Fun post at http://julioradesca.com/personal-fresh-air/ on a privacy plant desk. Enjoy!
Fun post at http://julioradesca.com/personal-fresh-air/ on a privacy plant desk. Enjoy!
Yesterday I posted about Hallowell’s 2005 “Overloaded Circuits: Why Smart People Under Perform” and how it reminded me of Dietrich Dorner THE LOGIC OF FAILURE in how central the role of fear is in our mental functioning.
Purpose of this post is to for me to articulate for myself, how I’ve “built out” from GTD in my personal inner-frenzy control system. Where I’ve ended up is with an 8 component system that started with GETTING THINGS DONE (Organization in the following pie chart).
In this post, I’m going to force myself to pick the “big three” most important components from the first (Organization/GTD) component (slice of pie).
The three most important components of GTD which help me manage my inner frenzy are:
While I was listening to GTD for the first time, riding my bike on Boise’s green belt, David Allen’s words:
The lack of a good general-reference file can be one of the biggest bottlenecks in implementing an efficient personal action-management system.
Allen, David (2002-12-31). Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity (Kindle Locations 828-829). Penguin Group. Kindle Edition.
Were an armor piercing round that cut through my thick skull and made me think “Evernote! This is how I should be using Evernote!” By far the most powerful GTD tool is reference filing.
I think this is because references, if not focused and confined, spontaneously generate clutter and chaos. References are inherently deer-in-headlights confusing to the disorganized. References are too important to throw out, but not important enough to be in use at the moment.
So reference filing is #1 for my GTD system, clutter is the #1 strategic enemy for my mental functioning.
… inventing is not an in-born skill. Like drawing, inventing is a way of seeing the world.
Betty Edwards, a public school art teacher, discovered right brain/left brain research after becoming angry with a class of 11 and 12 year olds that would not cooperate in copying a drawing from an overhead projector. The class was noisy, distracted, and unfocused.
Betty got so mad that she turned the drawing upside down and said something like “Now try and draw this!” The result was that the students went silent (upside down drawings turned off their verbal left-brains and unleashed otherwise suppresed pattern recognition in right brains) and then the class drew great copies. So Betty packed up the drawings and went to San Jose State’s psych department and asked “What just happened.”
I have used Betty’s drawing exercise (page 52) in my own classes and at the end, when you invite the class to turn over their finished drawings, students often *gasp* when they see the quality of what their right brains produce. Back to Betty …
What happened with Betty’s class was that Betty discovered turning off the left brain allowed the right brain to show what it can do in pattern recognition and replication. A bit surprise, a big win, for everyone involved. Life is like that, discoveries rule!
Inventing works a little differently, inventing focuses on technical and economic enablement. But, once people can take an idea and articulate it technically and economically, suddenly, they awaken as intra-preneurs and entre-preneurs. OK … stop.
I *apologize* for the digression. What this has to do with one idea, one piece of paper is that before I discovered GTD I was carrying my “cause” of evangelizing invention around in my head, *feeling* that I had a book rattling around inside, but … I was unable to sit down and write the book.
However, after 18 months of doing GTD and “one idea, one piece of paper” I found that I was able to sit down and write. In hindsight I ascribe this, to suffering a form of “intellectual constipation.” Constipation about a subject which I not only knew a lot about, but which I cared a great deal about. When you allow yourself to try and keep your ideas by “not forgetting them,” creative doom is near, creative constipation doom.
In fact, once I started implementing GTD after my fateful Boise green belt ride of David Allen Audible book fame, a dominant sensation from applying “one idea, one piece of paper” was relief. Relief because I had begun the process of eliminating “not forgetting” from my life. It took 1.5 years of “one idea, one piece of paper” to remediate my 25 years of working without a trusted system.
Discovering “natural project management” in chapter 3 of GETTING THINGS DONE was a bit like discovering the natural law legal tradition in an under-graduate philosophy of law class.
Philosophy of law? Yes! Beyond “must needs” there was code law (“Wait, what? French? Louisiana? Mexico? Glad I don’t live there!), positive law (“Sucks to be you if you are not THE QUEEN.”), and natural law (“Good is good, bad is bad, don’t mix them!”). Natural law made sense, all the rest exist because of guns pointed directly at people ala the Matrix and Trinity saying … “Dodge this!”
