A little while ago, I posted that I'd trimmed out a lot of the hierarchy in my GTD system. I'd realized that it was too hard to find things, and so I wasn't maintaining the system well, with predictable consequences.
I've now taken an even more radical step, switching almost entirely back to paper. (For those not hanging on my every word, my former system depended on the ResultManager add-in for MindManager.)
I realized that I prefer working on paper for most things: planning, taking notes, jotting reminders to myself, etc. The advantages of an electronic system just don't make up for the extra data entry step, especially when I've already made a note on paper, and especially when I'm busy. Meanwhile, I've added a bunch of new clients, all with relatively small projects. That makes the organizational overhead of the system more noticeable than if I had a few big projects.
I also realized that I had overcomplicated the context system by trying to split things too narrowly. I have basically two kinds of work: stuff that requires intense focus for long periods, and stuff that doesn't. The high-focus stuff is almost all project-based, and I think of it as "work on XYZ project," not as "@Read/Review" or "@Write" or @anything else. The low focus stuff is almost all context-driven: I plow through a list of @Phone or @Email or @Home stuff, without reference to any particular project.
And finally, I realized that an electronic system makes it easier for cruft to accumulate in my lists. I can merrily drag an electronic task along for months, or even years, without ever having to think about when I plan to do it, or even if I still care about it. A paper system forces me to engage with my tasks much more directly: why do I keep copying that over and over again?
My new approach is still a work in progress, but here's what I have so far:
* Paper calendar, using the Day-Timer 2-page per week vertical format. Used primarily for planning purposes, since most of my appointments are desk-based and Outlook's calendar works well for those. Contacts stay in Outlook as well: it works, why change it?
* Tickler for email and phone followup tasks, incorporated into the calendar.
* List of project deadlines and upcoming trips, also incorporated into the calendar.
The list of project deadlines puts a thumbnail overview of my workload at my fingertips. Very useful when talking to prospective clients about my availability, and also when I'm prioritizing what to do next. This is not my complete project list, just the big, high-priority chunks.
The email and phone tickler is because I often want to followup on something "in about two weeks." I don't care whether it happens on Monday or Wednesday, but it needs to happen in a particular week and I don't want to think about it until then. This supplements my primary 43-folder tickler. It should double as my @Email and @Phone NA lists, too, but I won't know for sure until I work with it for a while.
The rest of the system uses (for now) Levenger Circa pages for NA lists. These are divided by context where applicable (@Errands, @Home) and by project where not (Project XYZ, Office Admin). To avoid overwhelming myself, each list is limited to one side of one junior-size page: anything that won't fit is either Someday/Maybe or a not-yet-doable project task. The advantage of Circa pages is I can "tier" the pages to see more than one at a time.
I haven't yet transferred my master project list or my Someday/Maybe list out of my electronic system, but these are destined for Circa pages as well.
I think that using projects as contexts will help avoid one of the biggest disadvantages of a paper system: having to copy the same items to more than one place. It also simplifies the problem of verifying that each project has at least one NA. The risk is that project-related stuff that is not an NA will creep onto these lists, but the one-page limit should help me catch such problems quickly.
This is a work in progress, so I'm sure there's still some fine-tuning to do. But so far it seems much more natural.
Comments welcome, especially from other retro-paper folks.