One idea, one piece of paper … One idea, one card … Seriously? Bill’s cards often have >1 idea …

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Example De Jure Misuse of One Idea One Piece of Paper

This post began as a response to a reader email. In the beginning was R. asking about cards. I’ve expanded the post with pictures and some of my GTD history, in the hope that this post can be a stepping stone for other people on the GTD journey. 

R.

Sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you. But, I’ve been looking forward to writing this email ever since I skimmed your message 2 days ago.  
 
On Wed, Aug 13, 2014 at 8:49 AM, R. wrote
 
R.
I am finding one thing extremely difficult to get my mind around.
 
The one idea, one 3×5 card.
 
​I got 1 idea 1 card from David Allen’s “one idea, one piece of paper” which I can’t actually find in GTD, but I came away from GTD thinking it. Whether he said it or not. Or, intended me to take away the 1-idea-1-card concept, the value is 100% in idea modularity. 
 
What I mean by idea modularity, can be seen by comparing separate 3×5 cards with what most people do, which is to carry around a “log book.” I used to carry a log book and paste business cards into them and write notes, mind maps, action items, etc. in them. But there is a problem: log books turn into higgledy piggledy quagmires of open loops. 
 
I would write stuff down, and then never come back to the idea. Which, my subconscious saw, and consequently, my subconscious kept the job of “not forgetting” so I wasted just as much energy remembering, as I would have without the log book. 
 
David allen talks about taking these kinds of log books and blesses using them AS LONG AS YOU GO BACK AND RAKE OUT ALL THE OPEN LOOPS and capture them in a modular way. By modular, I *think* David Allen means taking the idea and getting it into a project folder that the idea relates to. Here is what he says:
 
David Allen:

“I usually recommend that clients download their voice-mails onto paper notes and put those into their in-baskets, along with their whole organizer notebooks, which usually need significant reassessment.”

Allen, David (2002-12-31). Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity (p. 118). Penguin Group. Kindle Edition. 

By “reassessment” I *suspect* David Allen means the ideas usually are laying in log books in all their chocolaty project goodness, waiting to be articulated as projects, and then converted into next actions. At least when I was keeping log books, I rarely wrote down projects, let alone next actions. In fact, what I usually did was to write down “AI” for Action Item and the wrote down a project (not a next action). And to my brain, projects laying around in their chocolaty project goodness in a log book, were anything but actionable. 
 
So, back to cards … 
 
3×5 cards are modular because they capture the idea in next action form, stack neatly, and they go cleanly into manila project folders. And as I’ve said many times on RestartGTD, when I open up a project folder with note cards in it, and I see all my ideas in one place, ready to go, I have an “ahhhhhhh” feeling of relief at not having forgotten the ideas, and a flash of excitement as I can dive into the project (spread the cards out on my huge dungeon desk) and get going.
 
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Bill Dungeon Desk
 
For me, being habituated to a trusted system process of getting ideas on cards and cards into folders, enables me to make up project folders for ideas, usually in advance of the folder turning into a real project.
 
Yeah, this opens a whole new can of worms. How can I make a project for something that isn’t yet a project? I will tell you. I. Do not. Know. But, somehow, my subconscious seems to have gotten a handle on preemptive project definition … via working with a trusted system. Cool!  
 
I start having ideas a month or two or three ahead of projects. So, I just create a folder, and file it in a Target Tote.
 
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Target Tote Action Shot
 
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Target Tote Label 
 
And then once I’ve added 8 to 15 cards to a folder, that folder reaches some kind of critical mass, and the project folder turns into a real project. At that point, I have a realization that those thoughts in THAT folder I started, are now “real” and have to be acted on. *Bing* subconscious has now upward delegated a project to my conscious. 
 
R.
After reviewing your from 12-30-13, 3×5 Cards and Manila Folder GTD Startup, I felt that I understood the mechanics of the process you use, but I found myself straining to read how you breakdown 1 idea per card. I saw several lines on every 3×5 card and was unable to translate that to an example of  appropriate granularity for ideas.
 
