These quotes also fit in perfectly in the other thread about simplicity:
In other words, it often takes takes some degree of sophistication (effort, mindfulness, deliberation, analysis, naked truthfulness to ourselves ...) to arrive at something that really is simple to use, that simply works when you need it, and that simply frees you from all the work and frustration you wanted to rid yourself of in the first place.
I often think, half seriously, that maybe I should go back to using paper. With paper so much of all this is so simple. If I want to draw a triangle or a tree, I just draw one, or maybe I want to mark something red or draw a long green line connecting two things. That simplicity (flexibility) eliminates a lot of the thinking about how to fit our thinking into some mold created by a software designer.
What gets us (me, at least) "unhappily hooked" to computer based systems is their existing and potential capabilities to display the same stuff from different angles without having to rewrite everything. I have at times considered creating a really simple "software" GTD system myself based on Excel or Evernote or Workflowy, but I have come to the belief that it would probably take me more time to create even a clunky implementation than I would later save, and would be particularly "unprofitable" compared to simply enduring the rigidities of the least-worst of the commercially available apps. Unfortunately these seldom have managed to get "the edges coherent and intact. For the messy times." (That's a very good quote!)
Please let us know here how Evernote works out for you. I just might consider trying that myself, if I can see that it will be simple. Good luck.
You know, it is funny how difficult it can be to make oneself understood, and especially perhaps when we are trying to be smart and political about it. Let me tell you the full story, just as an anecdote, in case you are interested:
The thing that matters to me is not the automation. That hardly matters at all. Honestly.
What matters to me is that if I have a project with a whole bunch of tasks in it, then typically not all of them should be visible on the Next list (or on the Waiting For list or on any other list). The rest should be visible only within the project. Only those that are truly relevant/possible right now should be visible elsewhere. I know you agree. You have said so before. And this is GTD straight up.
Now, the funny thing (sad thing, really) is that none of the so-called GTD apps has any form of functionality whatsoever built in to specifically handle this in a smooth way (without using workarounds or compromises). They typically do not even recognize the underlying GTD principle.
Now, enter a "political" dimension that I have seen a number of times, and here is a recent example. I stumbled upon an old discussion in Doit's forum, where a rare few people had been demanding exactly this manual capability for years, and still are. And guess what. Not only was their idea not appreciated by their fellow users. The Doit team themselves had no clue what they were talking about, and said they have no such plans whatsoever. But at the very same time, other people in other threads on the Doit forum have requested automatic one-by-one progression "just like Omnifocus and Nirvana", in order to hide the not-yet-relevant tasks, and guess what: Their fellow users just love the idea, and the Doit team declared happily that they have something like that underway already and that they call it "task dependency".
So my dilemma was this. There seems to be very little recognition of the fundamentals of GTD projects (what goes on the Next list and what doesn't), but there seems to be quite a lot of enthusiasm for automating them and thereby hiding the "undesired" tasks. And automation certainly could solve my fundamental GTD problem, too, indirectly, if only it is done right. I cannot use Nirvana's, though, because it only promotes one a time and I cannot manually make additional tasks visible. I would hate to see even more developers going down exactly that too-narrow road (even though others are asking for it).
So I decided to promote the "parasequential" concept - sequential-automatic (just like Nirvana, and what people are asking for), but with a whole parallel bucket in front (not necessarily just one single task; which is what I and some others recognize that we need), and where you can move tasks as you wish between the two sections, and where new tasks land in the parallel section by default so as not to be inadvertently hidden from view. I quite like this concept even for my own use, but that's more of a lucky coincidence - it was more intended as a way to fuse a number of different user requirements into one single feature request (equally simple to use, I dare say, serves a wider variety of needs, and thereby also obviates the need for additional related features and requests later). But apparently I have come across to you as Mr. Automation, which is quite funny :-)
I've registered based on this thread (long time lurker). Much of the opening post has struck a chord with me. A couple of highlights -
I am feeling overwhelmed with my work and personal commitments. I've attempted multiple restarts of GTD, jumping in with both feet. The first evening of a restart, I'm feeling great. Smash cut to 5 days later, my systems are out of date and I now just have yet another out of date placeholder for incomplete information.
Enough of this.
