Be careful what you wish for …

Keith posted a reply to the blog post on Ever-noteCards pointing me to This post is a quick look at CardDesk.

What is it?

CardDesk is a bolt-on web interface to Evernote that allows you to drag your notes from the left column, and drop them on a cork board, where they turn into electronic note cards. Here is what CardDesk looks like pointing at my “Graphics” notebook where I’ve pulled out four notes and turned them into cards:


Cards are organized into groups by creating desktops. The cork board above is one desktop with four notes on it. It *appears* that the desktop is limited in size to your screen size. Notes can not be moved off the edge of the screen. You can also zoom out from the desktop to make it larger, but you can’t grab a desktop and pan across it like a Google map. This allows you to put a card at the edge of the desktop, but once there, you can’t zoom it up in size. Zooming in takes you back to the top left corner of the desktop.

You can edit notes by double clicking them, which opens Evernote web. Oops, time to get on with how it works …

How Does It Work?

CardDesk is a web application. Not a plug-in to Evernote desktop on your computer. You authorize CardDesk to access your Evernote account, and when you drag a card from a notebook, it can take time for the note to download to CardDesk. So, best to have a big internet pipe.

Cards can be removed from the desktop by selecting “Remove Cards” at the top of the desktop. Right clicking on a card does not control CardDesk, you see just the normal browser options.

To make a note a card, you hover your mouse over the left edge of the CardDesk window and your Evernote notebooks pop up to allow you to scroll across your notebooks and see your notes. You can “pin” CardDesk’s menu so that it stays open. But, if you have not organized your Evernote system into notebooks, you’ll have to do a lot of scrolling or querying to find your notes.

And … you can’t text query your Evernote tags. You have to open tags (bottom of list at left same as in the Evernote client) and clicking on them. Once you find the note you want to make into a card, you drag it to the desktop (cork board).

What Are The Problems?

  1. CardDesk is not yet deep indulgent or complete.At present, CardDesk is a toy app. Shortcut notes are gone (big deal for me) from upper left. Once I create desktops in CardDesk I won’t be able to access them inside Evernote on my computer. Cards are rigidly stuck in orthogonal relationship to one another (upper left hand corners of all cards are always at the same rotation).

    Even though a toy app, CardDesk is the best integrated web app that I’ve seen touch Evernote.

  2. CardDesk’s grouping capabilities for notes, are too limited. CardDesk can’t compete with paper 3×5 cards.I’m looking for a note card manager that can allow me to spread out many cards, and then drag them around into groups. I think of this as “letting the cards talk to each other.”

    This is a natural planning tool from Mr. Edmundson, David Allen’s high school English teacher (GTD Chapter 3, p. 72). And, CardDesk can’t yet approach cards talking to each other.

    For example, you can’t drag a notebook to CardDesk to get all the cards on the desktop at once. Further, you can’t select all the cards in a notebook and drag them to the desktop at once. CardDesk currently sticks you with dragging notes one by one. Ugh for a big project.

    Electronic note card programs are dying from the lack of breakthrough ways to extend human powers of grouping. Evernote’s “related notes” function is currently the best card tool for automatic group finding. Yet, just a baby step in the direction of a killer app for conceptual grouping of information.

  3. No Thing 2 (click and do the scroll down)Being able to morph cards from computer screen to paper, mark them up, and then import them back to the computer, is a killer capability for mental-antiques like me who have to write on paper. And CardDesk isn’t in the ball park of this functionality yet.

CardDesk is a step in the right direction, but for now, I’m staying with physical 3×5 cards.

bill meade
























3″x5″ Cards and Manila Folder GTD Startup

IMG 20131230 203033


I had a request after yesterday’s post on clutter, to show the basic 3”x5” card and manila folder system that I urge people to implement GETTING THINGS DONE (GTD hereafter) with. This post’s purpose is to answer any questions about 3”x5” and manila as I implement GTD.

Your mileage will vary on my advice.  In fact, over time, my mileage with 3”x5” cards and manila folders has varied. The goal is to find a natural and expressively powerful way for your brain to work, not to rigidly adopt ideas. Right now I use a hybrid paper and computer (Evernote + Dropbox/Google Drive) GTD system.  But, I reserve the right to go 100% electronic in OmniFocus in the future, or 100% paper. If it feels good, do that!

