Placeless GTD

Although I've never felt the need to reach the sophistication level of the true, hard-boiled GTD fundamentalist by creating a bazillion lists and folders for every little variant of my contexts, I've looked more than once at Kinkless GTD and have been searching for a simple, brainless way to keep track of low-priority items regardless of whatever machine I'm on.

The main issues I have are:

  • I only have Macs at home. Hence, the niceties of kGTD are not at my disposal unless there is a radical shift in Mac corporate acceptance (and even if I haven't given up yet, we all know the chances of that happening in generic terms).
  • Most of my work context is already pretty well taken care of by Outlook and our own intranet tools. That in turn has its own set of problems:
    • All of the stuff I have available for task management is either overkill (i.e., too many options) or too involved (i.e., too many clicks) for managing both short-term and secondary tasks.
    • Not all of it is available from any location (or using the same client software).
  • I can deal with umpteen projects, I can keep most of my weekly schedule in my head (I have a pretty good notion of time when I'm not too tired), but I keep forgetting about simple details and dependencies - that's why I carry a Moleskine (I picked it because of the elastic band and the fact that it fits in a suit pocket without making a mess of the lining, no matter what some people say).
  • I don't use the same machine for more than an average of 4 hours at a time, unless I'm either traveling or stuck in meetings. And even then, most of my time is spent inside either Remote Desktop, VNC or Citrix in an attempt to ensure some context continuity for stuff like drafting documents or reading e-mail.
  • About the only thing I have anywhere is a browser, and even then that is a charitable way to describe IE.

So everything points to a web-based solution that is, above all, simple and quick. I have recently pointed out this amazing TiddlyWiki adaptation to pfig, but:

  • Despite its brilliance, It isn't quite done yet.
  • It doesn't work properly with Safari (this is not the saving issue, it's some other JavaScript nuance).
  • I find it somewhat cumbersome and slow on low-end machines, even with animations disabled (writing a 700KB HTML file to disk on every update isn't what I'd call "quick" by any stretch of the imagination).
  • It's a pain to set up centrally - even though it supports one of the latest TiddlyWiki upload plugins, TiddlyWiki itself isn't something you can use from several locations.
  • The interface is still too complex for what I want.

Although I could have it running somewhere I could reach via Remote Desktop and there is talk of a TiddlyWiki modification that uses JSON as storage (and is therefore nearly an order of magnitude faster), I'd rather have something simpler and more location-independent, so I've started looking at simple web-based tools I can deploy myself.

A good example of something that works the way I want it to is Backpack. It has been a big help for me in personal contexts (errands, coding, hobbies, pre-vacation checklists, etc., etc.), has a nearly complete mobile interface, and works from anywhere. Plus it's the raison d'être for the only Dashboard widget I've ever found truly useful (this one, which sadly doesn't support multiple task lists per page).

However, given the kind of things I do, I'll be damned if I'll ever add any work-related information to it - besides the usual "must check meeting schedule for project X" reminders I tend to add via my phone or at the wee hours of the morning...

And since the few web-based GTD tools I can find seem to be written by a pack of color-blind marmots with a fondness for solid background textures and a penchant for designing user interfaces that require you to jump through hoops to edit a single task field, I started doing a little mockup of mine using Snakelets and Ajax.InPlaceEditor (which is about all the UI functionality I need, and is the fastest way to edit single text fields ever).

We'll see how it goes. Probably nowhere given that I decided to start this on a Sunday evening prior to what promises to be a veritable obstacle course in terms of work scheduling, but hey, who knows?

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