A few days ago I went back to basics. A Google spreadsheet, separate tabs for Projects/actions etc. Is it the most efficient list manager? Probably not. What I do know is I'm in no position to comment until I've worked the system to try and achieve that mind-like-water. I can't remember if it was a DA quote, but I do like this one: "The system works if you work the system".
Kudos bcmyers2112 for aligning my focus as we reboot. I look forward to reading your up-and-coming posts.
Soleo--please keep us posted too on how you're doing with your new restart. Back to basics is a good motto. Get by with as complex a system as you need, but as simple as you can. Simple spreadsheets have served many people very well. We're here to support you along with many wonderful members on these forums.
I used to set up projects with long lists of tasks but now just put in the next action, and sometimes the one after that if it's obvious. That was liberating and it works because my brain can deduce what needs to happen after that when the time comes. It's so easy to over-complicate things, and sometimes the app you use encourages this with all the bells and whistles provided.
I intended to quote myself here, but cannot remember which thread I wrote it in, so I'll summarize it again ;)
I think quite a bit of our confusion with apps etc comes from our not being quite clear about what part of our lives we are trying to computerize, i.e. which parts of our whole thinking and memory and written material is it that we are trying to map into our task app. And the computer adds new possibilities that we did not have before, which can be both for better and for worse.
In the 80's I had lots of different lists and plans (and a shelf full of reference material, and further reference material elsewhere). I did not experience the same kind of problems that I have now. It was not better then, but the problems were of a different nature.
As for me, something I have ruled out completely (but many have not, as you can see in all task app forums) is reference material. My task app is just for things that I will or might do, not for things that I need to remember later or have available while doing. That takes one big burden of my chest (compared with all those who are fretting about not having Evernote and Dropbox integration etc). In fact, I want my reference material to be separate, standalone. I want a robust reference system that I can trust, and I want to keep it organized in such a way that I can always find the stuff I need regardless of which task app or task lists I am using or none at all. And this is how I do it, and always have.
So for me the "mapping" problem comes down to this: I used to have a few short-term miscellaneous lists, more or less like short-term Next-by-Context lists. I also used to have "plans" for various longer-term efforts (projects or goals etc of various kinds). I like to get things off my mind and into written form, always have.
In the old days I would then move or copy selected things from the "plans" onto the short-term lists, or work straight off the "plan". Theoretically, I could do the same thing today, and use a simple list app (such as Wunderlist etc) for my short term miscellaneous lists, while relying on paper or Word or Workflowy etc for my various "plans". That would certainly work. It would be almost exactly the same "system" as I had in the 80's, now computerized, and with no integration between short-term lists and other "plans". But this is the part that I find hard to tolerate. Seeing the computer in front of me, knowing its potential, it is hard for me to accept that I would have to sit and enter the same "todo statements" first in a "planning document" and subsequently transfer it to a "short-term document". I prefer these to be in the same app, and this is something we definitely can get today. Apps such as Nirvana, Doit, Zendone and many others make it possible to keep it all together, short term todos and longer-term efforts such as projects or goals all in one. The main thing that is missing in these apps is a bit of "clarity" - how all this stuff fits together, what is a part of what, what do you want to see right now, etc. It easily gets messy. We are very near, yet still so far away ...
The reason I left Toodledo was that I desperately wanted a few things that it couldn't do, and that the admin seemed completely disinclined to even consider. For example:
- an Inbox (rather than having to use the "no folder" folder)
- manual sorting of tasks (drag & drop only worked for subtasks)
- simple & logical parent/subtask behaviour
Many users were asking for these things (and more) over a number of years but the standard response was always "it's on our list". Curiously, Toodledo would regularly release new features that no-one ever asked for. When challenged about this, the developer admitted that he developed features that he found "interesting". I got tired of that so moved on.
I spent time evaluating Nirvana but the lack of an iOS version, missing features and general complexity kept me away from it. Thankfully Appigo released a web-version of their app which was simple and tightly integrated with the iOS versions (compared with syncing Toodledo to Todo which wasn't so tidy).
Many years ago, prior to 2007, we discussed this issue on this board ad nauseam. In those days the software tools for list management as well as the hardware (no iPhone) weren't there yet. So, the question as to how best to link NAs to projects was a constant topic.
We invariably would reach the same conclusion as you did: the brain connects the dots allright.