// Internet Duct Tape

Adopting Getting to Done

Posted in Getting to Done, Software, Technology by engtech on September 05, 2007

Lifehacks and Productivity

Last week I wrote a post about the 3 steps to be successful at anything: be happy (position of strength), know what is important (goal setting, heading in the right direction) and be disciplined (execute the tasks to achieve your goal). The great thing about writing “productivity” posts is that the people who really know you well know how hypocritical you are being.

I imagine don’t work 80 hour weeks that keep you at work until midnight on the weekends should be included in the happiness part. — AJ Valliant

I’m an avid video gamer, and one of the worst lessons that video games (particularly the online shared world MMORPGs) teach people is that success can always be achieved by spending more time. That’s a bald-faced lie as Seth Godin illustrates in this post:

You could argue, “Hey, I work weekends and pull all-nighters. I start early and stay late. I’m always on, always connected with a BlackBerry. The FedEx guy knows which hotel to visit when I’m on vacation.” Sorry. Even if you’re a workaholic, you’re not working very hard at all.

Sure, you’re working long, but “long” and “hard” are now two different things. In the old days, we could measure how much grain someone harvested or how many pieces of steel he made. Hard work meant more work. But the past doesn’t lead to the future. The future is not about time at all. The future is about work that’s really and truly hard, not time-consuming. It’s about the kind of work that requires us to push ourselves, not just punch the clock. Hard work is where our job security, our financial profit, and our future joy lie.

Seth believes that success is a factor of taking apparent risks that the status quo believe is unsafe. I’m more interested in how to reach the my goals in less time. I want to improve my time management skills by getting tasks/ideas out of my head and tracked so that I don’t lose them and don’t have to think about them all the time.

I’m shopping around for one of the many a “Getting to Done” implementations, so that I can join the cult.

What I’m Looking For

  • Able to use the same system for different aspects of my life (personal, work, blog)
    • Skills I build up using this system should improve multiple areas of my life
  • Low overhead
    • Organizational systems can be huge time sinks in and of themselves
  • Mostly automated
    • If it feels like work then I won’t have the discipline to follow through with it — I want to spend all my discipline on completing tasks
  • Low “hack” value
    • I like to “improve” things. The system should be robust and well supported so “improving” means installing a plugin, not developing one from scratch

The key point is that I want to use the system to get all my tasks done in as little time as possible, not to spend time playing with the organization system. I want to choose something that works, and stick with it as long as possible.

Why I’m Looking For It

There’s been a meme going around about blogging productivity tips, and I’m sad to say that it was a large inspiration for why I’m deciding to adopt a time management system. Too often I get sucked into looking at stats, reading RSS feeds and commenting on other blogs instead of doing a few key tasks on my own blog and then doing something else with my time.

What I’ve Settled On

I’ve decided to go with D3 for the following reasons:

  • Built-in projects/actions/context/reminders support
  • Based on TiddlyWiki, an actively supported wiki system
  • Stored as a single file that saves itself which means it’s very portable and easy to backup
  • You can even keep it on a thumb drive and always carry it with you
  • Large community of hackers/tweakers who offer lots of support

It has a ridiculously simple installation — all you need is a web browser (Internet Explorer and Firefox both supported). Download the file from dcubed.ca, open it, and start working with it. You can keep the file on your local hard drive, or on a portable thumb drive. I also tried it on a network drive and there seemed to be some latency issues.

If you’d rather store your D3 online (like me), then you can sign up for an account at TiddlySpot that supports several flavours of TiddlyWikis, including D3. I like it because you can password protect it, and have the ability to update offline. It even supports RSS.

The only issue I can see so far is that it is a bit on the slow side if you turn autosave on. What I’d really like it a background autosave that saves any changes after being idle for 5 minutes. It’d keep the application feeling fast.
d3 gtd wiki

Different Aspects, Different Tools

I’ve created separate D-Cubed wikis for different contexts in my life

  • Personal – used for groceries, bills, planning (online)
  • Blog – used for ideas, reoccurring tasks (online)
  • Work – used for task tracking (offline)

D3 is a computer-based solution, so when I’m away from the computer I use a notepad and a camera phone. Quite often a picture is all the information I need to remember to look up a movie/game I’m interested in renting or to research a product I want to buy. Notepads are great for quickly capturing ideas that can’t be conveyed in a photo.

Once I’m at the computer I go through the notepad/camera phone and

  • do the action (if it’s short),
  • decide not to do the action (easiest choice), or
  • add the action to my D3 list

This adds some filtering upfront before it goes into D3.

What Works For You?

The only downside I can see is that D3 isn’t dead simple for non-tech people. I feel that this is offset by the advantage I get from being able to use any plugins that work with TiddlyWiki. Should I have gone with Remember the Milk? Is time management for sissies, pansies, and cat-loving shut-ins? What do you think?

10 Responses

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  1. Jan said, on September 05, 2007 at 7:15 pm

    I have an actual blog journal that I write ideas/notes/and log updates in. For personal stuff (to dos, shopping list, reminders, etc.) I carry 3×5 index cards. cheap, but it works…for me any way.

  2. Jan said, on September 05, 2007 at 7:16 pm

    [OFF TOPIC] how come you changed the home page?

  3. engtech said, on September 07, 2007 at 1:37 am


    I change the homepage to follow the advice of Skelliewag, who is offering free tips on decluttering blogs.


  4. Jan said, on September 07, 2007 at 1:04 pm

    oh okay, just wondering. :) maybe I should get a review too.

  5. engtech said, on September 08, 2007 at 9:26 pm


    Not a bad idea. Skelliewag knows a lot about how to set up a good looking blog.

  6. Jan said, on September 10, 2007 at 1:08 am

    Thanks a bunch engtech for the link, I got my review and am working on the changes. Should be ready in two to three days.

  7. Magnus said, on September 17, 2007 at 4:13 pm

    I believe a Wiki could be great at the company where I work. We use several software tools that people must master to do their work, and the people always change. So there is a constant stream of phone calls for support issues. The problem is that a wiki does not fit into the corporate way of doing things for a large company. ‘Howto’ stuff shall be written in manuals or engineering reports, but manuals are boring to write and goes quickly out of date, so nothing is written down and we have to keep answering the support phone instead of writing new software. At least we get paid doing it…

  8. engtech said, on September 17, 2007 at 5:35 pm


    That does sound like a great place for a wiki. I wish more places would buy the Google Search Application for their intranets. So much time is lost at work trying to find the right document because the intranet search just can’t pull it up.

  9. Magnus said, on September 18, 2007 at 12:46 pm

    In my experience the intranet for larger corporations are used for information like pictures of the people at a certain department or corporate communication to the employees. Important stuff are kept into version management systems, like ClearCase, together with the software – with very limited search functions. Search documents for content is out of the question.
    But I think the main issue is that it must be easier to write down and edit information than to repeatedly answer questions. A Word document put into version control that requires a written review before it can be released into a new version will not be updated without a direct order from management.

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