FreelancingThingsDone (FTD): Where Your Next Action May Be Your Last.

Here in the US, it’s almost tax time for anyone who lacks an accountant and procrastinates. That’s all the more reason to consider tools for keeping your life together, from mundane stuff that has to get done to musical and creative materials that keep you inspired and artistically productive. It’s a huge volume of information.

My recent solution has been to un-tether myself as much as possible from traditional, platform-specific, offline applications. I’m not one of those people who believes music software will someday all be online, Web 2.0-style. Music DSP and complex music creation software loves to be tied to a platform, running locally, performing advanced sonic marvels on your local CPU; end of story. But that’s all the more reason to have less to deal with for everything else. With licenses for Ableton Live, Reaktor, Max/MSP, and various plug-ins to worry about, live musical sets to backup and organize, visual programming code and patches and video files and everything else, and four machines in the house, three of which regularly go out for gigs with me in alternation — well, you get the idea.

I plan to do a full writeup on this soon, but here’s a quick peak, because I’d like to get some of your feedback before I do a full feature. My organizational toolkit right now is:

  1. Gmail for email, with the Greasemonkey Gmail scripts to speed things up.
  2. Google Reader for RSS reading, which I’ve found bar-none is the fastest way to get through RSS feeds thanks to its latest update.
  3. Google Docs and Spreadsheets for mobile document reading and sharing, though I do still rely on NeoOffice for Mac and Microsoft Office 2007 for Windows for everything else. And, of course, a local text editor (TextMate for Mac and SCiTE for Windows) is still essential.
  4. for bookmarks, plus the Firefox extension, though I am looking for a better tool for online research — when I actually want to clip and take some notes.
  5. Basecamp for organizational stuff, which is now running CDM, basically — definitely a must to have separate “groupware.”
  6. Flickr for photos.
  7. New — TiddlyWiki for taking notes.

The bit that’s stuck me up the most is figuring out how to track projects and to-do items. I’m a big fan of Getting Things Done, but finding the right “trusted system” has been hard. As a creative, you wind up with enormous projects, lots of complex due dates and dependencies, and sometimes need to focus in on specific projects. GTD should work, but the system becomes critical. Paper’s out of the question, because it gets overwhelming fast, and it’s too tempting to start spawning new lists of tasks all over the place.

One thing I’m unsure of is the fact that most GTD systems are strict about not putting due dates on tasks. That seems fine, except that a lot of times due dates are what determine what you do next. But I’m coming around to the idea of using reminders in conjunction with an independent calendar with all the dates on them, using more TiddlyWiki magic like GTDTiddlyWiki or MonkeyGTD.

I’m curious about what you’re using.

  • David

    I love for creative professional planning. It lets you create clear task lists and brain storm for yourself or in a social network.

  • Hey David, that looks amazing. You don't have any invites you want to share, do you? 😉

  • Basecamp is great. Liz/Quantazelle and I use it for organizing our monthly "Ramp Chicago" night and it's brilliant – I can't believe I used to try and keep track of all that in my head!

    I'm looking to migrate from Yojimbo (cool idea, but off-line and sometimes sluggish – I rarely delve back into it and see what I have in there) to and another 37signals app – Backpack, this Spring. Some things are actually faster and easier to deal with from a Web-based interface, as weird as it initally seemed to me.

  • Tanith

    Take a look at iGTD, it's an offline program, but you can save on a USB-stick and plug it in all your computers. it syncs, it has nested folders for projects, smart folders, an iBackup plug in and a very clever one for quicksilver. as you can see i'm pretty satisfied with it.

    you can find it here:

    for notetaking from the web and collecting bookmarks i use Yojimbo, it's the fastest and easiest to collect stuff

  • +1 for invite. looks great! actuel at gmail dot com (thx)

    i'd like to add, is another excellent bookmarks app. there's extension and widgets for both Firefox and Flock (mmm Flock, so nice)

    also, a nice open-source solution to Basecamp is ActiveCollab and a there's even new competitor showing much promise

    while not free, i'll put in a shameless plug for Newsfire as my favorite RSS reader.

    thx for the sharing the tips Peter!

  • tim

    whats so great about gmail?

    I have had more emails with attachments bounced from there

    than from any other email server – and not big attachments either…

    is that from users who dont know what they are doing or what?

    FWIW delicious works fine with Safari + script too

  • I'm a big fan right now of using tracks for GTD type planning online. You can download it yourself and run it on a server (, or use a free-hosted one (which has been fantastic for me) at

    I like the look of 8apps as well – but don't know anyone to bug for an invite.


  • Just finished setting up my GTD and it feels GOOD! My brain is now clear to focus on making lots of cool sound.


  • Darthen

    Yes! count me in for 8app too please! deroot at gmail dot com. By the way me and some friends use track-wiki. It's a bit deep to set-up but is very flexible. cheers @Peter for the organizational thread.

  • David

    Pete, what e-mail should I send the invite to?

  • Peter, have you tried GTD with Gmail?

  • Niels Schuddeboom

    Peter, as a bookmarking tool you should consider using Diigo, which also has various research functions.

    PS. Spoken about research, I am looking for a solution to make it easier for me to play complex compositions…Due to my disability I can't use my fingers all together. Please let me know when you have some advice: Thanks and good luck with GTD!

  • RichardL

    This is great stuff. TiddlyWiki is exactly the tool I've been looking for.

    In the GTD department, I gotta throw in a recommendation for OneNote which is part of Office 2007 on Windows (it's included with the Home & Student version as well as fancier versions). OneNote also has a client for Windows Mobile 5 (which unfortunately my PPC doesn't run).

  • endekks

    David… Could I get an invite to 8apps as well? My email is endekks at gmail dittle com. Thanks in advance if you send one to me!

  • I'm a huge fan of GTDTiddlyWiki for work-related tasks, where I'm near a computer all day, and a Moleskine notebook (and my version of Jerry Brito's Moleskine tabs hack), for personal projects, which often find me in various (computer-less) locations.

  • endekks

    Moleskine's are my jam.

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