Open Thread: What’s Your Organizational Setup?

I’d like to take this opportunity to ask you guys what your organizational setup is. How do you get stuff done? Are you into paper or digital tools, or both? A disciple of GTD? Or do you have your own home-brewed setup? Basically, just describe your organizational flow in the comments below. I’m curious to see what everyone’s productivity system looks like, and I think we can all learn a bit from each other. Sound good? Comment away!

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{ 34 comments… add one }
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  • Alison Robin November 9, 2008, 1:53 am

    For day to day issues, I have a calendar on my fridge and another in my bag.
    For other things, I use a system that I refer to as chronological piling.

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  • double.L March 31, 2008, 9:02 am

    some words from a GTD-Newbie apple-addict from Germany:

    MacBook Air with Mail (my one digital inbox, which I empty everyday to zero), iCal (keeping all my appointments), both synchronized to my iPhone.
    And OmniFocus as my GTD-Tool, which is unfortunately not syncable to my iPhone, but according to the manufacturer it will happen soon.
    So at the moment I write everything on Notes, which I sync manually every day.

    Works great for me, and I really love the liason of the apple-apps.

  • IPnerd March 22, 2008, 1:49 am

    Here’s a roundup of my current GTD setup:

  • JM March 21, 2008, 7:07 am

    I am a GTD disciple too.

    My main inbox is the Lotus Notes e-mail one. Additionally I process daily the sticky notes I have been spreading around (I am home office based while not travelling) as well as my physical inbox.

    The system I use is ResultsManager, a MindManager add-in from Gyronix.

    I normally use the “Daily Actions Dashboard”, which I run separately for private and work stuff. There are some other more specific dashboards that I use where applicable, e.g. “Committed Work Actions by Person”.

    For the weekly and monthly reviews I use the “Review Dashboard”.

  • Shari March 20, 2008, 4:56 pm

    I started electronically with Google documents. I added Google notebook because I can keep it on top when I’m surfing/working. I put ideas and notes there because there’s no need to update-it’s the same at home and work.

    With Google calendar I track my appointments and deadlines; spreadsheet is for my projects. I put more detail here.

    I keep a moleskins handy for when I’m away from my electronics. I have index cards for when I’m working with books or magazines. When I need an alarm, I use my cell phone.

  • E.Slaher March 20, 2008, 1:13 am

    I use a stack of cards for my tasks. Each task gets it’s own card. I then sort the cards according to the importance of the task and the deadline, and get to work on the top most important task. This is for my work related task list.

    I keep my work and personal projects files, lists and action steps in computer folders.

    I have two email boxes, one for work and one for personal email. I have an inbox try at work, but none at home since everything gets done, filled or trashed ASAP.

    I use my phone’s calendar to remind me of tasks, meetings, thing to do at certain times and personal things I need to take care off. This way I know at all times when I’m free and when I’m booked for something else – providing that the phones battery allows :) Online tools just aren’t flexible enough. The phone also doubles as a mobile inbox for ideas and other bits of information.

  • Brett March 18, 2008, 10:26 pm

    I use a combination of GTD and Merlin Mann’s Inbox Zero. I work cross-platorms, so use Inbox Zero for my Microsoft Office email/tasks. I use Google for everything else. Google Notebook can easily be GTDed. I have to say that since switching to Google (Gmail, Calendar, Reader, Docs), my life has been MUCH easier! If anyone is interested in how to apply GTD/Inbox Zero to Microsoft Office, let me know: I have a paper/presentation on it.

  • Beth March 18, 2008, 10:01 pm

    I’m a writer, working full-time at home, and after 6 months freelancing I’ve settled on a system that works with me, not against me.

    My most important tool is the Unschedule. The book it came from, The Now Habit, changed my life. (I had already tried GTD and basically flunked out. I was allergic to any kind of to-do list until I had mastered the procrastination-busting techniques in this book.)

    On the unschedule, I get to fill in my work only AFTER I’ve done at least a half hour. So, the unschedule has trained me to (a) be mindful of whether I’m working or just goofing off and (b) work in solid chunks of 30 minutes or more. As a bonus, I get a record of how I spent my time (invaluable for a freelancer).

    I also color-code my work on the unschedule: yellow for business overhead like checking email, orange for research or interviews, and pink for actual, honest-to-god writing.

    The rest of my system? Well, my to-dos and appointments I track with sandy ( Low-maintenance and works beautifully.

    I keep my inbox empty (I started afresh one day by dumping all the old stuff into an archive folder). Everything gets entered into Sandy and/or archived.

    For writing and note-taking, I use a Linux app called Tomboy. It automatically links notes to each other wiki-style, and gives easy access to your history of notes, in order of when you last accessed them. It also auto-saves. Heaven! I do most of my day-to-day writing and interviewing in Tomboy. (I’ve also got a notepad on my desk for impromptu scribbles.)

    My most important psychological tool is separating my “wants” from my “needs”, task-wise. If I list the 10 things I’d like to accomplish today, I’ll get overwhelmed and not do any of them. But if I list the things I MUST do today – today it was writing a short article and sending out a quote for an upcoming project – it’s easier to do those things and then, in the glow of accomplishment, either tackle a few more or take a well-earned rest.

