How do you cope with limitations of a binder?

How do you minimize all your action planning into the size limitations of the binders?

Even David Allen suggests that a typical knowledge worker has a almost hundred projects and almost two hundred next actions to track. Add 365 calendar pages and a few hundred someday/maybe wishful thoughts for future projects on business and leasure. Add some 600 contacts and it's more than any pocket size binder can handle.

I've not been able to fit all that information to any paper binder - or most GTD applications either. It seems to me as if most GTDers are not "typical knowledge workers" when they can cope with just a dozen actions and projects to follow on a 3x5" card on their HipsterPDA. I tried that with 6 point font and I could not find a pocket large enough to carry that. I tried most GTD applications and most of the freebies start to slow down or crash after entering a hundred actions to follow.

So how do you fit a few hundred items to follow on your paper binder and still carry it everywhere with you so you never lose the choose action in the moment when you have free time unexpectedly in some context?

A Filofax Pocket can comfortably carry some 40-60 pages. For me, that's next actions and agendas, maybe a page or two of most critical reference pages - and nothing else.
I keep my contact details and calendar electronic only because I can't find any other way to carry it.
I tried carrying planning, someday/maybe and other organizing material on a separate Filofax A5, but creative mind tends to produce more planning material that any binder can handle, so I was forced to move to a small laptop, a loose leaf notepad and a digitizer pen. It's has severe limitations. I'd like to go back, but I'm afraid it would take some three A5 binders to carry the same information.

I consider myself a creative person. I want to collect ideas in free form, drawings, diagrams and the like. I like paper and ink. I'd love to use paper for my organizing tool. But how do I minimize it in order for it to fit to a binder or two?

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Use the space

It seems you have a lot more to write down than I do. Still, if it helps, I have never accepted the idea of a single item per card on my hipster, be it an action, project, or random thought. That way I have sufficient space for discreet items.

For those projects and thoughts that require a lot more space, I use a classic sized circa pad, though I use for nothing more than long notes, higher level thinking, and general brain dumping. Again, on that too, I give myself permission to use as much space on a single page as I wish.
Also, there are things that are just best done on a computer, rather than on paper. But if I want to carry any of it with me for brainstorming, I simply print it and put it on my binder.

I don't use paper for anything that is not reasonably immediate or directly relevant to current activities, everything else of a reference nature goes on my Palm if I have to have it with me.

You seem like a good candidate for a Netbook, so that you can carry a computer with you everywhere in a small space.

Just a few thoughts to consider.

A hybrid digital/paper system would probably be best for you...

And it sounds like you're already doing that, with your contacts and calendar in electronic form. I have to use a combination - a PDA/iPhone for contacts and calendar, maybe even To Dos. I use a Circa notebook for taking notes, some reference information, and business cards, etc. I would never carry a big binder. Too heavy and too much to lose.

As another suggested, maybe a netbook with a cellular modem or an iPhone is worth considering. If you store some of your stuff in the cloud, you can access it from almost anywhere with one of those devices.

With that much information, you're probably best served with a hybrid system.
"If you tell the truth you don't have to remember anything." - Mark Twain

Limit daily details

Rather than 365 days, just carry about 6 weeks worth in the planner as well as 12 monthly plans. Anything beyond the 6 weeks gets recorded on the monthly plan and as part of your review process, remove the past week, add the new week and transcribe from the monthly into the new week. Store used and unused pages in something like a lever arch file, shoe box and so on

In reality, you cannot get into too much daily detail beyond this 6 week mark because priorities change, new unexpected projects come on board and so on.

While I am not doing this yet, I am working toward setting up a USB stick with Open Office Portable and copies of my forms plus some blank A5 pages so I can print them when needed rather than carry a lot of spare preprinted paper.

Bob H.

I plan 90 days out with calendars

If I have something outside the 90 days, I use a yearly calendar that is six months per page (two pages) columnar form to record the big steps of a project, or record when I need to start the planning for a project. Then when I do my periodic review, weekly or whatever, I move the project/steps, etc., into the 90 day calendar. If you have alot of long term projects with items/tasks requiring long lead times, then breaking them into critical steps for insertion into a calendar may work. I would assume you are using a project planning form or forms for breaking down the project. There are some good ones here.


Are you overloading yourself?

I haven't done the GTD thing in a while, but from what I understand, at your weekly review you are supposed to decide your Next Actions for the upcoming week. Other Next Actions that you don't plan on doing next week are just Someday/Maybes, or go on Project pages. So you should be able to get by with 1-2 pages per context. It sounds like you're trying to pack way too much (unnecessary) information in your planner.

I will reiterate what has already been said about digitial/paper systems. I like being able to manage data very easily electronically, but there is the portability/tactility of paper that I love. So I use a hybrid system. I keep track of my calendar in outlook, and my todo's on another computer program (ToDoList via codeproject). There are literally dozens upon dozens of software that could probably work for this, but I found this one to be the simplest and a very good no-nonsense To-do program (and it's free!). Every week I'll print up the relevant pages and stick them in my notebook and work from there.

I don't follow GTD so much (mostly a Covey/Middle Way approach), but this method should also work for you.

Good luck!