Thursday, August 31, 2006

Getting Things Done... in plain text

For quite a while I've been interested in personal time management. I'm always keeping an eye on new ideas and concepts in this area. Of course I've watched the whole GTD ( Getting Things Done ) scene without dipping more than a toe or two into the water. It seems like there are many good ideas at play there, but I'm a bit wary of something so all-encompassing. I'm normally more willing to experiment with smaller scale changes and ideas.

One thing that fits right in with my move to Linux (although it's not strictly a Linux thing) is a text based todo system. The idea was spawned when I read this article by Gina Trapani at Lifehacker. The article describes a rudimentary method of utilizing various command line controls to maintain a simple to-do list. From there it went on to this article, and then this article, and finally a dedicated domain at which houses the most recent scripts and discussion. I've found it to be very easy to implement and I love the fact that it doesn't depend on anything other than simple scripts and some text files. I have been using Ta-da list off and on for a while, but I don't like the fact that I can't really do much with all that data I enter there. Using a simple text file opens up all kinds of opportunity for expanded functionality if I want. For now it just means I can take that simple list and filter it on the command line, import it and format it in a word processor or spreadsheet, or a variety of other simple things. I like having that freedom.

It seems I'm (by far) not the only one who feels this way. Check out the 43Folders Plain Text wiki page for more .txt love.

Of course I needed this system to function both at work and at home. So in due course I found out about Cygwin. This lets me run a very linux-like shell on XP at work. I managed to get the same text based to-do system up and running there as well. So it's only a matter of transferring a simple text file between my work and home machines and I can work on the same task list at either location.