  • Nicklaus Deyring March 18, 2008, 4:56 pm

    My setup for years now has been Palm for calendar, ShadowPlan ( ) for task and project management (which syncs with my palm treo), and thunderbird with easy archiving folders. I’ve also got simple filing system for paper archiving.

    I love shadowplan; it’s the only thing stopping me from going iPhone instead of Treo. It combines all my location specific tasks (@work, @phone, etc) with mobility (phone and multi computer sync) with tabbed-based project management that is so simple and yet so necessary for my work as a designer.

  • Sam Spurlin March 18, 2008, 3:39 pm

    Google Calendar for all my ‘hard-landscape’ stuff. I share calendars with my girlfriend so we are aware of each other’s schedules.

    Next, one spreadsheet in Google Docs & Spreadsheets to clock my project list, next action list, and waiting list. You can see how I format it at the following URL (

    As for ubiquitous capture, I use an index card folded in half that I keep in my back pocket. One side of the fold has my MIT’s for the day, the other side of the fold has my hard-landscape activities. The back is completely blank to allow space for notes, ideas, etc.

    End of the day rolls around and I add any information from my index card into my digital system. All e-mails are dealt with immediately. Information is gleaned and entered into Next Action list and then the e-mail is archived. If it is something that needs to go into my calendar (appt., deadline, meeting, etc.) I immediately do so and then archive the e-mail.

    Simple and accessible from anywhere (with an internet connection).

  • Tosin March 18, 2008, 3:10 pm

    My organizational setup consist of a pad of paper, gmail, rtm and my day planner.

  • Qleyo March 18, 2008, 3:07 pm

    lol at the outlook lot worrying about street cred.

    I used to use RTM but now stick to a simple @today text file (which is displayed on my desktop using Geektool) with Quicksilver to append new items.

    A lot of jottings go in stickies and dates in iCal which are synced to my blackberry along with an email of my @today list. Like CF, I’ve adopted a lot from zen to done and trash liberally, e-mails past a week old are archived and others deleted immediately.

    I carry around a black&red notebook always and jot ideas/notes – alot of my client creative brainstorming happens on the tube commuting (owned a couple of better looking notebooks in the past but found I hated to write in them lol). I also create notes on my blackberry for new words/topics to research on etc whilst reading.


  • Summy March 18, 2008, 3:01 pm

    I’ve enhanced GTD (see and use outlook for most of my tracking. I use my treo for mobility. I will use a spiral notebook at meetings and for data collection but when I get back to my desk I transfer my next actions and project plans into outlook or word documents as appropriate. Reference material gets scanned in and filed appropriately so my notebook sheets are torn out and trashed.

  • Dan March 18, 2008, 2:39 pm

    While I use Outlook for work (email, notes, calendar, journal function), I make up for it by getting the job done (which tends to blow you right by a lot of street cred insecurities). Jott has for months and months done much to push post-its from my life.
    Outlook syncs to my 8525 mobile (great tool with WM6) so I have most of my productive life in my pocket. Outlook syncs to my gcalendar for a sort-of quick look (share personal events with family) or limited backup function.
    ScanSnap is my paper inbox – I have a Fujitsu desktop personal scanner which makes me a little more paperless every day, scans to pdf (OCR with a check box) conveniently, and allows me to both recycle (rather than paper file) soooo much and make files much more portable to a collection of Kingston (keyring size) 2gb micro SD cards with USB adapter included. (Also use acrobat to merge and bookmark pdf’d documents for a digital client file.)
    Works for me!

  • glen March 18, 2008, 1:37 pm

    Heh, it’s funny to see all the Outlook users thinking they’ve lost cred :) Don’t worry, I’m sure there are other closet Microsoft users out there… the most important part is that it works for you.

    Some really great stuff here. Keep it coming! :)

  • Eater March 18, 2008, 12:55 pm
  • JenniferH March 18, 2008, 12:41 pm

    I’m glad Jared lost street cred before me. :)

    I’m Jennifer, and I use Outlook.

    Actually, I used to be a huge Franklin Covey adherant but updating from paper to Outlook was inefficient at best. So I got a Palm Z22 (any remaining cred down the drain).

    I hate using the Palm, but I can synch it with Outlook and I don’t miss or double book appointments anymore.

    Honestly, my best planing tool is my heart. Every morning, I check my calendar to see how much unscheduled time I have. Then I write a list on unlined paper the tasks I want to do that day. I always feel motivated when I do this.

    If I have deadlines, I use Outlook to keep track of them and the smaller steps leading up. But going with the energy in my heart, with what feels current, is the best system I’ve had so far.

  • Jared Goralnick March 18, 2008, 11:40 am

    I’m about to lose some street cred here, but it works:

    I use Outlook 2007’s tasks and message flags (with reminders) to keep track of tasks. What’s great is it syncs wirelessly with my Moto Q so I’m always on top of things. Same goes with my Outlook calendar.