Cards and Folders:

So, I helped an accountant implement GTD. Before GTD the accountant was very organized, in fact, almost over-organized.  Take a look at the desk before and after the GTD makeover:

ALPFAGTDAsPresented pptx 13

Accountant Before

And then, we scanned all reference materials into Evernote, recycled the paper, and set up a simple manila folder project system with one folder for each project, and all materials (letter paper, post it notes, etc.) captured within folders.

ALPFAGTDAsPresented pptx

Accountant After

Note the differences in the same cube. By switching note taking 100% to 3”x5” cards, ideas (one idea, one piece of paper) become mobile. Prior to 3”x5” cards, notes were taken in spiral bound notebooks and post it notes.

Spiral bound notebooks trap ideas in random order (see GTD page 30 where David Allen says “written notes need to be corralled and process instead of left lying embedded in stacks”) and post it notes seem like such a good idea when you are capturing the idea, but who knows where they go (with missing socks in the dryer?) when you need to refer back to them.

The basics of a GTD 1.0 makeover:

  • All object cleared from workspace where they can be seen in main working position (usually looking at a monitor). The single worst thing you can have in front of you when you is a picture of a person. Your subconscious can’t stop itself from processing faces. If you must have pictures move them out of view of your main work position.
  • Manila folder system kept outside field of view in main working position. In the after, the manila folders are at far left of the desk.
  • All reference materials scanned and entered into Evernote. All project materials gathered into manila folders. Please stop second guessing yourself and order the ScanSnap iX500 so you can finally get this over with.
  • *Note* Reference folders and project folders are PROFOUNDLY different. David Allen specifies supporting references be kept out of sight (GTD page 38) so having Evernote capture all of your materials is great.  Besides, you don’t have to figure out how to move a filing cabinet into your office. And even better, you can take a filing cabinet out of your office!

And, … that is it.

How It Works:

You have an idea, you write the idea down on a 3”x5” card. One idea, one piece of paper, simple really!

IMG 20131230 212643

Now, where do you put the 3”x5” card? If you don’t have a project that this idea is related to, you need to create a project. To do this I print a folder label on my Brother QL-700 label printer (link to Amazon for convenience but OfficeMax is cheaper). The print dialog looks like this:

IMac27label01 lbx

Then I print the label (2.5 seconds) and attach to the manila folder. Giving me a nice neat folder to hold my project.

IMG 20131230 213221

Next, you can put the 3”x5” card you created inside this folder. But now where do we put the folder? My answer is to buy itso small bins from Target …

IMG 20131230 213627

And then insert a small metal book-end inside …

IMG 20131230 214039

and then accumulate project “clumps” in the itso tote.  Here is an itso tote with my current clump of writing projects.

IMG 20131230 203109

You can see that the book-end prevents folders from becoming bowed.

The Payoff:

For me, the payoff from organizing projects in this way happens once I sit down to do the project.  I take the folder, open it up, and then I can spread out all the ideas I’ve accumulated about the project. When I see that all my ideas are where they should be, I get a subconscious jolt of affirmation. Aaaahhhhhh all the ideas are here. Now, let’s go!

IMG 20131230 213318

bill meade

Perfect GTD desk +1

Screenshot 12 19 12 4 53 PM 2



I’ve been holding out on  :-(

I’ve been working since April 2012 on a successor to my “The Perfect GETTING THINGS DONE (GTD) Desk” post (which is the most read post on this blog).  1.5 years after we moved to the Portland area, Beth and I bought a house which allowed significant expansion of the good enough home office desk.

As a sufferer of chronic rhinosinusitis, I’ve found the need to keep facial tissues close at hand.  In fact, VERY close at hand as tissues go from box, to my face, to the trash in one choreographed motion.  So in the new house I have a GTD trash can.


my desk work surface is expanded from a merely “big” desk into an “Ikea conference table” sized desk that is 77″x43″.  I bought yet another Innovative 7500-HD-1500 monitor arm to hold up my 27″ iMac i5. I know that $260 for an arm seems exorbitant, but getting the computer off the desk is the best money you can spend in taking back your desk.

Also, if you’ve got a wall that you are facing when you work, you can get a monitor arm for $30 that will be great for giving you back your desk.

Anyway, to be optimal, I should have gone to IKEA and bought a conference table surface for $65 in the “as is section” but, I did not realize that the components I needed for my upgrade of “The Perfect GETTING THINGS DONE (GTD) Desk” would be available in the as-is department.  So, instead of saving 35%, I bought the full price $229 brand new white GALANT conference table (instead of the $65 as is white conference table).  I bought new adjustable Galant A-legs for $15 each, but in thinking about it I could have gotten away with buying 2 new fixed length Galant A-legs for $10 each and then 2 adjustable legs.

