GTD Time-Lapse

In the beginning, I was disorganized, no GTD, no Evernote, no OmniFocus, no Dropbox, no OneNote. My desk looked like this:

TrustedSystemgenerations01_pptx

Then I went from no GTD to GTD via Paper and Evernote:

GTD03_ppt

My desk changed to this:

TrustedSystemgenerations01_pptx 3

Then, I got really excited, and went to a 100% digital GTD system via Omnifocus:

TrustedSystemgenerations01_pptx 4

This is the first time I fell off the GTD wagon. I could not stand to sit down at my desk. The feeling of drowning by binary proxy kept me out of my organized office and away from my organized desk. Ugh! But the seeds of RestartGTD.com were born. Somewhere I’m POSITIVE I heard (via Audible copies of his books) David Allen say “If you get too organized, your brain will refuse to use your system.”

I refactored, cut back the role of Omnifocus, got a new job, Evernoted/digitized the 94,000 pages of notes I had from my Ph.D. and went to a hybrid paper and digital system that looked like this:

TrustedSystemgenerations01_pptx 5

And my four desks looked like this:

TrustedSystemgenerations01_pptx 6

Then as I experimented with my system and changed jobs I :

  • Dropped Dropbox for Google drive when I bought a ChromeBook. Google drive is not even in the same league as Dropbox as far as reliability goes, but I’ve stayed with Google drive and Google Apps for simplicity’s sake.
  • Added OneNote to keep work notes separate from home notes. This has actually facilitated manila folders as OneNote makes it *trivial* to print all my tabs (virtual manila folders) and put them into real labeled GTD manila folders.
  • Kept 3×5 cards. They are indispensable for organizing. Laying a large number of cards out on a big table, then re-arranging them into thematic clumps, is the most powerful project organization tool that I possess. *Note* to OneNote and Evernote folks, please please please add 3×5 cards and a flexible user interface for re-arranging cards to your programs!!!!!
  • Kept manila folders. In my new job, I can see my boss relax when I pull out a folder that has an updated project plan in it. And once she saw that she could look in one place for my project list and see what is going on, again, I could visibly see her relax.
  • Kept eMail.

So my system now looks like this:

TrustedSystemgenerations01_pptx 7

And my dungeon desk looks like this:

IMG_20140104_143951.jpg

Thoughts on Tools:

  • OmniFocus is an awesome tool. If you are going to implement GTD to the letter, I don’t think there is a better software package. But I learned that implementing GTD to the letter is not for my brain. But there is TREMENDOUS power in OmniFocus if it is for you.
  • Evernote has been with me since the beginning of my GTD journey. I remember listening to David Allen say “the lack of a good general-reference system can be one of the greatest obstacles to implementing a personal management system” (p. 95 Kindle L1500) and realizing “Evernote! I can use Evernote to be my reference filing system!” You see I had Evernote before I read GTD, I just did not have a use model for it, because I did not appreciate how critical reference filing is to GTD.
  • Evernote keeps adding tools. Some of them are wonky (Evernote Hello for example), but Web ClipperClearly, and Skitch have been game changers for me. Evernote has also gradually increased the kinds of files that it indexes (Word for example was a pain before Evernote started indexing it), and the handwriting recognition is slowly improving. The growth of Evernote’s tool set has kept me loyal as I know I don’t need to jump ship for the latest slick tool. Probably, this reticence kept me for too long from trying OneNote again. I was on the beta team for OneNote 1.0 and getting a change made to the program was like trying to teach a pig to sing.
  • Dropbox is also an awesome tool. But it was (a) too expensive and (b) to focused on single users, at the time I adopted it. Dropbox too is adding tools, but unlike Evernote, Dropbox has not added tools at the point of most intense need for me, and built out from there. I’m sure to Dropbox, Evernote’s file replication must look plebeian, a pale copy of Dropbox with a different user interface. But to me, Dropbox is infrastructure first, and OneNote and Evernote are tools first, with backing infrastructure.
  • OneNote has surprised me. The community of kindred minds around OneNote is much larger than Evernote. And OneNote has the same wonderful enthusiasm of Apple products and Evernote, among its users. OneNote has many of the same over-structured limits as Evernote, only 1 level of sub folders, for example. But, the user interface and the integration with Microsoft Office are freeing to my mind. And, I can’t wait to investigate OneNote add-ins. Evernote’s add-ins are a pallid picture of the promise of its API. More on OneNote as I delve deeper.
  • Google Apps and Google Drive have converted me. I’m now keeping my evolving documents (like resume) on Google drive. I’ve had to delete and re-download my stored files three times. And when I look into my Google Drive folders now, I’m often missing files, finding renamed folders that indicate Google Drive has a problem with becoming confused. Dropbox has none of these issues. So I do miss being able to have confidence in my cloud storage. But I’m careful, back up A LOT, and limp through.
  • Google Now. Another fun surprise. Google now reads my emails and then puts notifications on my phone and in my web browser automatically. This is a huge help for my absent mindedness (call me “Dr. Spaz” please).

