Getting Things Done

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Holy carp. I think I have found the coolest app that I’ve seen in a long time. It is certainly one of the coolest productivity apps I’ve seen in an even longer time.

First off, let me say that I’m a bit jaded when it comes to “personal productivity” crap. I have seen so many little apps and tricks and tips. I have seen fancy todo-list programs and outliners, with all sorts of integration into your email program, PDA, and whatnot. I also get highly annoyed by people who have found a great way (for them) to organize their life and suddenly decide it’s the perfect way for everyone to organize their lives too, so become evangelists about it. I get annoyed by people who do nothing but organize their lives, to the point that they spend all their time on the “meta” like organization and no time on the actual “getting things done” part. Hey! I just spent 8 hours learning this fancy computer program and entering all of my to-do items into it. (Nevermind that those 8 hours could have been better spent by actually doing the 20 minutes worth of to-do-item work rather than avoiding it.) So yes, I’m a bit jaded. My organization tools? I use a text editor to edit “todo.txt” and when I want to get really fancy, I use the bare minimum features of OmniOutliner. For longer term and more permanent stuff (e.g. HOWTOs that I think I’ll need in the future), I use my own private Wiki.

The thing I found today is called GTDTiddlyWiki. Presumably, GTD means Getting Things Done? Anyway, it is a Wiki (for those familiar with the term), much like MediaWiki and Wikipedia. The twist is that it’s implemented completely in JavaScript in a single HTML file. There’s no “server side.” There’s no PHP or Perl. When you make edits to the page, the JavaScript page actually rewrites itself and saves it back to disk. Even from a programming/engineering point of view, that’s quite a feat and borders on being a Quine (for those that were paying attention during Godel, Escher, Bach.)

At present, I have a file called “todo.txt” that contains a vast collection of notes. Some of it is things to get done. Some of it is notes to myself (flight number and times.) Some of it is just scratchpad space for solving a particular computational problem or puzzle. Some of it is notes on future blog posts that I’d like to make. OS X is nice in that I can drag this text file into the wharf (…errr… dock…that’s old NeXTstep/OpenStep terminology slipping in…) and have it launch my browser. I think I’m going to scrap this file in favor of a little mini Wiki.

Obviously, there are some things that a “real” Wiki does that this little mini-JavaScript-AJAX Wiki can’t. For instance, collaboration and access from any machine on the internet. For that, I still have my own personal Wiki at Stack Overflow. Starting today, I’ll replace my todo.txt with the GTD index.html and see where it takes me. It may even be faster because I always have a browser open, but don’t always have BBEdit loaded.

The GTD Wiki itself can be loaded in your browser and saved to disk. Then you can use it immediately. I would suggest reading this article on LifeHacker to better acquaint yourself with its usage beforehand.

Posted in: Dear Diary Software

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