Screenshot 12 20 12 11 17 AM 2

Driver’s eye-view of the Perfect GTD desk +1

OK Bill, what is behind the monitor?

Screenshot 12 19 12 5 35 PM

Well, as usual, there is a lot going on behind the iMac.  I’ve used cable ties to attach a 3-tier paper tray to the Innovative hd monitor arm.  *Note* because the iMac and paper tray are hanging off the monitor arm, there is an angle that I had to compensate for with the paper tray.  Why? Because if you can’t get the paper tray approximately level, then you’ll have paper splashing on to your work surface.  = Unpleasant.  Here is a shot of the angle compensating cable tie.

And the indispensable ScanSnap S1500 rests on the base of the monitor arm. It is visible, but not when I’m looking at 3×5 cards on my desk.

Screenshot 12 19 12 5 46 PM

OK, what is going on under the desk

Excellent question!  Here is a macro shot of the under side of the desk:

Screenshot 12 19 12 6 00 PM

Once again I’ve availed myself of IKEA to provide pseudo drawer space as well as plain Signum cable management (US$10).  The Galant cable management tray (US$5) works as a static drawer.  Desk tools that conventionally clutter up desk surfaces are verboten in my conception of the perfect GTD desk.  So, I mounted the Galant cable tray a bit back from the front of the desk (to avoid hitting it with my knees), but still in easy raeachability.

In addition to microfiber cloth, stapler, and tape dispenser which are immediately available, I also keep a pocket knife and an eraser readily at hand.

Crayons?  You think Crayons are cool?

Well, in short, … I don’t know what to think about crayons.  Crayons come with memories, fun, and … crayon mess:



which … I’d forgotten about since I was 5.  But, still, writing on an IKEA conference table with Crayons™ is a great option if you are into crayons.  They come off with Scotch-Brite No SCRATCH sponges and Windex.

Screenshot 12 20 12 11 34 AM

Crayon mind mapping
(about moving ERP into b-education)
48 years after giving up crayons!

I felt giddy playing with crayons as a 53 year old!  The crappy wax mess that falls off the crayons, the problem of sharpening a crayon, the inevitable anger resulting from trying to sharpen a crayon in a pencil sharpener, the flash back to the 64 crayon set that had a sharpener in it (At least until you broke the first crayon off).  I found myself thinking about all the downsides of crayons as a dumb smile came over my face and I created a complex mind map that felt “just a little bit permanent.”

Buy crayons, write on your IKEA conference table, undo all the art formerly-known-as-damage, with a Scotch-Brite pad and Windex.  Fondly remember the voice of your mom yelling at you about using crayon on the table/wall/sibling.  You own the conference table, you can do with it whatever you want!!  Fun memories!


First and foremost, except for legs, you can make-do in building your desk by shopping the AS-IS department at IKEA.  This will peel about 35% off the total cost.

Second: grommet management.  Move the grommets away from where you will work most at your desk.  For me that is working at the computer.  And, place Signum cable grommets out of sight if you can.  You can’t control where the cable runs are, but you can control the wires between cable runs and move them out of sight.

Screenshot 12 20 12 11 22 AM 2

Third: Find a work surface that does not have a pre-cut grommet in it.  I like the simplicity of IKEA parts, but I was forced to remove the monitor arm and re-place it through the steel support deck, because the particle board of the surface was not able to carry the 50 pound load of the monitor arm and items hanging from it.

Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you for 2012!!!

So we are just almost exactly at 1 year into and about 130,000 page views.  The blog really started with the “The Perfect GETTING THINGS DONE (GTD) Desk” post which Lifehacker kindly picked up, and we are about at the end of the year with this Perfect GTD desk +1 post.  I’d like to thank everyone who has read, everyone who has commented, and especially everyone who has emailed back channel to this year.  I’ve had a blast opening my GTD kimono.  And it has been fun sharing the GTD love and enthusiasm with you.

May this year bring a happier, more robust recovery, and smarter GTD thinking than any year going before.  You guys reading this rock.  Let me know how I can help in 2013!