Where GTDers are on our own.

David Allen does not recommend technology. Technology is too fad-y I suspect. So we are on our own in sharing experiences and frustrations. And, in dealign with providers like Evernote and MicroSoft and OmniGroup in advocating for GTD-helpful features.

GTDers are also on our own figuring out how to separate work and personal trusted systems. “When you’re trying to make a living there ain’t no such thing as pride.” Richard Marx – Don’t Mean Nothing Lyrics | MetroLyrics. And when you are in the middle or the bottom of a big company, keeping separate personal and work trusted system is a key survival skill.

What is Evernote Web Clipper?

How_to_use_Evernote_Web_Clipper___EvernoteWeb Clipper is …

Evernote has a web page at https://evernote.com/webclipper/guide/#1 that shows you how Web Clipper works, and, what you can do with Web Clipper. I have not read Evernote’s entire web site, but it seems to me that Evernote is as meticulous about not mentioning GETTING THINGS DONE as David Allen is meticulous in avoiding mentioning electronic technology. The purpose of this post is to explore the roles Evernote Web Clipper can play in a GTD trusted system.

*Aside* David Allen is the master of the game of organizing. I yield to no one in admiration for the refined, focused, and effective system that Allen has made GTD.

But …

… if I were David Allen, I would be pushing a two “gateway” technology tools to catalyze GTD implementation. For example:

  • Dual-sided-single-pass-50-page-input-scanners. Currently the ScanSnap iX500 is the top rated scanner in customer satisfaction (based on Amazon revues). A professional scanner is a gateway technology because it allows you to get paper out of your face. My 94,000 page massive filing system took four long afternoons to import to computer.
  • Evernote. Because once you have all the atoms of your “might-have-a-next-action” converted to electrons, you need a way to Google your electrons to find documents as you need them. I wish that Evernote had competitors, but right now, there just are none.

Zooming Out …

There are three GTD universes that trusted systems need to interact with: atoms, bits universe (email, web pages), and images (physical stuff reduced to bits or images):

BlogGraphics02_pptxThe reason we have headaches about all the stuff we have to do, is that all the objects in all three of these domains will live in our brain if we do not have a better way to manage them.  GTD is a better way to manage all the “stuff” objects in these three realms, but implementing GTD is hard.  Why is implementing GTD hard?

  1. Because we have to recognize all the stuff that we are carrying around in our subconscious. For example, how many projects do you have? Common answer “10 or 12” actual answer >300. Understanding how one is organized before GTD, is sure to overwhelm.
  2. Because to get all the objects in our subconscious out of minds, we have to take their real-world counter parts (atoms, bits, and images) and move them into a trusted system.
  3. Because we have to build a trusted system before we move anything.
  4. Because we are afraid we will “do it wrong” when building our trusted system.
  5. Because doing steps 1 through 3 is exhausting and it takes a pretty big investment to accomplish these steps. And, life does not stand still while doing steps 1-3.

What does this have to do with Evernote Web Clipper?

Glad you asked!!! Because Evernote Web Clipper is the principal means of moving important “bits stuff” from the world, into your Evernote database.

This image is an idealization of how the world should work to on-ramp stuff-with-next-actions (STNA) into an Evernote reference file system.