Let’s see, if you do one-idea-one-piece-of-paper then you’ve got a manila folder for each project. Oops, maybe I’ve tacked project folders on to the one-idea-one-piece-of-paper/mind sweep. Sorry for the unintentional 3-in-1 …
*Aside* I have to just *rave* about how much better life is for me now that when I *feel* a project coming, I make a manila folder for it. Typically, I feel a project coming about 3 to 6 months before the project actually is precipitated into my daily routine. So I have my premonition that a project is about to happen. I create a manila folder, print a folder label (*Note* I just updated label printer from a Brother QL-570 $51 to a QL-700 $54 because I found the QL-700 for $39.95 on the shelf in OfficeMax in Vancouver WA), create a folder and then dump the 3×5 idea into the folder.
Once you have a manila folder with a project name on it, when you have an idea related to that project, you jot it down on a 3×5 card, and drop it in the folder. In 2, or 3, or 4, or however many months it is before the project begins, you keep accumulating 3×5 cards with ideas. Then, once the project starts for real, you open the manila folder with all the 3×5/ideas in it and have this “AAAAHHHHHHHHH here are all the ideas” experience.
This “everything is here” feeling is what “mind like water” is all about. Your brain has a trusted system. It can create great ideas, the great ideas get captured (one-idea-one-piece-of-paper), and related to where they *deliver* value.
Natural project management, the distilled essence of which is a list of each project, and next actions planned out for each project, is manageable. Manageable by putting your head down, focusing on results, and then working the next actions to make the results happen.
“Failure does not strike like a bolt from the blue; it develops gradually according to its own logic. As we watch individuals attempt to solve problems, we will see that complicated situations seem to elicit habits of thought that set failure in motion from the beginning. From that point the continuing complexity of the task and the growing apprehension of failure encourage methods of decision making that make failure even more likely, and then inevitable.”- Dietrich Dorner THE LOGIC OF FAILURE, p. 10
I stumbled across Hallowell’s 2005 “Overloaded Circuits: Why Smart People Under Perform” last week. Key sound bites:
Hallowell, who is an MD, focuses on fear. Fear reminded me of the Dietrich Dorner quote at the top of this post. *Note* This quote is the distilled essence of Dorner’s entire book. And then, Hallowell’s focus on fear gave me a flashback to the *RELIEF* that implementing GETTING THINGS DONE has given. In large part, GTD has released me from inner frenzy and fear.
“Overloaded Circuits” had prescriptions for avoiding Attention Deficit Trait, but unfortunately, they were recommendations given from 50,000 feet. For example: “Take physical care of your brain, Organize for ADT, Protect Your Frontal Lobes.”
This kind of “be rich when you grow up” advice is well and good, but, it does not move me to action. I need advice that is operational. For example, on my first reading of GETTING THINGS DONE, David Allen said “get a reference filing system” which spurred me to realize that Evernote would henceforth be my reference filing system.
GETTING THINGS DONE has been powerful in pulling me out of survival mode. But, … by itself it has not been enough to keep me out of survival mode. Over time I’ve incorporated additional tools, William Dement’s THE PROMISE OF SLEEP, Ken Robinson’s THE ELEMENT (Work/Tribe fit), and six other tools. The following pie chart is a map of the other elements that I’ve needed to add to my GTD Macro Trusted System.
Next post I’ll step through the pie chart cherry picking 3 most important operational elements of each slice. See you then!
I’m delivering a 90 minute workshop this Thursday morning for ALPFA Portland. ALPFA Portland has graciously given me permission to invite any RestartGTD people who will be in the area, to come, have breakfast, and geek out on organizing tips tricks and traps.
Click the eventbrite.com link above for details. If you want to come, RSVP at eventbrite and then come!
drop me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have any questions
Hey! Purpose of this post is to announce invention office hours for Saturday, September, 14, 2013 from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm America/Los_Angeles time.
A time where I meet face-to-face (or in this case computer-to-computer via http://www.udemy.com) with inventors to do my best to answer any questions they have.
