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I’m a big fan of paper, and I use it as a gateway to my digital task managers more often than not. I’ve tried to use Dave Seah’s Emergent Task Planner, but I don’t like to use paper in terms of tracking time and so on. Even though I’ve also created something a little more indepth with the The Strikethrough System, it’s not really useful for capture while on the go. So I’ve also developed my own simple system that acts more as a gateway than anything else.
I call it The Strikethrough System, and here are the basics of the system:
- Capture the item (idea or task).
- When the item has been completed, I put a line through it. (not a checkmark next to it but a line through it. The line indicates a finality more than a checkmark does, mainly because it is no longer as easily read.)
- Some things can’t be done right away and need to be put into your task manager (for tasks) or a program like Evernote (for ideas) in order to incubate or be deferred. Once the item has been moved into the corresponding long-term solution, I put an arrow pointing to the right through it.
- The basic rule is that if an item does not have a strikethrough of some sort through it, then it has not been dealt with as of yet. In other words, it has not been processed.
Other elements I’ve incorporated into the system including the adding of contexts to each idea or task. I only use a limited amount of contests, so what I will do is to the right of the idea or task that has been captured, I will write the first letter of the context and circle it. I have found that using energy level based contexts works best for me, so I use the following:
- H for High Energy
- N for Normal Energy
- L for Low Energy
- E for Errands
The only other context I use occasionally is Someday/Maybe as per David Allen’s GTD methodology. I have used specific apps as contexts as well, more often than Someday/Maybe these days. For example, I’ll use Asana as a context in OmniFocus since it is essentially a “location” for me. Ultimately, the energy-based contexts are my most commonly used contexts since I prefer as few contexts (or tags) as possible.
I also like to use colour when capturing on paper, so I have assigned certain areas of responsibility specific colours.
- Green: Professional Tasks/Ideas
- Orange: Personal Tasks/Ideas
- Blue/Black: General Tasks/Ideas
I use black as the colour for my strikethroughs, since I have a four-colour multi-pen (which is the Pilot Hi-Tec C Coleto, in case you’re wondering).
During my creativeLIVE talk, some of the in-studio audience members added some of their own touches to The Strikethrough System. One of them added plus or minus signs to the contexts like “Clients” in order to endow them with energy levels within the those contexts. For example, “Clients+” was for clients that required high energy to deal with while “Clients-” required low energy. You could do the same for the more traditional contexts of Email, Phone, Errands, and so on. Another audience member used up and down arrow next to energy level contexts to indicate priority.
Paper is a fantastic gateway to better productivity practices, as it allows you to capture things quickly and easily. Using The Strikethrough System allows you to add meaning and value to your captured items through the use of contexts at the time of capture — a time when it’s freshest in your mind. That’s more than what a simple to-do list offers, and that’s why I use it every single day.