If you never looked at my concept for a project-oriented planner
because it had the words “Graduate Student” in the title, time to look at it.  I am very pleased with the way in which my Graduate Student Planner has transitioned to supporting my full-time job.  

  • Using Goggle Calendar Sync, I can sync my Goggle calendar to my work outlook calendar.  That, by default, syncs to my work-provided Blackberry
  • My work is still highly project oriented.  In fact, I am being asked to use my PMP certification and manage a bunch of projects.  The result is that the tabbed binder described in my original post still accurately reflects my work.  It allows me to keep meeting notes with the project being worked on, print out time lines and add them to the planner, and move things around as needed. 
  • The only change: I now keep 2 versions of this planner; one for at work, one for at home.  The work one stays at work, the academic/home one stays at home.  

Some may question this last bullet; David Allen certainly would.  One of the core concepts in GTD is that you should NOT separate your life like that.  So I want to talk a little about why I do it anyway.

  1. Due to resources, time and the desire for something that passes for work/life balance, it is important to me to focus on work at work and not-work at not-work.  I have more than the normal 40 hours worth of work to do at work, but I am loathe to stay there longer or focus on that stuff when I’m not there.  If I did, I would never get anything else done.  By having a separate binder for the two principle parts of my life I force the separation.  I don’t write conference proposals at the office, and I don’t write project plans at home.
  2. Simply practicality; my binder would be 3 inches thick if I combined the two areas and tried to carry it all with me.

Does separating my time like that decrease my productivity?  I don’t believe so.  I see it more as batching my work; I do the professional batch at the office and the academic batch at home.  When I am working in that area, my focus is there.  I then sub-batch where I can within those broader categories.  To me the ability to concentrate on one thing/subject area at a time helps me get more done.

So how do I handle those things that kind-of cross, such as needing to call for an appointment during specific hours (such as while I am at the office)?  I email my work account with a reminder and all the information I need for that next action.  When I process my email inbox there, I am able to do the action and then check it off by deleting the email.  If it is running an errand, I schedule it on my calendar to remind myself (and show my coworkers) that I am busy during that time. 

For someone with fewer ongoing projects (work alone has 20 currently) and more crossover between the different aspects of their life there is no reason you couldn’t do all of this in one binder, and that is probably preferable if your life is more integrated.  My key observation is that by moving to a project-focused planner from a date-focused planner, you will be able to keep more balls in the air, better support a GTD-oriented organizational scheme and get more done all around.