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My Hodge-Podge
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Posted: Dec 03, 2011
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Just because, I thought I'd describe my Hodge-Podge of a task management system. At this time, I have tasks listed in four different places, e.g. software packages. I imagine this will make the GTDers shudder. Actually, it makes me shudder too. But, so far, it works.

Before I describe my "system", if in fact, it can be called that, it's important to realize that the highest priority in my world, particularly at work, is to not lose track of anything. So my current system may have some redundancy and be higher maintenance than a simpler system, but I dont' mind that. Just so nothing important gets lost.

My main task manager at work is TD, simply because it's one of the draught horses of task managers. It does just about everything, and I use most of it's features. It has a steep learning curve for a task manager, but with time, I've developed a "trusted" system that I like very much. It covers the ground I need covered, with some manipulation, in ways other task managers, such as Things, can't do. Or at least not easily. So that's my base.

For a while, I was using TD for my personal life as well. Not too hard to do using the Contexts feature. So at work I set the filter for Context "Work", at home, Context "Home". Ok. Mostly. But since I wasn't using half of the TD features at home that I use at work, it always seemed like overkill to use TD, in that configuration, for my personal life. it also added complications to my TD configuration because it necessitated additional Tags, Folders, etc. It only occurred to me recently that I had both TD and Things, and know both, so I could use Things for my personal life, and leave the draught horse at work. This decision greatly simplified my TD system, because it removed the extra Contexts, Tags, Folders, etc, that were making my TD setup more complex than I really needed. So now my TD setup is much simpler and I use Things for personal tasks, which is simpler than TD anyway.

So what are the other two repositories of my tasks? At work, we use Novell GroupWise in place of M$ Outlook. I don't find either terribly good, but GW is very abstruse, with features hidden away in obscure dialog boxes that after you find them that first time, you can never remember where it was! Regardless, its what we have at the state, so I decided when the new release came out earlier this year, I stop cursing it and light a candle. It does have a lot of features, if only you can locate and understand them. One excellent feature is the ability to turn your email list into a task list. That is, you can simply drag an email to the top of the panel in which it lives, and it becomes a task. While GW's task management capabilities are sparse, it does have some basic capabilities. So now when I get an email that I need to do something about, and can't do it immediately, I just drag it to the top of the email panel and make it a task, which then appears in the Task list in a separate panel. So I don't have to re-enter emails into TD as tasks, which is what I used to do. This applies only to small tasks. Bigger efforts are in TD. This does give me an additional task list, but it's right in front of me in my GW dashboard and is easily managed.

The fourth task list came about when iOS5 introduced Reminders, and I bought an iPhone 4S. One of Things biggest weaknesses is the lack of reminders, at least from the perspective of a non-GTD person. I disagree with David Allen that things that have a due time aren't tasks. Since Things is loosely based on GTD concepts, it has no reminders. Which means that for me, one of the most important needs I have of a personal task management system is to remind me in the moment that I have something I need to do. So I've started using Reminders to remember to pay bills and pick up cleaning and stop at the grocery store on the way home from work, all things that Things isn't much good for. I'm not even near my computer when I'm out and about to do these things, and while I have my iPhone with Things on it, Things doesn't have a Reminder capability. Reminders does. So now those "out and about" kinds of tasks, I keep in Reminders. which is very effective for me.

This relegates Things to tracking at home projects and activities, for which it is very good. I used it to prepare my Thanksgiving dinner and my recent complete re-install of my OS on my iMac. Worked great.

So this means that I have my tasks scattered across 4 task management tools. Sounds like a mess! Strangely, it works better than any system I've ever had because each of these tools have strengths and weaknesses and I use each where it does best. I seldom forget to stop on the way home to do an errand because Reminders reminds me at the exact appropriate time. I track my projects at home and at work, and I keep those pesky email related tasks handy.

Remember, the main objective of my "system" is to keep track of everything. If occasionally I have a reminder to do x popping up in 2 of my places, who cares? I got reminded of it at the correct time , which is what matters most. I didn't overlook it.

So that's my Hodge-Podge. I'm sure it wouldn't work for many, which is fine. It only has to work for me. I welcome feedback and comments on this. I'm sure it can be improved, and will evolve as I find other, better ways of managing my life. For now, it does fine.

Posted: Dec 05, 2011
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I'd recommend Alarmed (by Yoctoville) as a replacement for the iPhone Reminders app. More repeat settings, snooze, better "nag-ability", much quicker entry and more. It's free too. Alarmed is kind of like Toodledo... not quite as pretty, requires a bit of a learning curve, but it's packed with useful stuff.

Posted: Dec 05, 2011
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Thanks, will check it out.

Posted: Dec 05, 2011
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Folke X

Posted: Dec 07, 2011
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I think the hodge-podge aspect is no problem as such. I am sure we all have a hodge-podge, no matter what kind of philosophy we have in general. Most of us have one or more physical paper inboxes, one or more email inboxes, one or more calendars for appointments etc and we probably make use of simple timers and alarms etc in our hand-held devices, and we have todo systems such as TD. It is always a hodge-podge, more or less.

What seems to make your particular hodge-podge work for you, Salgud, and probably would not work equally well for me, may have something to do with whether you have very clearly delineated working hours vs. private hours. Many people have that. Often, even within one single system, they simple close the window on one of the two "worlds" by applying some filter or similar mechanism (just like you said you used to do). If you only carry out work when you are at work, and never work when you are off work, then this division comes very natuaral. For me, though, I do private and work related things interchangeably sixteen hours a day and prefer to have it all on one list. And I even want my calendar items on that single list: If I am going to have lunch with someone, then I want to see it clearly on my list, regardless of which particular job or private grouping I need to do that lunch for. But I realize that my life is probably a bit messier than normal ... it might be nice to be able to compartmentalize it a bit, I don't know ...

As for GTD, I do not think your hodge-podge will scare any seasoned GTDer. You need to have a list of tasks and projects and stuff no matter how you cut it, but as far as I know there is nothing in GTD that dictates that projects must all be one one single physical sheet of paper or in one single software - as long as you can get it all out and review it properly in a focused way. (But I have never read David Allen's book, so I don't know, but I have noticed that GTDers and I generally appear to take similar views on many things :-)

Posted: Dec 08, 2011
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Posted by JPR:
I'd recommend Alarmed (by Yoctoville) as a replacement for the iPhone Reminders app. More repeat settings, snooze, better "nag-ability", much quicker entry and more. It's free too. Alarmed is kind of like Toodledo... not quite as pretty, requires a bit of a learning curve, but it's packed with useful stuff.

You're right, this is great software. I've moved most of my reminders out of Reminders into Alarmed because it does so many things so well. It does sleep and wakeup alarms better than anything else I've seen, I think I've finally replaced my old alarm clock because I can have Alarmed play anything in my iTunes library and slowly get quieter so I can drift off to sleep. Same in reverse to wake up. Believe it or not, I actually dreampt this scenario up when I was thinking about how iPhone alarm devices should work a couple of years ago. Now I have it.

I've also been able to program Alarmed to start giving me reminders on the second Tues of the month starting next April, when the "street cleaning" (read "revenue getting") season starts on the streets in my neighborhood, and programmed it to end in Nov. Now I won't have to pay that damned $75 fine for the first time each season when I forget this Denver City scam!

I'm going to get the extension he offers too. It looks somewhat useful, but I'll be buying it more to pay the developer for the value he's delivered to me than for the extra features.

Thanks for the tip!
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