Almost seven years after my first two posts on “Getting Things Done” (GTD), I have to admit that the digital switch only partially worked for me and that I am still using endless pages of loose notes to organize my life.
That is, I did of course try to use various online tools and really like their on- and offline availability on both the computer and mobile devices. I am currently using Todoist for long-term notes and Trello where I tried to implement my notes system. For long-term notes that just need to be saved somewhere, Todoist really does a nice job (vs. Wunderlist, which accidentally deleted two very important lists due to sync issues), and I am also storing encrypted notes (txt files!) in the cloud (with info that I also just need on my computer).
The online chaos
I believe that the most important advantage of these online tools is the collaboration part. When you’re into project work with others, tools like Yammer, Slack or Basecamp may be helpful and I would never want to miss them, as buggy and linear as they are. But coming back to managing my own notes, tools like Evernote just don’t do it for me. I will also not use a pen or finger on my iPad to doodle something on the screen. There is a certain joy of writing with a pen on a piece of paper that no digitial device will ever substitute. And I am really torn between these two worlds, because I also understand the beauty of tagging notes so that they don’t have to be categorized in a linear fashion. Of all available (note keeping, online) tools, Evernote probably is still the best, and they’ve come a long way. Their new design is nice and very usable. But still: I get lost when I comb through my collected Evernotes. That’s a negative feeling I never have with my paper organizer. I understand that in today’s world, the strategy is to give up on a linear system and to just save something somewhere, but you’ll also need to have the mindset to agree to this chaos. It may also be related to my use of Windows and Linux vs. OSX, where my biggest criticism is the hidden data management. Yes, I am one of those people who need to have a holistic overview on everything. Chaos does not work for me. So Evernote is probably best for storing online snippets of information that I may also only reuse online (~ material for blog posts, etc.).
Calendar & address book
Another issue used to be my calendar and the address book, which I both switched to an online form three years ago. Back then I archived my offline paper organizer (the X17 from my previous blog posts) because it had been idling on the desk and was only used for doodling and storing long term notes. I will not switch back to an offline version of either the calendar or my address book with all contact data because this really works out well and also syncs to all devices.
Do I a) want to have everything online / in digital form so that I can access it from any device and tag it accordingly? Or b) move my little paper notes to a single location that is also portable?
I guess I am not the only one out there who keeps on coming back to a paper organizer. Fortunately, the internet is full of blog posts that cover this topic and there seems to be no silver bullet. However, I guess I’ve just found mine:
The aforementioned X17 “ring notebook” system that uses rubber band rings to keep 2, 3 or 4 booklets in a cover. It’s a patented German product and I love it. So I just bought another X17 system that accommodates 3 booklets, one plastic sleeve for cards and smaller items (that goes around one of the booklets) and another X17 innovation: the Sloop, which is nothing else but a foldback clip with an attached piece of leather to hold an extra pen. The sloop is so smart that when this was launched about a year ago, I immediately made one in a DIY fashion for my Moleskine notebook. My ordered version is yet to arrive, but it is much bigger (42mm) and will – hopefully – work with my new 3x X17 system. On va voir…
So what’s the difference?
The A6 notes on the front make the difference. I need to have a single, offline location where these snippets of information can be attached to. Foldback clips (“Maulys”, as we often call them in German) that just do a perfect job. There’s another one on the side that holds additional empty notes. It’s a very simple and non-destructive system, but it just works. I couldn’t be happier about this!
Obviously, it takes some iterations to find a perfect solution and when I look at my older blog posts ex 2008, I realize that I already had this idea back then which I never really expanded. These foldback clips are just great, and I know that some of you already use them for attaching cables on a desk.
Something else I also appreciate are these plastic sleeves that are now available for the X17. Back in 2008, my GTD blog posts on the X17 system talked about front and back pockets which I had managed to sew and glue into my previous X17. Back then, I used a blue material that easily picked up dust and which didn’t look very professional over time. So with this plastic sleeve, there’s no further need for front and pack pockets. Which also means that there’s enough room for the foldback clips to work their magic.
And: you may also note the little gap on the side of the X17 cover. Afaik, this is something new and helps to place the rubber band in the right position. I am curious if I’ll still need the horizontal rubber band once the Sloop fits on my X17. Probably not.
As for the material: I am not a vegan and love working with leather. The one I chose is made from bonded leather (“Lederfasermaterial”), which I also consider some form of upcycling. I’ve mentioned it before: in a perfect world, the X17 and X47 systems would be produced in a Cradle-to-Cradle fashion. That’s something I’d really recommend to them for vertical growth, as it also adds new markets (mainly in The NL).
It looks nice next to my iPad mini and has the same size. Like something that I would take to the conference room or to a client meeting. It solves my needs and can be modified to my requirements. I am back in control of my offline data. It’s affordable, it works, it wins. Happiness! :-)