Support RestartGTD by buying at from this link!


bill meade

Analytics of Procrastination and Guilt: Before and After GTD

Snapshot 10 24 12 11 51 AM 10 24 12


The purpose of this post is to share an “aha!” I just had while working with my beloved 3×5 cards. The “aha!” is represented on the graph above under the orange B.  But first, let me share with you my experience with procrastination and guilt.


Writer’s block, cramming, starting projects and throwing them out after one burst of work, impulsive leaps off critical project paths onto distracting tasks (pinball anyone?), failure to launch until every piece is perfectly in place, number of projects building until it seems like the number of projects will inevitably and immovably go up forever,  procrastination has taken many forms in my life.  At root, I have come to believe that procrastination is the reciprocal of organization.  Of course, I may be biased by having experienced GTD for the past four years.

The graph at the start of this blog post is a subjective attempt to weigh how much procrastination I did before and after GTD.  I picked percent numbers vaguely thinking that I could measure procrastination in my memory, by estimating how much time I remember spending procrastinating.  I don’t think I spent 65% of my time procrastinating, but playing with how much I feel I procrastinated before and after GTD, it was the difference between the two levels that had the biggest contribution to the number.  The relief from procrastination has been a big part of the “stress free” productivity of GTD, for me.

As I continue to apply, continue to refine my GTD system, I am procrastinating less every year.  More and more, work that I used to dread sitting down to do, is easy to sit down and do now.  And I’ve noticed that when I’m procrastinating, that this is a signal for me to do a mind sweep and get my mind cleared.  It is like as I try and remember things, the things I’m remembering become a pile, and then a knot, and then a Chicken-Little like voice in my head playing an endless loop of “[: Don’t do it now.  You are too tired.  Maybe tomorrow:]”  GTD has given me the system to organize well enough that I can mind sweep and silence the voice, untie the knot, organize the pile into 3×5 cards, and then sit down and do the work.

In THE WAR OF ART, Steven Pressfield talks about resistance in much the same way I’m talking about procrastination:


Like a magnetized needle floating on a surface of oil, Resistance will unfailingly point to true North—meaning that calling or action it most wants to stop us from doing.

We can use this. We can use it as a compass. We can navigate by Resistance, letting it guide us to that calling or action that we must follow before all others.   Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.

Pressfield, Steven (2010-08-30). The War Of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle (Kindle Locations 134-138). PREMIERE. Kindle Edition.

And like the ex-marine Pressfield is, his little war manual of creative accomplishment teaches how to confront resistance with frontal assaults, flanking attacks, and interlocking fields of fire:

RESISTANCE AND SEX   Sometimes Resistance takes the form of sex, or an obsessive preoccupation with sex. Why sex? Because sex provides immediate and powerful gratification. When someone sleeps with us, we feel validated and approved of, even loved. Resistance gets a big kick out of that. It knows it has distracted us with a cheap, easy fix and kept us from doing our work.

It goes without saying that this principle applies to drugs, shopping, masturbation, TV, gossip, alcohol, and the consumption of all products containing fat, sugar, salt, or chocolate.

Pressfield, Steven (2010-08-30). The War Of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle (Kindle Locations 178-184). PREMIERE. Kindle Edition.

My favorite passage of the book is where Pressfield confesses how resistance almost killed his book:


When I began this book, Resistance almost beat me. This is the form it took. It told me (the voice in my head) that I was a writer of fiction, not nonfiction, and that I shouldn’t be exposing these concepts of Resistance literally and overtly; rather, I should incorporate them metaphorically into a novel. That’s a pretty damn subtle and convincing argument. The rationalization Resistance presented me with was that I should write, say, a war piece in which the principles of Resistance were expressed as the fear a warrior feels.

Resistance also told me I shouldn’t seek to instruct, or put myself forward as a purveyor of wisdom; that this was vain, egotistical, possibly even corrupt, and that it would work harm to me in the end. That scared me. It made a lot of sense.

What finally convinced me to go ahead was simply that I was so unhappy not going ahead. I was developing symptoms. As soon as I sat down and began, I was okay.

Pressfield, Steven (2010-08-30). The War Of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle (Kindle Locations 227-234). PREMIERE. Kindle Edition.

If procrastination is a battle you are always fighting, you might want to consider that it is really, a war.  And if it is a war, Pressfield’s WAR OF ART might be *handy* to have around.