​There is tension in my mind when I write stuff on cards. ​
 
ASIDE: Story of Bill starting GTD:
When booting up GTD, I initially used letter paper to capture open loops and thoughts. Just like David allen says.
 
iPhoto
Generation 1 GTD Desk
 
This was before I discovered “thematic clumping” folders together in totes from Target. Consequently, all folders were created equal, and I bought large folder organizers, took books off shelves, and had massive quantities of folders (look to the left of the top of the big display and you can see folders in an organizer.
 
This was a bit much. I only accessed a minority of the folders, and all the folders had letter size paper in them. And the volume of paper began to work on my head. Here is a picture of my tote library of thematic clumps. Turns out there are a lot of ideas in one’s head that when they can be safely captured, flee in delight from staying in the cranium not being forgotten. Who knew? 
 
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Thematic Clumps of Captured Ideas
(and some non-recyclable papers)
 
But, now I’m way ahead of myself. As GTD began to produce paper, it was a bit much. I was not expecting a lot of refugee ideas from my head, to insist on be resettled in paper, in thematic clumps of Target Totes. So, I took a temporary detour from using paper, and being 100% David Allen, to using OmniFocus.
 
In fact, I got so carried away with electronic organization I entered 100% of my paper into OmniFocus. Electronic heaven of GTD organizing. The only problem was that I could not stand to sit down to my computer.
 
Because … all my work was there waiting for me.  My desk became a trap. In fact, let’s take another look at my desk:
iPhoto
Does anything stand out about this arrangement? Like the iMax screens (don’t forget, event he iPhone was waiting expectantly)?  Note I have subsequently gone to a single monitor, and zero materials (not counting cats) on my desk. 
 
Another David Allen saying that I remember from GTD (but which I cannot find in the Kindle version) is that if you get TOO ORGANIZED, your brain will refuse to use your trusted system. OmniFocus put me face to face with over-organization. A first for me. 
 
Omnifocus, is great. Omnifocus is powerful. But because OmniFocus has built in outliner I was seduced/intoxicated to the dark side of one idea, one piece of paper. I had entire projects outlined with next actions. Project = heading, next actions = list underneath. In fact, reflecting, this is better but from my brain’s perspective, not different, from the land of higgledy piggledy quagmire log books. And my brain did not like it. So my brain went on a GTD strike, for the old work rules. 
 
So, to wrap up this aside, I had to go back to paper. My brain “gets” paper.  But with letter paper, there is so much wasted space. Seems like a lot more wasted space that 3×5 cards. Because I recycle every piece of paper, I thought “3×5 cards must even be less paper to be recycle!” (*Note* which I don’t want any recycling experts reading this, to disabuse me of. :-) 
 
So, I went back to paper, manila folders, but this time, using 3×5 cards exclusively.  Sorry the aside got so long, but this sub-story of my GTD journey, is a common GTD occurrence. GTD is a long string of sub-stories.
 
Articulating sub-stories is a big reason that I started the RestartGTD blog. In fact, this re-telling of the paper to OmniFocus to 3×5 card cycle, made me realize that the thematic clumps of ideas in Target totes, happened, because my brain finally had a repository for thousands of ideas it was not forgetting. Once it could trust me to not lose the ideas, it went (subconsciously) full bore to dumping the ideas to long term storage in my trusted system.  *Note* to self, people implementing GTD for the first time, might want to plan for a lot of resettling of ideas on to paper or whatever their brain likes as a storage media. 
ENDASIDE: Story of Bill starting GTD
 
When I’m writing ideas on 3×5 cards, I don’t discipline myself to a single idea per card. You caught me! 
 
Only one idea per card, feels like wasting paper, just as using letter sheets felt like too much waste. So, if the ideas are related to the same project, because I’m a cheapskate|undisciplined, I’ll write multiple ideas per card. Or, like the card at the top of this page, I will sometimes title with a project, and then bullet with next actions to complete the project. 
 
However, you will be heartened to know that while I’m writing the 2nd and 3rd ideas on the card I’m thinking “You’re doing it wrong. One idea, one piece of paper!” I just don’t listen to myself, because I want fewer cards to do the work.  And in many cases, a card is enough for a honey-do project like trimming bushes. 
 
