it IS encouraging to hear that you've get a system going for so long - can i ask, are you a 'disciplined' kind of person anyway? i mean, have you always been quite capable of sticking to things that need returning to time and time again?
i ask this as i think the majority of us are just starting out with these time-management methods, so you are one of the few that has been doing things for more than a couple of weeks - you are an example that proves it can be done.
I think the reason I'm a junkie of this literature is because I feel so often disorganized, and was, for many years. No one really teaches you this stuff unless you pay for a seminar or are in a corporate setting where someone else pays for it.
No, I don't think of myself as disciplined by any stretch of the imagination. Ask my old Spanish teacher, my old piano teacher, my old drawing teacher, etc.
The trick is I'm a little more organized than the people around me, and so THEY think I'm super-organized, when the truth is that I struggle as much as anyone else. (Tip: The Waiting On folder in your email will make you seem fearsomely organized, when all you're doing is just checking the folder for reminders of things that other people said they would do for you.)
For example, the tools and techniques I employ at the office I sometimes discard when I get home. Who knows why? I think I kind of want to be a little messier at home, to make up for my button-down attitude at work. Also, frankly, I don't NEED to be as organized at home as I am at work.
The key to time/task/self mgmt, as with exercise and diet, is consistency. Keep your system going long enough to see where the flaws where and then correct them. One problem we have, besides a love of the fiddle-factor, is that we're trying to create the perfect system from day one. That's crazy-making. You don't start out creating a system like this to cover all the exceptions; you start by creating something that will cover about 80 percent of the cases, and then tackle exceptions as they arise.
That said, everyone's situation is different and what works for me might get you fired
. I don't have the high email levels others do, I work with a team of people but mostly on my own stuff, etc. But I see the value in the workplace of being organized, of staying on top of stuff, and I think I have a knack for being an information packrat, which I maybe translated into time mgmt stuff.
That said, I've probably developed a few rules for myself that work for me but that I've never tried to codify into intelligible gibberish. Some of the rules might be:
* Do the simplest thing that could possible work. This is one reason I like a paper planner. There's less customization of the interface, no worries about backing it up, etc. I used the Psion 3mx and Clie for awhile and was pretty successful with them, too. For now, paper works best for me.
* One reason I've stayed away so far from the web-based and application GTD-type tools is that they're too form-based. If I have to fill out 10 blanks to code a task, then I probably have enough time to do the damn task.
* I like Forster's emphasis in DIT on creating a structure and systems that will enable you to keep momentum going without having to do too much meta-thinking about "what do I do next?" That's the value of the will-do list for me. It separates 'doing' from 'thinking,' since those are really two different processes.
* I also like DA's emphasis on keeping the system so simple you could use it if you're achy and sick and tired. I liked the look of a lot of software tools but if I'm tired or sick, it's all I can do to boot up the 'puter. I think Forster's DIT system satisfies this simplicity requirement for me.
* I'm always asking other people how they keep track of their stuff, and I pick up ideas that way. A co-worker at my first professional job introduced me to Day-Timers and that started me on this twisted path.
* All these books and stuff offer, for me, are tools to compile my own toolkit. One system will not give you all the answers, and not all tools are applicable to every situation. You have to have enough experience using all of them to discern which is best to use now, today. I think that's why it's a good idea to shake things up every few years, go all-digital, go all-paper, see what happens, etc. When you've set up a system to ensure your bills get paid on time, you never forget a birthday card, and you can find that email in a haystack, then that feeling of accomplishment is enough to keep you going and finding further efficiencies.
* I like DA's emphasis on separating the collecting/thinking/deciding/doing stages of his workflow. I think I trip myself up when I'm trying to do too many of these things at the same time.
* You know, sometimes, good enough is good enough. My systems don't have to be perfect, but if they're good enough to trap the things that matter the most to me, then I don't mind when I find I've dropped this or that item.
* I don't do a weekly review, but I have a PBWiki page (http://brownstudy.pbwiki.com/
) where I track my big personal projects (different from my workplace projects). As you can see, it's just a simple bulleted list, sometimes keywords, sometimes a stated outcome objective. I review it a couple of times a day, at work and at home. Also, it's dead-easy to edit, get a nice printout, etc. So I feel that I'm on top of what I need to be doing when I have time to work on them. But I don't obsess over the bigger projects unless there are lots of moving parts (like the grad school admissions process). Now and then, I'll do a full inventory of everything (including Covey's roles--you know, son, brother, husband, friend, etc), but not every week.
* Recently, I've liked very much Forster's notion that if I've made the decision that everything on my list is important and must be done, then prioritization has already happened. What drives me forward next is urgency. And so my PBWiki list is roughly ordered from most urgent at the top to least urgent toward the bottom. I start at the top, ask myself if there's anything I can do about this RIGHT NOW, and if I can, I do it. Even if it isn't much, just a little bit every day is enough to keep the train moving. And then I drop down to the next, and so on. Again, the big thinking has already happened, I just have to turn the crank. (And how long did it take me to develop this system? Months, bit by bit, making little tweaks here and there. It didn't erupt fully formed, and I'm still tweaking it. But it's still useful to me.)
Oh crikey, that's enough spewing and spattering all over this nice clean forum
I'd say don't worry too much about all this, even if it is the rage o' the 'net. You know, it's all about feeling better that you're on top of things. Try a system for at least a month or two before you change up to another one, see what resonates with you and what doesn't, and play with it. Also, read lots of stuff at 43folders.com for much better advice than I could give.