Source: Wikipedia

As much as I’ve felt procrastination in my life, I’ve felt guilt, more.  It it isn’t bad enough that we have the Chicken-Little voice telling us to procrastinate.  On top of Chicken-Little we get a siren sucking our energy, distracting us, criticizing constantly.  Siren works to define this second voice for me, because either the Greek idea of sirens as femmes fatale who lure to destruction, or the modern sense of a loud noise that prevents thought is the net result.

And this is a separate issue from procrastination.  When you overcome procrastination and sit down to do the work, you can hit a brick wall if your inner editor/siren is blabbering, stabbing, ridiculing, bargaining, etc. with your creative capacities.  The best antidote I’ve found for the guilt is doing the work despite the voice.  As you get fully into the project, the editor/siren fades.  the second best antidote I’ve found is Natalie Goldberg’s “Trouble with the editor” (p. 33) exercise in WRITING DOWN THE BONES.

Trouble with the Editor

THE MORE CLEARLY you know the editor, the better you can ignore it. After a while, like the jabbering of an old drunk fool, it becomes just prattle in the background. Don’t reinforce its power by listening to its empty words. If the voice says, “You are boring,” and you listen to it and stop your hand from writing, that reinforces and gives credence to your editor. That voice knows that the term boring will stop you dead in your tracks, so you’ll hear yourself saying that a lot about your writing. Hear “You are boring” as distant white laundry flapping in the breeze. Eventually it will dry up and someone miles away will fold it and take it in. Meanwhile you will continue to write.

Goldberg, Natalie (2010-08-31). Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within (Shambhala Library) (Kindle Locations 518-523). Shambhala Publications. Kindle Edition.

We knowledge workers may not have invented guilt, but we sure have perfected it!  But man, has GTD ever cut down on the guilt I feel.  Over the years as I work organization through my life, work has gone from happening in spasms, towards the asymptote happening in flow.

What about the orange B?

Snapshot 10 24 12 11 51 AM 10 24 12 2

Over the past four years I’ve procrastinated much less, but while my guilt level initially was way down, I find that I’m feeling a little more guilty about less procrastination over time.  See the orange A in the figure.  This was disconcerting.  Doing better but not getting my full measure of stress relief!

Recently I was going through my: procrastinate>>”Oh, I need to mind sweep and 3×5 card this”>>now-organized, work cycle.  And as I sat down after organizing, to work, I had the realization that one of the reasons I procrastinate is because I’m subconsciously afraid that if I just do the work, I’ll do the wrong task first.  In English this time:

I procrastinate because I fear doing the wrong task first.

Interesting!  “Fearcrastination!”  Look it up in Google, it won’t exist until this page has been indexed!

What about the orange B?

Well, the experience of realizing that I procrastinate because of possible starting task error, that I “fearcrastinate” gives me a handle to cut down both procrastination and guilt about procrastination.  That is, as I succeed in cutting procrastination and gaining insight into procrastination, I can feel the guilt line bending horizontal at the orange B.

This is the GTD idea that I want to put across in this post.  Organize when procrastinating and then when you work, you will have no more guilt to deal with. Simple really!  Sorry it took 1492 words.  :-)

bill meade

Quarterly GTD System Refactoring Report


Source: Mert Kavi’nin Blogu


For the past couple months I’ve been really enjoying 3×5 cards, but alas, my innate absent-mindedness combined with the conservation of matter, to take 3×5 things too far.  Shortly after I took this action shot of my marvelously simple 3×5 roving inbox: 


I misplaced the cards while teaching.  Doh!  

Yes, cards are great and cards are powerful, but it is the “not losing” them that does the work!  

So this brings up a key GTD point: whatever technologies you use for GTD, you are going to have conflicted relationships with those technologies.   If you use atom-based technologies (3×5 cards, for example) you will enjoy the strengths (modular ideas easily arrangeable that boot up instantly), and suffer with weaknesses (3×5 cards get lost … sometimes).  


The conflicted struggle with technology strengths and weaknesses is one of three drivers behind my constant tweaking, experimenting, prototyping, and reverting of my GTD system.  The other two drivers are: 1 what my brain is ready to do next, and 2 discovery.  

GTD System changes in this report: 

  • Next actions are no longer going on 3×5 cards.  Instead, they are going into my Omnifocus inbox which uses an Evernote GTD trick that I posted about February.  The trick is to organize a list into daily, weekly, monthly.  Instead, I’ve organized my list in Today, This Week, This Month, and Eventually.   

