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Because of the nature of my job most personal electronic devices are off-limits at work, including accessing personal e-mail accounts. Likewise, I cannot access work e-mail at home, and really should leave work stuff at work.

The best I can come up with is getting a spiral notebook that contains a place for me to write down things that occur to me while I'm at work, but that means I don't have the One Trusted Place for my stuff.

Has anyone else gotten around this?

Edit: Thanks for the answers everyone. I probably can get away with sending e-mail back and forth, but I'd prefer not to do that. Internet activity is monitored but I've never gotten called on anything. My smartphone can't come into the building, but I could leave it in my car I suppose.

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It might help if you edit this to include what tools you can use other than paper. Are there any? You could compose a draft email each morning at work, addressed to your personal email address, then fill it out during the day whenever something catches your thoughts and at the end of the day send it to yourself. When you get home, get the data into your preferred medium. –  Hendy Jun 24 '11 at 5:25
    
Do you have internet access at all (i.e. are your work computer and e-mail account on a closed network)? Can you get to other sites beside email like RTM or Google documents? Is there a reason you cannot take your work notebook home? –  Adam Wuerl Jun 24 '11 at 20:43

4 Answers 4

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I have also worked in an environment where personal electronic devices are prohibited and where access to personal email accounts is blocked. This is how I learned to cope.

If your situation allows, I would recommend something similar to what I described here, about using GTD at work and home. The answer discusses some RTM-specific workflows, but the general principles about using @work and @home contexts lists are universal and could easily be adapted to text files in Dropbox or Google docs. I mention these non-email-based tools because although many companies block personal email sites, they often allow access to RTM or Google Docs. You'll have to check your company's policies.

In the worst case, where these sites are blocked or you have no internet access, GTD can still work. For example, before I adopted RTM I also used a physical notebook at work, which I used to capture next actions and manage context lists. Given my electronic isolation, this paper-based system had two primary benefits:

  1. I could carry it with me into areas without internet access or where electronic devices were prohibited.
  2. It stayed at work so I had the freedom to make confidential or proprietary notes that would be inappropriate to take home, but that I could properly secure at work.

It major downside was that because the notebook stayed at work I couldn't keep my personal and work actions in a single system. However, I think the downside of having two systems can be mitigated with the proper workflow.

  • Use a physical notebook to capture all actions with an @work context. All next actions @work go into a single context list (or more if I worked in multiple buildings or areas that restrict what you're able to work on).
  • Use the same notebook for project notes and future actions. For each project, pick two blank facing pages and mark the location with a post-it flag. The left page captures future actions and the right associated notes (with spillover notes on following pages if necessary). Upon completing an action, do a quick review of the associated project to populate new next actions.

If I could take the notebook home, then I'd use it for personal tasks and context lists too (e.g. @home, errands)--just to have everything in once place. But if I couldn't, then I'd use an electronic system for all non-work activity and synchronize the lists:

  • If I think of a personal task while at work, I'd add it to a list
  • At the end of the day, before I left I'd email myself the aggregate list of any non-work tasks that occurred to you at work. This should be an action put on your @work list every day.
  • When I got home or otherwise had access to my email I'd process those items and put then in the right context (and vice versa for work tasks that occur to me while not in the office.)

It's a little more bookkeeping than having one system, but that's just the price to be paid for such a heavily sequestered working environment. Furthermore, the biggest downside of a having two places to capture actions is not having handy a list of simple personal tasks (like paying bills) that you might want to do while at work, but if there's no internet access or personal devices allowed then you probably wouldn't be able to do those tasks anyway. Everything personal is going to have to wait until you clock out, so there's little harm in having those actions in a separate system you can't access at work.

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Comment from John: Thanks for the answers everyone. I probably can get away with sending e-mail back and forth, but I'd prefer not to do that. Internet activity is monitored but I've never gotten called on anything. My smartphone can't come into the building, but I could leave it in my car I suppose. –  Tom Wijsman Jun 25 '11 at 14:35
    
I would suggest using @-comment replies, so that @John would get informed. :) –  Tom Wijsman Jun 25 '11 at 16:23
    
@John: One way to eliminate sending yourself email would be to use a large post-it note. Make your list of personal tasks that occur to you while at work on the post-it. During the day, keep it in your notebook and then just peel it off at the end of the day. Now these tasks can come home with you to be processed in your personal system without the need to email yourself and without needing to bring home your work binder. (Thanks Tom, I forgot) –  Adam Wuerl Jun 25 '11 at 16:58

I do something similar. I have two "to do lists" (by choice - I like things staying separate.) I also have a yearly spiral planner where I keep track of appointments after work and things that I need/want to do over the next couple weeks that a carry around me.

I started doing that this year after the old system didn't survive a bunch of work related travel. The paper really helped!

If you prefer an electronic system, can't you use the your personal device during lunch and before/after work? Unless your device itself is forbidden (rather than use of it), you can put a sticky note on it with stuff that occurs to you during the day or that needs to be done during breaks. It's likely your most of your personal items don't need to be done at work.

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Comment from John: Thanks for the answers everyone. I probably can get away with sending e-mail back and forth, but I'd prefer not to do that. Internet activity is monitored but I've never gotten called on anything. My smartphone can't come into the building, but I could leave it in my car I suppose. –  Tom Wijsman Jun 25 '11 at 14:36

While having One Trusted Place for everything in Life might be great philosophically, it isn't necessary in practical terms (and sometimes out-of-reach as you've discovered). As long as you maintain One Trusted Place for home items and One Trusted Place for workplace items you should be okay.

And since your workplace is putting such restrictions on the tools available to you, you might consider using index cards so tasks and reminders can easily be shuffled between pockets in a binder. (I use photo sleeves available from office supply stores as they're available to hold photos up to 4x6".) You can further separate those sleeve pages with tabbed dividers.

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Putting cards in a binder ... that's a technique I hadn't heard of. Is that a reference to a popular system or your own? –  John Jun 25 '11 at 2:50
    
Comment from John: Thanks for the answers everyone. I probably can get away with sending e-mail back and forth, but I'd prefer not to do that. Internet activity is monitored but I've never gotten called on anything. My smartphone can't come into the building, but I could leave it in my car I suppose. –  Tom Wijsman Jun 25 '11 at 14:35

The best I can come up with is getting a spiral notebook that contains a place for me to write down things that occur to me while I'm at work, but that means I don't have the One Trusted Place for my stuff.

To me, this sounds like an inbox (or at least an inbox precursor) and even with one trusted system, you're allowed to have multiple inboxes. When I'm in front of my computer, inbox items go into my software-based system. But when I'm out-and-about, I carry a stack of index cards and jot thoughts down as they occur to me. When I get home, the used cards go into my desktop tray (along with receipts, flyers, etc.). During weekly review, both get processed.

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