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How to Make Stikkit into Your Personal GTD Powerhouse

Stikkit

(If you’re interested in Stikkit, you might also enjoy this handy little program I wrote to import your Gmail contacts into Stikkit, or maybe adding Stikkits directly from your desktop with WinStikker!)

As most of my regular readers probably already know, I’m terribly impressed with Stikkit. Sure, it’s a little rough around the edges, but my goodness is it ever slick. In a previous post, I described how bummed I was that Stikkit wasn’t designed around GTD (selfish, selfish me). There has been a somewhat-active discussion around Stikkit + GTD in the Stikkit Forums, but it doesn’t appear that they ever arrived at a solution. Any proposed solution involved a fundamental change to the software instead of a more creative approach.

Well, dear readers, I’m happy to say that I think I’ve figured out a pretty keen way to use Stikkit as a functional, usable GTD system. It’s not bullet-proof by any means (and, truth be told, I haven’t actually implemented it myself), rather it’s the product of my limited knowledge of Stikkit’s capabilities married with a few hours of brainstorming and diagramming. And please also know going in that, because Stikkit wasn’t designed to be a GTD system, there are a few rather hackish workarounds contained in the following guide. Perhaps some of these things will be added as features to Stikkit somewhere down the road, but this should do for now. Read on, if you dare…

Obviously, the greatest challenge facing a GTDer looking to utilize Stikkit as their trusted system is the lack of hierarchical structure. In other words, Stikkits are not stored in any sort of discernible pattern and are only accessible via Stikkit lists, links from other Stikkits and any tags that are applied to them (or search). It’s the tagging functionality that will be doing the bulk of the work here, along with heavy use of the ‘aka’ capabilities of Stikkit (more on this later). I’ll be presenting this implementation in a somewhat step-by-step configuration – Projects, Tasks/Actions, Calendar and Tickler and Reference – and concluding with a short bit on using Stikkit for ubiquitous capture. But before we get to that, a word of warning:

To do this properly, you are going to be creating and managing a very large (bordering on obscene) amount of Stikkits.

Now then, let’s get to work…

Projects

  • Each project will have it’s own Stikkit and will be the nerve center, so to speak, for the entire project. It should be tagged as ‘project’ (so that all projects can easily be viewed in the ‘Tags’ view of the Stikkit site), along with any other relevant tags you wish to assign it. Also, it is advised to create a meaningful (and easy to remember) ‘aka’ for each project Stikkit so it’s easy to link back to the main project Stikkit from any ‘child’ Stikkits.

Tasks/Next Actions

  • As a quick glimpse at Stikkit’s help window will tell you, prepending text in a Stikkit with ‘-’ will mark it as an un-finished to-do. This also applies to the first line of text in a Stikkit (which becomes the Stikkit’s title). So, for each Task you have, it gets it’s own Stikkit and should be titled “-Walk the Dog”, etc. This way, all you need to do is click the ‘To-Do’ icon at the top of Stikkit to see a list of your next actions.

    Now, I know what you’re thinking – “but what about contexts, good sir!” – don’t worry, just simply tag it with the correct context (‘@’ is the same as ‘tag as’, so ‘@home’ will work, etc.). And because you’ve already defined this as a to-do (task), it’ll have a lovely little bubble next to it waiting to be filled in once you’ve completed the action. The default behavior of the To-do list is to show all to-dos, but all you need to do in order to see them for a particular tag/context is enter that context under ‘tagged as’ on the right hand side of the To-do list.

    This next bit is where I imagine most folks will start to have a problem. Because there’s no way to open a Stikkit and see what other Stikkits link to it (at least, not that I’m aware of at the time of this writing), you’re going to have to make sure that one of two things happens:

    1. Your Project Stikkit has links to all of it’s relevant child Stikkits
    2. All child Stikkits link back to their parent Project Stikkit

    In my mind, the first option is the best one as it keeps the Project Stikkit as the backbone of the project itself. One could make a somewhat-compelling case for the second option, but I think that over time, it would cause your Stikkit heap to become rather unweildy.

Calendar and Tickler

  • This is one area where Stikkit’s stock functionality really shines. Because of the natural language implementation that chugs along under the hood as you type, you needn’t get any more complicated than:
    Steven's Birthday Party is at The Burger Barn on October 21 at 10pm

    If you want to be reminded about Steven’s shindig, just go to the next line and type:

    remind me

    Pretty straight-forward, right? Well, there’s one little hitch, I’m afraid…

    By default (and this is the only behavior Stikkit currently supports, as far as I know), you can only get reminders 15-30 minutes before your event starts. So, if I’m out at a craft fair or something on the night of Steven’s party, a text message 15 minutes before the party starts won’t do me much good (unless the party is next door and Steven likes wicker). So, armed with this knowledge, you could just as easily set up a reminder Stikkit, like so:

    Steven's Party is in one week
    on October 14, 2007
    remind me
    

    I realize we’re kinda cannibalizing the system here, but statements like that one are pretty natural to write. Thankfully, Stikkit knows just what to do with something like that. And because the Calendar page offers an Atom feed, you can drop it neatly into your favorite RSS reader (some iCal integration would be extremely slick here, if there are any Stikkit developers reading this).

Reference Items

  • Again, Stikkit is pre-drilled for exactly this type of thing. Enter your data (whether it’s a person, a link or just a random smattering of information that could be useful later) and make sure you tag it effectively. For example, let’s say that I happen to learn that my new sales contact at Acme, Inc. likes chocolate cupcakes. I might create a Stikkit that looks something like:
    Karen from Acme, Inc. really likes chocolate cupcakes 
    This might be useful information when it comes time to ask her for a favor
    @reference @acme

    Again, Stikkit’s flexibility is gold here – you can literally put anything you want into the body of the Stikkit – but the tags are what will save your bacon when you need to retrieve this information.

Ubiquitous Capture

  • If you’re at a computer all day long (or even if you’re not, cell phone users), you might be thinking that Stikkit would make a decent dumping ground for unprocessed information. Well, in my opinion, you’d be right :)

    But if you’re just shoveling information into new Stikkits all day long, how do you know what you need to sort through and process? Yep, a tag. How about this:

    Make sure you don't forget suzie's birthday in 3 weeks
    she also happens to like chocolate cupcakes
    @inbox
    

    So, you fire off 20-30 of those in a given day, all tagged as ‘inbox’. When it comes time to process your inbound items, you need only sort by the ‘inbox’ tag! The only pisser about this is the removal of the inbox tag, but if you’re opening and modifying each Stikkit during processing, it shouldn’t be that big a pain to remove that tag.

So, in a large, gaping nutshell, that’s my how I’d leverage Stikkit into an awesome GTD system. Granted, it is more work than some of the other choices out there, but I’m just so enamored with Stikkit’s coolness that I’m thinking I might actually give this a shot. Oh, and please know that I’ve only barely scratched the surface of what Stikkit can do, so don’t think for a second that functionality is as limited as what I’m describing here. I implore you, go play around with it for awhile and prepare to have your hair blown back. And heaven only knows what sorts of cool stuff could be built using their fancy API.

Now, friends, I’m very curious to hear your reactions/thoughts on this. As I said, this is all theoretical and may fall flat on it’s face in practice – please let me know if you think there’s anything that could be done differently (or better) that would help make Stikkit into a truly great GTD tool!

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