01 August 2008

Note from 2013 - I use Evernote now where I did use ThinkingRock

Software for good planning

Good planning, and finishing up tasks, or writing down where you were and closing things so you can take them up again later, will prevent you from clogging up your brain, and you computer.

Thinking Rock has come from a lot of thinking on Getting Things Done (GTD as the community around it like to call it). At it’s most basic it is a task manager or todo list, but it has a lot more to it than that.

Thinking Rock (TR in short), has project hierarchies, customizable fields, multiple task states, complete workflow management and can be made portable too. It has a free version and runs on most modern computer platforms - with the big three Windows, Mac and Linux represented.

TR uses a completely open XML format to store your tasks, and has a system of plugins and extensions allow it’s capabilities to be extended, which combined with the earlier mentioned custom fields and workflow makes it one of the most powerful task management systems. And yet - it can be as simple as rounding up a todo list and ticking them off as “done” too. Read on to see more, and find out where to download and how to install it.

What is ThinkingRock?

Thinking Rock (TR) is software that allows quick and structured planning of your tasks.

There are two versions, a free and open source on (version 2) and a non-free paid edition (version 3) with extra features and tools. Both can be downloaded from http://thinkingrock.com.au/.

It runs using Java so it runs on Windows, Linux and Macs.

It has a rapid thought gathering system, in which you can brain dump all the thoughts, project idea, and bookmarks into. You should always do this, and ensure that any task that is not the one at hand is not interrupted by other thoughts by dumping them here, and returning to them later.

Once you have captured them, at some point in time you can process a list of thoughts. They may become “tickled” to show up again on a later date if they are not immediately worth thinking about, they can be actioned and deleted if it is a 2 minute or less thing, they can be deleted if they are no longer relevant, they can be turned into information/reference only if they are not really tasks, turned into single tasks, added to an existing project or turned into a project.

Tasks can then be looked at, edited, and marked as completed

Getting Things Done

Thinking Rock is at it’s heart a tool for Getting Things Done - otherwise known as GTD. Making sure you don’t forget all the important stuff, that you don’t feel pressure at an ever growing backlog, and that you are thinking about what is worth doing and where your time is going. Thinking Rock helps you ask why you are going to do something, not just how - a thought process worth having for stuff that is longer than about 5 minutes, and many things shorter if you repeat them.

Worth reading on this topic - “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” by David Allen

Why Thinking Rock can help

I find that having a system where you can create a simple project, and then put tasks under it to organise them is handy.

Freeing yourself to do things later, in order of priority, or when you have the actual time to do it, and not having a mental backlog, and not trying to do them all at once in a chaotic jumble, means that you will do them more effectively, have less cluttered bookmarks or desktop, and be free to close down your computer when not in use, and sleep easily knowing that things are under control.

When turning a thought into a task, you are encouraged (though not required) to think first about if it is actionable, then if so, about the context (is it a work thing, home thing, where can you do it or what is it broadly related to), how soon it must be done, how much effort is needed to make it happen (mental, physical, time), and exactly what a successful outcome is.

This is all optional, but to think in these terms means you make simple, measurable, actionable and reachable tasks - SMART tasks. These are tasks you are more likely to actually complete over vague and ill defined ones.

As Thinking Rock says, if you do not have time to try this tool, you really need it.

Managing bookmarks with TR

When you have opened a number of browser tabs or windows, to close them all down may make you feel like you will miss out by not reading them.

Bookmarking them normally leaves a cluttered mess. My solution is this - if there are sites you commonly return to, for example utilities, mail, social networking, turn those into bookmarks.

If you have articles that you need to read when you get time, copy the link and add it into your task management system. This way you can prioritise reading them, and read them when you have free time. This frees you from the thought process like “I must read this, but not now, and if I bookmark it, it will be lost in my now unmanageable bookmark list…”.

Downloading ThinkingRock

It can be downloaded from http://thinkingrock.com.au/, and is totally free.

ThinkingRock is distributed under an Open Source license known as the Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL), so if you are lucky enough to have the skills and time to contribute, or just want to scratch an itch, fix a bug, then the code is available to do this.

What other questions should you ask when organising?

When organising tasks, TR will ask you a number of questions to get you to think about a task and what’s its goals are. But there are questions it does not ask, which will help you to fill in the fields, and find out what things are really important.

The questions you should be asking yourself about personal tasks all come down to different ways to probe yourself on what the goals are, and why you are doing this. It also helps to avoid Yak shaving.

  • Will it benefit my social relationships? (things to help relatives, significant others or friends.
  • Will it aid my career? Are you going to gain valuable experience, enhance your CV, or make it easier to get through interview tests?
  • Will it make money?
  • Will it save money?
  • Is it dangerous to ignore?
  • Will it be good fun?

This list is not exhaustive, and there may be more similar questions - but not that they are basically yes and no. If the answers are all no, perhaps the priority is low, and perhaps it can be in the “tickled” until later category.

Even if you are not using ThinkingRock, you really should ask these kind of questions about your tasks so you know why you are doing them.

Original feedback

EmmeSinger Apr 05, 2012 @ 11:04 am

I’ve used GTD, TRO, Nozbe and a variety of other online To Do lists. You know what I’ve found works best? That I am so passionate to see an idea fleshed, that I simply do what has to be done to get it there, making adjustments along the way that are called for by the project itself whining at you, like a baby crying for a change or your stomach for food. You move toward what you’re passionate about. And all the rest that you’re not getting done? It’s because you don’t r·e·a·l·l·y want to. All the planning and organizing and shuffling about is good when your project isn’t driving you from the inside-out and so you’re not really On Top of it. So you lose track, of course. Otherwise your projects are the loudest, whiniest To Do lists in existence, speaking to you in their own voice, directly, and saying exactly what you need to be doing next. (IMO) Un abrazo!