R.
I believe I am way ahead of where I would be if I only had the GTD book in attempting to implement GTD.
 
​REMEMBER: GTD is not about “doing it right.” GTD is about hacking your own brain by building a system around it, that your subconscious can use to make you look like a genius. Life in GTD is experimentation, discovery, planning, de-planning, refactoring your system, and trying again. Originally I intended RestartGTD to become a sharing platform for people who bump up against hard issues with GTD, sharing their success with others. 
 
GTD as David Allen does it, is a highly weaponized system for sales people. But, most of us are not sales people. So we have to listen to our feeling, intuitions, and and make efforts to test, evaluate, and reflect on what is pleasurable, as well as what works. 
 
Hope this helps! 
 
bill meade ​

What is GTD Warm Boot Step #1?

Where Does a New Work Flow Start?

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The Author @ HP Boise Legal Circa 2001

The last time I had a cube in corporate America, the cube came with 4 walls. Apparently, a few things have changed since “back in the day.” Today a cube is truncated into a
c | u | b | e so that four people put together have four walls. So I’ve got a corner or 1/4 of a cube.

Ironic Math Question: Is a corner of a square, a square root?

Back story, at HP I asked that my cube have zero work surfaces. Instead I ordered two lobby chairs that had tablet arms for laptops. And on the chair I used, installed a long work surface that reached from the right table arm to the left. Top down my cube looked like this.

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The fun thing about this set up was people would come in, sit down and say “Why is your cube larger than everyone else’s.” This was fun, because my cube was not larger than everyone else’s. Same as.

And same as brings us back to desk 1.0 at new job in the insuranceville company town.

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It is only natural to feel a moment of remorse for moving from my dungeon desk (see below) to a corporate environment with a uniformity fetish. However, life is bricolage (RestartGTD link) and constraints set you free (see previous post).

IMG_20140104_143951.jpgOne big constraint of the new work space is books. Perhaps you have seen my picture in my library around the internet …

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Spitzweig 1850

Alas, no more shelves, ladders, or extraneous reference materials. The internet is some compensation, but Mostly I’m shifting my references into Kindle and where possible, PDF files.

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GTD Start Up

I decided to start with a 3×5 card heavy GTD setup. One idea, one piece of paper. Then, a manila folder for each project. In slinking around the supplies room if found a lot (20) diagonal folder holders that were “locally available” to install without causing any drama. So, here is what my desk looks like when I arrive in the morning.

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When I first arrive in the morning I move my monitors out of the way, up to the shelf, and then do a relaxed mind sweep. At least for now, I’m arriving at 8:00 am which is a scosh before my group, so I can take 10 minutes or so to allow ideas to bubble up, write them on cards, and then organize the cards into groups (columns).

My new boss (who no, has not read GTD … yet …) is great at emailing me projects, hints, tips, etc. So my first week, I started by taking her emails, cards where next actions were captured during conversations, and then hacking out an initial set of projects. Each project gets a folder, and a diagonal slot at upper right on my desk. Cards get filed in project folders.

This physical folder organization has felt to me like it has helped trust to develop fast. If I’m not at my desk, the information is available for my boss to walk up to the folders, find the project she is concerned with, open the folder and see:

  • At the very front a list of next actions for the project. Think of an excel spreadsheet list that has completed tasks and next tasks.
  • The individual 3×5 cards with next actions on them.
  • Supporting materials for the project (most of which she has lent me, so this is great for her to be able to “pull back” materials she needs)

I also have a “Projects” folder with a list of all the individual projects. This list has been handy as my boss is on the spot with her boss and her peers about what I’m going to be doing (this company has a strong norm of close monitoring of new employees).

That is the initial set up so far.

bill meade

GTD: Problems Are Opportunities

Warm Booting GTD: Building A New Trusted System

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≈ New Job Desk 1.0

Just finished my first week at a new job. I’m now a senior data analyst at a health insurance company. The above picture is not my desk (once again I’ve neglected to take EXACT before pictures of my desk projects). But, the above desk is in the same position vs the window, on the same floor, and pretty much the same shelving and monitor setup as my new work desk, when I started on 2014/07/14.

