To Appreciate a Wheel, You Must First Reinvent It

May 18th, 2006  |  Published in old and busted  |  4 Comments

I’ve been spending some time the last few days taking advantage of recent … changes … in routine to figure out ways to better spend my time. I think I’ll have a pointer to more protracted writing about that in a bit, but for now it’s enough to say that, winter thoroughly shaken off, I’ve been feeling more interested in making changes.

My sudden openness to change got me reconsidering how well I was organizing myself, so I picked up my copy of “Getting Things Done,” read the first few pages very carefully, flipped through two more pages, then tossed it aside, bored silly.

Because I’ve spent a lot of time thinking of ways I could heckle and belittle gtd cultists over the past few years (until only recently) I’m pretty familiar with how gtd works:

  • You know where you keep information about what you need to do

  • You keep that stuff compartmentalized by project and context

  • You make sure you know what the next thing you need to do is

Yes, there’s a ton more. No, my life isn’t complex enough to require it. I’ve got a bit more on that, but it’s a way’s off.

The first thing I did after deciding to come to terms with my grudging respect for gtd as a potentially useful tool was download Kinkless gtd, which is a set of scripts and buttons and templates for OmniOutliner. I poked at using it, couldn’t make it work in my head, and promptly gave up. The problem I had was pretty simple: I was trying to cold-start an organizational system without any raw data to organize. I didn’t figure that out until some more fiddling.

So next I turned to my beloved VoodooPad in an attempt to implement a sort of gtd-esque tracking system, but VoodooPad doesn’t work for me on that level. I love it for notes, and it’s a surprisingly useful poor man’s datastore for some Applescripting I’ve done (who needs SQLite when you can dump data into a voodoopad and get it back from there?), but it gets sort of cluttery and confusing as a list manager. For me, anyhow.

In the process, though, of fiddling, I’d been copying tons of scraps of things from other ‘pads and documents. So suddenly I had a lump of material that needed to be organized.

I flipped back to OmniOutliner and began to fill in a Kinkless document with all that stuff. Having concretized gtd’s core concepts by trying to build my own system, I suddenly got Kinkless a lot better. I retired with my gtd outline filled with stuff, understanding how it all goes together.

Some neat stuff kinkless does for you:

  1. Syncs with iCal. If I add an action in my kinkless outline, clicking the sync button on the toolbar adds it to my iCal todo’s.

  2. Moves project actions into a useful overview area, tracks completed actions with dates.

  3. Allows you to set up recurring actions, like “Do the edit plan” for every Thursday … regenerates the action in the master action list each time its completed.

  4. Does some nice color coding.

The only problem I had was that I still like to keep a lot of notes and snippets in VoodooPad, and even if I can’t use it to organize workflow, it’s a good place to keep stuff.

So I wrote some Applescript that handles that, kind of:

open_vp_page.jpgWhen I’m in OmniOutliner, I’ve got a little VoodooPad button that will open my gtd VoodooPad to a page that shares the same title as the section I’m working in. So if I’m in the section for my EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet site, clicking the button will haul up my VoodooPad and open it to the ENP page, which contains links to all the relevant stuff.

Tomorrow’s project will be to do something for VoodooPad that extends the relationship back in the opposite direction, opening the right section in the gtd outline from a page in VoodooPad

Nothing groundbreaking, in any event … just another way a few lines of Applescript can create a link between two applications and save the user fishing around for a document then finding the relevant page. It adds up in time and irritation factor.

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