Many questions in one thread
One of the reasons this discussion gets so complicated is that we are talking about several quite unrelated things at the same time:
- whether paper or computers is generally the better "media" for keeping your GTD "stuff"
- how well you need the "stuff" on your "media" to mirror the underlying GTD philosophy
- general GTD principles and psychological factors
I assume we all agree with this general principle. Being clear and specific is necessary. This holds true no matter what "media" you write it on (Moleskine or loose sheets, app X or app Y).
Originally Posted by TesTeq
And I might add that there are further psychological obstacles to efficiency, such as a) you might hate certain tasks no matter how clearly you phrase them, b) you might be using your "system" (or other pastimes) as an escape from doing the actual work that you have listed.
The temptation to "escape" is probably higher overall with computer apps than with paper (even though some people seem tempted to doodle a lot on paper, or experiment with different highlighting pens, exclamation marks, headings, arrows etc). More importantly, computer apps are inherently more visually rigid than paper and pen, and tend to "steal" more of your time initially while learning what you can and cannot represent with them.
This statement originally relates to our assessment of a particular action (or project), and I assume we all agree with the validity of these questions. Let me use them here to assess the possible project "move system from paper to computer":
Originally Posted by TesTeq
I have used paper successfully for a very long time, say 20 years, before moving to computers. And I still often use paper both to collect thoughts and to sketch bigger scenarios. I know paper works well. I grew up with it, and I know exactly what I can and cannot do with it. Paper is my benchmark, you might say.
Let me first just briefly state a couple of trivial points: Computers do not suffer from my ugly handwriting. My iPhone is always with me. Lists and supporting documentation can get heavy to carry. These kinds of aspects represent some of the rudimentary value you can get from using computers and phones, but at the same time you typically have to have to give up a lot of the flexibility you have when using paper.
When using paper you can have the whole spectrum of "stuff" in one briefcase or folder - from simple shopping lists, project outlines, 30 k goals or higher, whatever you care to carry with you. With most computer/phone apps this is extremely restricted - like rigid computer versions of plain paper lists. For me personally, if I have to carry paper with me anyway, or have to transfer selected chunks of my paper media "stuff" onto computer media, then I might as well use paper for all of it all the way. "Simple" (crude, rigid) apps are not for me - I want something "simple" (to use) and something that gives me more than paper can offer.
A very interesting capability that apps potentially have which paper does not, and which many apps do have in reality, to a higher or lower degree, is what I might perhaps term cross-referencing. We seem to agree that it is a bad idea to keep duplicates of the same tasks listed on several different sheets of paper, but with computer apps this is easily achieved by classifying and characterizing each item (action, project ...) in a number of relevant ways and then simply viewing the "stuff" from different angles. This has immense value in two ways:
1) Reviewing your stuff is important, as we all agree. Reviewing is so much easier if you can view your stuff from an angle that is suitable for review, such as looking at a given project or AoR one at a time, seeing all kinds of actions (Next, Waiting, Someday; @office, @errands, all together in one view) and making sure no actions have been forgotten etc. You may also want to review what you have on your plate for today or the very near future, and this then calls for a different kind of view. By being able to switch views you can review your stuff quicker and more confidently. When using paper you are forced to adopt a "one-view-fits-all" approach.
2) Situation based task selection is fundamental to GTD. Depending on the situation, the easiest way to find suitable tasks to choose from right now is by eliminating those that cannot or should not be considered in this situation due to factors such as Context, Energy, Time available (task duration) or Priority - or people. When using paper you are forced to adopt a "one-factor" approach, usually Context (primarily location/tool, e.g @home, @internet etc), where, making it even more restricted, you can only place a task in one single such category.
It is perhaps also worth noting that with a paper-based system you are not forced to split your Next actions into separate context lists. You can have them all one one single list (if you prefer), and simply browse through the list when making your selection: "No, too far away from here", "No, too tired for that", "No, no time now", "No, not important enough". By splitting them up on different context lists you can make things a little bit easier for you if you have lots of actions, but you then also face the classical classification problem - defining contexts that are mutually exclusive on paper while not being entirely so in reality. With a well-designed app none of this would need to be a problem - you could apply multiple independent classifications, such as "requires a computer", "requires John", "requires a quiet environment", "requires a calm mind" and so on, and then simply eliminate tasks requiring those factors that are not present.
Yes, unfortunately this is often what it boils down to. Sometimes it can be a bit more, perhaps more like moving to a similar but different apartment, maybe with different placement of the windows etc, but the furniture is still all the same, and all to often this gives you very little added value, but forces you to rethink the whole placement of your furniture - almost for nothing.
Originally Posted by PeterW
Originally Posted by bcmyers2112