GTDers is for Toodledo to do certain things expected by a Digitial GTD system, but that is simply not always possible.

My GTD System is a combination of Digital and Paper and I think everyone is on the same boat here. I do have a physical inbox in my office, I deal with an e-mail program, Evernote, Toodledo, Google Calendar, iPhone with several apps to collect, Project Folders, etc.

Toodledo is great and powerful. It can be used to accomplish many areas of your GTD system in a Digital environment, but it's simply not designed to do everything you would expect and hope for and we should not expect it too.

If I had a Mac, I would have more choices for a total GTD Application solution. Most Toodledo users who want to use it for GTD simply wish they had the setup that other GTD Applications offer.

Griff makes some very good points that I think everyone needs to hear and although I do my share of wishing Toodledo would do things I expect of a GTD System, the bottom line is this. Toodledo can work in many ways for GTD but it's NOT a Digital GTD System and therefore we can't expect everything to work as it should.

I think Jake has done such a great job with Toodledo, that despite that there are other applications that are designed for GTD Specifically, they simply can't match the features that Toodledo offers and many of us choose Toodledo over the other applications.

I would love to have a total Digital GTD System that can setup my system on the Cloud. I have not found anything yet that has the feature set that Toodledo provides and that's why I am still here. :-)

Great post Griff.


This message was edited Jan 20, 2010.
Linden

Posted: Jan 20, 2010
Score: 0



Good points, TheGriff! I think, in particular, because every person's GTD setup is going to be a little different, even "pure" GTD software solutions are always going to be non-perfect matches for someone.

My GTD setup in Toodledo is certainly getting the job done for me right now. Like you, I have a few minor features I'm looking forward to seeing implemented, but nothing is blocking me from a solid GTD setup.
TheGriff

Posted: Jan 20, 2010
Score: 0



Posted by Proximo:


Toodledo is powerful and still my application of choice, but it's not designed for GTD. You can make it work, but many of us get frustrated when core GTD activities are either too complicated with Toodledo or just can't be done.

...

Toodledo is great and powerful. It can be used to accomplish many areas of your GTD system in a Digital environment, but it's simply not designed to do everything you would expect and hope for and we should not expect it too.

If I had a Mac, I would have more choices for a total GTD Application solution. Most Toodledo users who want to use it for GTD simply wish they had the setup that other GTD Applications offer.

...

Griff makes some very good points that I think everyone needs to hear and although I do my share of wishing Toodledo would do things I expect of a GTD System, the bottom line is this. Toodledo can work in many ways for GTD but it's NOT a Digital GTD System and therefore we can't expect everything to work as it should.


Thank you for the kind words Proximo. I know my biggest frustration with Toodledo is that my saved searches don't work on the iPhone. I also know that is in the top 2 of requests on Jake's request list. My second frustration is that sort/filters don't sort by "view", also on his todo list.

I know you have mentioned in various posts some of the limitations that bother you. Would you be willing to list your top ten frustrations with Toodledo's use as a GTD system here? Perhaps we can help you find a way to do what it is you wish Toodledo did or change your thinking on some of those frustrations.
cjuzda

Posted: Jan 20, 2010
Score: -1



I agree 100% in principle BUT IMHO there is nothing wrong with trying to get a system that provides the most efficiency. Even in your example of calling your mother, the fact that a system can tell you which of your options out of maybe 30 or 40 calls is a 5 minute task is going to save you going through any unnecessary thought processes, which is one of the goals of GTD. I agree we probably spend far too much time on this but it is human nature to try and improve processes.
Vin Thomas

Posted: Jan 20, 2010
Score: 0



Frankly I am glad Toodledo doesn't stick too close to GTD. There are some methodologies that I use that don't Jive well with David Allen's system.
Proximo

Posted: Jan 20, 2010
Score: 0



Posted by Vin Thomas:
Frankly I am glad Toodledo doesn't stick too close to GTD. There are some methodologies that I use that don't Jive well with David Allen's system.


Share them Vin. We may benefit from them.

Today I think I do about 80% GTD implementation per David Allen. Take the ideas that work for you and use them and ignore the ones that don't work. This is why I would like to know what methodologies you use that are different from GTD.
Proximo

Posted: Jan 20, 2010
Score: 0



@TheGriff,

I have to be honest here and say that my main complaint is more on the GUI side than anything else.

Toodledo gives me features that other programs don't and this is why I like using Toodledo. I would like to change that to "I Love using Toodledo" with a GUI overhaul.

