Not much to add here except to use copy-paste the text and use this topic as a footnote for things software productivity developers should consider.
The truth is that if your software design cannot co-exist in chaos, it's not that being productive no matter how high the ratings for it is IMO.
* High-tech and highly-structured solutions are best for capture.
* Low-tech and loosely-structured solutions are best for planning.
I use the term â€ścaptureâ€ť in the GTD sense of the word: a common place where all of the â€śstuffâ€ť in your life can be reliably stored so that your mind doesnâ€™t have to worry about it. This includes tasks, appointments, and projects.
As the student from above noticed, it can be hard to use simple paper-based solutions for capture. The number of tasks in your life, for example, can be voluminous and soon overwhelm notebooks â€” transforming them into a mash of crossed out, unclear jottings.
I prefer simple online solutions that can be accessed from any computer. I use google calendar and google tasks because I can use them from my gmail account, which is the one website I know I will return to many times a day.
Though these tools are great for capturing stuff, they also turn out to be terrible for planning what to do with this stuff. Most people whoâ€™ve tried a systematic approach to planning know what I mean. (Who among us hasnâ€™t assigned priority-based dates to our task list, only to find that we spend more time resetting deadlines than actually doing the work?)
As the student from above also discovered, a looser approach to planning works better. He used a blank notebook to organize his days. I happen to be a firm believer in the use of a plan.txt file, which is similar. As I explained in this earlier post, each Monday I record in a simple text file a plan for my upcoming week. There are no rules for this plan. Sometimes it includes pages of discussion about changing the rhythm of my work flow, other times itâ€™s short and practical (e.g., â€śMonday is all about submitting this paper, Tuesday is about experimenting with the data collection toolsâ€¦â€ť).
The important point is that I trust my mindâ€™s ability to build the type of plan that best suits the current situation. It will always outperform a rigid system.
This freestyle approach provides an answer to the quandary faced by the student from above. The reason he feels conflicted is because neither of his productivity approaches are best in isolation. He should continue to use his iPhone and fancy calendar applications to capture and wrangle the stuff in his life. At the same time, he should allow himself the flexibility to make weekly plans that are not constrained by strict rules.
A blank sheet of notebook paper, as he learned, can outperform even the fanciest scheduling system, so long as the work to be scheduled is held somewhere safe.
There are no hard rules for this plan. Some weeks itâ€™s a few sentences. Usually, itâ€™s a few paragraphs. Sometimes it spans multiple pages.
I tend to break down what I want to get done into the major area of my life (grad student, writer, etc.), but not always. I sometimes assign work to different days. Sometimes I donâ€™t. On some occasions Iâ€™ll roll out a complicated scheme and on others Iâ€™ll just say â€śwork on project X until itâ€™s done!â€ť