GTD in Overcoming Adversity

Introduction:

Came across an awesome post on overcoming adversity on Hacker News (http://news.ycombinator.com) this morning. Here is the original question:

And here is the first response up when I looked at this thread:

Wow, I wish I’d written this! I’ve touched up against the edge of saying this before (About Fear, Scroll down to Stations, and GTD System Notable). But when you read the above answer, and think “What would David Allen think of this?” to my mind *ka-ching* I think “David Allen would emphatically agree!”

bill meade (from Traverse City, MI)

What is “clear working space” on a desk? Involuntary Clutter Makeover for RandsInRepose.com

Source: RandsInRepose.com’s CAVE ESSENTIALS

Introduction:

I’m still reflecting on RandsInRepose.com’s CAVE ESSENTIALS post. And while I think Rands has the perfect idea about the job of a desk:

“A desk’s job is to build productivity, and for me, it achieves this by first providing an immense amount of clear working space.”

I don’t think Rand’s desk meets his criteria. Why? Because:

  1. Rand’s desk is neither clear
    nor
  2. Immense

Wut?

Here is a close-up of Rand’s desk:

The elements of a desk being “not clear”

Clutter is the STRATEGIC enemy desk productivity.  It is impossible to remove all clutter, but the more you remove, the less brain energy wasted. For example, I think facial pictures are “the queen mother” of all clutter. Why? Because our brains are hardwired to recognize faces. Whenever a face is in front of your eyes, part of your brain is concentrating on an infinite decode loop (“Who is it? Who is it? …).

One of my MBA students heard me say facial pictures are the queen mother of clutter, and moved her daughter’s picture from next to her monitor, to out of her peripheral vision to the left. The pic is still there, she can look at the pic whenever she wants, but she is not burning energy decoding the picture when she’s trying to work. The result:

“I can’t believe how much less tired I feel at my desk.”

  1. Monitors are not on arms that would:
    1. Lift monitors clear of the work surface to allow the work surface to be used … for work!
    2. Allowing monitors to be effectively removed from the desk when one is not being used
    3. or both are not being used
    4. Allowing use of the desk space now taken up by the base of the monitor stands. Rands barely has space to lay down 3 3″x5″ cards, let alone to try to arrange cards to hot-boot a project.
      1. As my go-to hot-boot project methodology is Rough Organizing with 3×5 cards, this is a major defect in my eyes. *Note* Rands probably does not organize with 3×5 cards like I do. To each brain, it’s own organization scheme.
    5. Allow monitors to be precisely aligned/arranged
    6. Prevent the instinctive piling up of clutter on monitor bases
  2. Visible clutter on the desk
    1. What is visible clutter?
      1. Anything not being used to work, that is within the eyesight envelope of the person working.
      2. Take the above picture, and make the 0 degree line perpendicular to the center of each monitor, and then you can construct the full “clutter envelope” of a desk.
      3. I recently had a work desk that had 180 degrees of isolation when I was sitting. Action shot:
      4. Here is the close up of the work surface
      5. Sitting at this desk, the walls of the alcove were just long enough to shield my peripheral vision from any motion. And having all motion and clutter removed from peripheral vision is FANTASTIC!!!
  3. Wires, wires, everywhere.
    1. Can’t tell if Rand’s mouse is wired, but the keyboard looks wired.
    2. I switched to Apple’s Magic Keyboard 2 and Magic Trackpad 2 this summer and both are “Meh” not great, but they are … wireless and minimally increase clutter.
    3. *Note* that I have a Jabra 410 talking hockey puck speaker phone which is wired, mounted on the lower left hand corner of my iMac.
      1. I just recently discovered Velcro with “Rogue Adhesive” which allowed me to get the Jabra 410 off my desk surface, and removed 1 wire’s worth of clutter.
    4. Pay me now, pay me later.
      There is no such thing as a free lunch. I have just as much wire clutter as Rands, I just insure that I can’t see the wires when I’m working. Here is the back of my iMac:

      1. From left to right I also have a USB hub/DVD ROM driver,
      2. an extra Apple cable to charge my (Meh) Apple Keyboard and Mouse. Tucked in at top center under the Apple.
      3. And a 3×5 card/pen reservoir
      4. And last but not least, I have a low intensity under-counter LED light attached to the bottom of my imac so I can work in the dark on my (meh) keyboard and still see the letters.
      5. 1.E.i. above show the clutter seen when working

The elements of a desk not being immense

Rands’ desk looks like it is 2.5’x5′ which in inches is 30″x60″ which is not bad by today’s standards. But … the I would change about Rands’ desk is to make it deeper. Like a foot deeper. My IKEA conference table desk is 43″ deep, and 73″ long.  Rands likes having his couch super deep, he needs to do the same thing with his desk.