New Job = New Set of Constraints on Organizing

I’ve worked with engineers (software, chemical, nuclear, mechanical, electrical, industrial, ….), and even worked inside a legal department once. But this is my first time working with: (a) actuaries and (b) health data. So there are a couple of constraints thrown into my GTD trusted system’s design:

  • No Evernote allowed
    Installing Evernote would break data security rules and get me fired. Too bad as I am a huge fan of Evernote.
  • Trusted system hermetically sealed great wall of China
    My work trusted system must be separate from the system I’ve built up over the past five years. This is interesting because the result at first cut, is a severing of my personal life from work. David Allen says this can’t really be done. We’ll see how big a GTD impact separate hermetically sealed trusted systems are.
  • No spending money
    Very strong culture of minimizing costs.

First law of marketing is that problems are opportunities. So setting up a new GTD system with constraints, is always fun. It is the constraints that set you free. (*Note* I’m pretty sure that Mr. Bartlett my Jr. year in high school said that “Beethoven said ‘The rules set you free'” but I’ve never been able to track that quote down. So, if you know who really said it, please email me at bill@basicip.com and I’ll update the attribution here.).

Time for GTD Eduction! That is e-duc-tion (as in e-quack-tion … not education)

  "In his enchanting novel, A High Wind in Jamaica, Richard Hughes
describes a group of children who have been kidnapped by pirates on
the high seas and are stowed away in the ship’s cabin. One little
girl is lying there, staring at the wood grain of the plank wall 
next to her. She sees all sorts of shapes and faces in the grain, 
and starts outlining them in pencil. A whole fantastic scene 
appears. 

We’ve all done this kind of doodling: projecting shapes onto
something, then fixing and cleaning up the outlines so that the 
raw material comes to really look like what we imagine it to be.

When the child completes the gestalt of the wood grain, there is 
an encounter between the patterns given by the seemingly random 
swirls of wood grain residing outside the child and the patterns 
given by the child’s inner nature. The wood grain (or tree, or 
rock, or cloud) educes, or draws out of the child, something 
related to what the child knows, but that is also more or 
different than what the child knows because the child is both 
assimilating the outside pattern ... and accommodating 
... to the outside pattern. 

Here we can see why in the process of making artwork we are able 
to generate ... surprises. The artist has ... training, 
... style, habits, personality, which might be very graceful and 
interesting but are nevertheless somewhat set and predictable. 
When, however, [s/]he has to match the patterning outside him with 
the patterning [s/]he brings within his own organism, the crossing
or marriage of the two patterns results in something never before 
seen, which is nevertheless a natural outgrowth of the artist’s 
original nature. A moire, a crossing or marriage of two patterns, 
becomes a third pattern that has a life of its own. Even simple 
moires made from straight lines look alive, like fingerprints or 
tiger stripes."

Nachmanovitch, Stephen (1991-05-01). Free Play: Improvisation in 
Life and Art (Kindle Locations 1025-1041). Penguin Group US. 
Kindle Edition. BOLD, link to moire and [s/] added.

So bring on the constraints in educing a trusted system! The more constraints, the weirder the constraints, the greater the “surprises” in the GTD system.

In my next post I’ll describe the new GTD workflows which I’m evolving, and share more pictures.

bill meade

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GTD Modularity: What is Up With That?

GTD hit me like a ton of bricks. Modularity bricks that impacted my skull in this order:

  1. Reference filing. If you don’t have it, uneedit.
  2. One idea, one piece of paper.
  3. Indulge your brain, organize to fit how your brain works.
  4. Organize, … just enough.
    Too much organization and your brain will refuse to use the organization, not enough, and you are hosed.
  5. Separate functions.
    1. Processing from doing  <== HUGE
    2. Building infrastructure from processing or doing <== HUGER
    3. Feeling guilty, from building building infrastructure, processing, or doing <== Hugest!!!!

bill meade bill@basicip.com (please email me, don’t feel guilty about it! … just do it. Do it now!)

