Last week at #ABATechshow, I spoke to David Sparks and Ivan Hemmans about David Allen’s immensely popular book, Getting Things Done (GTD). It occurred to me that GTD is an excellent model for understanding how Crusoe works.
In the first chapter of Getting Things Done, David explores why we worry about things we need to do. We worry about them because we haven’t taken the steps necessary to get them done.
If you don’t take these steps, David writes, the things you have to do are just a bunch of nagging, unaddressed jobs piling up in your mental inbox. David refers to those things as “stuff”:
We need to transform all the “stuff” we’ve attracted and accumulated into a clear inventory of meaningful actions, projects, and usable information.
The notes you save in Evernote are a little like the things you need to get done.
When you save a book highlight or a paragraph from a report, it’s a lot like David Allen’s “stuff.” Those notes are not something you need to get done, but they aren’t really usable information either because there’s no system of reminders in place to make sure you’ll see them when you need them. That’s where Crusoe comes in.
Crusoe transforms your Evernote stack of stuff into information you can recall the moment you need it.
Crusoe transforms your giant stack of “stuff” into information that will present itself to you at the right time and place. The steps to do that are very similar to David Allen’s three steps to getting things done. David’s steps are:
1) Clarify the task you want to complete
2) Break the task down into a series of steps
3) Set up a system of reminders to ensure that you complete each step by a particular date.
Crusoe’s job, on the other hand, is to make sure you see the information you want at the moment when it could do you some good. And seeing that note again cannot depend on your having to remember to look it up.
Very few people have perfect recall; however, you can use Crusoe to give you perfect recall of whatever you save in Evernote.
Since no one knows when they might need a particular piece of information a date-and-time reminder system won’t work. Instead, Crusoe uses the links you make when you first saved a note to make sure you see the information you want. Let’s say you saved a great quote from David Allen’s book, and then later you saw a different application of that same idea in a story you read online. Imagine printing out that online story, stapling the end of a piece of string to a corner of the story you printed, and then stapling the other end to the page in David Allen’s book where that quote appeared. Now you can’t pull out one of those two quotes without seeing the other. That string is how Crusoe links work. The more links you create, the better chance you’ll have of seeing the information you want, when you want it.
Getting Things Done with Crusoe: 3 Steps for Perfect Recall
1) Fill in the blank. When you come across useful information, save it into Evernote. Then, fill in the blank that completes this sentence:
“This note is important to me because _______.”
If you don’t take this step, the chances that you’ll see this information again when you want it are slim (and “…because I like it” is not sufficient). When you underline a passage in an article, you do it because that passage connects to something else you already know. It addresses a particular problem you’re having; it challenges or confirms something else you read before or thought about, etc. That problem or idea you read before is most likely already a note in your database.
2) Find the other note(s) in your database that connects to your new note.
If you don’t already have such a note then create one. (You can create the note in Crusoe and it will sync to Evernote.) For instance, there’s a page in Alice in Wonderland where the Duchess talks to Alice in a purposefully confusing academic language. It reminded me of the confusing language used by the three witches in the opening lines to Shakespeare’s Macbeth. It also reminded me of an editorial I read once about the poor writing habits professors learn in graduate school. With those three notes in mind, I move on to step 3.
3) Connect those note(s).
With all three notes saved in Evernote, I switch to Crusoe and tap the link button on one of those three notes. Then I link that note to other two. Now, whenever I look up of one of these notes, Crusoe will make sure I see the other two. And without my having to remember to look them up!
Step #3 is the Crusoe equivalent of David Allen’s System of Reminders. But unlike alarms on your smartphone that go off at a particular time and place reminding you to do something, a Crusoe link serves up the notes you want to see, in context and at the perfect moment (even after you’ve forgotten all about them).