Snapshot 10 18 12 2 12 PM

I’ve been using this for about a week and it has restored a sense of calm that was shattered by loosing my next action cards.  Unlike prior attempts at using Ominifocus, I don’t feel pressured by the software and having to use a computer.  I think my brain was ready to trust something new after I lost its 3×5 cards.  

  • 3×5 cards have been refined from the default thought capture mechanism, to two distinct roles:   
  • First as the default thinking mechanism.  This is one slide of the role for 3×5 cards have been playing in my GTD system.  I’m surprised at how after 30 years of mind mapping on paper, how much more flexible 3×5 cards are than writing/typing.  One idea, one card, then you can move the cards relationally close to one another. With a camera phone, you get the same ability to capture relationships as with mind mapping, but, cards:
  • don’t have to boot up
  • don’t weigh much
  • easily expand to use all the work real-estate available (think library table sized area)
  • Second, as the default capture mechanism for bits and pieces of long gestating projects.  3×5 cards capture the bits and pieces, and then manila folders accumulate the bits and pieces.  My GTD project life cycles have changed as follows:
  • Snapshot 10 18 12 2 33 PM 3

    Project Cycle Pre-GTD

    Before GTD I would have a brain itch, typically long before the project needed to happen.  My brain would keep itching because I was not writing down project related ideas, and then a pod of related project ideas would build up, then I’d realize that I needed to accomplish a project.  Then, I would procrastinate through the 5 stages of grief before realizing I needed to just sit down and do the project.  Then, I would brute force the project to completion.  

    Snapshot 10 18 12 2 33 PM

    Project Cycle Post GTD

    Today projects start with a brain itch, just like always.  However, in the 4 years I’ve been doing GTD I’ve realized how important it is to mind sweep when I have the brain itch.  First I mind sweep, then I make a manila folder, then I put the project related mind sweep cards into the manila folder (pre-processing).  Over time, the folder builds up with ideas for the project, and then when the project trigger happens, I open up my manila folder, and then brainstorm more ideas and develop an initial project focus.  Next, I’ll transpose the project from the manila folder and cards, into electronic files that go into Dropbox. Once I have the electronic files, the project becomes a series of rapid released prototypes.  Typically, I’ll have a project running, the materials all in Dropbox, and then as the project comes up in issues with colleagues, I’ll take emails as an opportunity to assemble a prototype solution.  Then I get lots of feedback (often that I am stomping out in the weeds relative to what someone wants).  Then I can refine and re-release the project.  

    • Back to 3×5 cards now.  The second function of 3×5 cards is to capture the bits and pieces of downstream projects, and then safely secure those thoughts in a manilla folder savings account that will have all the information withdrawn when the project starts and is transposed to electronic form.  

      In just the past six months I’ve become able to articulate and refine my “after GTD” project cycle.  As a result, the role that 3×5 cards play in the gestation period of projects has assumed a lot of importance.  Gestational 3×5 card management! 


    These are the refinements that are floating my GTD boat right now.  What refinements have you incorporated? Post in comments or email  

    bill meade 





    GTD Toasters




    Source: IMDB


    Here is a current picture of my GTD technology:

    Snapshot 10 4 12 10 30 AM 2

    The biggest infrastructure changes from my reading of GTD are #1: Getting a killer reference filing system (see Evernote above), and #2: Using folders much much much much more than ever before (see Folders above).  

    Roughly four pieces of my trusted system are currently electronic, iCal, Evernote, DropBox and eMail.  

    GTD Toasters

    Purpose of this post is to make GTDers aware of Synology NASes and that within Synology’s capability to deliver an IT department in a toaster sized box, are several GTD capabilities that may:

    a. reduce unease,

    b. save money, and

    c. improve productivity.  

    Below is a picture of my now obsolete DS508 NAS.  But, even though this NAS has not been sold for 5 years, over those 5 years, the DS508 gained a ton of GTD-relevant capabilities.   


    Synology DS508, An Oldie, but a Goodie!

    The back story on my love of Synology products begins with a review.  A review I wrote about Synology’s first NAS product in/for in 2006.  I had never heard of Synology before.  But, having worked with firmware enginerds at HP I knew how great firmware *feels* when you use it.  The buttery smooth operation, the impossibility of crashing, the inclusion features I needed, but didn’t know I needed.  While reviewing the product, I emailed Synology’s president and said “This firmware is too good for a first product.  What is the story with that?”  