    For project based work I use Basecamp, and I subscribe to the calendar feed for any important milestones. I can also use message flags that can turn into reminders when necessary.

    All my notes on my Outlook approach are written up here, just wanted to link since it seemed so different.

    When mobile, I use for any ideas I come across, which then get passed to email system, transcribed. If short enough I’ll write stuff in my Moto Q and better organize it as a task later in Outlook. Generally, I try to have my laptop with me for all business functions–and I use OneNote to take notes. It rocks and even records the audio of discussions.

    I don’t check email until I’ve accomplished something major every day (blog post, strategic decision, etc.) and then I usually close it up again after 1 or 2.

    Unlike Courtney, I avoid paper at all costs. And scan when necessary.

    Other tools that help:
    * DarkRoom
    * (self plug)
    * Gmail Apps for your Domain (for my personal stuff, we use Exchange for work)
    * GotVoice to get all my voicemails transcribed and minimize my inputs to just email…which I process daily to zero

    Just figured I’d post since my ideas are so different. Such a fun thread you’ve got here!

  • CF March 18, 2008, 11:05 am

    I’m more ZTD (Zen to Done, from Zenhabits), and a very simplified version:

    one to-do list
    minimal inboxes (one paper, one electronic)
    process to zero daily (my goal at least!)
    trash liberally
    automate as much as possible
    spend time doing something else!

    Can’t tell you how much the single inboxes and process to zero has reduced my stress levels – it’s very simple (not necessarily easy) and really works wonders.

  • Matt @ Corporate Hack March 18, 2008, 10:50 am

    I am a GTD disciple, complete with the web-app as my master to-do list and organizational system. I do use a moleskine as well as text-messages to my gmail account for input, but everything ultimately goes into todoist if it will take more than 2 mins to do.

    I go easy on assigning deadlines and generally assign these deadlines during my weekly review… escalating priorities, and bumping non-priorities.

  • Joel Burdeaux March 18, 2008, 10:39 am

    gmail, rtm (with igoogle widget, and gmail-firefox extension), moleskine…

    nothing new here.

  • Courtney I March 18, 2008, 10:28 am

    As a technogeek, I wish I could get into the digital stuff, but paper just has its advantages. I used to have a big binder for all my GTD items, but I found it to be too unwieldy.

    I keep all my files in filing cabinets and binders at home, though I recently bought a scanner and am trying to slowly turn them digital into a virtual filing system. Obviously I do most of my financial transactions and bill paying online, and save pdfs of the bills, statements, and paystubs into my virtual filing system.

    For everyday, I use the templates to create my own letter-sized calendar. I have all of 2008 by month, and as the weeks approach I print out weekly pages and transfer any appropriate items from the monthly into the weekly.

    At the front of the calendar I have my contexts / to-do lists. It all fits into one of those three-ring report covers, very slim and portable.

    I also have a three-ring report cover for my immediate contacts and (encoded) passwords / user names, since I am not always at a computer when I need them.

    I carry around any kind of notebook or notepad for my “stuff” (in GTD-speak) until I have time to offload them into my reference files, calendar, or contexts.

  • Hugh Bien March 18, 2008, 10:08 am

    I’m a geek, so I go all out digital. I have a web app for keeping all my actions in one place and for organizing/processing them. It’s might be waste of time to write your own app but this was around the time Gears came out and with offline/mobile/web access it seemed reasonable to access your list from anywhere.

  • glen March 18, 2008, 9:59 am

    I like the traffic light usage for classifying event importance. Very nice.

  • Scott March 18, 2008, 9:49 am

    I use a hybrid. I use Google Calendar to track appointments, dates, and deadlines. My tasks are organized through “Remember the Milk” and their new Gmail extension. I organize my lists using standard GTD labels (i.e. @work, @phone, etc..) My daily calendar is paper…I use the 24/7 work/life planner by Trapper Woods. I like it’s flexibility and 24 hour time “boxes”. As a pastor, my day doesn’t end at 6pm at night so this helps. When I plan my day, I do it by placing events on the daily planner and use Trapper Woods’ “traffic light” metaphor to color my choices. Red=urgent, Green=high payoff, Yello=Caution, potential time waster, etc.. It sounds a bit involved but it’s really not. Each night, I plan the next day by checking my calendar and lists and then plot my time commitments on the calendar while keeping a task list in the middle of the planner as it’s layout allows.

  • glen March 18, 2008, 9:44 am

    Wow, we have very similar setups. I run everything through RTM, and have a couple moleskine notebooks as well.

  • Honza March 18, 2008, 9:29 am

    here’s how I do it:
    I use Google Calendar – nothing special here.
    Next tool I use is Remember The Milk. I have several lists there – Common, Projects, Ideas,… then, when I enter some task, I tag it (school, work, project name,…) and I have several dynamic list for some of my tags.
    The last piece of my system is Netvibes homepage. Beside other things (Garfield, News,..) I have a RTM and GCal widget there, so I have it all at one place.
    I always carry one Moleskin Cahier and note everything I don’t want to forgot.
    I try to have every task in RTM and complete every today’s task.