Invitation to a free “Getting Re/Started with Getting Things done” Workshop

 

ALPFA Portland Get Things Done and Increase Productivity Eventbrite

https://alpfa-productivity.eventbrite.com/#

Hey!

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! 

bill meade
drop me an email (bill@basicip.com) if you have any questions  

“Just a small fire on the motherboard”

Introduction:

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.  :-( 

But …

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. 

I hate VESA adapters!

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:

D3M 6001

Now, here is a closer shot: 

D3M 6003

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: 

D3M 5996

D3M 6000

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: 

NewImage

With a closeup to the vertical holes on the upside down iMac stand:

NewImage

So, what does the iMac look like to work with?  Great question! Here it is: 

D3M 5991

D3M 5992

D3M 5993

D3M 5995

Anyone with a new iMac 27″ that wants to use the Innovative 7500-HD stand, drop me an email (bill@basicip.com) and I’ll be happy to converse with you and share.  

Bill Meade 

 

 

 

Perfect GTD desk +1

Screenshot 12 19 12 4 53 PM 2

Introduction:

Confession:

I’ve been holding out on http://RestartGTD.com.  :-(

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.

And

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:

NewImage

Source: MissionMission.org

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!

Improvements

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 http:restartgtd.com 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 bill@basicip.com 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 Amazon.com from this link!

 

bill meade

In Box Zero Disease: A conversation from RestartGTD Part 4

Introduction:

This post is part 4 of a discussion that evolved out of the observation that when some GTDers get to InBox-Zero, they get sick immediately after.  “InBox-Zero-Disease” is the name we’ve developed for this.  The idea of coming up to, but not all the way through InBox-Zero, to avoid InBox-Zero disease sparked a discussion of self-reprogramming to avoid falling off the GTD wagon.

Dave Findlay’s words are in bold left justified.  Bill Meade’s responses are not-bold and are indented from left by one tab stop.  Hope you enjoy!

From: Bill Meade <bill@basicip.com>
Subject: Re: Thanks for blogging on Restart GTD
Date: November 2, 2012 3:33:54 PM PDT
To: Dave Findlay <david@findlay.id.au>

On Oct 30, 2012, at 6:18 PM, Dave Findlay <david@findlay.id.au> wrote:

Hi Bill,

Thanks for writing back! I wasn’t expecting a comprehensive reply with an essay like that. You’ve raised some interesting thoughts:

The thoughts come naturally from conversations and sharing.  I wish RestartGTD had more sharing (*hint* *hint*).  I love it when readers write in and ask questions (*hint* *hint*).  I don’t have great answers, but I’m willing to look stupid in order to move my GTD implementation forward.

– When you talk about “beating the world for traffic”, I think of crunchy blogs full of “top ten lists” and 400-word click-bait articles that don’t say anything. I’m so glad restartgtd isn’t one of those.

I’m glad that someone thinks it is *not* one of THOSE BLOGS!!!

– Great advice on avoiding the trigger while capturing most of the benefit. I’ll give that a go — an almost-there weekly review in good health is way better than an immaculate review and being unwell.

Getting to the cuttinge edge of “mind like water” has been a very slowly acquired skill for me.  I’m doing a two-step dance between my GTD infrastructure, and how my brain thinks.  Gradually, I’m evolving from a sporatic mind-like-water to episodes in GTD flow that are becoming longer.  GTD is re-programming that takes time.  I advise newbies to GTD to not read chapters 4-end of GTD.  Just to get the basic model, and then get reference filing under control.  I have not been able to reprogram all of my brain subsystems, at once.  So I think one GTD thing is enough to change at a time.

– What we would actually do once we arrived at panic-free work. That’s a fascinating insight. I’d always thought that “If only I could get all this finished …” but I wouldn’t have a clue what to do upon arriving at “finished”, due to the behind-as-normal phenomenon you mentioned. So, we’re conditioned in so many ways to strive for something (getting our work done), and also programmed to self-sabotage our efforts to attain it.

I could really feel the tension between getting my mind cleared, and then allowing old habits to kick in and derail GTD, when I first started trying to implement it.  I think our counter GTD habits are school-driven, work-driven, family-driven, competition-driven, to always be on, always having the distilled essence of our genius flow neatly and continuously from our mouths/fingers/pens/keyboards.  This perpetual trying harder gets in the way of an optimized evolutionary path of increasing organization.

