Organize Me

So this weekend I’m going to do the big initial push of getting myself working on the David Allen GTD system. I have to decide what the mechanics will be, will I use a paper system or a computer system or what? It has to be portable between home and work, and although my original impulse was to try to build myself a system in Ruby on Rails, I’ve decided that more practical would be to make myself a Hipster PDA, probably with the DIY Planner templates.

That might seem oddly low tech for a cyber-spasmo such as myself but I think it might just work for the best. It costs next to nothing, is completely flexible and reconfigurable, and requires very little overhead to get things rolling. Dan Conover was giving away something much like this at the Charleston Uplifter meeting for people to take notes and exchange bits of information, and it just seems like a neat idea. I already do my podcast prep on 3X5 cards, so it’s nothing to have one card in my H-PDA be the card for the next show. By always having that in my pocket, I might actually do a better job of remembering what it is I want to talk about on the show.

I’m now excited about putting all this into motion. I always feel kind of overwhelmed and over my head, so I easily bought in to the belief in the goodness of this system. Capturing without fail the important tidbits from the sea of incoming information in a way that I don’t have to remember them sounds like heaven to me. I already know most of the clutter in my life is actually physical manifestations of procrastination. I haven’t figured out what to do with this thing, so in the pile it goes with the other bunch of crap I don’t know what to do with. My hope is that once I am freed from the friction and ballast of my own disorganization, that my productivity in all aspects of life will skyrocket. A boy can dream, can’t he?

Update: As JP points out in comments, someone has already done a Ruby on Rails implementation of the GTD system.

Published by


Dave Slusher is a blogger, podcaster, computer programmer, author, science fiction fan and father. Member of the Podcast Hall of Fame class of 2022.

12 thoughts on “Organize Me”

  1. Paul says:

    Good luck! I’ve made a few posts on GTD:

    Of course, I started this new blog just before I moved to the South. So a couple of the entries are me just trying to figure out how to get back on track (aka whining).

  2. matt says:

    Be sure to get a moleskine notebook! My girlfiend got me one a few months ago and it is my favorite analog PDA yet. I have the pocket sized ruled notebook, while she has a large ruled notebook and the 12 month planner (which is dicontinued until November). Needless to say we are big fans of the product. And they look cool too. 😉

    Good luck getting things done.

  3. jp says:

    There is actually a ruby on rails project (Tracks) to help implement GTD:

  4. dave says:

    Matt, I specifically don’t want one of those. I don’t want a bound book with fixed pages, I want to be able to unclip it and spread them out when I want, easily add and remove things, etc. Since the majority of the information that I’ll have in there is transient, being able to easily pitch one “next actions” card and start a new one is of high importance to me. Even on clearance, I don’t want a Moleskine. I’d rather have it made out of $0.32 worth of standard office supplies.

    JP, thanks for the pointer. That’s better than what I’d have hacked together anyway.

    Paul, I’ll check it out, thanks.

  5. hugh says:

    Thanks for reminding me about the Hipster PDA. I was just thinking I should carry a small notepad with me for ideas and to-dos instead of the scraps of paper I tend to use and loose. My current paper scrap now has a note about getting some 3×5 cards.

  6. Ken Nelson says:

    As a GTD newbie, I gotta agree with the Hipster PDA idea. Cheap, portable, configurable. As things gel from the paper version, I plan to transfer those items to electronic format, headed up by a Palm PDA, synched with the proper Macintosh desktop brethren.

    I usually have my Palm along, or close by, and it’s cool; however, it’s password protected, and by the time I get it unlocked, I’ve forgotten what I wanted to note anyhow. Paper, being cheap, is going to be invaluable in the “collection” phase of things. And thereafter.

    Now, my electronic files are in need of some organization as well, and will need to be manipulated like they were paper.

    One step at a time.


  7. Chris C. says:

    Funny, I thought the 43F HipsterPDA thing was a joke.

    Dave, you’re a credit to the human race, but this just sounds like a Make Work Project on a massive scale. Just use a real PDA and move on. Presumably you’ve got a problem with the Palm platform, because I know you used to use one 4 years ago, although maybe only for the gadgetry angle. Did you really try the core productivity apps? Datebk5 + Memo + Contacts + voice memo = productivity nirvana. No expansion slots, no camera, no excess weight, no wifi, just a few productivity apps.

    Well, it’s fun to watch.


  8. dave says:

    Chris, I can’t tell if you are being ironic and sarcastic or sincere. I’ll respond as the latter, even if I’m wrong.

    Is a quest for getting my shit together with lowest cost and highest simplicity really so hard to believe? In fact, not counting the the overheard for the whole GTD thing, I’m anticipating that assembling my Hipster PDA will take no more than 10 minutes. That’s that I like about it. It scales down and up. I can have the basic form together in no time, and expand as I see fit.

    I don’t want a fucking Palm device. I don’t like the OS, I don’t want to write anything in fucking Graffiti again in this lifetime. I’ve bought two of them, they both broke and I’m never buying another. 90% of what I used them for was reading ebooks, 9% was playing Bejeweled. I really didn’t like the productivity apps and frequently found myself walking to my computer to enter things there and then syncing because interacting with the Palm was painful.

    I already prepare my podcasts with notes on a 3X5 card. I already write my to-do lists and notes to myself on 3X5 cards and carry a pack of them in my backpack. Why do you think doing a little more of that and slapping a binder clip on it is a make work project, but buying a Palm device, installing the desktop then setting up the categories and all that shit isn’t? I have no enthusiasm for any of that but I do for the Hipster. I’d suggest that doing it the way that motivates me is the most important aspect of this.

  9. Tilted edge says:

    David Allen should not be confused with Daevid Allen of Gong.

  10. Victor V says:

    🙂 – pen and paper…simply works. i do like chris’ credit card sized portable recording apparatus circa mid to late 90’s tho…potentially more efficient in certain settings.

  11. dave says:

    Hey Victor! Man, this topic is bringing out the WREK folks. I had no idea you read this. The portability, fault tolerance, ease of use, power consumption and flexibility can’t be beat. If I really needed a voice recorder, both of my current portable MP3 players have it. I do better this way, really. It might be hard to believe, but I’m deliriously happy with my Hipster. In part, because it is such a hilarious sight gag, I laugh every time I pull it out then I write my stuff down or check my current context and get to work.

    BTW, in rereading my reply to CDC, I sound kind of dickish and mean. I wasn’t (and am not) mad at him or anything, I just have a strongly negative and visceral reaction to his particular suggestion. I’ve seen him in action and know his system works very well for him. He’s been doing essentially GTD since long before the book was written. I’m taking a different path and don’t really even want to consider what he does, which I can tell you would not work for me.

    Chris and I have known each other for approaching 20 (?!?!?) years, and we’ve had uncountable conversations a lot like the above, often in ways or volumes that might seem aggressive and angry to the untrained observer. That’s what happens when two opinionated and passionate over-achiever post-punk geeks get together. Sometimes sparks fly, but those sparks have set off a lot of really productive fires. If I’m going into a big project and I know Chris has my back, good things happen fast.

    So Chris, I love you you big lug!

  12. Victor V. says:

    I’ve been checking you out (don’t take it the wrong way 😉 for a bit…you always have something cool going on! And I agree, Chris has been a GTD’er for a while, partly why I reference his little recording device–which he used well before portable mp3 players were all the rage…and I know what you mean about being opinionated, like Martha Stuart says, “it’s a good thing” – (did I just quote who I think I did? Its 4:00 am…all’s fair this early in the morning) – Anyway, que te vaya bien and keep up the good work…

Comments are closed.