Comfy with My-Tech GTD

Preface: If you are just joining us, this article is part three and the final installment I have planned for my October 2006 ho‘ohana of “Nalu it!” a la GTD, Getting Things Done by David Allen. (February 2010: Link updating in process.)

To catch up and for best context, you’ll get the whole series this way:

  1. Our Ho‘ohana for October, 2006: Nalu it!
  2. GTD? Nalu it!
  3. GTD and a Story of Sequential Learning
  4. You’re in the right place! Keep reading :-)

When I think about the way my work habits have changed over the years, the last few of them are startlingly dramatic; any of my recollections about how I worked a scant three years ago often seem like ancient history. My personal journey with better productivity has been all about embracing change, our ever-flatter world, and new technology.

However, I believe in a balance of forward-thinking change and great-value constants. Through-out it all, my constancy has been Managing with Aloha; the MWA movement has given me a real-life, mission-critical focus of the good stuff I’ve wanted to consistently apply my productivity practices to.

Another undeniable factor in this short stretch between my now and ancient history, has been that I made a gargantuan leap from corporate life to that of entrepreneurship and self-employment in 2003. Ah! Sweet, sweet freedom. A seemingly never-ending supply of Christmas presents under a glowing tree of proactive personal choice. Some self-employment struggles? Sure. But relatively short-lived, and oh so gloriously worth it.

That’s my Context for this article.

For those of you still interested, this is my here and now of GTD application. I write this for those who know of and are practicing GTD in some form; from this point on, this posting is one filled with GTD jargon. If you never heard of it, you probably won’t want to keep reading ” take a look at the blog sidebar for other suggestions.

You still with me, and still have a need to know? Okay, two things:

a) These are the bones of my Trusted System (New update for 2010: Weekend Project: Hō‘imi your Trusted System). I say “the bones” because I’m still tweaking, still seeking to pare it down to the barest essentials, and there’s no sense in writing about the stuff I’m working to eliminate, right?

b) There are parts of this which could quite easily be spun off into a series of their own ”“ such as with email, that “big elephant you have to eat at one bite at a time.” We shall keep this as much to the highlights as possible, otherwise I may as well write another book ” this series has been long enough as it is!

Okay, here goes.


I so agree that psychic RAM is a terrible office, and low-tech collect and capture is the way to keep in mind like water state so you are more perceptive to the great opportunities which present themselves to you. You want to be an interesting human being to others, and live in the moment; you don’t want to be a productivity-obsessed robot.

Job One: over note-take, and write everything down. Use the gear you love to use for their tactile goodness. I am a journaler, for writing things out is part of my feels-good thinking process. Journal entries become blog posts, become submitted articles, become potential white papers and books in the making.

My UCT (ubiquitous capture tool) is a 5×7 blank book kept with me at all times, and I don’t bother with tabs (tried that, organizational fanaticism set in); I just write front to back. When my journal is full, I inhale the heady scent of my writing pleasure so captured and reward myself by buying another blank book. Tucked inside are a few index cards ”“ whatever size is on sale when I need to restock. What I write on the cards is any info that I’ll later toss into my One Physical Inbox to then Process/Organize into the mid-tech or high-tech parts of my trusted system.

I love paper tools for their tactile pleasure, but I hate filing, and to that end (Begin with the End in Mind!) I seek to be as paperless in my business as possible. The best thing you can put in my Christmas stocking is another mega-memory flash drive.

Also in this Low-Tech category:

  • Tickler files via expanding pendaflex. Love ‘em, use all three types: A-Z, January-December, and 1-31. They keep reminders/reference I need not double-entry into my Outlook Calendar or any other Mid or High Tech Processing.
  • 3-Ring binders are a mainstay in the kind of work I do with my clients, they work way better for me than manila folders, and they include plastic, removable/portable and recyclable 3-punched portfolios (one thing I still use the Brother labeler for) and slant pockets.

Corporate life taught me the discipline of using trace dates, and plastic slant pockets are great movable Next Action holders from binder to tickler file, to nose-to-the-grindstone Project Work and every back-and-forth movement within the Project cycle. They slip out of my carry-on easily in all the traveling I do.


I’m a graduate of the Franklin-Covey calendar/paper planner system, and today, my mid-tech is Microsoft Office and my printer: Outlook Calendar, Contacts and for Email. I no longer use the rest of Outlook, but I do learn all the bells and whistles that come with those three applications so that I am quick as I can possibly get in using them.

Core to my mid-tech thinking: I am an incessant planner, and I cannot imagine life without a calendar —absolutely impossible! My Outlook Calendar is easily printable when I need it on paper and helps with my low-tech capture within time-specific windows: When the time it covers is over, and any notes added to it are processed, the paper version is shredded. If I process it correctly I don’t need to archive it.

I have several email addresses for different reasons, and they all get channeled into my one Outlook Inbox. The two-minute rule gets applied to my email inbox, and I get it to zero by the end of the day when possible, and in my next Weekly Review without fail (including ruthless purge and delete.)

Outlook email folders work exceptionally well for my customer, community, and relationship correspondence because I use email so much. When people leave me voicemails, I’ll often transcribe their message as part of an email string we had already started.

My Sent box in Outlook is my GTD @Waitingfor; Sent is like “Tag, you’re it!” for me. If my sent message is the end of something I delete it right away; any needing a response stay there until I get one or send a reminder, and I check it regularly, seeking to get to zero, same as my Inbox.


