I claimed previously that Getting Things Done (GTD) was a bit more organizational system than I needed or was willing to commit to, but I’ve since found myself gradually revising that statement. There are still a lot of elements of the system that I don’t use, particularly the “tickler” file, and some of the tips that make more sense for management types than academics, but I’ve been adding more and more GTD principles to my workflow lately.
(For a quick GTD primer, see the Wikipedia entry, and Merlin Mann’s extremely helpful blog post on getting started with GTD.)
Most recently, I’ve embraced the idea of the weekly review. Lifehacker has quite a few posts on the weekly review, but this recent one is a good starting place. A weekly review used to seem a bit excessive for my academic workflow—so many of my projects and deadlines are long-term that I thought there wouldn’t be enough to review each week, particularly this semester when I wasn’t teaching. And it’s true that I don’t rely on the weekly review to keep me from being overwhelmed with tasks and appointments that I’ll forget—I’ve got that stuff pretty well under control.
What the weekly review does for me is give me a chance to assess my progress on whatever I’m working on—which right now is a chapter revision and a conference paper—and adjust, correct, and tweak my priorities and motivation. It encourages me to reflect and be more deliberate about the way I use my time, and it gives me an opportunity every week to re-direct my focus and start with a clean slate.
Literature and Latte has a nicely informative update on the status of Scrivener for iPad. Most exciting is the explicit commitment to formatting, including footnotes. Obviously, footnotes are important to me since I do academic writing, but I’m also hoping to see support for commenting. My writing and revision process relies heavily on making notes for myself through the comment feature, and I’d lose both a lot of actual content and an important part of the way I interact with my drafts if comments weren’t supported on the iPad.
I got a lot of great suggestions for solutions to my Scrivener to iPad dilemma. Ultimately, I ended up breaking down and buying Pages. I’m a sucker for design, particularly when I’m writing, and Pages is pretty, functional, and easy to use.
I realized that there were only a few documents I was actively working on that needed the formatting preserved—my conference paper, a couple sections of my dissertation chapter, some miscellaneous notes. Those I converted to word and opened in Pages before I left for the conference. Everything else—most importantly, most of the notes and evidence for the current chapter—I exported from Scrivener to a Dropbox folder so that I could access it with Simplenote if I needed it.
As systems go, it worked pretty well. I got some writing done in the airport and some more done the day before the conference. The Bluetooth keyboard from my iMac worked seamlessly. As is always the case, once the conference started all my plans to work on my chapter went right out the window, but given what I managed to accomplish before and after the conference, I wouldn’t call it a complete wash.
After dithering back and forth and weighing the options for literally two years, I finally bought an iPad. Not the fancy new one with the crisp screen and the camera that I would never use, because who wants to take a picture with something the size of an iPad?, but the old iPad 2, smallest capacity, no 3G, and refurbished to boot.
This thing is the perfect device for browsing the web while sitting on the couch, scrolling through RSS feeds, and keeping up with Twitter. I’m particularly fond of the Twitter app. The virtual keyboard is big enough and user-friendly enough that I’m actually able to reply to emails, something I do rarely with my iPod. The iPad, then, eliminates the need for me to cart my laptop around with me. That might sound minor, but the laptop weighs several pounds and I almost always have it with me when I’m going to class, meetings, the writing center, etc. It’s unwieldy and a bit disruptive at times, and I suspect it’s the root cause of the chronic shoulder soreness I experience when I’m on campus regularly.
So far, so good, and pretty much what I’d expected the iPad to deliver. What I didn’t expect, though, was the monumental effort it would require to integrate the iPad into my writing workflow. I’m still trying to figure out how best to make that work.
I’d initially expected that I’d buy Pages and be done with it. But before I got around to it, I learned that Scrivener is finally, blessedly developing an iPad app. If it were available right now, I’d buy it and be done, because what I want from an iPad writing app is for it to play nice with the way I draft on my desktop and laptop. I don’t need it to produce spiffy pamphlets, or even print anything, I just want it to let me pick up whatever work I’ve been doing in other settings and advance it a bit. And since I do almost all of my writing in Scrivener, Scrivener on my iPad would pretty much solve all my problems.