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Learning from Failed GTD Implementations

For my first Gearfire post, I’m going to detail the pros and cons of my past GTD implementations. Each new trial helped shape my current implementation. I feel that when you move away from an implementation, it’s important to contemplate exactly what isn’t working. Unorganized? Unintuitive? Untrusted? All the great, new features of your future implementation are meaningless if it can’t even plug the leaks in your present implementation. So without further ado:

Implementation #1: “That stuff you make from trees”


When you first start practising GTD, one of the big steps is to collect all your “stuff.” Allen says, “if you can’t physically put something in the in-basket, then write a note on a letter-size piece of paper to represent it.” I opted for a smaller version and proceeded to purge my thoughts onto individual notepad sheets.

Pros: Simplicity. For me, nothing beats paper when I want to clear my mind.
Cons: Unorganized. When you have a whole stack of loose slips of paper, it’s hard to search and process.

Implementation #2: “Five Minute Organizer”

Five Minute Organizer


After discovering the Hipster PDA, I proceeded to search for a miniature version that wouldn’t take up so much space in my pocket. I found the “Walleteer” from Success Begins Today. It provides templates for Avery business cards that include: Projects, Next Actions, Appointments, Contacts, Goals, and Brainstorming.

Pros: Portability. The Walleteer, as its name implies, slips into your wallet.
Cons: Unwieldy. I had to unclip the cards, find the appropriate template, place it on top, write, then re-clip.

Implementation #3: “Hipskine”


The Hipskine consisted of two components: Tracks and a Moleskine. You would use Tracks for Next Actions and Projects and the Moleskine as a calendar. The hack was using Tracks’ exporting features to print a text list of your data and tuck it into your Moleskine’s back pocket.

Pros: Integration. The Hipskine provided a way of syncing stuff on-the-go with my computer and vice versa.
Cons: Software instability. I wasn’t fond of having to running SQL and Uniform Server on my desktop. Instead, I used, which hosted Tracks online. However, the owner had frequent hosting problems, which meant the inability to access my data for days, even weeks on end.

After tinkering with these implementations, I’ve found the three requirements for my GTD implementation: simplicity, portability, and integration. These requirements will vary widely from one GTD’er to the next, which is why there are so many tools, hacks, software, and implementations around the GTD community. By all means, keep tinkering, but make sure its tinkering that continues to evolve your implementation from all aspects.

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One Response to “Learning from Failed GTD Implementations”

  1. Todd V says:

    I could not agree more with your core principles for an effective GTD implementation –> simplicity, portability, and integration. This is eventually what led me to create the Ready-Set-Do! approach for the Mac. It’s the simplest and most reliable way I know of getting things done on a mac.

  2. [...] 25 Sep, 2007  GTD My sophomore post will outline my current GTD implementation and how I integrated what I learned previously. [...]