Surface to Arm Ratio

After using my IKEA conference table work surface for a year, I felt like I was not able to use enough of the desk surface, so in true barbarian style, I slid the work surface far forward on the support frame. This made the front overhang off the support by 15.5″ and allowed me to cut a 15″ diameter hemisphere out of the desk front.

I can now roll my chair all the way into the hemisphere and reach both the far left (with my left hand) and far (with my right hand) right corners of the desk. So the surface to arm ratio for me on this desk = 1.

Makeover Suggestions for Rands’ Desk

  1. Two VESA monitor arms + iMac VESA adapter
    1. If your two display devices are vesa, two $30 single monitor arms are the way to go. I’ve tried the dual monitor arms and they don’t allow enough freedom to arrange the monitors.
    2. If you like Rands, have a recent vintage iMac without VESA support, then you’ll need the $100 MacSales.com VESA adapter. 
  2. Larger desk surface
    1. Deeper by at least 12″ is a must
    2. Wider would be nice too
    3. I would look for a larger desk surface at IKEA’s clearance area. There are lacquer panels in blood red that might do nicely while costing next to nothing.
    4. Try mounting the new surface over the top of the existing surface. Height change will not be too great. Chair goes up and life goes on.
    5. Rands probably does not need as much desk space as I do because it looks like 300 3×5 cards are not a big part of his thinking life.
    6. So Rands won’t need the 15″ hemisphere cut out either.
  3. Clutter (pictures, polar bear, etc.) moves left until it is out of peripheral vision while looking straight at the left-hand monitor.
    1. There seems to be a credenza at left, I would move that 3′ into the room perpendicular to the front of the desk (to get stuff out of peripheral vision), and put the clutter on the credenza.
      1. Idea = Minimal change and clutter eliminated.
      2. As David Allen says, you want “just enough” organization.
  4. Wireless keyboard/mouse/trackpad
    1. I switched to a track pad because I move my right wrist less on a track pad, and less movement has led to zero wrist pain.
  5. Twist ties or cable ties to hide all the wires from view while working at the 2 monitors.
  6. ScanSnap iX500 next to the printer at right.
    1. Scansnap is the digital on-ramp to
    2. Evernote to go paperless
    3. Printer is the digital off-ramp

Office Entelechy

  • Introduction

I’m mid-job-search right now. Decompressing from a 27 month stint at a startup with 60-100 hours a week. Received an awesome job offer last week that reminded me of a Rands In Repose post.

Scan down to “Deliberate Want” and the part about Michelle. My Michelle is Rachel, but I digress.

Decompression allows this thing, reading for fun, that it has been a while since I’ve engaged in. While in startup mode, I read for survival, not fun. But while I was finding Michelle in the post above, and sending the post to Rachel, I started reading more Rands posts.

  • Do this immediately!!!

And a post on CAVE ESSENTIALS jumped out and hit me so hard, I’m pointing you to it. I’m pointing you to CAVE ESSENTIALS right now! Do not walk, run to CAVE ESSENTIALS and experience organizational ambrosia via the written word.

Entelechy is a fancy way of saying “soul” Rand’s post is the soul of office organization. The elements of Rands office entelechy:

  1. Self-pleasing environment design (red walls that nobody else can understand)
  2. Telling people “The door… it’s right there.” at criticism of your office.
  3. Your “forever desk” …
    “A desk’s job is to build productivity, and for me, it achieves this by first providing an immense amount of clear working space.” There is an echo in this blog!
  4. Deep leather couch (so deep that when you put your back against the couch you are in a new time zone).
  5. “Lovingly curated bookshelves” (14)

Highly recommended!!!

Bill Meade

Evernote 20,000 Note Milestone!!!

