Recently I wrote about the habits I have established to get my Internet use under control and have all things 'net be less distracting. Two of the key points were to plan your day ahead of time, and to break up web workflow by noting incoming links (for example in emails and instant messages) for later perusal. Key to this strategy is having an effective way of listing, prioritising and generally organizing tasks. There are many tools out there to do the job, from paper sticky notes to text files to full blown task management software, and they all have their pros and cons.
My choice of software for these tasks is governed by a pair of simple requirements:
- It must be flexible but easy to use.
- I must be able to add and view items at any time.
Based on these needs I have settled on Google Notebook.
Flexible but easy to use
Much like using a collection of text files, notebook's loose organization makes it incredibly flexible, yet it's easy to add new items and sections, move them around and alter them. Unlike text files though, there is some inherent level of organization to get you started. My layout of choice is based on an excellent Lifehacker article on using Notebook as a GTD tool, with a few tweaks. This setup allows me to easily copy-paste tasks or task related stuff from emails, IMs, or any other running application into my inbox or an already in progress action (or to cheat a bit and fast-track it to a new task in my next actions list).
Add and view items at any time
While many people may be able to deal with a variety of input methods for their 'system' and are happy to spend time copying scribbled notes into their lists during their weekly review, I prefer a more streamlined approach. Besides Notebook's nifty browser plugin that makes it easy to grab snippets out of any web page for future reference, the mobile version of the Notebook page makes capturing of notes on the go a snap-and they are ready and waiting when I sit down to plan for the next day.
But wait, there's more!
There are of course other little features in Notebook that I enjoy, such as the rich formatting and the ability to share notebooks. The 'feature' I most like though is one that isn't really related to Notebook itself, it's just the ability to use it as a desktop item in Windows. This means my notes and actions are just a <Windows+D> key press away at all times, and I don't have to have a 'proper' browser running and risk the distractions that come with it.