Posted by: Simon | June 26, 2008

Update 1: GTD Hybrid System – 30 Day Trial

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Well I promised I’d provide a weekly update on my trial of a GTD hybrid system. Details on what I was planning to do are covered in this post here. So far so good. I missed doing a formal weekly review at the end of last week so I haven’t backed up my paper system to Outlook as I’d planned. I’m not the least bit concerned though. I have been simply entering my Next Actions and then striking through them when done.

Three observations I’d make so far:

1. The initial exercise of transferring all my Next Actions, Someday/Maybes and Projects from Outlook to paper provided a great opportunity to really think about my commitment to each of the items I was transferring, particularly those that had been on the list for a while. Essentially I committed to myself that if I was going to spend the time and effort writing and maintaining this item on paper then then I’d better be planning on actually striking it off sometime too.

2. Linked to the first observation, I have found I have had a really increased focus on my lists day to day, particularly my @Home list. I refer to them much more often and am attracted to looking at them. It has changed where I spend my time, for the better. I refer to my electronic calendar as need be and it seems easier to carve out the time each day to define my work.

3. The Moleskine Cahier is working well for me. I like its size and weight. It is not multi-purpose as I still capture Next Actions elsewhere and this suits me. I don’t feel the need to change that.

I’ll provide another update next week.

Got any thoughts or ideas of your own on the shift to paper?

Please use the comments area to discuss.


  1. Paper just rocks doesn’t it? My hub will do things on the computer when just using some paper will be quicker and more efficient. I thought computers were going to make us a paperless society….Well, we use more paper than ever because it is just so darn easy to print out 10 copies of that billion page report! :O) Good for you Simon Hill.

  2. Thanks Laurie! Even after all these years of using a computer I still find that when I have a large document to read or review that I need to print it out on paper. Can’t explain this but it is a different experience.

  3. I find the same thing about rewriting my lists by hand. Sometimes it’s just easier to do the damn thing than to rewrite it. :)

  4. @Jennifer: Definitely a powerful focus – I’m moving on stuff that was on my electronic lists for an eternity! It’s a good feeling :)

  5. Recently I’ve also been learning about the usefulness of manipulating physical things rather than digital ones. I’ve been more productive since I started working from pieces of paper (a printed-out email, a draft of something, etc.) and physical folders. I have folders for today, later, home, waiting, etc. and I get so much more done when I pick out one piece of paper at a time and deal with it. Maybe it’s just because it’s a new approach, not sure, but I think at least for me, there’s an “out of sight, out of mind” quality to digital information that gets in the way.

  6. Thanks for the comment Jennifer. I totally get the “out of sight, out of mind” notion you describe. It bugs me because I WANT a digital solution to work but there is something about having the physical items in front of me – I guess they’re just harder to ignore. I had to work on something this weekend at home and I printed all the bits I would need in the office even though I could access them all electronically in my study. It worked – I got the task done!

  7. Thanks for the posting. I too am interested in finding/developing a digital/paper GTD system that will support both my personal and work needs. On the digital-side, I’m using Gmail, Gcal and GTDInbox which works well for my personal needs with my iPhone. I have done web searches for ideas for the paper-side but haven’t found ‘good’ ones. I’m curious what you developed for your page layout/content for Next Action, Someday/Maybe & Projects. Also what about Contexts? Thanks

  8. Thanks Ned for your comment. I’ll go into some more detail in tomorrow’s update post but I have kept the page layout pretty straightforward. I have divided things up by Context and pretty much just list the Next Actions and then cross them out when done. They ARE just lists by the way – even for Projects. Any supporting material I keep separately.

  9. [...] has gone by and I’m still going with my trial of a GTD combined electronic and paper system. Last week I wrote about some of the set up experience and of some initial reactions. This week I want to make [...]

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