BlogGraphics02_pptx 2

Q: What is Evernote Web Clipper?

A: The principal on-ramp to move bits from the world into your Evernote database.

Q: Why is this a big deal?

A: Because when you have captured the bits your subconscious is diligently not-forgetting, and your sub conscious sees that it can trust your system. Your brain will go through the-mother-of-all-defrags and you will reclaim massive quantities of now-empty memory slots to renew your creativity and amplify focus power.

In this analogy, why is a scanner so important? Because a scanner is an on-ramp for all your paper into your Evernote Database. And, once the atoms have been turned to bits and brought into Evernote, you can recycle the atoms and gain two physical degree of freedom over your work environment: (1) Elimination of clutter, and (2) Rearrangement freedom as you can CraigsListFree your file cabinets and take back tons of office space. And, you reclaim memory slots increasing creativity and amplifying focus power.

What about Web Clipper on tablets and Smart Phones? It appears that Evernote has not gotten there yet. So Evernote gets a Janus (my little marker for stuff that isn’t in Evernote yet, but I find does make it in over time) as I predict this will happen.

800px-Janus1Source: Wikipedia

I did find, however, Jonathan Mergy’s web site where he has a workaround to simulate Evernote Web Clipper for iPhones and iPads. I am an Android, so I have not tested this. But once you install Web Clipper and get accustomed to it, you instinctively reach to click on Web Clipper when you are using your phone or tablet.

bill meade


Appendix A: Basic How Tos:

To see several of the things Web Clipper can do:

  • Go to https://evernote.com/webclipper/guide/#1

 

 

 

 

 

GTD Technology Advice: Which NAS should I buy?

… and what is a NAS anyway?

I received the following question from a restartgtd reader who works in a small business:

Been doing some homework on Synology and CRM. 
Love that OpenERP andSugarCRM are both available
as modules. Based on specs and pricing, I'm
leaning toward the DS214+ box 
(https://www.synology.com/en-global/products/spec/DS214+).

Any thoughts?

Letter Writer

Before I get to advice, I’d like to describe why this reader and I are talking about Synology’s NAS products and not some other brand.

In the beginning …

I first *touched* a Synology NAS in September of 2009. At the time I was writing a review of Synology’s CS-406 (and their first) NAS product. NAS is an acronym that means “Networked Attached Storage.” What NASes do today, used to be addomplished by big expensive servers. For example, managing electronic mail used to be done with servers. Today, NASes manage email. FTP used to be managed by servers, today FTP is managed by NAS devices. CRM (Customer Relationship Management) used to be done on servers, today you can run CRM from a NAS.

In fact, it gets better. Not only can you use your NAS to run email, FTP, and CRM, you can run all three services, and more, simultaneously. Computers and disk drives are so fast now, server work is fast shifting to appliances like network attached storage. This is a big win for small business information technology!

Back to Synology’s NAS. Here is the cover picture I took of Synology’s NAS on my bookshelf in 2006.

synologycs406books1Source: SmallNetBuilder.com

Impressive:

The more I used the Synology NAS, the more impressed I became with the product. Having worked at Hewlett-Packard’s LaserJet group in new product management, I appreciate well developed firmware. And the more I used the Synology product, the more impressed I became with Synology’s firmware.

At first I was impressed that the NAS did not crash. Then, I was impressed with how future looking the feature set was (downloading bit torrents handed off from a laptop in 2006!). And then, when the NAS had proved itself as a solid performer, I began to attempt to trick the NAS into failure. I could not.

What the NAS felt like was firmware that was so strong that anyone could jump on it and not collapse it. It recalled to mind a story from a friend of mine. Her grandfather entered a design contest in West Virginia to build a bridge. When it was time to be interviewed about his design, he took a scale model of the bridge, set each end on a chair, and then stood on the model. And he won the contract.

Synology’s firmware, felt like the bridge between the chairs.

Why?

How could a 1.0 NAS be so solid? Well, it turns out there is a back story. Synology’s founders wanted to have the first software company in Taiwan. And to start their company, they landed a contract with a big Japanese company making enterprise disk arrays. And the software they picked to develop first, was enterprise RAID.