Insidious! No wonder falling off the GTD bandwagon is so common — it’s like we have to get down deep and rewrite some of our internal scripts before we have a hope of staying on it for any length of time. This, then, might be the real work of sticking with GTD: rewriting the scripts that make you fall off (converting away from being a herd animal, like you mentioned).

*Ding* *ding* *ding* this is the kind of insights that I’m after!  Great observation Dave!!!

Yes, we should be talking on RestartGTD about:
• Identifying habits that run us off the GTD wagon.
• Ideas and techniques about how to re-program these habits (i.e., re-write the scripts).
• Philosophical approaches to re-programming.  NLP, wack-a-mole, whatever…

Not sure exactly how to do this, other than maybe to approach it obliquely by asking related questions until we reach the AHA! moment, or introducing ourselves to small GTD wins to prove it’s not so scary.

Stopping bad habits is one piece of the puzzle.  But I think also, that GTD people should be talking about the trial and error changes we make, and why our brains decide to, or not to, adopt the changes.

For example: I’ve talked before about my initial “cut over” from mess to GTD via putting my entire work and thought life into OmniFocus.  After a few days of having my entire world waiting for me when I sat down to my desk, I found that I was avoiding sitting down to my desk.  Then, relistening to GTD I *think* I heard Allen say “If you get too organized, your brain will refuse to use your system.”  But, I’ve not been able to put my finger on the page number.

Since then, I’ve evolved my GTD system by:

  • Cutting 100% back to 8.5×11 paper
  • Cutting 100% over to 3×5 cards
  • Dropping the use of contexts for task lists
  • Adding manila folders in “clumps” (i.e., the Target Totes where I keep related folders)
  • Falling REALLY HARD for Salvatore Sanfilippo’s daily, weekly, monthly, task tracking format which I added “eventually” to in lieu of a “someday mabye” bucket. And unlike Salvatore, I don’t use this format in Evernote, instead I’m using it in OmniFocus.

So, I’ve ended up with about a 70% electronic system.  My brain didn’t like 100% electronic 3 years ago, however, it is ok with my 70% electronic system today.  Over time I feel like my brain has aspects of a pendulum swinging first to 100% elctronic and then when it gets some experiece, swinging back to paper, then settling in to the right of middle.

Fitting new infrastructure tools into our GTD routine is a separate function from re-programming bad habits.

As for Task Zero … I’ve never been there. I’ll have to try it and see what happens, although having now framed it like this, observer bias will probably make it much less interesting.

As I said, I’ve had students email me after.  I have friends call me when they were approaching task-zero.  Both kinds of email ask me “What should I do.”  And I think the answer is reflect on what you are feeling mentally, and if you can, why.  This is a great skill taught in INNER PRODUCTIVITY in order to track down reasons for procrastination.  I think reflection *might* allow us to drill into why being caught up makes us uncomfortable.  And then, to what the source habits of the “always behind” mentality are.  This too, we should be talking about on RestartGTD.  But again, the conversation is too one sided.  Help me out anyone?  Please?

– Trying harder as a vestigial function. Haha! It’s true — and we’re in a great place when we realise “trying harder” to handle the constant load of inputs cannot be done. The firehose can’t be switched off, partly because so much stuff is open-ended. You get assigned a project, and nobody has defined what “finished” looks like, so you get all visionary, thinking “I could really go for it and create something world class with this project”, and in so doing we create extra inputs and agreements for ourselves.

In addition to finish-line uncertainty, I’m certain we have too many projects.  I know I do.  In GTD when I saw that the average person has 100 projects, I had a leap of recognition.  But killing projects before they can damage your schedule, energy, and mental work load is a skill I need.  Projects are just easier to accurately cull in retrospect once they have starved to death.

Then the lizard brain tries harder and quickly succumbs to overwhelm.

The lizard brain is the “Limbic system” which is at the top of the spinal cord.  It is the center of self knowledge and the center of emotion (I remember reading this but can’t think of the cite, forgive me please).  Our self knowledge increases reluctantly when we need to learn things about ourselves, that are upsetting.  Like “Why my wife divorced me.”  10 years later the realization “I was an asshole to her.”

Does some of this “upsetting=reluctant learning” apply to our understanding of GTD?

  • It can be upsetting when you realize how disorganized your life has been.
  • It can be upsetting to have to re-negotiate your identity not as a spazmodic participant in your own life, but as an active cause of your own life’s evolution.
  • It can be upsetting having to face up to negative criticisms “You would be awesome if you could ever get your mind under control!” we’ve had over our lives.  Especially when these criticisms are true.