GTD what processing work is like

Positive Analogy:

  • Funnel = Inbox
  • Cups = projects
  • Detection and routing = weekly review

Negative Analogy:

  • Cups are sorted in a first-in-last-out order (which is what happens to next actions if you don’t do a weekly review).
  • The pre-filtering of next actions vs. drone work is not shown.

Lesson:

  • A lot of the battle of GTD is getting the correct number of cups. Having a place to group things before working on them is critical for eliminating clutter, and for clearing the mind.

How Next Actions Give Work Focus

Source: Cresswood Shredding

Analogy:

  • Bottom conveyor belt is “stuff” to do before GTD. A mix of real work and drone work.
  • Next actions are like the magnetic force in the cross conveyor that separate real work from the drone work.
  • The IN Box is like the bin where the real work is captured (Second 40 and later).

Killer Shortcuts for Evernote Mac

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Source: CloudProductivity.net

While I was searching for a keyboard shortcut to highlight text in an Evernote note (which is control-command-h on a Mac and ctrl-shift-h on Windows reportedly) I stumbled upon a jewel of an Evernote post at Jeremy Roberts’ CloudProductivity.net. 

My 16 Most Commonly Used Evernote Shortcuts

The shortcuts for highlighting text are not in Jeremy’s article, but they are in the comments!

Enjoy!

bill meade

Evernote Clearly vs. Evernote Web Clipper … a quick comparison

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Explanation:

Above is a side by side comparison of Evernote Clearly with Evernote Web Clipper. 11 features are compared: Web Clipper-only features (6 rows) at the top, Features both products have (2 rows) in the middle, and Clearly-only features (3 rows) at the bottom.

  • Article vs. Simplified Article

When you tell Clearly to remove clutter, it goes for broke and attempts to rip out everything it identifies as clutter. This will either work, or … not. Today, the biggest problem with Clearly is that when you invoke it, images that you wish to have included in your note, are ripped out. But, there are pages that Clearly can not decode.

Web Clipper has two degrees of clutter removal, the “go for broke” mode which Web Clipper calls “Simplified Article” and a lesser degree of removal called “Article” which removes top, left, and bottom clutter, but leaves some clutter on the right of the web page in your note.

  • Set Document Notebook and Document Tagging

These two capabilities are a big deal for me. More and more I’m using notebooks and tags. If I capture a web page with Clearly, I have to remember to go back to that page, and set it’s notebook and add tags. If I use Web Clipper, I can do both tasks with the page in front of me and not have extra todo steps.

  • Skitch Annotations

I should write a post about Evernote Skitch! Skitch is a screen capture and annotation tool that Evernote bought about two years ago. I’m a Skitch fan boy, and had a paid subscription to Skitch before Evernote bought the program. The long and short of Skitch annotations is that Clearly does not, and Web Clipper does, provide them.

  • Share Note While Capturing

I do not use this today. But, … I’m getting closer and closer to incorporating note sharing while I’m capturing. Why? Because there are images that I capture for other people. For example, I’m a Boxer dog fan boy. Knowing other boxer fans, I’m likely to capture funny boxer pictures and immediately send them. So, I get this, and am glad to have it, so I can incorporate it into my workflow.

  • Automatic Notebook Assignment

I LOVE LOVE LOVE automatic notebook assignment in Evernote. But … it does not always work. And, the logic of automatic assignment is different for Clearly and Web Clipper. I could once again lapse into my “I got your back” dueling software team monologue, but I won’t. I just wish that Clearly and Web Clipper used the same logic. And maybe, that I could control the logic (for example “bookporn clips always go into graphics notebook”).

  • Highlighting

Both programs do a great job of highlighting text in captured web pages. I just wish I could highlight in multiple colors like on Kindle for iPad. And, I wish that I had a “write notes in the margins” of pages without having the pages turn into jpg files.

  • Text to Speech, Print, and Set Document Theme

All three of these are capabilities I don’t use. Nice to have, but I wish I could trade them in for some other features. :-)