Low maintenance GTD

My failure to use electronic GTD tools

I’ve been going back and forth on the tools I use to implement GTD. I’ve been all over the place: I’ve started with Omnifocus. It’s an interesting tool, but it tends to get very complex very fast, even with great teachers, such as Kourosh Dini. Do check out his work if you’re an OmniFocus user and are looking for guidance. After OmniFocus, I used Things. The Apple store had a sale, and I jumped. I have to be honest, of all the electronic GTD solutions I’ve used, Things still is the most natural to me. I’ve written about that in a blog post a couple of months ago. I tried going the all text files route, using Taskpaper format and even revisiting Gina Trapani’s excellent todo.txt. But none of it stuck. I was obliged to use Android (actually, the experience is better than I expected, certainly under Lollipop) and moved my GTD set-up to Todoist. But still, it did not stick. Fundamentally, because I was thinking about this the wrong way.

Back to my Filofax basics

And now I’m back to my very old, but still very trusted Filofax. I invested 10 USD in David Allen’s set-up guide for paper-based systems, but the set-up has not changed fundamentally from what it was a couple of years ago.

Paper based GTD is ubiquitous

I’m not going to bore you with the specifics of my Filofax GTD set-up. There are many excellent writers on the internet that have shared theirs, and mine is not fundamentally different. What I want to explore a bit is why none of the electronic methods stuck. And why the paper based method does. And the answer is very simple. The paper based method is ubiquitous, while the electronic ones are not.

Taking out my phone is a tool change

Let’s explore this a bit. My technology is usually quite close to me. I carry my iPhone and my Android phone close to my pretty much all of the time. Yet it takes a deliberate action to stop whatever activity I am doing to perform an input in that specific system. It is a tool change.

Only movements which are deeply trained muscle memory memory can be performed outside of the rigorous reality of tool changes causing significant interruptions. And to date, our ability of using our phone is not that. At least, mine is not.

Writing is muscle memory, hence not a tool change

My entire subconscious muscle memory is a writing muscle memory. I was trained to write, longhand, a long time ago. I can do pretty much anything in terms of taking notes while not losing track of what is going on outside of me, in a conversation, during a meeting. I can take notes and pay attention. That is the extent of my multitasking capabilities. My writing skills are my reflex brain doing the work. My attention is with the meeting. The act of taking out my notebook and writing something down does not break my concentration. It does not pull me out of the zone. It does not, by itself, constitute a tool change.

Taking out my phone, or any other electronic device, does.

But is this the case for younger people as well?

But what I am wondering about is whether this is the case for younger people, people that worked with a phone from a very young age. Young people to who longhand writing was not as essential as it was to my own formation and upbringing.