– You talked about your next GTD challenge being to create a feedback mechanism to help you regulate the amount of work you handle (really, the volume of inputs you choose to address?).

In thinking about this for a couple days, I think there are two issues: First, having a closed loop feedback signal that indicates when I should turn off.  For example, not having enough time to exercise would be a good signal for me.  Not having enough time to entertain friends.  Not having time to spin down.  I’ve always taught my kids that “Meades need downtime every day.”  but I have not been practicing what I preach.

And in addition to time feedback.  I think I need a second feedback signal directly at “sources of escalation.” For example, jobs are always wringer-cranker-uppers.  I think I need a bright line in the sand agreement to shut down when the job escalates.

So, when I feel an escalation of stress and work (escalation and stress come hand in hand), I need to stop.  Rethink.  Move the fulcrum over.

Is work this kind of stressor for you Dave?

That’s tricky. I guess most people (men, especially) don’t find out they’re doing too much until their wife complains they’re never around, or their kids react/rebel, or they develop a chronic health condition. The only way I could think of to regulate that is indirectly, by putting some external speed-limiting measure in place, like the number of hours you choose to work. That might not create a quantifiable feedback signal (“work left over on Friday afternoon” isn’t useful once you’re tackling bigger projects, and several at a time), but it’d lead to intuitive regulation — over time either you have too much to do so you’re forced to cut back, or you feel like you’ve got extra capacity so you look for areas to expand in. I could be oversimplifying.

This is a great example.  I’ve always had jobs where I was home at the time the kids got out of school.  Then until after dinner when I went back to school to teach in the evening.  I could not have raised a small children while working at HP.  The norms of “be at your desk, always be in a meeting” were overpowering.

Right now, I’m working on never getting to the point where if Beth calls, I say “I’m sorry, can’t do that, too slammed.”  Beth called me on “playing the slammed card” a couple weeks ago, and it was way-useful for me to start attacking the pace at which I’m working.

– Feel free to post the email on your blog. It’d be interesting to see what comes of it. Feel free also to edit for brevity and flow as needed.

You are not the long winded one, … I am.  :-)

– There’s only one winery around here, and no Zinfandel that I’m aware of — but some of that is grown a little further south in the Granite Belt region around Stanthorpe. I’m not well versed on fine wines (coffee is my gourmet drug of choice), so you’d be welcome for a visit if you’re in the area. It’d be an education for me.

That is right, Zinfandel likes to be stressed and grow on rocks.  Gourmet coffee will work just fine!

Mel-bunn. Hehe, it should be renamed according to tech startup naming conventions: Melbn. Then we’d be pronouncing it right.

LOL thanks for the tip!

Thanks again for the correspondence.

It is a pleasure corresponding about GTD!  I hope others (*Hint* RestartGTD readers!) will join in, and that we all benefit from the communion of kindred minds!

bill meade

Warm regards,

Dave

In Box Zero Disease: A conversation from RestartGTD Part 3

Hi Bill,

Thanks for writing back! I wasn’t expecting a comprehensive reply with an essay like that. You’ve raised some interesting thoughts:

– When you talk about “beating the world for traffic”, I think of crunchy blogs full of “top ten lists” and 400-word click-bait articles that don’t say anything. I’m so glad restartgtd isn’t one of those.

– Great advice on avoiding the trigger while capturing most of the benefit. I’ll give that a go — an almost-there weekly review in good health is way better than an immaculate review and being unwell.

– What we would actually do once we arrived at panic-free work. That’s a fascinating insight. I’d always thought that “If only I could get all this finished …” but I wouldn’t have a clue what to do upon arriving at “finished”, due to the behind-as-normal phenomenon you mentioned. So, we’re conditioned in so many ways to strive for something (getting our work done), and also programmed to self-sabotage our efforts to attain it. Insidious! No wonder falling off the GTD bandwagon is so common — it’s like we have to get down deep and rewrite some of our internal scripts before we have a hope of staying on it for any length of time. This, then, might be the real work of sticking with GTD: rewriting the scripts that make you fall off (converting away from being a herd animal, like you mentioned). Not sure exactly how to do this, other than maybe to approach it obliquely by asking related questions until we reach the AHA! moment, or introducing ourselves to small GTD wins to prove it’s not so scary.