First, make a double batch of inventor-chip-cookies …
Second, schedule a conference room from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm on Friday (*Note* management is off to its cabins during this time and while the cat’s away, invention can play!).
Third, put up “Invention Office Hour” signs around the site (or in the case of Udemy.com, this would be an Invention “Live Session”) and let inventors know they can come and do … anything.
That is it, do these three steps and you’ve got invention office hours. What happened at HP was that “mentors” spontaneously appeared and then led a string of more junior technical people to the office hours. Mentors made up norms like “No invention disclosure this week, no cookie.” Which, once in play, had a structuring effect on inventor behavior. Inventors would come in to invention office hours and drop off a completed invention disclosure. Take their cooke, sit down with other inventors and invent some more. Cookies are the cheapest invention disclosure incentive ever devised, but they are not the least effective invention disclosure incentive ever devised.
To remove the small “speed bump” excuses people have to avoid filling out an invention disclosure.
It takes about six disclosures for the average inventor to learn an invention disclosure form. Feedback after each disclosure, is not necessary. I watched an inventor in India do six disclosures in a row and the quality of the disclosures doubled with each disclosure. By the third disclosure the inventor was writing ideas that were definitely going to be patented. Inventors learn how to write great disclosures the way babies learn to walk: by trying.
So I’ve learned that to get access to an inventor’s disclosing, you have to get access to the inventor’s mind and get them to trust me that I’ll respect their ideas. How to get people to trust? Proof by reiteration. I have to tell the inventors over and over “I have your back!” until one of the inventors will take the leap. Then, once the leap is taken, the other inventors fall back to the gym wall, and watch. … Until the assessment of the first invention disclosure comes back. Once the first inventor gets an assessment, whether they succeed or fail, the rest of the inventors have the “map” they need to successfully disclose. The sooner you get that first inventor to trust, the sooner you can turn on your inventor population.
Speed bumps typically.
Oops, my enthusiasm has run away with me a bit. So … the “so what” of this Saturday’s office hours is that I can’t wait to see how the magic of discovering invention will manifest itself in my Udemy.com colleagues. Invention is transformational. The sooner you participate in a community of kindred minds inventing, the sooner you will see the world in a new and better way.
Please come join me/us this saturday!
In addition to writing RestartGTD, I have another blog BasciIP.com around my “PatentGeek” consulting. I am a former patent portfolio manager for Hewlett-Packard’s LaserJet Group, and I love “lighting up” inventors to produce more and higher quality inventing than their legal departments can imagine.
I’ve developed a “How To Invent” course and launched it on Udemy.com. If you are interested in the business side of intellectual property, you might enjoy checking the course out. It is free until it exits beta testing, and it is very step by step: how do ideas make money, how ideas are captured, and how ideas are enabled, 14 lectures in all with homework and multiple choice quizzes.
Here are the details
Here is the 2 minute promotion for the class:
And here is the syllabus:
The course is wide open, you can step your way through all 14 lectures without having to watch them by clicking the check button in the lower right hand corner of each lecture screen.
Each lecture is downloadable (1) and PDFs of all the presentation slides (2) are downloadable as well.
Please take a peek at the course and send me questions, ideas (thank you Darren!), and suggested refinements! I’m email@example.com.
I’m always on the lookout for paper trays that get paper off my desk, so the entire surface is free to organize 3×5 cards on. Ken in a comment pointed to a very interesting family of off-the-desk products. Purpose of this post is to show the product family off and point out the relative cost-effectiveness of these desk accessories compared to say … Steelcase desk accessories.
In addition to the three tray unit for $40 above, there is a two tray unit for $30 …
And a two tray + phone organizer for $40 …
A formidable six tray unit for $40 (the unit that Ken alerted me to) …
Note that the paper trays are rotated 90 degrees from their orientation in the three tray organizer, so it looks like the trays can be mounted to the tower, from either side, or the tray’s back.
A rotary catalog + paper tray organizer for $40 …
And to mix it up a little, a catalog + phone organizer for $80 …
For comparison, here is a Steelcase task light for … $340!