It may be different for you, but I think of high-tech as

  • my cell phone
  • my laptop
  • my blogs and web-presence
  • Microsoft Word for long documents (and most of my writing)
  • Excel for spreadsheets AND for Lists of all kinds
  • and any web-based tools I use. Examples of these are Constant Contact as my e-letter editor, Basecamp for my clients’ project management, Skype just recently, and Gmail/Google Groups functionality for the Ho‘ohana Community. Love tagging as my online reference manager.

I optimize my use of my cell phone and laptop in all they offer ”“ and only those two pieces of equipment-type tools. As I’ve said before, no PDA for me. (2010: Things do change! I am now a mac-user, and loving my iPhone apps :)

I have been an Excel user for a long time, and as far as I’m concerned it remains the best List Manager ever. No Excel macro knowledge is needed; macros are complexity gravy. I have an Excel File simply named “Task” that is a constant open window and/or printable file for me. I make good use of the Auto Filter (which also Sorts by alpha). Collect/Process/Organize all within the two minute rule is an easy given for me using Excel.

As an example, these are the columns I filter in this Excel Task file:

  • Column A: Tag A Context (Think Category)
  • Column B: Tag B Context (I use Columns A and B like tagging of the Column G entries.)
  • Column C: Start Date (A long-lasting first-in/first out discipline, another procrastination killer)
  • Column D: Last Worked Date (Clues me into notes kept in my Outlook Appointment notes section.)
  • Column E: Due Date (Invoke the Discipline of Deadlines!)
  • Column F: Event Date (Will correspond to my Outlook Calendar Appointments)
  • Column G: The Task/Project
  • Column H: The Next Action
  • Column I: Other Notes

You can do the same thing for other Lists.

These are the other GTDisms and ROSAisms which have shaped my Trusted System; they are concepts I remind myself of all the time because they’ve “come true” for me.

  • Form should follow Function, and function is about Focus. I like light (I’m small), and virtual with as few gadgets as possible.
  • Focus with Allen’s 2 Basic Questions: What’s the successful outcome, and What’s the Next Action?
  • Neat and organized is not the same thing. More purge and delete = less need to clean or organize.
  • Productivity enables good living, it does not rule over it! The 5 Stages of Mastering Workflow must take as little time and effort as possible, and they must evolve into intuitive, best-life habit magic.
  • Took me a while to wean myself from my mouse, but I’ve learned to use my speed keys. Seems like sa small thing, but it does make an amazing difference.
  • How do I Nalu it, and re-group when I am surprised, get thrown a curve ball, or hunger for a new opportunity? The answer has to be supported by my trusted system.
  • Honoring the hard landscape of your calendar is critical.

The Weekly Review is critical.

  • Learn to Say No, and Learn to Let Go. Do not take on more Responsibility than you can handle WELL.
  • Develop a sense of urgency with taking Next Actions. Make more room in your life with Do it already! Purge and Delete. ‘ÅŒpala ‘ole: do without the clutter which weighs you down.
  • Have fun. Chores are least likely to get done.

Whew! I think this is quite enough talking about Getting Things Done. Let’s get back to doing it, shall we?

GTD is a great philosophy, and I think David Allen is pretty brilliant; I am very grateful for what he has taught me. There is much, much more we can talk about, but I think it becomes too much writing and not enough doing for me today. Time to turn to my own Next Action; probably for you too.

Thank you for the time you took to read this far.

Related Reading:


  1. says

    Thanks for the rap Rosa. Personally I relate to your term “my-tech” and feel that we would all be more comfortable in the changing world of technology if we made a decision, like you have, on what level of technology works for us and our situation.
    There are many definitions of technology and one of my favourites is “the practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area”. It doesn’t relate to the tools (or toys) we use and whether they are the latest and greatest. Technology is about the practical application of knowledge and if that means the best manual note-keeping methods using pen and paper, then that too is technology.
    Thanks for the reminder about Excel as a list keeping tool :o)

  2. says

    Wow Rosa, this has been quite a series of blog posts – great and timely reading for someone who is re-assessing (again!) systems to organise and manage things. I think the biggest idea I got from your writing (but certainly not the only one) is that there is no ‘best’ way – it’s an organic, developing thing – this being organised – and therefore the best thing for me to do is stop already with the decision paralysis and just get on with it.
    You’ve simplified things here for me with your series of posts – and I for one am grateful.

  3. says

    Thank you Leah and Karen for your comments! This update was not something that was easy for me to write; I’ve been putting off my GTD year-later report for quite some time now —those in my coach and learn program who had requested it from me have been very, very patient! I do think of this kind of productivity detail as being a pretty personalized thing, and I had a hard time imagining it would be interesting to anyone else but me, so I am exceptionally grateful for your reading and responding to it! Mahalo nui loa.

  4. says

    ROSAisms :-) :-)
    I bet writing about your personal organization was therapeutical! I can most certainly relate to what you had to go through to get to this point…it is a never ending journey.

  5. says

    The Purpose-Finding of Ho‘ohana and Wabi-Sabi

    Loved this, from Adam Kayce’s Monk at Work: Searching for meaning? Want to know what your purpose is? Get in line. … Just kidding! It’s obvious that there’s no one answer to these kinds of questions. It’s a search, an