As for Task Zero … I’ve never been there. I’ll have to try it and see what happens, although having now framed it like this, observer bias will probably make it much less interesting.

– Trying harder as a vestigial function. Haha! It’s true — and we’re in a great place when we realise “trying harder” to handle the constant load of inputs cannot be done. The firehose can’t be switched off, partly because so much stuff is open-ended. You get assigned a project, and nobody has defined what “finished” looks like, so you get all visionary, thinking “I could really go for it and create something world class with this project”, and in so doing we create extra inputs and agreements for ourselves. Then the lizard brain tries harder and quickly succumbs to overwhelm.

– You talked about your next GTD challenge being to create a feedback mechanism to help you regulate the amount of work you handle (really, the volume of inputs you choose to address?). That’s tricky. I guess most people (men, especially) don’t find out they’re doing too much until their wife complains they’re never around, or their kids react/rebel, or they develop a chronic health condition. The only way I could think of to regulate that is indirectly, by putting some external speed-limiting measure in place, like the number of hours you choose to work. That might not create a quantifiable feedback signal (“work left over on Friday afternoon” isn’t useful once you’re tackling bigger projects, and several at a time), but it’d lead to intuitive regulation — over time either you have too much to do so you’re forced to cut back, or you feel like you’ve got extra capacity so you look for areas to expand in. I could be oversimplifying.

– Feel free to post the email on your blog. It’d be interesting to see what comes of it. Feel free also to edit for brevity and flow as needed.

– There’s only one winery around here, and no Zinfandel that I’m aware of — but some of that is grown a little further south in theGranite Belt region around Stanthorpe. I’m not well versed on fine wines (coffee is my gourmet drug of choice), so you’d be welcome for a visit if you’re in the area. It’d be an education for me.

Mel-bunn. Hehe, it should be renamed according to tech startup naming conventions: Melbn. Then we’d be pronouncing it right.

Thanks again for the correspondence.

Warm regards,

Dave

David Allen 2 minute 30 second Audio Podcast: How to get back on the wagon (Allen’s title = “At least you have a wagon”)

Snapshot 10 31 12 11 21 AM 10 31 12Source: Amazon.com

Introduction:

Click here for a David Allen audio podcast on getting back on the GTD bandwagon.  Interesting high points:

  • Allen says even he falls off the GTD wagon
  • Keys to getting back on the GTD
  • Give yourself permission to get back on the wagon
  • Block the world out
  • Sit down
  • Just do it
  • Getting back on the wagon is not that hard, not nearly as hard a starting GTD

Give yourself permission?

When I heard Allen say this, I immediately thought of a children’s book, “The Story About Ping” BY Flack and Wiese (1933).  From Wikipedia here is the plot:

Ping is the name of a domesticated duck who lives on a riverboat on the Yangtze River in China. He gets sent out every morning to forage along the river with his relatives, and is expected back every evening. The last duck on the boat would get a swat with a stick and one day he is the last duck. He is afraid to return and spends the night on shore. When he awakens his boat is gone and he is soon caught by a boy on another boat where he worries about becoming their dinner. After some time the boy lets Ping go just as all his duck relatives are getting back on Ping’s boat nearby. Ping rejoins his family and happily receives the last duck swat.

And also from Wikipedia I learned that Captain Kangaroo read  “The Story About Ping” once a week for 17 years (along with Stone SoupMike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, and The Little Engine That Could  all of which had longer runs on Captain Kangaroo).  I suspect the Captain taught me The Story About Ping! :-)

Mapping The Story About Ping to RestartingGTD:

  • Fear of the swat
    • = fear of weekly review and/or
    • = fear of letting go of denial and admitting “I am off the wagon” and/or
    • = fear of “THE SCARY INBOX”
    • Shutterstock 6126868 Source: Purchased from Shutterstock
  • Night on shore and the boat is gone
    • = Denying being off the wagon by ‘legitimate’ distractions
    • = Beginning to work without a trusted system because of guilt
    • = Old nightmares about being someone’s “dinner” return
    • = fear of getting back on the wagon being just as hard as starting up GTD for the first time
  • Back with family and taking the swat
    • = If you can just sit down do whatever you are fearing, the swat is surprisingly small
    • = Once you are home it is very good … mind like water on the water … GTD without quack ups … I could go on ….

bill meade

In Box Zero Disease: A conversation from RestartGTD Part 2

From: Bill Meade bill@basicip.com
Subject: Re: Thanks for blogging on Restart GTD
Date: October 30, 2012 1:11:07 PM PDT
To: Dave Findlay <david@findlay.id.au>

On Oct 30, 2012, at 4:32 AM, Dave Findlay <david@findlay.id.au> wrote:

Hi Bill,

Just thought I’d drop you a quick note to say Thank You! for writing your restartGTD blog. I’ve found it helpful with all the practical details of (re)implementing my own GTD system.