I just crossed 20,000 notes in Evernote, so I thought now might be a good time to update my occasional series on Evernote. Early in the life of RestartGTD I used to manually count up Evernote pages and track them.

Unfortunately my original note counting methodology was a hack that did not work accurately. Because Evernote has added monthly note counts, here is an example for my account as of December 25, 2016, look for the red arrows 1/3 of the way from the left, near the top of the page:

So, since I can use these Evernote generated non-hack counts, I decided to take a trip down memory lane and scrape out the monthly totals for the 102 months that I’ve been an evernote subscriber.

Here is the previous total and the more accurate Evernote-generated total note count for 102 months:

The count totals diverge in 2013 where SKITCH started defaulting to saving in Evernote. But I suspect that the convoluted “trick Evernote into counting notes” method that I was using, was in a word “bad”. Anyway, I trust the monthly total that Evernote now generate as it predicts the actual number of notes in my account within 2 notes. All comes back but 2 tablespoons! (notes)

So over the 102 months of Evernote, I’ve increased my usage of evernote month by month from 1 note per month on average, to almost 200 notes per month. Here is the same graph plotted with a rolling average notes per month plotted on a second Y axis in Excel 2016’s “hideous orange”:

I continue to use Evernote as my GTD reference filing system … only. I’ve tried tracking projects in Evernote but prefer OneNote for detailed next action decomposition work. But as a reference filing system, Evernote has definitely achieved “roach motel” lock in of my information. The pattern in the orange average is very “ratchet” like. Jutting up, drifting down, but then jutting up again, and again.

bill meade

Alas Babylon Update: Spoiler = Everything is fine

The story:

Bigfoot letter happened.

In response, I replied with the permission email I received, when I asked David Allen and the CEO of David Allen’s company for permission to use RestartGTD.com  … before I started RestartGTD.com.

A couple of email exchanges happened over the weekend and early this week.

The VP of legal eagles at David Allen’s company has given me her assurance that she’s good with the current state of RestartGTD.com … because I had/have permission.

 

*Aside* I managed the business side of patent litigation back in the day, when I worked at HP. We were burning 7 figures ,,, a month on six *big nasty* lawsuits, and I hope to never again live in litigation la la land.

So I was *philosophical* about whether to close RestartGTD.com. If the GTD powers that be did not want my enthusiasm (which is not for everyone), I was going to let RestartGTD.com go.

As it stands, RestartGTD.com will continue to operate as it has.

But, you could help if you would:

  1. Email me some GTD questions!!! My best posts are responses to questions. wkmeade@gmail.com is the place to get your free advice on getting back on the wagon.
  2. Get off your duff and install the Evernote web clipper so you become hopelessly addicted to Evernote for reference filing. Side benefit: web clipper makes Evernote filing reference filing easier to do, than not do.
  3. Buy that ScanSnap iX500 ($413 today) that I’ve failed (so far) to persuade you to invest in. You don’t know what you are missing by being paperless.

Thanks for the kind words and back channel emails! More posts soon! As soon as RestartGTD was in limbo I had a bunch of new ideas. :-(

bill meade

 

Rough Organizing

Source: http://www.gottabesolid.com/jobs/images/carpenter-sidebar-05.jpg

There is an analogy between “rough carpentry” and the topic of this post “rough organizing.” Rough carpentry is also called “framing” and that is not a bad description of the result of a rough organizing session.

Rough Organizing: What is it? 

Rough organizing involves the following tools:

  • GTD’s one idea, one piece of paper
  • GTD’s “mind sweep”
  • A clear desk

I start rough organizing with blank 3×5 cards. One idea, one 3×5 card. I fill in cards and then lay them neatly on the table in front of me in a grid. I fill in cards about the subject I’m working on until my mind is empty. Usually a dozen cards will do it. But, I carry 3×5 cards at all times, so I can capture open loop ideas whenever they make themselves available. So I often will have two dozen cards to rough organize.

The rough organizing starts after a mind sweep has captured all ideas, one to a 3×5 card. Then I lay the cards out on the table so that I can see them all, and then start moving related cards toward one another.