These desk accessories are significant because, like monitor arms, they allow you to clear the surface of your desk. Here is my desk before monitor arm:
Here is my desk after monitor arm:
Having the monitor off the desk surface allows a dramatic increase of usable desk space. Having a monitor arm allowed me to write on my desk or sort 3×5 cards (my atomic unit of thinking) without restraint.
My desk surface is an IKEA conference table, so it provides a lot of space. I used this table for a year and then on impulse leaned over the desk and stretched my arms to see how much of the surface area I could reach: roughly 40%. I composted this for a few months and then with the help of my cats …
I cut out a plug for the mandatory hole in IKEA conference tables, and then diagrammed a semi-circle of 15″ at the middle of the desk:
and then cut it out:
Then bought white edging material at Home Depot that I ironed on to the raw edge of the cut.
With the cut-out I can now reach 80% or so of the remaining desk. Of course I have lost some usable desk space from the cut out, but I have gained much more use of the remaining desk space. For example, without the cutout, I needed to push my keyboard 14″ or so from the edge of the desk in order to get my forearms on the table (my perfect ergonomic position for typing). As I type this my keyboard is about 5″ from the top of the cut out, and my forearms are just wresting over the edge of the cutout. Comfy!
The signal in the noise of this post is that if you work at it, you can get your desk clear, you can improve the usability of your desk, you can be more organized and more comfortable at the same time. The more of your desk you can use, the more focused your work can be.
Well, it has been my computer boot camp week for the year. Every year, another boot camp. This year it started last Tuesday June 11th when I noticed that my 27″ iMac was off and could not be turned on. Great!
So, I made an appointment to go to the Apple store at the end of I205 around Portland and met up with TJ the Genius. When I talked to TJ, I had a good idea of that either the power supply or the motherboard or both, were fried. So, I left the Mac with him over night and pre-approved him fixing both power supply ($67) and the motherboard ($540 which was about what used motherboards are on ebay for this machine). Net result was that “a small fire on the motherboard” had fried both the power supply and the motherboard. :-(
Before I could get my iMac to the Genius bar, I had to reverse the installation of the VESA adapter. Which took a good 90 minutes in order to go slow and avoid any SPAZ (I am a hopelessly absent minded SPAZ) PHD (and yes, I’m a PhD so I’m licensed to be this absent minded) damage to the computer. Slow and steady.
But, when I brought my repaired iMac home, I decided not to re-install the VESA adapter because I wanted to try a new way to mount my 27″ iMac since the newest generation of iMacs can only have their VESA adapters installed if you have a custom built unit. That, and at 53 I’m tired of messing with anything but the most essential productivity areas of computers. So, here is the picture of a direct mounted 75 MM bracket to my iMac’s stand:
Now, here is a closer shot:
Ok, yeah, this is unorthodox. But I was able to make it work because of the flexibility in the “neck” of the monitor stand, and the amazing flexibility of my Innovative Designs Giant Mamun (Henderson the rain king allusion) Monitor Arm. So here is what the “dark side” of my GTD desk force looks like:
See how the monitor stand is tipped at almost a 45 degree angle so the base is out of the way? This is the secret to being able to mount your monitor arm directly to your iMac’s stand. *Note* that I’ve elected to use drywall screws to force the monitor to stay tilted out at the bottom (no *flames* please).
The holes in the monitor arm that the drywall screws are penetrating are there due to my efforts to repurpose the iMac stand in order to hold my most excellent Fujitsu Scanner above my desk. Here’s a refresher link and picture:
With a closeup to the vertical holes on the upside down iMac stand:
So, what does the iMac look like to work with? Great question! Here it is:
Anyone with a new iMac 27″ that wants to use the Innovative 7500-HD stand, drop me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll be happy to converse with you and share.
I’ve been in the labor force for 31 years, living through four “evil empires” of computing technology. The graph below (thank you RoyalPingdom.com!) shows the financial performance of three of the four evil empires.
… the $249 Samsung Chromebook (wireless). Chrome is an operating system inside a browser. I have a gorgeous 27″ iMac in my office on which I run Windows 7, Linux Mint, MS DOS 6, Windows XP, as well as scratch systems for Math (Linux) and Accounting (XP). Yes, I love all the operating systems, and before buying the Chromebook I tried to install ChromeOS in VMWARE but did not succeed.