Thank you for writing.  The blog is not beating the world for traffic, so I continue to write the articles I wish that I had read and could read.  Every time I start down writing an article, I develop new GTD ideas.  I’m having a blast.  I’m glad you are enjoying it as well.

As a brief background on the GTD journey of one of your regular readers, I first found GTD at age 25 (I’m 29 now), when I was working as the sole paraplanner in a busy financial planning office. I found it through a search borne of desperation — I was working long days, had weeks of work piled up, no possibility of outsourcing or hiring extra help due to some extenuating circumstances within the company, and my huge backlog was starting to cost the company money. I figured I was a few weeks away from a nervous breakdown, and implementing GTD offered immediate and spectacular relief, even though I did it poorly at the time.

Since that first experience, my GTD adherence has waxed and waned over the following four years, meaning a month or so of great GTD hygeine, followed by a 6-12 week period of gradually slacking off, usually followed by some high-stress event, like missing a deadline or getting caught short somewhere and having to pull an all-nighter or work over a weekend, followed by an all-day session relocating the handlebars of my GTD system, etc. Kind of like the Book of Judges on repeat, hehe.

Since reading your blog, I’ve taken the plunge and sourced a ScanSnap S1500M, which has significantly streamlined my filing, and I’ve also switched email providers to make filtering and getting to Inbox Zero a much more common event (would have done this years earlier, but all the passable variants of my name in gmail were already taken). Inbox Zero now happens an average of once a week, in all personal and work email accounts.

By the way, this makes you a GTD black belt.  I went to the official GTD seminar in Portland OR, last November and was surprised to find that I was a black belt!  Only about 15% of the people attending the seminar implement anything like the full GTD suite of tools and habits.  I had discussions with DavidCo last year that gave me that statistic.

I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon recently when I do a good brain-dump and weekly review, where I get all email and physical inboxes to zero and get very clear on all my projects at 10,000ft, bring them up to date and recalibrate time-lines for the completion of ensuing steps … (and my weekly review still only happens on this level about once every 3-4 weeks, if I’m honest) … immediately afterwards, I get sick. It’s like my body has been amped up on stress for a period, and the clarity that a good review brings is enough to let my body down off its adrenaline-high, to an immune trough — I don’t want to accept the term “leisure sickness” just yet, but the experience is similar.

You are the second person to tell me this.  My first thought is “Get up to, but no to, inbox zero.”  Avoid the trigger, but capture most of the benefits.

It’s amazing how our minds and bodies get used to a certain level of dysfunction, and struggle when it’s eliminated. I’m examining my GTD system to see where the gaps are — I figure if I’m stressed enough to crash my immune system, then somewhere along the line I haven’t externalised all my open loops and agreements. My brain is still trying to handle them.

I have people who tell me that as they approach a panic-free work, that they get a new fear (?).  The new fear is that the lack of chaos will kill their creativity.  I think the reduced form equation for this is:

stress = creativity

Crazy!  But, tell that to the inmates!  They don’t have the receptors in their brans for the message.

Two of my MBA students who have gotten to inbox zero, task zero, and are fully caught up on work, have contacted me in terror to say “What do I do now?”  Culture, school, watching our parents work hard as we grow up, a lot of our world conspires to program us to always be working … under stress.

/begin GTDessay

Think about it, how many unstressed people have you see at work in your life?  The boss?  Bosses may look serene on the outside, but on the inside they messes.  Western cultures all teach “behind as normal” which makes little sense.  The disappearing boundaries between work/personal, tast/project, team/individual in today’s knowledge work place seem to be tapping into the evolutionary trait of trying harder.  Trying harder is a vestigil function, it makes no sense today to live perpetually trying harder today.

Come to think of it, I used GTD to get my work under control, and then I used GTD to double my work capacity, while proudly increasing the quality of my work.  Perpetual “behind as normal” is not sustainable.  I’ve been postponing the day of cut off.  That day that David Allen talks about near the beginning of GTD where you “control what information gets into your life.”  Control the inflow, control the system, control your life.