OK, I won’t torture you with the details of what RAID is. The point of brining up RAID is that it may be the hardest software problem to solve in enterprise software. Synology was crazy to start with enterprise RAID. But, that is where the DS-406 NAS came from. After tiring of enterprise hard drive companies, Synology designed its own hardware and moved its RAID software to their own NAS.

So What?

This story is why I begin this post with Synology. Synology started out with a lead in software quality and functionality, and it has pressed its advantage ever since. Simple, Synology in my opinion is the best possible network attached storage device on the market.

Back to the Advice … which Synology NAS should I buy?

Hey!

There is a strong inclination with the synology boxes
to buy way more than is needed, and thus, to spend 1.5x
as much as is needed. Or, more.

The important thing about Synology is, they are all the
same software, just different processors. The slowest
unit (DS411slim) is plenty fast for Prink for the next
couple years.

So I'd *nudge* you down in cost to the DS214se at $159
you throw 2 hard drives in and you have an 
indistinguishable product from the $369 DS214+. 
"Slower" = Supports only 20 people instead of 50.

If you want to install and play with the CRM software,
I cordially invite you to come over and play with my
DS508 and get a feel for it. My experience with OpenERP
is that the learning curve is a bitch. The support
materials are like man pages that cover about 20% of
what one needs to learn.

OpenERP also runs on Win 7 so you could take an old
turkey box and put it up on that. See if you like it.
But, the Synology does way more (private encrypted
cloud, media crap, email running, etc. etc. etc.) than
a base Windows or Linux box.

For example, if you wanted to move off Google (Yay yay
NSA!) you could move most of the services to a Synology
box (maybe spreadsheet and docs too, but I don't know).

bill

Isn’t saving money by buying less speed … risky?

No. As I said in my advice email, the slowest NAS these days is easily fast enough to service a small company. In fact, I think that Synology is hurting itself in a way, because they allow customers to buy more expensive equipment than is required.

Think about it. You buy a $200 NAS (bottom of Synology’s line) and you love it. Great story. But I think that so many NAS buyers are first time purchasers, that having too big a product line, has the unintended consequence of keeping a lot of potential customers on the pre-purchase fence. Choice has been shown to be de-motivating (PDF).

“I’ll just wait for the next product update by Synology.” or “I’ll wait until I have the incremental $150 to buy the black model instead of the tan model.” NASes are new, and it is hard to buy a new product category for the first time. Excuses easily satisfy fearful buyers who make them.

In closing, I would point potential NAS purchasers to this FANTASTIC product review of Synology’s DS213j. Have no fear.

bill meade

Ray tracing for electronic mail!

BlogGraphics02_pptx“Waxfogram” High Resolution

 

 

 

Introduction:

I found a post by Michael Waxman via Hacker News (my #1 source) this morning. I started this post with the idea that I would just write a couple sentences and then post the link to Michael’s article. But before I did that, I started reading carefully and there are so many moving parts, I had to build my own (Waxman + infogram =) Waxfogram to boil the email methodology down to something understandable.

Ray Tracing:

When I taught MBAs and engineers in St. Louis, I had one off-the-scale-genius who introduced me to ray tracing. And as I studied Michael’s post, then looked at the programs and tricks he is employing, I began thinking of incoming messages as rays.

This then led me to think of Waxman’s tools in three categories: before-inbox, within-inbox, and without-an-inbox. This table breaks down all the tools Waxman discusses into these categories:

BlogGraphics02_pptx

 

GTD Interpretation:

None of what Michael Waxman did in his email contradicts GETTING THINGS DONE. David Allen repeatedly talks about controlling the information that you allow to come into your life and inbox. But, Waxman has creatively extended the idea of controlling input. Using Unroll.me and Sanebox (and even arguably outbound only email, since not seeing your inbox prevents unwanted distraction from incoming email) are all input control tools.

I’ve always ass-u-me-ed GTD as something I do after “stuff” arrives in my inbox. But Michael Waxman’s system and explanation caused me to question this and reminded me to be more creative.

Enjoy!

bill meade