2021.08.06.

Refactoring my GTD system – part 4: using Apple Watch as a safety net for capturing

I’m using GTD for almost ten years now. I consider myself an advanced user, but last December, I wanted to simplify my system, my tools and return to the basics to get better at the end. I started refactoring every aspect of my GTD system—digital and analog as well. This is a series about how I did it and why.


I already talked about the various capture tools I use in my GTD practice. I wanted to expand upon my Apple Watch usage a little bit more.

Since I have my Apple Watch with me (almost) all the time, it makes sense to use it as a secondary capture tool. I have two watch faces set up so that when my primary capture tools are not with me, I can still easily have a mechanism for capturing.

It’s best to use the Apple Watch for dictation or writing with its Scribble feature, but these methods are not made for lengthy talking/writing—although I never had a problem with that. I usually jot down or dictate a couple of quick thoughts here and there.

I use Drafts at night by capturing my notes with Scribble and Voice Memos for dictation when driving or walking. Each of these contexts has a corresponding watch face set up: a red Modular face with a Drafts complication used during the night, and an X-Large watch face which has a big, easy-to-tap Voice Memos icon in the middle for driving and walking.

I try to automate when these watch faces should show up. When my Apple Watch switches into sleep mode, Shortcuts changes my active watch face to the red Modular one. I also get a notification to change my watch face to the Voice Memos button when I leave home.

When I don’t have my phone or my notepad with me, the Apple Watch still can be used as a safety net for capturing. Like the old saying of “the best camera is the one that’s with you,” I can also say that the best capture tool is the one that’s with you.

2021.07.18.

Refactoring my GTD system – part 3: keeping capture tools everywhere

I’m using GTD for almost ten years now. I consider myself an advanced user, but last December, I wanted to simplify my system, my tools and return to the basics to get better at the end. I started refactoring every aspect of my GTD system—digital and analog as well. This is a series about how I did it and why.


I have to prepare because I’ll run into things through the day which has a potential meaning to capture either via writing or dictation. Therefore, I have to keep capture tools in those places where I frequently show up.

By default, my preferred ubiquitous capture tool is the Capture Wallet, but there are contexts where I can use tools that are more appropriate and convenient.

At my desk

I can take notes slower and easier at my desk, so I use a Baron Fig Confidant notebook. I use a journal format: each day gets a header, I keep everything in a list annotated via Patrick Rhone’s Dash Plus method. I can capture ideas, track my time using timestamps, write down what I did; sometimes, I even use it as a regular journal.

My Baron Fig Confidant is a versatile tool. Since it has pages with a dotted grid, I can use it for mind-mapping, diagramming, and wire-framing. I can keep the digital noise away by using an analog tool for thinking.

In the car

It’s essential to use a capture tool that is quick and doesn’t need much attention while I’m driving. I found that the easiest to use capture tool is my Apple Watch and the Voice Memos app.

I also keep a notepad here to capture ideas (sometimes even groceries lists). When I’m driving, I’m asking the person sitting next to me (usually my wife) to write stuff down for me. The notepad is shared, so my wife can capture her stuff as well. Since we’re frequently discussing agenda items in the car together—which always triggers new stuff to capture—it’s convenient to keep a shared notepad at hand.

In the bed at night

I can have ideas in the bed in three contexts:

  1. Before sleep, when the lights are still on, and we’re talking about something with my wife (or I’m reading).
  2. In the dark when I wake up in the middle of the night.
  3. In the morning when I’m reading.

I keep a small notepad next to the bed, which I use when the light is still on or in the morning. I wear my Apple Watch during sleep for sleep tracking, so it’s natural to take notes using Drafts digitally. I use the Scribble feature to write in the dark: usually, I capture no more than just a couple of words to remember the idea next time.

On rare occasions when something still bugs me, and I wake up because of it in the middle of the night, I have to grab my iPad to write down longer forms of thinking. Usually, I can sleep well after I captured what was on my mind, but it’s more important to capture these things during the day, so I can go to bed with a clear mind and sleep well.