My next GTD problem is to figure out how to fix the thermostat needle for “enough” work.  How do I decide enough is enough?  How to I get a feedback signal to tell me that I’m too low or too high? When exercise ceases?  When whimsical thinking ceases?

I think “behind as normal” thinking is what throws so many people off their GTD band wagons.  It is just habit to lapse and then recede comfortabbly back into being behind with the rest of the herd.  In Pressfield’s THE WAR OF ART he talks about humans being herd animals, and creative people having to convert themselves to turf animals.  To picking some turf that they will live or die defending.  Something like that tranformation is behind the need to restartgtd all the time.

/end GTDessay

Your thoughts would be welcome, but I understand you’re busy, so no pressure. Thanks again for writing such an helpful blog.

I appreciate the kind words and encouragement.  May I post this email response on the blog?  Most GTD users are closet users.  You can’t survey them for what they need to hear to develop further.  They won’t answer.  So I keep trying to use every input possible to lay out fleeces that will resonate with readers.  Your thoughts would be great to post!

Best Regards,

bill meade

p.s., Do you produce awesome Zinfandel in Toowoomba’s Darling Downs?  Am I invited for some if I’m in the neighborhood?  :-)  I ran several invention workshops while working at HP, in Melbourne (mel-bunn).

Warm regards,

Dave Findlay
Toowoomba, Queensland

No Money Down GETTING THINGS DONE!

Introduction!

Taught my “Getting (re)started with GTD” class last weekend.  One student needed to apply GTD without cash out of pocket.  So, I’ve been thinking about how to get started with GTD without spending anything.     

So, below please find the GTD office available for no money down (but you have to drive to pick everything up, so alas, there are time and gas costs included) available in Portland on 2012/04/25.  *Note* the links to Craigslist don’t live long, but they worked when I wrote this post.  More important items have the picture that was up with the post.  

An office, for free?

Step 1: Get a desk.  Portland’s Craigslist is a treasure trove of free desk options.  For example:

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Source: Portland Craigslist Free

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Source: Portland Craigslist Free

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Source: Portland Craigslist Free

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Source: Portland Craigslist Free

Step 2: Get organizing supplies like:

  • hanging file folders (Urban League of Portland)
  • home fax machine (Sharp plain paper inkjet fax from Vancouver WA – home of HP inkjets!) Homefax 1
  • A wood credenza to boost your desk space up to 30 square feet and give you some drawers and cabinets to organize withWoodcredenza 1
With all the free stuff listed to this point in the blog post, you have everything you need to implement GTD with a manual system.  But, you are not limited to a manual system.  Using community provided computers (libraries, coffee shops) you can digitize much of your GTD system, especially the pieces of your system that interact with your colleagues and peers.  So, on to step 3 … 
 
 Step 3: Take advantage of free electronic infrastructure.   
  • Evernote free account gives you 60 megabytes of upload a month for no charge.
  • Google Drive/Docs Gives you an MS Office substitute, and a Dropbox substitute.  Also gives you email, streaming music from the net, picture editing, and picture web hosting, etc., etc., etc.  And, if you don’t own your own computer, this will allow you to share and store documents with your class mates and you can access your stuff from any web connected computer.  *Note* Concordia University where I teach, allows students to check out Dell laptops with wireless in the library and at the computer help desk.  We also have computer labs to provide access to the internet.  
  • MicroSoft SkyDrive which currently gives you 25 gigabytes of cloud storage for 1 year for free.  Sign up and then go to account upgrades and take the free upgrade from 5 gigabytes (normal storage available) to 25 gigabytes.  
  • Kindle Reader.  If you don’t own your own laptop, you can still download (thousands of) free Kindle books and read them with Amazon’s Cloud reader.  If you have a laptop, you can download the free Kindle software (PC Mac) and read books on your computer and up to 5 other devices (phone, iPad, Cloud reader, etc.).  

 Conclusion:

The basic infrastructure you need to start implementing GTD is available all around you if you live in or near Portland Oregon.  Probably, the bigger the city, the better infrastructure available.  Even though I thought I “knew” about craigslist and free cycle I did not realize how rich these are as resources to get people booted up on GTD.  
 
Hope this helps!
 
bill meade 

 

Natural Planning Model: Silent Secret Weapon

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Source: Problogger.net

Introduction:

GTD’s natural planning model (Ch 3) is my silent secret GTD weapon.