    The president emailed back the explanation that Synology’s NAS was not its first product.  Before developing NASes Synology had developed RAID software for enterprise storage systems.  Read that sentence again, before building its NAS, Synology took on the most difficult software task in the world, for the noisiest pickiest customers in the world.  Compared to enterprise difficulties, a home NAS was nothing.  

    But beyond providing basics, Synology from their first product has gone deeper than what customers say they want, to understanding customer needs and providing for them.  As Guy Kawasaki would say Synology’s products have always been deep, indulgent, complete, and elegant (DICE).  

    For example, the Synology NAS I reviewed was the first NAS company to allow its customers to start a large download on a laptop, hand the download from laptop to NAS, so users can run to a meetings … with their laptops.   *Note* No customers asked for this function.  Synology has a strong connection with users so that it can be “lawyers” for the users in product design.  

    In the six years since, the only thing that has changed is that functionality going into Synology NASes, has accelerated.

    a. Reduce Unease:

    Synology NAS reduce unease by:

    • Giving me “free” IMAP email that is not hosted by Apple or Gmail
    • Giving me “free” unlimited cloud storage like DropBox but not hosted by DropBox

    I’m re-reading THE SEARCH and in chapter 1 John Battelle reviews the big reasons to be uncomfortable with online services: surveillance, concentrations of data drawing hackers, not knowing how the service provider is using your data, the potential from being locked out of using your data.  Having my email moved off free IMAP servers and on my NAS is a relief.  Same for files on DropBox.  

    For those paranoid GTDers worried about having data on the internet, there is a key difference when you own the NAS and you can turn the sync service off except when you need to sync up your remote computers.  DropBox does not allow you to turn off internet access to your data, Synology NASes do.  

    b. Save Money:

    Synology NASes are not free.  But, I justified buying a RAID5 NAS just based on protecting my digital photo library.  Hosting email and project folders while not free, is no *incremental* cost.  Synology also provides NAS anti-virus (also no *incremental* cost), remote access from anywhere on the net.  Once you buy the NAS, there are no more incremental costs. 

    c. Increase productivity 

    Here is a picture of my next step GTD system.  

    Snapshot 10 4 12 11 21 AM

    I’ll still be using 3×5 cards and manila folders, but my Synology NAS allows me to migrate DropBox, eMail, and iCal. How does having my electronic “stuff” on my own NAS improve productivity?  Great question!

    • First, by silencing worries about my data’s safety.  Data safety is the open loop none of us can ever be rid of.  But, at some point, worry becomes paranoia.  Having my data on a local NAS gives me more anonymity, some amount of security (Linux’s capabilities combined with the genius programmers at Synology), and allows me to silence data safety paranoia. 
    • Second, by increasing data mobility.  When you have a NAS local with gigabit ethernet, you can download big files and take them with you to work on.  DropBox and Evernote are big data lakes at the end of very narrow data straws.  Even though both sync quickly, I often need to move a big file (data set or video I’m editing) before synchronizing completes.  You may have different needs. 
    • Third, by giving me more degrees of freedom.  Remember when PCs were new (I bought my first dual floppy IBM PC for $5K, it had 256K of RAM)?  They were slower than the mainframe.  They were less well backed up or maintained.  But there was JUST SOMETHING about the PC that made it a magnet for end users.  That something was degrees of freedom.  Freedom to explore.  Freedom to experiment.  Freedom to organize work in new ways.  Degrees of freedom are what made Napoleon, Napoleon.  As Napoleon was the first battlefield commander to harness literacy.  Instead of Napoleon staying up 24×7, pages that came in to headquarters reported to secretaries, who filed their reports in a file cabinet.  This allowed Napoleon to sleep, that is, to retain all his IQ points while processing information from the battle.  Seems like a little thing, but how we can record, store, and share information, underpins the architecture of how we work.   

    On Evernote:

    Being a 6 year customer of Synology, I’m hoping that Synology will smell opportunity and build an program for NASes that does what Evernote does.  If Synology could have DropBox and Evernote capabilities merged into one server, that would be sweet.  

    Have you heard about Amazon’s new “Whispersync for Voice” service?  This allows your Kindle Fire HD to “human read” if you buy a Kindle book with Whispersync for Voice.  Or, if you own both the Audible and Kindle versions of the book.  Amazon owns Audible, Amazon owns Kindle, now they are tapping the Audible/Kindle interaction.  

