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Special User Sections > The Getting Organized Experiment of 2009

Survey: What are the ingredients of your system/list/notes/reminders?


Paul Keith:
Question bastardized from one of app's blog post.

What Exactly is a System?

The short and simple answer is that a system is a recipe.

Just like a recipe for anything else, it's a list of ingredients and detailed step by step instructions on how to go from ingredients to final results.

If it were a recipe for lasagna, it would be a list of everything that goes into the lasagna (noodles, cheese, sauce, etc.) and step by step instructions on how to turn those ingredients into lasagna. It doesn't leave anything out or leave you guessing about what or how much you need. It's well planned out. You'll know what you need to acquire before you start, what equipment is necessary, and a general idea of how long it will take and how much it will make. If you follow it to the letter, you will make a lasagna.

In the case of a system, it's all those things you need and how to combine them into the result, which is productivity.
--- End quote ---

nicely bastardised :D

[edit] no irony intended there! (see original blog post if you're confused) [/edit]

Since 2007 I have been using my own simple Index Card system, which I am quite happy with.

I have written about it here.

It was inspired by a few key ideas I got from GTD, while discarding most of the fine details and the complicated filing:

* Offload things from brain onto paper so you can stop trying to remember them.
* Avoid long lists, prefer short single-item entries.
* Use a label maker -- surprising benefit of having bold easy-to-read text made by a label maker vs handwritten.
Essentially the system is simply:

* Write ideas and things to do on 3x5 index cards, and file them into logical groups.  Each card has a date and group name written at the top of it.
* Keep a separate group for all recent additions so they can be examined easily and sorted later.
* Periodically review cards and dispose those that are no longer relevant.
* Use a label printer to print group heading cards.
* When starting work, pull out the cards you plan to work on and put them in front of you.
Key benefits:

* Super clean -- cards get discarded once completed; no half-crossed-off todo lists.
* Very good for people who benefit from spatial organization and working with physical objects -- you can always re-order, re-organize, and lay out on a table a set of tasks.  Each item is it's own physical entity (card).
* Very easy to pull out and focus on a few select items.
* Each card has a date when it was created; makes it easier to track age of items.

* Not computer based, so no easy way to search for items.  One of the ideas i've been tossing around for a long time is the possibility of making a software version of this that retains the benefits of the physical card system.
In addition to being useful for getting non-recurring things done, i find it extremely useful for recurring events like chores as well.

Paul Keith:
Thanks tomos.

Yep, I've always liked your index system mouser. I'm using a modified system of it for a certain task and I just dare not yet share it with the forum because I'm not sure I've milked it yet but in the context of recipes - I think future posts could benefit from following this template:


* brand of label maker
* number of index cards per day or per set
* average number of groups per size of tasks
* 1 trash can (add additional if size of house is too big or size of heart is too lazy)

Step 1: Write down lists on index cards. Preferably short lists

Warning: If your list looks wrong, you're doing it wrong.

Step 2: Group Index Cards

Step 3: Batch review index cards per group and throw out finished cards when necessary

Size per serving: Thick, hidden, small items, lots of white space

It's not that this format is much clearer than your own but, to me, the value of app's words lies not in her analogy but in the recipe format's ability to transcend and convey images of our actions generalized towards our own systems.

I am being hypocritical though in that I am not serving a recipe so ehh...

...but really methinks it's one of the better ways to have a standard outline for presenting our systems to each other without pushing forward too much of our own idealism and hopefully in doing so, we could have a GOE database that can fit on a document without heavy systems overriding light systems or concepts blurring what is needed to act the system out at a glance.

If you're getting into simplified personal GTD, you might like to look at PigPog's (Michael Randall's) articles

Notebooks and Paper – <>PigPogPDA.

GTD – You may be looking for <>The

PigPog Method, though if you’re new to GTD, you probably want to start with our <>Introduction, or a bit about <>Methods of Doing GTD. You may want to know <>GTD’s Dirty Secrets, or find out how to <>Do GTD without Doing GTD. The geekier among you may even want to try <>Filesystem GTD, or even <>GTD with Emacs PlannerMode.

--- End quote ---

especially the first one, PigPogPDA, which is based on a Moleskine.


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