Let Me Explain:

While an undergraduate, I was plagued by writer’s block.  Then, I discovered Gabriele Rico’s (1985) WRITING THE NATURAL WAY, and the concept of “clustering” (today called mind mapping) …

Writing the Natural Way  What is Clustering

Source: Gabrielerico.com

… “trial web shift” feeling the time when mind mapping can graduate to writing, became tools for me.  Discovering the tools in WRITING THE NATURAL WAY gave me *tingles* of recognition.  I could not articulate why they were important, but I immediately knew.

Next, I discovered Betty Edwards’ DRAWING ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE BRAIN which is really the drawing analog of WRITING THE NATURAL WAY.  Each book broke its domain down into a set of 5 or 6 orthogonal tools, that empowered the reader almost immediately to be able to articulate creative constructions on paper.  As I drew my own hand in perspective for the first time  ….

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Source: Praterposte

… again, I had *tingles* of recognition that I was exercising an important new skill.

Enter time (25 years), a Ph.D., three kids, moves, jobs, 5,000 books, 94,000 pages of personal papers, and finally in 2009, GETTING THINGS DONE. All this time, mind mapping laid mostly dormant.  I had tried to incorporate mind maps in my work, but I found that I could not show them to anyone without being stereotyped as “a creative” which meant in effect “so heavenly minded, no earthly good” + “unable to follow through.”  So, I kept mind maps to myself, and gradually stopped using them.

When at the opening of chapter 3 of GTD, I heard these words (I was listening to David Allen’s recording via Audible

/Begin *Aside* My students say that David Allen and George Clooney sound exactly the same

Allenooney

Separated at birth?

Source: David Allen, George Clooney

… so if you like Clooney, you’ll love the Audible version.

/End *Aside*

I’ve found the biggest gap to be the lack of a project-focusing model for “the rest of us.” We need ways to validate and support our thinking, no matter how informal.Allen, David (2002-12-31). Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity (p. 55). Penguin. Kindle Edition.

I had the by now familiar *tingle* that I was about to put my hand on a new power tool.

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 Source: Discovery Channel – Thrill of Discovery — Ars Thanea

The five phases of project planning, i.e., the natural planning model, knitted together the long dormant clustering/mind mapping, organizing, with the big question “why am I doing this?”  So, David Allen had brought to project planning and management, the same 5 or 6 tool kind of thinking that I had experienced in WRITING THE NATURAL WAY, and DRAWING ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE BRAIN.

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Source: eBay.com

And something else.  David Allen emphasized not trying to do all phases at once, not trying to use all the tools at once.  GTD’s separation of many of its tools (The five phases of natural planning, Processing stuff from doing next actions) are on of the simple things about GTD that I love most. I now consciously think about doing just one thing at a time.  Time was invented, after all, so everything would not happen at once.

The five phases of natural planning gives an older person, a unique vantage from which to observe college students.  If you don’t have any in the house or on your 1040, let me refresh you that in terms of GTD, college students by default, insist on doing all phases of projects at once, using all organizing tools at once, and repeatedly plead the value of a looming deadline, to make them productive.

And I have to confess, that I fall into this exact same pattern when I fall off the GTD wagon.  Natural planning out the window and reactive planning back in control.

Silent/Secret

With natural planning’s five phases, I’ve found:

  • It is easier to break out of reactive planning. I just need to think of how much easier natural planning is, than reactive planning.
  • I don’t need to hide mind maps any longer.  Being branded as a creative = no follow through has been replaced by being branded as “That rare creative with great follow-through.”
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I think this is because the natural planning model allows you to keep the momentum you build generating ideas, and spill it without missing a step, into organizing and next actions. When people observe you grinding through problems with the natural planning model, the cynicism that often pervades workplaces, is suppressed.  People step back and say “Whoa! … What was that book you were talking about again?”

Restarting Natural Planning

My emphasis on a lot of open desk space is driven by the five phases of natural planning.  I need to spread out ideas, paper, artifacts.  And, my open desk space often calls to me “Biiiiillllllll put some paper on me, let your ideas oooooouuuuuuuutttttttt.”  But I find, that probably as much as I resist weekly reviews, I resist using natural planning as often as I should.

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Source: http://www.resistancefallofman.com/

MeadeNaturalProjectManagment.jpg

PDF available here.