So using the Chromebook brought a switch to a browser-eye-view of the internet. This can be mentally jarring. In particular, I hated web-based email. Somehow, after 30 years of computers, it just *feels* right to have an email client program. Safer … normal … all I need … if it ain’t broke don’t fix it … were the sequence of words coming to mind. Aha! I don’t want to give up my email client, and you can’t get an email client on the Chromebook. Clients are just better and I resent being made to do webmail. And … I’m NOT BITTER ABOUT IT!
But I’d spent my $250, I could not give up on the Chromebook just because I hate web mail. So I used the Chromebook. And you know, Gmail has a lot of nice features in its web client, that Mac Mail does not have. The biggie for me is to click on a message and trash+spam-block the sender. But, I do also adore the reply+archive message because it eliminates a step.
And you know what else, Outlook’s webmail client (which you have to trick into giving Chrome on the Chromebook full access to) has these same features! Hmmm … I still do not like webmail, but you have to give credit where credit is due.
So three months pass and …
I get a Google LG Nexus 4 because t-mobile sells a $30 month plan for it (with unlimited internet, unlimited texting, and 100 minutes of voice). The handset was $350 from Google (substantially more anywhere else I’ve looked) and came with no 2 year plan obligation. And better, it has unadulterated Android 4.2 on it. Having had an Android 2.2 phone from a carrier, I don’t ever want to subject myself to needless Android-upgrade-envy again. The Android carriers and Android phone makers seem to have their fingers in their ears yelling “la la la la” to themselves while the market has tired of their adulterating “improvements.”
Anyway, now I have a very similar user experience on my phone and on my Chromebook. Drip, drip, drip, over time my aversion to webmail is dissipating. The Google App-Device-Extensiion ecosystem is becoming seductive in the same way that the Apple iPhone was seductive when you plugged it in to your computer and it extended your digital life.
Source: Jesus Diaz and Gizmodo
Bill’s fourth evil computing empire era begins. I know that Google is:
But, I don’t care. Using Google Docs and Drive on Chromebook and Phone are simpler, lower impact, and much more handy than Apple’s walled garden. So I’m going to surf this new ecosystem for a while, despite it probably being some kind of irreversible tragedy of the commons. The price of productivity is handcuffs.
p.s. My blogging agenda for the next month will be to cover:
This appendix is an *aside* that I meandered along while writing section “6. Organize in Layers” in this morning’s post.
I went on this journey because “Where should I start?” and “How should I organize?” are the most frequent questions about GTD. And ever since starting GTD, when people ask I vapor lock. Of course I tell everyone to go to the basics:
After this advice, my friends say “Yes, I see that, but that is just too much … where should I start?” So I vapor lock because I feel like the steward of the productivity door which I can’t open for someone else.
I can talk you up to the door, tell you which key will fit the lock and how turning the key will open the door, and that once you are through the door, you will feel SO MUCH LESS STRESS and you will be more productive. I can give you names of people I have helped apply GTD to become the most productive people in their organizations. But, these are just words.
Becoming GTD productive comes from pig-headed relentlessness change implemented for one week. Doubts before and during the boot up of GTD just lead to excuses after GTD fails.
I think of Allen’s method (chapters 4 through the rest of GTD) as the “whole-hog-cut-over” to GTD. I’ve not seen anyone succeed with whole hog, and I tried it and had to drop back to organizing in layers. In the 3.5 years I’ve been doing GTD, I have evolved a “shortest path” startup for GTD based on my observations of MBA student success and failure in inculcating GTD into their lives. I think the shortest path is to:
Evernote-paperless-real desk is an organizational retro-virus. If you can make it to this point, it is not if you will implement GTD, it becomes … when.
David Allen’s prescriptions are too extreme for more than about 1 in 5 people attending his seminars to implement. And, I’ve observed that my “shortest path” retro-virus prescription is also too extreme. I think this is because fear of change makes people focus on costs. And, costs are an *instant* reason not to think, change, or explore. However, costs do not win the race, productivity wins the race.