 

popuporganizing01-1-1.jpg

As related ideas come together, I organize them in a column, not-overlapping. After I have arranged all related cards into columns, and separated the not-related cards. I can look at the cards and “see” the structure of what I need to do.

  • If I am writing a complex document,
    I will see the document organization, and I can proceed to writing an outline. But usually, I’m in a hurry and I just write the document. Once it is off via email, I throw the cards into recycling.
  • If I am organizing a project,
    I can distill next actions for the project and who to delegate what actions to. This goes into OneNote and then the cards into recycling.

Rough Organizing: How does it save time? 

I find that rough organizing makes writing happen faster. Instead of free writing, then editing, the refactoring the writing. I can see the big elements that need to be covered, organize them in a sensible sequence, and then proceed to writing.

Time is saved because:

  • Ideas jump from 3×5 cards into a computer, in a much more organized fashion than using other writing tools (mind maps, outlines, detailed note cards, Scrivener, etc.).
  • Rewriting is dramatically cut down. The 3×5 card/ideas … are the floors, walls, and ceilings of my writing. It has always been hard for me to go from a writing project idea, to an outline. But with a mind sweep of 3×5 card ideas, to framing in an argument, is … easy. Perhaps I am just writing an outline, by writing the individual ideas without organization, and then organizing them after they are all out. Whatever … works.
  • It is much easier to make writing flow, when one arranges the stepping stones thoughts travel across. And my personal writing nemesis, the creative “leap” (leaving readers behind), has all but vanished since I’ve employed rough organizing.
  • I save time because I write modularly. I’ll make a first pass at a document. Get the ideas framed in, use the document. Then, I find later I’m building out the document and repurposing it for other tasks. Getting feedback from colleagues, to put up drywall, paint, and sometimes, even decorate rooms.
  • I save time because I no longer experience writer’s block.

Great Post on Evernote as Trusted System

Michael Keithley has a great post for those who want to use Evernote as their trusted system. Covers all the basics in just over a page.

Click here to see RestartGTD’s 30+ posts on Evernote.

Bill Meade

GTD of Fear at Work

Quick note on the GTD of fear at work:

I recently started a new job. A dream job. But all dreams come with some crazy, and some weird (C&W). The C&W in the new job was extreme time pressure. This post is my observations on what extreme time pressure and the ensuing fear did to my use of GTD. Or better, what my use of GTD did to my productivity under extreme time pressure + fear.

  1. The biggest positive of this experience was that GTD put me in a focussed frame of mind. There was no possibility of having a mind-like-water when I was desperately behind. Ready for anything? I was barely able to keep up with meetings tomorrow.

    But, … GTD did allow me to develop an attitude towards worry = that worry was a complete waste of time. Being afraid, and resolving to not worry about it. I focused on doing good work, and living or dying based on the good work. This turned out to be an ace that I can keep. I’ve been able to re-use the “We are data scientists, all we can do is good work. And we will live or die based on doing good work.” and so far, good work has produced nothing but breakthroughs. And, …

    I don’t miss the time spent worrying. :-)

  2. I’ve heard about trotting horses that you train them to swing right and left legs together, and then very gradually, you train them to speed up with the trotting gait. If you push them to faster than their training can support, the stop trotting and gallop. This slows the horses down.

    Fear at work pushes my use of my trusted system, to the point where I stop using it. And like trotter horses, I begin to gallop with stream of consciousness organization. And I slow down.

    When I go from trotting with my trusted system, to galloping without it. I’m off the GTD wagon. :-(

    I find that I have to budget time to focus on organizing all the information pouring in. Budget time to refactor and build-out my trusted system towards new challenges. But because of the time pressure, I have to sneak trusted system building into time cracks of the day.

    This is the sentence we GTD users bring upon ourselves. Raising productivity, taking on more, getting to the point of galloping. Then, refactoring and refining. Over time, responsibilities increase, and the refactoring of the trusted system never gets easy. It just works. No guarantee trusted system refinement will be easy.

