Posted by: Simon | July 2, 2008

Update 2: GTD Hybrid System – 30 Day Trial

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Okay folks, another week 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 three more observations which are focused on day to day use:

1.  During the week I have felt more in control in that sense of knowing exactly what is I’m not doing compared to when my next action lists were electronic. I’ve been very comfortable committing to unplanned things that were more important as it was easy to make that call. My electronic calendar in Outlook still contains fixed time and fixed day commitments and I have transferred a couple of things from my paper lists to specific days as circumstances have changed.

2.  I have found myself scanning the lists in the morning and picking next actions that, all things being equal, I want to get done that day. I tried doing that with my electronic lists but it never came together in the same way and I don’t feel the commitment was there. I have therefore made movement on things that were stuck on my electronic lists. I’d stare at them as they went stale. This has meant that my sense of achievement has been high and psychologically I get a kick out of crossing through the task when it’s done.

3.  This one is in the weeds. It’s about the physical set up of my Moleskine Cahier. It has 80 pages so I have allowed roughly 8 pages for each context that I have. My tiny Post-It soft tabs with a single letter (double for Projects) for each context are going well. They’re not getting dog-eared. I ordered my context lists with Calls at the front followed by Home, Office, Computer, Errands, Waiting For and Someday/Maybe. Then I have three sets of Project lists – Personal, Work and Delegated. The order works well for me because the ones I will need are grouped near each other. I have not, as I had planned, been synching to Outlook by copying next actions as part of the weekly review. This is partly because I did my last weekly review in a cafe without a computer (only had my BlackBerry with my calendar). It’s also because I’m not seeing the value in it. I may make a photocopy of various pages as a precaution but I think that’s all I’ll do.

Click here for Update 3 of the trial.

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

Please use the comments area to discuss.


  1. igonre the question on my previous email; I looked closer at Update 3′s picture and saw you action support binder…

  2. @Kai: No worries. What you see in this post is my Portfolio – my ‘mobile office’. I have an Inbox, Action Support, Waiting For and Read/Review folder or tray at Work and at Home.

  3. I am considering moving away from Outlook to paper as well. Thanks for your helpful posts.

    Workflow question: when an e-mail hits your inbox, and you cannot complete the task within 2 minutes. I assume you write the next action on the appropriate context list in your moleskin. But, what do you do with the e-mail? Do you use “holding” folders until you get to it?

    • Hi Gort – You’re right, once I’ve determined what the next action is with the email I write it in my Moleskine. If I can’t delete the email at that point because I’ll need to refer to it to complete the NA then I file it in my @Action folder in Outlook. Alternatively I may choose to keep it as reference in which case I file it in one of the A-Z folders I have in Outlook. Cheers.

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