So, let me swim up this impossible productivity waterfall a bit, by exploring the costs and value of the “shortest path” GTD startup. I assume that an hour is always worth $75 to someone considering getting into GTD. And, that the prospective customer is starting with near-zero organization as I did in 2009. If your time is billed out higher or lower, you can adjust the spreadsheet (link) accordingly.
The shortest-path GTD costs are: $2,283
Now let’s build a simple ROI model. Assumptions:
So, break even productivity increase of $1283/75=30.44 hours saved. And these 30.44 hours will be saved by week 10 after starting GTD. In fact, assuming that GTD yields just 8 additional hours per week of work lead to a first year return of 1248.36% (by my back of envelope non-discounted, rough estimation – download worksheet here).
Bottom Up Forecast of GTD Value Year 1
How many times during your career can you get into a 1,248%% return for $2,383? Who rationally can afford to pass on the opportunity to capture $28,500 more value WITHOUT WORKING LONGER OR HARDER?
Well, it seems, many people. So …
In short yes. Office scanners and copiers can scan paper into Evernote, but ScanSnaps lower transactions costs of dealing with paper. Transactions costs? Yes. Why? Because we may think:
But … oops, that is not a next action. There are several steps, scanning at a remote scanner is mentally expensive. The individual actions are: (121 seconds)
Now the entire transaction takes 1 second longer than 2 minutes, so it just *barely* graduates in complexity to a GTD project by evading the GTD 2 minute rule.
But the problem with office scanners are more fundamental than the 2 minute rule. Brains calculate costs in terms of complexity, the more steps, the more cost. The more cost, the more delay. The more delay, the more likely you are to lapse into disorganization. So when you have to use an office copier, you will let your scanning pile up, then when you have a big batch of documents to scan into projects, you will go to the copier and have to mentally reconstruct what project each document is going to. Because this is a big pain, you won’t do your scanning.
When you have the ScanSnap at your desk, you cut the transactions costs. For example the one page ”scan project” is now: (21 seconds)
And believe it or not, scanning promptly even with a ScanSnap at your desk takes intestinal fortitude. Just a lot less than dealing with a remote office scanner.
Again, yes. Because Evernote Pro users get these additional benefits:
Ok, here you are needing organization, … and you are looking at a 4,000% return on getting better organized. The faster you get yourself organized, the faster and higher your return. In this context “Paperless organization being too disruptive” is approximately the same as saying “I choose not to accept a 4,000% ROI, because I don’t want to change.”
If you have a system that isn’t competitive and you focus on avoiding change to the uncompetitive system, you are not sold on jumping to the next higher electron shell of organization. You may not be happy with the details of your current organization, but you are content with the electron shell of organization you are in.
The addition of 8 hours of additional productivity per week from implementing GTD produces and additional $28,500 return in the first year. Against this additional $28,500 which is gained without longer hours and with less stress and pressure, the $425 to do your scanner right is rounding error. The one week of forcing yourself to think in new ways, is nothing. The nastiness of dealing with an office over flowing with paper, is the ante to make more by doing less.
I think that people very experienced with GTD tend to be annoyed with prospective GTD people who are deliberate in deciding whether to take the GTD plunge. I can feel that way and I’m only 3.5 years in. David Allen must be internally blowing a gasket when people can not move forward without perfect understanding and perfect planning.
Personally, I’ve found that the real problem with disorganization is that in an average week I was getting 16 hours of real work done. After implementing GTD for a week I was getting maybe 32 hours of work done, later I was getting 40 hours of work done, later I was getting 60 hours of work done in a 40 hour work week. So my personal sense of GTD productivity improvements have been a doubling from 16 hours work completed in a week to 34, and then further increases until when I’m hitting on all cylinders I’m running at 60/16=3.75 times the productivity that used to be normal for me.
To keep the spreadsheet simple, I did not incorporate these dynamics. Including them would dramatically increase the return on investment.
I hope that I’ve talked you up to the door, showed you which key will fit the lock and how turning the key will open the door (shortest path), and given you a feeling for how once you are through the door, you will feel SO MUCH LESS STRESS and you will be more productive. But, these are just words.