  3. Looking back on the past 3.5 months, I wonder if the focus GTD has brought, or the ability to put aside fear and worry, has made me more sensitive to patterns. Patterns have been leaping to mind. For example:

    (a) A common pattern of our customer sales cycle.
    (b) The repeated pattern of co-workers under pressure.
    (c) The validation of my “radar” that sees future problems … far in advance

Perhaps there is a self-induced “Hawthorne effect” for GTD people in struggling to keep work life functioning smoothly from a trusted system. Whatever the source, GTD has stood me through.

bill meade

Evernote Conference 2014: Top 5 Benefits for GTD Users

Evernote_Conference

Introduction

Evernote had their fourth annual conference this week. A recap of Day 1, was posted by Evernote, but Day 2, and Day 3, did not make the blog. I watched from afar, underwhelmed at what the technology press were able to wring out of the conference as news. but there are a few big benefits for GETTING THINGS DONE users:

  1. The biggest benefit I’ve identified is that Evernote’s monthly upload quota has been raised from 1 gigabyte per month, to 4.
    IAccount_Info saw this in my account this week. But it was not mentioned at the Evernote conference. Looking around the web it appears that you can opt in to Evernote’s new web template, and that is what causes the bump. There is confusion about this on Evernote’s forums. It looks like trying the new web form explains the increased upload.
  2. So, Evernote has a new web form.
    Fullscreen_2014_10_03__8_48_PMAnd if you opt in, you get 4 GB of upload per month! To see the form and get the upload quota bump:
    Step 1: Log in to Evernote.com via a web browser
    Step 2: When you see a dialog box that says “Try the new Evernote Web?” click yes.
    The new web form is nice, and uncluttered. But, is not as fluid as 3×5 cards. :-(
  3. “Work chat” client built into the base Evernote application. IEvernote_Goes_Collaborative_with_Work_Chat_-_Evernote_Blogt must suck to be the product manager for Office 2013. EVERYONE on the planet is trying to kill email. Evernote, Slack, Asana (see post) and one would have to remember Google WAVE, are all attacking email. This is not likely to have a big GTD impact soon. But, it may be a big deal to GTDers before long. We tend to over predict impacts of new technology in the short run, and under predict them in the long run. I can imagine David Allen smiling at this news. He has chosen to focus on the logic of work, and fastidiously avoided entangling alliances with electronic technologies. I wonder if Work Chat will be exclusively focused on Evernote Business users, or if we individual GTDers will gain workflow advantages as well.
  4. Evernote API. I’ve been waiting for Evernote’s API to build momentum for Evernote, in the way that Twitter’s and Facebook’s APIs launched them past competitors. But, the results have been slow and … goofy. But, API results are starting to happen. Go to Postach.io, and you can see how you can blog from inside Evernote, by creating a note, and then tagging it with “published”
    Postach_io___Collect_and_share_from_all_your_favourite_apps__like_Evernote_and_Dropbox_Imagine a project story board that is organized as a blog. Every day, the post is updated and refined, so everyone can see where the project is. Hmmmm. Evernote API is getting warmer this year. But, when you check the Evernote App Center, no killer apps … yet.
  5. And finally, the last big lesson from Evernote’s conference this year, is that … getting things done is still in our hands. The conference was a blizzard of individual people, showing how they use Evernote to get things done. Using your mind efficiently and effectively is still THE GAME. Thinking drives work to completion. And while electronic tools help thinking, especially, collaborative thinking, they are not yet impressing anyone generative thought. Evernote also announced an effort to build AI into Evernote. AI by the way means “Augmented Intelligence” not artificial intelligence.
    Evernote_Conference__Day_1_Recap_-_Evernote_Blog

I wish GTD had a tool that aided project thinking the way that spreadsheets and databases aid analytical thinking. But .. not. Getting Things Done for the foreseeable future remains an act of will, to think.

bill meade

Getting Started with GTD: The buddy system

The_Buddy_System__Find_a_Workout_Partner

Source: HitchFit.com

Introduction

When I was getting started with Getting Things Done (see GTD Notable PDF), I had two buddies. First, an experienced GTD buddy Ian Watson, and another novice buddy, Mark VanderSys whom I mentioned in yesterday’s Getting Started with Getting Things Done post as well as in earlier RestartGTD posts here and here.

GTD Experienced Buddy Lessons Learned

  1. I want your word that you will read the book … I won’t get off your chest until you promise. This was the GTD start for me. “Yes, I give you my word :-(” … hey, they have GETING THINGS DONE on Audible!
  2. Project file folders need to be kept separate from reference file folders.
  3. “Go to David Allen’s seminar. Do not bitch at me about the cost. No, never mind, I’ll pay the cost for you!”
  4. Check ins with an experienced GTDer help A LOT.