Hope this helps!

bill meade

GTD Anchor #2: One idea, one piece of paper

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Source: Zing-Man Origami

Introduction:

In addition to Evernote giving me an anchor to keep me in GTD, I have found that one idea, one piece of paper is another anchor.  After 3 years of GTD, I find it hard to believe how valuable “one idea, one piece of paper” has been.

Benefits:

  • Cutting apart the genes in my mental DNA: That each individual idea is cut loose from a spaghetti tangle of many other ideas.  
    • For example, before GTD I used to carry a lab notebook to write down all the important information that came scrolling through my life. These notebooks are a boiling stew of next actions, un-needed information, unrelated information all on one page, diagrams from projects long dead (dissertation), and children’s drawings.
    • Instead of the book, I now carry 3″x5″ cards and pens (see Man-Purse Desk)
  • Organizing the separated mental genes into their respective “pre-projects.” I struggled for a couple years on whether to do projects on paper or projects in the computer.  What I realized is that what is natural for me, is neither.  
    • Or rather both, but not at the same time.  I keep a project on paper while it is “winding up, but not yet rolling.”
    • Then, once the project gets going, cut it over to project folders in DropBox. Having each idea on it’s own 3″x5″ card enables pre-project, organization.  I have a lot of ideas that are not next actions, but they are valuable to me because the 3″x5″ captured ideas in a manilla folder, prevent me from forgetting project issues and assumptions, once I’ve thought of them.
  • Identifying and dumping mental “junk DNA.” I know that junk DNA isn’t junk, but the term gets the idea across. 
    • Story: When I get back to the office and process my 3″x5″ cards, I find that a fair number of them, go right into the recycle bin.  Maybe 10% to 15%.
    • I don’t know why my brain wants me to write down stuff that it does not want to use later.  Maybe it is testing the trusted system and timing the duration between capture and processing.  I wouldn’t put it past my subconscious!
  • Opening up many opportunities to work on projects while doing the mundane. For example, I recently refactored my syllabus for the remainder of the semester while sitting in a faculty meeting.  This was the impetus for the recent “how to get going” post.  
    • I was procrastinating the refactoring project.  I just didn’t feel right sitting down at the desk and cutting into the work.  One idea, one piece of paper, enabled me to cut the baby into pieces, overcoming my internal resistance.
    • When I’m riding, waiting, thinking, or just killing 10 minutes of time, I can capture the value of that time by jotting ideas down on cards. When a card has it’s quota of one idea, it goes into my official David Allen red inbox folder, for processing at one of my desks.
  • Gives me the opportunity to help people, and thus a lead in to telling them about GTD. *Note* The first rule of viral marketing is “Look like the host, not the parasite.”  I am always loaning people cards and/or pens, which by the principle of reciprocity buys me exactly one chance to talk about GTD without being “obnoxious.”

Restarting GTD angle:

Because one idea, one piece of paper is such a portable principle of GTD, it helps me crawl back on the wagon when I’m slammed and can’t take a day to do a full mind dump, merge into existing projects, and then subsequent weekly review to get mind cleared.   Go 3″x5″ cards and you can make progress, even though you can’t be 100% channeling David Allen while doing so.

Observation:

It seems that one idea, one piece of paper would increase efficiency more than anything. After three years, it has increased my efficiency some, but surprisingly, it increases EFFECTIVENESS way more.  Let me explain…

Hypothesized Mechanism:

I began to make the effectiveness connection about one idea, one piece of paper, when I observed that in three years I have never copied an idea to put it in multiple projects.  I have rarely moved ideas between project folders.  I *think* what is going on is that my brain is finicky.  I think it has been working out how it wants it’s extertnal memory organized.  The past three years have been a long sequence of experiments where I made a change to GTD components, then lived with them, then came to a keep/kill decision based on how the component “felt” when I used it.

I think that my brain has figured out:

  • Bill’s trusted system can REALLY be trusted.
  • There is a twilight zone during the pre-project time where many ideas come quickly. I think my brain really likes having ideas pre-project.  I have that same feeling of God’s pleasure when I’m capturing ideas, as when I’m increasing organizing.
    • When I organize, I feel His pleasure.
    • When I capture ideas, I feel His pleasure.
  • That because the trusted system can be trusted, the brain can employ the trusted system to organize work in new ways.  This is REALLY COOL.

Go forth, and capture ideas, one at a time.  You’ll love yourself for it!

bill meade