Amidst the wide range of analog note systems scattered across the Internet, Patrick Rhone's DashPlus system stands tall. DashPlus is a more in-depth analog system that reflects aspects of the Getting Things Done system but is original in its own ways. And, to make it completely unique, an entire app has been created to utilize the simplicity of DashPlus.
Patrick Rhone designed DashPlus back in 2006 to keep track of his lists and notes. It's a simple system designed around marking up a single dash. Items can be completed, waited upon, delegated or carried forward. Important items can be made data points. And all markup is made on top of the original dash. It's super cool.
I tried out the DashPlus system — and the app — for a few days and I can see why it has become popular over the last few years. Every list acts as an inbox and each item can be acted upon quickly within that list. Items that are carried forward reflect a process and flow rationally from one list to the next. And, like Bullet Journal, the entire system is rigid enough to maintain searchable structure.
From my experience, however, DashPlus' core strength is also it's biggest shortfall for my workflow. DashPlus excels with lists of short words, short tasks and short events. Each dash is supposed to represent an "action item" — an item that is intended to be acted upon at some point in the future. Much of the jargon scribbled across my books are semi-coherent thoughts which merely record my thinking at that point in time. They don't necessarily need action or fit within a simple or defined list system. My analog memo books represent the physical side of my journal and, like any good journal habits, I often just want to write my thoughts down. DashPlus quickly hindered my ability to write out my thoughts. DashPlus got in my way and I felt uncomfortable using a system that threatened my journal.
So, as a result, the app didn't stick. The app is beautifully designed and implements the DashPlus system superbly on a digital device. The slide gestures are a little difficult to get used to, but I would love a digital app that directly reflects my analog notes. Patrick must love the uniformity across his analog and digital notes.
Overall, DashPlus is a fantastic analog system. I can definitely see why the system has gained popularity for physical notetakers. In fact, I'm jealous that it didn't take over my Field Notes journaling process. I could try and mould it into something that would work for me, but I feel — indeed quite strongly — that DashPlus is not meant to be tinkered with. It's a rigid system that truly works best when markup is made on the original dash. Adding bullets to DashPlus would ruin the beauty of what Patrick Rhone has created and it would undermine the usefulness of the iPhone app.
I recommend giving DashPlus a try in your analog notes. It encompasses GTD. It is simple to implement. Conversely, it is capable of complex lists and project management. And it's designed by a very well known notetaking enthusiast. That's a tough combination of assets to ignore.
Patrick Rhone was kind enough to read this review and he shared a few small tweaks to accomodate my small nitpicks above.
First, Patrick simply stars an item to add to his journal.
@joshuaginter @DashPlusApp Diary item (basically turn dash into an asterisks) pic.twitter.com/8Y5dQzPDAuMarch 28, 2014
Second, showing an artsy side, Patrick denotes ideas by turning a dash into a light bulb.
@joshuaginter @DashPlusApp Here is the idea one (basically, turn it into a light). This one I'm still working out. pic.twitter.com/6uSgVcnvVgMarch 28, 2014
The ability to stay uniform while incorporating journal entries into DashPlus has made me reconsider the system going forward. I'm looking forward to sharing the long run experience.