In 2008 I implemented the Getting Things Done system (GTD) for organizing my RPG campaign’s emails, ideas and to do items. It worked so well that I now use it for every campaign, and I think you should consider it as well.
Here is my version of GTD for managing and organizing my campaign.
Gather things up with email
I’ve made email the primary channel for communication, notes and ideas for my campaigns. This lets me use the GTD system and also puts all this information in one convenient place.
Here’s how I’ve pushed things to email:
PBWiki for campaign reference
My group uses PBWiki to organize our game logs, session logistics, and player-friendly campaign information. As an admin of the wiki, I receive emails when pages are added or changed, and these emails always contain the content of the changed page.
As the emails come in I check them out and slot them accordingly into my GTD system. This helps me keep on top of everything that’s going on in the wiki, plus keeps my planning system organized, as you’ll soon see.
Yahoo! Group for logistics and Q&A
For group communication, we use a Yahoo! Group, which offers a robust email service. Players plan their next actions together or ask the GM questions, we take care of administrivia and session logistics, and sometimes roleplaying between PCs breaks out. As emails come in from the group those get filed into my GTD system.
Private email for higher signal-to-noise
The final email source is private emails between players. Sometimes private conversations are appropriate. Other times it’s better dealing with something trivial that pertains to a single player than filling up the group email channel with noise. These emails are filed into my GTD system as well.
GTD email folders
When filing all these emails, here are the email folders I use and how I use them:
When a campaign email comes in I first decide if it needs any action. If it does, then I estimate if it can be dealt with in a couple minutes or less. If so, I deal with it immediately just to get it out of the way and to help the email chain continue on without delay.
If an actionable item looks like it’ll take longer than a couple minutes, then I put it in a folder named @ToDo. I put the @ sign in front so the folder gets sorted and listed near the top of my folders list for easy finding.
When I do my campaign planning, I check the contents of my @ToDo folder and process items as I can between sessions. Sometimes items carry over across multiple weeks, but I catch-up eventually and try to zero out this folder first before taking other game planning actions.
Some emails require my attention and action, but I cannot act yet. Usually it’s because I’m waiting for a response or others to weigh in.
Any item that is in purgatory while I wait for something else to happen gets slotted into a folder named @WaitingFor. I check this folder at least a couple days before each session to see if anything has become unblocked so I can take action.
If an item is actionable, then I either take care of it in a couple minutes or less, or I move the item to the @ToDo folder so that process can take care of it when I next go through that folder.
My players send me information frequently that I want to save for future reference. Sometimes it’s PC related information, sometimes it’s rules information. I also receive emails from other sources that contains useful information.
All these items get stored in a folder named @Reference. When I need to find a tid bit I recall receiving by email, I look in this folder to find it fast.
This folder is also a great time saver. Sometimes I receive information that is excellent reference for my campaign but I do not know where to file it. It doesn’t need a spot in my campaign notes or GM binder. Having a place to quickly store this information lets me file it knowing it’s safe and sound without having to wring my hands over what to do with it.
Normally known as Someday/Maybe in a typical GTD system, I renamed it @Ideas and created an associated email folder for it.
I get ideas from a number of sources, and as they come in I sort them into this place.
I review the contents of this folder at least every three sessions to see if the time has come for any particular idea. This review also keeps all the ideas fresh in my mind, which helps provide inspiration when I’m planning or while I’m GMing. Nice.
I send emails to myself
The biggest source of incoming emails is myself. I’m at a computer a lot due to my writing, day job and managing RoleplayingTips.com and CampaignMastery.com.
Whenever an idea strikes, I type it out and email it to myself.
Whenever I find an inspirational item online, I copy and paste it and email it to myself.
Whenever I think of something I need to do for the campaign, I email it to myself.
Give yourself a bit of help by creating a descriptive subject line. This will help you file emails into their appropriate GTD @ folder quick and easy.
The key is review
Filing emails into the correct folder helps you know where to find them in the future. However, the true value of the system is unlocked through regular reviews. Scan the contents of your folders regularly so you can process items efficiently, to keep on top of things, and to make planning and refereeing easier.
@ToDo – whenever you have free time, tackle an item from the folder. Try to clear this folder out between sessions.
@WaitingFor – check a couple days before next session, or more frequently, to see if anything you’ve been waiting on is now actionable.
@Reference – review quarterly to stay familiar with the contents. Remove anything that’s past its prime. Elevate anything that can be put into more formal reference containers, like your GM binder or screen.
@Ideas – review before each game session or whenever you need inspiration. Be sure to remove ideas you use.
Review of the GTD RPG system
- Get your email channels setup so most of your information comes through by email, enabling you to efficiently file things into the appropriate folder.
- Setup your folders: @ToDo, @WaitingFor, @Reference, @Ideas.
- File emails when you process your inbox, though try to complete and delete emails that would only take a couple minutes or less to tackle.
- Review your @folders regularly. Keep them well-groomed.