GTD Novice Lessons Learned

  1. I’m not the only one who gets overwhelmed.
  2. When I get overwhelmed, the best thing to do is to go back to chapters 1 through 3 of GTD, and review.
  3. We CAN do this!
  4. When writing down a next action, nothing less than a complete sentence. Cryptic next actions on cards take time to remember. And, can cause your subconscious to loose trust in your system.
  5. When creating project names, make them short, memorable, and funny. Short, memorable, funny project names are easier to remember.

How a GTD buddy helps

GTD buddies help you by:

  • Giving tips that build early GTD implementation momentum.
  • Checking in, which forces you to reflect and realize that GTD is working, even though new GTD users obsess exclusively about how GTD seems not to be working
  • Encouraging you to keep on. A month or so into my GTD implementation Ian Watson (Experienced GTD buddy) said “Wow. Having a meeting with you, is like … having a meeting with me!” HUGE!

How to find GTD buddies

  • Novice GTD buddies are found by reading chapters 1-3 of GTD, then evangelizing the idea of GTD to your friends. See who takes up the challenge, and wants to talk to you about it.
    • *Note* do not be discouraged if your spouse is not your GTD buddy. Spouses are too close to be good GTD buddies. And often, spouses read GTD and being the more organized member of your union, say “But, … I already do all of this!” Not building on your momentum.
  • Experienced GTD buddies have probably, already found you. In my rich fantasy life, I like to think that this blog is an experienced GTD buddy finding people. But, … not. RestartGTD readers have already been found, evangelized, and have taken a shot at implementing GTD before they find this blog.
  • If you don’t have an Experienced GTD buddy, try Appendix B: Talk to an experience GTD Buddy below to send questions to me. I hereby volunteer (for now) to being an experienced GTD buddy to RestartGTD readers.
    • [9 hours later 0 takers, c’mon!]

How to use GTD buddies

  1. Find the recipe …
    that you want to use to take a(nother) crack at getting on the GTD band wagon. Pick a “getting started” recipe from the book (and/or David Allen has a new introduction to GTD focusing on fundamentals
    GTD_Fundamentals), RestartGTD’s blog post recipe, or other any other recipe.
  2. Tell them
    That you are trying to implement GTD again. Send them an email. Point them to your recipe. Ask them for their recipe. I benefitted enormously from Ian Watson’s being at my elbow, eager to answer questions.
  3. Ask them to help
    specifically, if you can once a week, for one month, talk to them about their use of GTD, and get them to review your use. After a month, check in occasionally on a timed basis (8 weeks) or whenever one buddy feels overwhelmed. Read Appendix A: Using Skype to implement your GTD buddy system below. And then do your weekly show and tell, sharing screens. Just for a month.
  4. Follow up
    when a week passes and it is time to check in with your GTD buddy. Just Do It! This may be mentally tough, the universe (you may have noticed) resists us becoming organized.

Try GTD Before you Give UP

If I can implement GTD, … anyone can implement GTD. I was the worst organizational sinner on Earth. Here, … see if you can guess which desk is before GTD, and which is after GTD.
BeforeAfterDesk_pptx

If you want to see more, then check out my before GTD after GTD post. And, my post on how procrastination and guilt go down over time with GTD.

bill meade


 Appendix A: Using Skype to implement your GTD buddy system

Using Skype to share screens is easy!
1. Get your Skype session going. If you need to set up Skype, click here for a YouTube tutorial.
2. Click on the plus thought bubble at the bottom of the screen
Skype3. Click share screen in the pop up:
Fullscreen_2014_09_27__3_49_PM4. One buddy goes first, showing how s/he has implemented GTD. Questions go back and forth.

5. Then whoever went first, clicks the + thought bubble, stops screen sharing, and it is the turn of the other buddy to give a walk through of their system. Questions go back and forth.

6. MOST IMPORTANT after you sign off, each buddy writes four “lessons learned” bullet points, and emails them to the other buddy.


 Appendix B: Talk to an experienced GTD Buddy