Keeping a checklist of capture tools

I have a pretty extensive set of capture tools, and it can be dangerous if I forget to dump stuff I collected into my inbox. Before I start to process my inboxes, I go through a checklist of these tools to make sure I gathered everything into one place to continue to process them.

Habits are also essential to form: I do drop things into my inbox on my own from my more frequently used capture tools like my wallet or Drafts. But I still use a safety net in the form of a checklist, so nothing lays around unprocessed at the end.

2021.05.09.

Drafts is a digital Hipster PDA

  1. Drafts is an app optimized for taking quick notes and sending them to other places instead of storing them in the long term.
  2. Each Drafts note has a unique ID which can be understood as a digital index card linkable from anywhere.
  3. These notes are temporary, so I’m not keeping them in the system. After I processed one, it can be thrown away.
  4. Notes in Drafts don’t need much organization; everything is on a simple list. When I’m done with a note, it can be trashed or archived.

2021.05.04.

Refactoring my GTD system – part 2: the Capture Wallet

I’m using GTD for almost ten years now. I consider myself an advanced user, but last December, I wanted to simplify my system, my tools and return to the basics to get better at the end. I started refactoring every aspect of my GTD system—digital and analog as well. This is a series about how I did it and why.


I like to use my iPhone as a capture device, but the elegance and simplicity of the David Allen Notetaker Wallet is something I wanted to explore for a while now. I prefer paper for capture and general note taking because:

  1. it doesn’t notify me about anything,
  2. it doesn’t have a battery,
  3. there is no way to multitask on paper,
  4. and it’s the classic example of tools that do one thing well.

You can’t buy the David Allen Notetaker Wallet anymore, but I found a good alternative called Capture Wallet which copied it almost as-is, but it’s a good thing. There are two versions: “Artisan” and “Business.” I use the latter one because it’s more minimal and also cheaper.


It is way more convenient to use perforated notepads for the GTD capture process because I can tear pages off. Each page contains one (maybe two) notes, which makes processing stuff easier—I can deal with one thing at a time, then throw it away. Because I regularly tear-off notes and drop them into my inbox, my notepads are always fresh and clean; I don’t carry around old stuff as I do with notebooks.

I still use my iPhone as a secondary capture device. I have Drafts installed (which I consider as the digital version of the Hipster PDA), so I can write things down when I don’t have my Capture Wallet around, although I prefer it over my phone.

2021.05.02.

Refactoring my GTD system – part 1: list managers are overcomplicating our systems

I’m using GTD for almost ten years now. I consider myself an advanced user, but last December, I wanted to simplify my system, my tools and return to the basics to get better at the end. I started refactoring every aspect of my GTD system—digital and analog as well. This is a series about how I did it and why.


The initial version of GTD is based on more straightforward tools than most digital list managers. It is essential to learn how to do GTD in the default way because each step and tool has a purpose; there are no unnecessary things. We’re doing something wrong if we can’t keep our GTD system up and running with just the tools and ideas mentioned in the book.

Avoid having a connection between projects and next actions

Many list managers connect projects with the next actions, but in the original GTD approach, there are no connections between them. Everything is on a different list. We’re the ones who connect everything when we do the Weekly Review.

Digital list managers connect only subsequent actions to projects; they skip calendar events, project plans, etc. We have to find these on our own, but doing it can be confusing. When we do the Weekly Review, we can be under the impression that all we have about a project is the next actions connected to it, forgetting other activities like events on our calendar. We have to get the pieces together of all the remaining stuff for ourselves. It is way easier if the software can connect everything to us, but there is no technology capable of doing this, so we have to find the logical connection between things. Having seen the entire picture is the only way we can relax our minds.

Connecting subsequent actions to projects can result in unnecessary steps when adding a new to-do. Using simple lists is straightforward: we add a new item, and we are done; on the other hand, having a connection between projects and next actions is meta-information, usually yet another field to fill, which makes adding things slower.

