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Secret Weapon


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interesting site, right? it is way too much organizational work for me, but it is slick, well-done, and an interesting combination.

this is going to sound strange, but i don't trust it. i know. what does "trust" have to do with it? well, i could never figure out who was running the site (a drink maker?) or why they set it up: what's their angle? so, i know about it, and have read it over (and watched some of the movies), but don't really know if i ought to be recommending it to others. i feel like there is something i am missing.

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I have based my En + GTD system on TSW (The Secret Weapon) and am very happy with the result. In support of Grumpy I have simplified the structure a bit. (Just one Notebook) but the who, what, where, when format makes good sense to me. I have spent some time on their forum and can say that A) I hate their forum software, but B) They just want to share what is working for them as a group. The majority of their company uses the system. EN + GTD is intensely personal, any pre-made structure you pick up needs modifications to "work for you". I started with Dan Gold's structure, found TSW and now I have a hybrid design that I really like.

I would love to see TSW gain some traction and become popular because it deserves it. Don't worry, nothing fishey going on they just love the system.

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  • 1 month later...

I don't think the creators of TSW had anything subversive in mind when they shared their system--it's pretty clearly a subtle advertising move, given the drink products the company makes. AFAIK, I'll keep using the system for a while to see how it goes and report back here. I actually didn't find the setup that cumbersome (<30 mins. setting up tags and importing tasks from elsewhere), and I really like the universal entry options Evernote already possesses (button in Outlook, email items in, iPhone app).

I've added one thing so far: a Projects notebook, to make the system a little bit more GTD compliant. There, I keep longer project lists, notes, and supporting materials, so that my action list can just be actionable items.

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  • 1 year later...

I am in the process of starting to use this.  I also agree that once you are going, it's not a heavy process to work with.  Setup was short and I am feeling benefits already.  I still have some personal kinks I want to work through around project status, etc.. but I like it.  

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  • 3 weeks later...

I recently started using TSW, and it is great, but there are also a couple things to consider.


Prior to TSW, I was using EN for a storage system.  To keep things to be looked up again in the future, to share things with my phone, etc.


TSW is a way of using EN for a task management system and an overall time management system. With that in mind, there are 3 aspects of the TSW system. 1) Actions Pending Notebook 2) Completed Notebook and 3) Cabinet.


Actions Pending and Completed are pretty self-explanatory. It is where you manage your to-do list. With the TSW structure, it is very neat because you can look across your task through various contexts, such as being @work, @home, or @homedepot. This is pretty cool to me because everything is still in one list. Previously, I would have a separate list for at home, at work, etc. They may have been all on the same page, but they were still segmented. For this, the TSW system just works great for me.


Here is one thing I like about this system. I used to keep my “To-Do” list in a daily Journal. I still keep the journal for record keeping, but no longer keep to-do’s in it. I will get to that in a bit. With ANY method you choose, you pretty much have to have a few minutes of “planning” time per day. Whether it is a reminders list, another app, or a good old notebook. With my daily journal method, I had to pull to-do’s from my head, the uncompleted list from the previous day, stuff from my e-mail inbox, voicemails, and the scraps of paper in my pocket. People talk about TSW as being too much work. They see the tagging and prioritizing and viewing as complicated, but other method are work too! Just a different type of work. You have to capture stuff, or any method is not going to work.


With my journal lists, daily planning actually took longer. Since my task list is long, and not likely to be completed in a day, I had a lot of management to do. My to-do list usually started with the one from the previous day. Completed tasks had to be removed, new ones added, multiple list based on context, and then as new tasks were added, changing priority was a nightmare. The only way to give a simple list priority is basically by order. So, I would be copy/pasting a lot to change the order.


With TSW, completed stuff is just moved to completed during the day. A lot of time as new things pop into my head they are tagged and given priority as they are put in. If not, a new “daily planning” session would consist of tagging a couple things. No more copy/pasting, creating a new list. Same goes for actionable e-mails. In a matter of a minute or two, everything is organized, prioritized and ready to go. Super easy. The best part is ALL my email inboxes are empty. I had separate method for organizing my inbox, such as flagging emails that needed response, or keeping them unread, etc. Now, I don’t have two places where I have “stuff to do.” An empty inbox is a good feeling :)


Now…..here is where the sticky point could happen. All the stuff I have talked about putting into Actions Pending or Completed folders are items that require action on your part. I see these as tasks, and other than knowing they are completed, they do not need to stay around for historical reasons. There is a whole lot of stuff I put into EN that does not require me to do anything. For example, I have the receipt for filling the propane at my cabin for last fall. I keep it to see how much I used, I much the total bill was, how much the propane was per unit, etc. But, I don’t have to DO anything. So, it goes in the cabinet, right?


For me, I figured out a method that works. But, if you use a tagging system for organizing files like that I can see how thing could get hairy really fast. TSW has a decent amount of tags as it is. My set is allows me to view them all at one time in the sidebar, and is not overly complicated. If I added in a bunch to organize cabinet content also, I could see a tag list easily getting out of control.


So, what I do is organize my cabinet with GrumpyMonkey’s dating and descriptive title method, not requiring additional tags. Tags for me are for task management using TSW, and this system if for historically documenting everything else. Daily journal (with meetings and log of events), receipts, web clippings, research, book notes, etc.


My only exception to GM’s system is that I still have a few notebooks in my cabinet. I have not become comfortable enough yet to slim down to one or two notebooks. But, that is also the beauty of GM’s system…….it doesn’t matter. For right now, I feel comfortable having a bit more organization with a few notebooks. But, if I stick with the note dating and descriptive titles, I always have the option of being in the “All Notebook view” and treating things like I have one mass notebook. If in time, I feel comfortable and don’t feel I need the notebook structure I currently have, I can just keep moving notes to a broader and broader topic heading, knocking down the number of notebooks, and nothing really changes as long as I follow the system.


Anyway, there is my long take on TSW :) Surprised if you made it this far!!!



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