Let me at least give you a couple of things I simply wish I had to work with my GTD setup.

1. I would like for the Next action of a Project to automatically show up in the Next list and when I add a Star to it, that it will show up in the star view. I would like this to happen without having to Flatten my task on the iPhone and I would like for it to be automated on the Web App.

2. Assign multiple context to my task for deeper filtering. I don't want to use custom search to compensate for this, but a nice context filtering process.

3. I would love for Toodledo to support Projects. For real and not a task with a sub-task. I would like a separate Project section where I can have a Project, all it's associated task and manage the project easily. This is where the Next Action for the Project would show up in the Next List automatically which is a folder in my setup.

There are more but I don't want to mention every one of them. My GTD Setup with Toodledo works and I am getting things done but it also breaks the ability for apps like ToDo or PI to work properly. This again is where I sometimes feel frustrated and would prefer a GTD based system that I don't have to fight.

But at the end of the day, Toodledo works and get's the job done. I also agree that not any one GTD system will do everything for everyone. I do like Things but it's only Mac based and no Cloud support.


This message was edited Jan 20, 2010.
davidholliday

Posted: Jan 20, 2010
Score: 0



@TheGriff

Some good points in your post and I'm in agreement with much of what you say - indeed there is no perfect GTD system because everyone is looking for something a little different.

For me, I've been a Toodledo user for a long time and I like the fact that so much functionality is built in, that the iPhone app works and that third party iPhone apps are available as well.

However, I've made a conscious decision that I want to follow David Allen's GTD system as closely as I can. The problem is that this was designed around using physical inboxes, folders and paper - getting a digital version of that same workflow is not easy.

My main reason for wanting to achieve this is so that I don't have to worry about the GTD system, I can spend my time on just doing things.

A huge step for me has been to use Evernote as my inbox - best thing since those wire baskets. Just having a good place to collect and process all the stuff I come across gets the process off to a good start!

I'm also always interested to see how people have fine tuned systems like Toodledo to meet their personal needs, which is why I like this forum.

David
Claudio

Posted: Jan 21, 2010
Score: 0



TheGriff, thanks for starting this thread. You make some excellent points, as do the other posters.

Toodledo is flexible and powerful, but it is far from the best implementation of GTD.

Take a look at Things: http://culturedcode.com/things/
and Omnifocus: http://www.omnigroup.com/applications/omnifocus
(Full PDF manual here: http://www.omnigroup.com/ftp/pub/software/MacOSX/Manuals/OmniFocus-1.5-Manual.pdf).

They get it right when it comes to Projects, Next Actions, Contexts, and Reviews.

But, Toodledo is still the best online GTD application.

For now. ;)


This message was edited Jan 21, 2010.
mossman4x4

Posted: Jan 21, 2010
Score: 0



yep, Things looks great except I don't have a Mac. I was reluctant to go web-based but I'm glad I did thus far.
Proximo

Posted: Jan 21, 2010
Score: 0



If Things was in the Cloud. I would not be posting on this forum right now. :-)

Things does GTD right with a nice UI, simple application and great GTD functionality.
Vin Thomas

Posted: Jan 21, 2010
Score: 0



I am Mac user and have tried Things, The Hit List, and Omnifocus. None are as good as Toodledo as far as functionality IMO. Then again, I am not a strict GTD guy.

Huge benefit of Toodledo is the many points of entry available (email, call in [via Dial2Do], twitter) and the great reminder system.
Proximo

Posted: Feb 01, 2010
Score: 0



Posted by Vin Thomas:
I am Mac user and have tried Things, The Hit List, and Omnifocus. None are as good as Toodledo as far as functionality IMO. Then again, I am not a strict GTD guy.

Huge benefit of Toodledo is the many points of entry available (email, call in [via Dial2Do], twitter) and the great reminder system.


The Vin has spoken. :-)

To be honest, I only require my iPhone to do what I need in my GTD system. I do use email forward to make task but it's not a deal breaker for me. I never dial in to add things to my inbox, because i use my iPhone and just go right into Toodledo. I don't use Twitter for much at this point, so it's not a big deal either.

I do use a PC and that means no Things for me. Even if I had a Mac, I would not want a system that is tied to my Laptop. I want something in the Cloud.

I do most of my computing in the Cloud now and I have learned to love the flexibility it offers. Sometimes when I fly and the plane goes into some Clouds, I always pray it's not the Cloud with my information in it. :-)
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