If we don’t expect to see the title of related projects in our next actions lists, we will be more considered about how to phrase our actions. It results in a more precise next action which we can imagine easier, thus doing it without much thinking later.

Having many features is distracting

Professional task managers have many features which have to be set up and maintained, which takes a lot of time. These features can be helpful, but GTD doesn’t need more than having simple lists. We can even do the right thing at the right time with GTD on paper where advanced features are absent.

Before we try to solve a problem with advanced tools, we have to consider using something simpler which can yield the same result. For example, we can use paper to think, but store the result of that thinking in digital tools. Having many features can distract us from work by fiddling with the tool. The importance of a project is not defined by the tool we’re using to administer it.

2021.03.16.

Sequential projects

Here’s a couple of things regarding sequential projects:

  • Keep future actions in your project support. You don’t want to keep them in your head. It feels nice when you can open an outline or a mindmap (or whatever), and you can effortlessly add the next action on the project.
  • Get into the habit of capturing. When you complete one next action, you should grab the next one into your inbox since some part of your world changed. You have new information that you should pay attention to.
  • Weekly reviews are the safety net for still need to capture things.

I know some apps like OmniFocus let you add future actions that magically pop up in your next actions lists when you complete a previous one, but they do more harm than help. Almost every time, the next step needs processing anyway, so these subsequent half-baked actions that you add in advance are going to create less trust in your next actions lists.

2020.09.17.

OmniFocus quick-entry iOS 14-ben

Tegnap megjelent az iOS 14, amiben van egy Back Tap nevű funkció. Ezzel a telefonunk hátulját kétszer vagy háromszor megtappolva lefuttathatunk különböző actionöket. Az Apple leírásából:

Back Tap lets you double-tap or triple-tap the back of your iOS device to automatically perform a range of custom tasks — from opening your favorite app to taking a screenshot. Choose from 24 different actions or create your own automated shortcuts to simplify your everyday tasks.

Mivel shortcutok is beállíthatók, így létrehoztam egy, a desktop todo menedzser alkalmazásokban látott quick-entry funkcióhoz hasonló shortcutot, ami bekér egy szöveget, majd azonnal elmenti azt az OmniFocus inboxszomba. Az egészben az a legjobb, hogy ehhez nem kell kilépnem az adott alkalmazásból sem, helyben lerendez mindent. Nagyon hasznos például telefonálás közben.

Az alábbi videóban megnézhető az egész működés közben és a használt shortcut felépítése is.

2020.02.07.

The natural progress of Zettelkasten

GTD and the Zettelkasten methods are bottom-up processes, which means we don’t start with setting a goal that we want to reach, but instead we work with the things that we have at the current moment. The Zettelkasten – similarly to the Natural Planning Model of GTD – naturally let your notes to form into a concrete thing. It is the complete opposite of the traditional view of research which starts by setting the final goal or state that we have to reach.

Related

Source

2020.02.06.

The physical process of Zettelkasten

The Zettelkasten method breaks down the thinking process into physical steps which can be acquired as habits.

Thinking – the ability to connect and understand things – becomes a physical routine.

These Here are the steps:

  1. Collecting and writing down ideas while I’m watching or reading something.
  2. Processing information by phrasing it in my own words, then adding the note to my Zettelkasten (one though thought is one card).
  3. Optional linking and connecting with existing notes in the Zettelkasten to create a network of information.

This routine is very similar to GTD, which is also the thinking process broken down to physical steps and habits.

Related

Source

The Weekly Review is the hardest to implement from GTD, but it’s the most important routine to get myself familiar with. Here’s why:

  • I have a basic anchor once a week, when I became mindful with my commitments and that gives me a relief so I can trust in my system. Nothing slips.
  • Reviewing my waiting fors then pinging people keeps that loop alive. People start to feel I demand stuff from them and they can’t escape from their responsibilities. At least from those that involve me.
  • Reviewing my stuff feels like mindfulness meditation. I pay attention what’s on my mind, then I make proactive decisions about them. This way I can relax.