    If Synology keeps on pushing NAS capabilities outside the box, watch out! 

    Hope this helps! 

    bill meade 




    Random 3×5 card/desk … like water cam


    Random 3×5 card/desk … like water cam

    I’ve got a great GTD flow going this morning!  Off to school for meetings this afternoon, but I have the 3×5 card + upgraded desk working together.  When I’m working at this desk, I’m smiling.  

    How do you feel about your desk?  

    Have a great flow-filled GTD afternoon!!!! 

    bill meade 

    p.s., Here is what happens to the cards when I move to the other office: Step 1 gathering … 

    D3M 5358

    Step 2: keeping separate 


    GTD: Before and After

    GETTING THINGS DONE (hereafter GTD) has had a big impact on me.  As witness, this post shows as much of the before/after GTD as I can articulate, it will evolve as I refine the post into enough detail to please visual learners (you know who you are John Nieberall!).

    Question 1: What is GTD?

    To my mind, GTD is a brain hack. GTD may look like a self help book, it may feel like a religious cult.  But, GTD is an approach to organizing that helps you shop around for tools that allow productivity with a peacefulness.

    GTD is important because life does not come with an owner’s manual that says “get organized in a sustainable high performance way.”  So people go through school, work, phd programs (I did all three) and never spend a day getting organized beyond coping with the next deadline.

    Here is the GTD architecture diagram taken from the PDF accompanying the Audible version of GTD:

    TrustedSystem03 pptx 5

    Question 2: What did your life/office look like before GTD (circa 2009)?



    In the garage, I also had a 5 drawer horizontal filing cabinet with 94,000 pages of journal articles, research data, and miscellaneous documents that were too good to throw out but not good enough to use.  Here is the filing cabinet in the garage next to the Y2K water barrel.

    D3M 6097

    Question 3: What does your life/desk look like after GTD?


    Note that this desk is: (1) large 6′ x 35″, (2) clutter free from the surface up 6″, (3) canted (the front edge is 1″ closer to the floor than the back edge.  I will write more posts on desks and their requirements as taking back my desk was a key stepping stone for implementing GTD.

    <<Aside>> the most up to date “after” desk picture is available in the Dungeon Desk post.

    Next comes my physical filing system (Target totes) with 5″ book ends in the tote if there are not enough manilla folders to completely fill the tote:

    TrustedSystem03 pptx 3 1

    D3M 2955

    D3M 2956

    But, over the years, I’m using fewer and fewer of these totes, and shifting the vast majority of my projects into electronic formats. The reason for this is Evernote. Go buy Evernote. Do it. Do it now!

    Nothing has helped me to stay on the GTD wagon more than Evernote. Makes it easier to file documents correctly, than to deal with the clutter, loss, and despair of messy papers.

    So while before GTD had the 5 drawer horizontal file cabinet, after GTD I have a modified GTD system:

    TrustedSystem03 pptx 1

    To get from paper to Evernote I raked through the 94,000 pages of paper in the file cabinet, and ask myself for each document “Will there ever be a next action for this document?” 80% of the documents were instant “No!” and they went straight into recycling.  The 20% that were yes or maybe, were 17,500 pages which I scanned in a week on my Fujitsu ScanSnap.

    Here is my annual capture of reference file information.  The median monthly count of documents captured for the first three years of my using Evernote, is 65.  For the most recent 3 years, the median is 164 documents per month.

    Many of the documents I capture in evernote are web pages, the Evernote Webclipper and Evernote Clearly browser add ins have become indispensable for me. I’ve capture 3,336 documents via Web Clipper (to see how many you’ve captured type source:web.clip* in Evernote’s search box). The total for Clearly is 1,441 documents captured (source:clearly*). I use Web Clipper whenever I need to assign the notebook the document needs to be placed in.

    Here is my cumulative Evernote document count over the 57 months I’ve been doing GTD.  The jumps happen as I have scanned and recycled, as I Evernote has lifted limits on file sizes, as I’ve moved, and often, when I start a new job. I have 48 gigabytes of information in Evernote as of 2014/10/01. But I’ve paid just $45 a year, which has felt like rounding error. Nothing.


    My final offering to the visual learner on Before/After GTD is a worksheet that covers more pieces of my system (GTDInfrastructureEvolution01b.xlsx):


    Here is a summary view of how I am doing GTD after 3 years:


    See also 5 years of subsequent GTD system evolution in GTD Time Lapse.