Getting Organized, Getting Ready

Change of address, turn gas off, turn electricity on, get Internet access, find a storage company, move all my belongings somewhere else, get renter’s insurance … the list went on and on. I am surprised that with the recent move, I haven’t forget something. But all the while, I’ve got this sinking suspicion that I really have.

With graduate school about to begin, and my somewhat masochistic choice to continue my employment part-time while in school looming overhead, I fear my personal task list is about to explode in my face. So this week, I’ve turned my attention to different organizational techniques that I am hoping will free up some creative time and keep me somewhat sane for the next three years.

The bloggers over in the lifehacks department have been raving about Merlin Mann’s 43Folders site, a blog dedicated to the methodology of Getting Things Done created by David Allen – CEO and Executive coach and newly appointed productivity black-belt of the 21st century. Though his methods are nearly 5 years old, the recent explosion of online tools to help keep organized using GTD is hard to ignore.

Rather than settle for the typical pen and paper / folder methodology, I’ve decided to take a plunge into the 21st century and explore the suite of online collaboration and productivity tools that are available. Below is my brief review of some of those online tools and some links to more information for other individuals interested in freeing up more time for those left-brain activities.

Tracks

Tracks is a Ruby on Rails MySQL, SQLite package that has pretty solid functionality. I’ve tried diving into it, but it doesn’t seem to have the type of functionality required for full GTD-type goodness. It would be good as a very light task tracking tool and does allow you to create contexts, one of the fundamental tenants of GTD.

Backpack / Basecamp

The folks over at 37signals have done some amazing work creating some of the best collaboration applications I have seen. I have been an extensive user of their Backpack application and have tested out the Basecamp apps as well. Though Basecamp and Backpack are both full of rich AJAX functionality, Basecamp is suited better for multi-person project collaboration while Backpack is useful for creating lists, reminders, and writeboards to flesh out ideas. I think of it as my digital task list. Both have great email and RSS integration. Still … somewhat lacking the methodology department.

Google Notebook

Not necessarily a productivity app, but certainly something to take a look at. Google notebook allows you to store information online and organize it into notebooks with sections and sections with multiple notes. Notes are all searchable using Google technology and you may also share notebooks with the public. Great for collecting lots of information for research projects.

Additionally, with the Google Notebook Firefox plugin, saving highlighted snippets of rich text and images on a screen is as simple as a right-click. Simply amazing for doing research online and a must use.

iCommit

I tried iCommit for a bit earlier this week. It seems to be a relatively full-featured online implementation of GTD. It is also currently free for the time being. However, it seems like it has the potential to become a pay-for site soon and some critical functionality, such as adding your own contexts and categories, seems to be disabled at the moment. This one will be a wait and see for me.

GTD-PHP

And finally, there is GTD-PHP. This is an open source version of GTD that requires Apache, PHP, and MySQL. The downside to this is that you must install it and host it yourself. The upside is that GTD-PHP seems to be the best implementation of an online GTD filing system and relatively easy to set up if you are used to hosting web applications. I have found a few bugs that were very easy to fix and this is currently my choice for getting organized. Now if I can just find the time to read David Allen’s book.

How do you tackle personal productivity and organization? Write your thoughts below.

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