GTD probably does not need much further explanation, but there are a couple of characteristics which make using the Newton interesting for GTD:
All of these things can be done on the Newton in many different ways which are described below. I present them in the order I have used them to highlight how I got closer to the essence of a GTD workflow.
To Do Based Setup
My workflow in this setup would be to create as many to do items per project as known, and assign priorities to them so that they would step by step lead to project completion. Project notes would be added to the corresponding note in the Notes application.
In the agenda view, I would then see all to do items for all projects, with the most important ones listed first. I could further filter by projects to just see the project relevant items.
The main problem with this setup is the potentially large number of to do items:
Based on my experiences with the to do based setup, I created Flashpoint to make creation of projects a more natural task, and to automate the priority assigment. Flashpoint allows structuring of projects into subprojects, and using priorities per project which are relative to the parent project. This simplifies finding absolute priotities for next actions, their relationship to each other is calculated automatically.
Fundamentally, my main idea behind Flashpoint was to help figuring out which of the next actions to do next. In addition to that, it helps in structuring projects further.
After using Flashpoint for a while I noticed some flaws with my underlying assumptions:
Flashpoint turned out to be more of a project management tool than a GTD tool.
List Based Setup
The main conclusions from using Flashpoint were:
Putting these conclusions into action resulted in a very simple list base setup. I dropped the idea of priorities and project structures completely and used only the built-in applications. I would recommend this setup as a starting point for people trying GTD since it is lightweight and does not require additional software. The basic structure consists of just a few notes:
The project checklist can be structured further if needed, e.g. each project can have comments or possible actions under it, but this is not necessary. The checkboxes in the project checklist are used to indicate whether the project has a next action. During the project review, the boxes are checked, and when completing next actions, the boxes are unchecked.
The next action outline should be structured using contexts, e.g. @work or @home.
Overall this lightweight setup was quite usable. It highlighted the earlier conclusion that work is very dynamic, and it is not useful to plan too far ahead. As an example, next actions were moved back to the associated project quite frequently, either because they were not refined enough, or because they would not move the project forward because other circumstances had changed.
The main problem with this setup is however the difficulty to do a project review. There is no information linking a project to a next action, unless some sort of project identifier is added to the action. Another problem is that keeping the project related information on the project checklist is not very flexible, especially due to the way the Newton checklist stationery works: A topic becomes unchecked if subtopics are unchecked, which interferes with the usage of the checkbox to indicate next actions.
Extended To Do Setup
Since I have been a happy DateMan user for a while, and really like the agenda view, I tried to improve the simple list based setup further by incorporating DateMan into the setup. I still deal with "hard landscape" items quite regularily, or want to write down an action without too much overhead. For that, the agenda view in DateMan works very well for me. Adding priorties is sometimes useful too. The lack of being able to connect actions and projects was another issue I wanted to tackle. And last but not least, storing project related information in a more free form way should be possible as well.
The extented to do setup has this structure:
It should be possible to achieve the same setup using just the built-in applications, but that would lose two important parts: Linking between actions and projects, and using context folders for actions. I am actually using More Folders and Super Notepad to further improve the setup, e.g. sort notes not by creation time but by title, see more notes via the one-line overview, or be able to use more folders for contexts.
The problems with the list based setup are solved quite nicely:
I still wanted to fix some minor problems in this setup though:
I solved these issues by creating dedicated Project Stationery. It adds a new action menu item to quickly create a next action, and shows a slightly different abstract in the overview. The overview shows an exclamation mark icon if one of the links for a project points to a to do item, and it also shows the link indicator. Creating a next action uses the currently selected text in a project note as the text for the next action, and it also allows specifying the folder under which the action is to be stored. Links between the action and the note are created automatically.
Dedicated Next Action List
One issue which continued to bother me with the previous setup was the disconnection between actions and projects. The linking mechanism provided by DateMan turned out to be less stable and more cumbersome to use than expected.
In addition to that, the usage of the To Do list (either built-in or in DateMan) for next actions seemed like mixing the "hard landscape" with the projects and actions. A clearer separation would have been better.
The result is Nitch, a simple application which continues with the concept of using Notes as projects, but does away with the separate To Do list concept. Instead, Nitch uses checklists as projects, and considers any checked item on a project as the next action. This makes assigning next actions very fast. Project abstracts in the Notepad overview are flagged if the project has a next action, this helps to quickly check for projects without actions during the review phase.
Next actions are then showed in a separate application, which is the main view during the day. From there, actions can be marked as complete, and project notes can be opened.