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Following some comments on another question (The productive label printer) - I'll split this out as a separate question.

GTD recommends owning a label printer. Personally I've never quite got my head round that because I find it much easier and simpler to just use a pen to write out a label. Would people like to give me the advantages/disadvantages to having a proper label printer?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

In the three weeks I've had my label printer, my life has transformed.

I purchased it for my files but went a bit crazy:

  • My wardrobe now has labels on the shelves.

  • My pantry now has labels on the shelves.

  • My spices/grains/sweeteners/... all are labeled.

The thing is, there's something in my brain that will not allow me to put something in the wrong place.

So in addition to the huge benefits I've gained from having a beautiful paper-based filing system:

  • My wardrobe has remained neat and organized for the longest period in its life. It takes me less time to get dressed now because I can find things.

  • My pantry has remained neat and organized. Food doesn't hide any more and I can see at a glance what I've run out of.

Benefits over labels over pen and tape:

  • It looks professional and breeds confidence, encouraging organization. It's somewhat the same feeling you get when you dress formally.

  • It's consistent. Always the same font, color and size. Pens and tape disappear and get replaced with different ones.

  • The label machine is just sitting there waiting to do labels and nothing else. Pens and tape go walkabouts.

  • The labels remove easily, unlike laser printer labels and many tapes. Or they can be easily put on top of each other. Writing directly on a folder means throwing out the folder when it is no longer needed, or having a ugly mess of crossed out labels.

  • The laminated labels aren't spoiled by water.

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Oh, yeah, I forgot about that. I put labels on the top of my spice bottles so I no longer need to pull out and look at the face of every bloody bottle just to find the one I need at the moment! – eflat Mar 16 '12 at 6:24
StackExchange - the only place people can admit such things. :) – jontyc Mar 16 '12 at 10:19

Typeset labels change the nature f your files and your relationship to them. Labeled files feel comfortable on a boardroom table; everyone can identify them; you can easily see what they are from a distance and in your briefcase; and when you open your file drawers, you get to see what looks almost like a printed index of your files...

The main argument by David Allen is that in his GTD system, the brain need to feel relaxed at all times and that is an inherent advantage of having neat, clean, uniformed labels on your files. When the brain can relax about things other than what is the task at hand, the system is effective. A lot of what he teaches is all about repetition and relaxation, despite it being about actually getting things done.

The secondary argument for a labeler by DA is:

If you have to wait to do your filing or labeling as a batch job, you'll most likely resist making files for single pieces of paper, and it'll add the formality factor...

So you need something formal, fast, easy and (as always) fun. That's what a labeler can do for you.

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I would say that with a label printer speed and repetition are your advantages. If you need to rewrite the same labels over and over, you're wasting a lot of time that could be spent elsewhere. On the other hand, if every label is always different, you'd probably use more time typing and printing than you would writing them out by hand.

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I think a disadvantage of the labeler is that it is technological overkill. You can do exactly the same job with a sheet of labels and a Sharpie and forget the psycological stuff. I understand David Allen's arguments in GTD and do use a Dymo labeler myself, but I don't think it's a necessity. A key feature of GTD is that it can be implemented at any technology level. It works just as well with a handful of office supplies as with a lot of complex gadgets or software. The danger of the "overkill" factor is that it can actually be a barrier to productivity as soon as you have a dead battery, an empty tape cartridge, or a colleague borrows the labeler, you are unable to label a new file and productivity drops.

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Dead batteries are solved by powered unit or ample battery stocks. A spare tape cartridge should always be on hand and didn't David mention that some items, such as staplers, no-one gets to borrow? I found that after the initial labelling effort, it's going to take ages to go through the tape. I actually find it harder locating a pen :) – jontyc Mar 21 '12 at 14:05
So, in other words, more "stuff" I have to think about. It sounds like I could have a much easier life by just not having a labeler. – Tim Booker Mar 23 '12 at 10:02

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