Perfect GTD Desk +2: Desktopia Redux

D3M 5585

See also: The Perfect GTD Desk +1

See also The Abomination of Deskolation Redeemed 

See also: The Perfect GTD Desk

Introduction:

Perfect GTD desk +1 has been refactored once again.  The above action shot displays several changes:

  • The monitor arm has switched ends of the desk
  • The cable access door in the Ikea Galant Conference Table has been filled in with wood
  • Gave up on mounting the Fujitsu ScanSnap on the monitor arm.  It was cool to look at, but even cool stuff is clutter when you are trying to get work done.  So I resurrected a shipping box and mounted both the ScanSnap and the Brother label printer on the box.  So far so good, the box has not interacted with the chair legs.
  • Screwed the chair mat to the floor in the correct location with 4 2″ drywall screws.  *Bam* no more wandering chair mat!!!
  • A 15.5″ semi-circle has been cut out of the center front of the conference table.
  • To create a 15.5″ radius, the conference table was slid forward until the back edge of the desk was flush with the Galant support frame.
  • I also slid the conference table surface to the right until the left edge of the work surface became flush with the left side of the Galant support frame.  Here’s an action shot of the top left corner of the desk:
  • D3M 5586
  • Power adapter moved from underneath the work surface to Galant table legs.  With diagonally crossing cable ties it was simple to mount the power adapter and then slide it around to readjust it.
  • A cordless remote control light switch was added (mid right hand of the back of the iMac) controlling the keyboard light, the floor lamp over the desk, and the floor lamp in the corner of the office.
  • The “un-drawer” was shifted left and canted at a diagonal angle from lower left hand corner of the desk, to upper right hand corner.  This removes the un-drawer from constant collisions with knees.
  • The purpose of the undrawer is to hold all the items that need to be at hand, but that clutter up the desk surface.  I have stapler, tape dispenser, utility knife, a 10 port USB hub, flash light, and my Plantronic USB headset (wireless headsets suck!).
  • Action shots:

D3M 5589

D3M 5590

  • USB and power were added to the right hand end of the desk (form the semi-circle side of the desk).  While I wanted usb and power plugs available, I need them to be out of sight, and they can’t be mounted under the surface without cables working their way out with gravity.  So I turned both poet and USB adapters 90 degrees and mounted them with cable ties and cable tie anchors.
  • Action shot:

D3M 5587

 Results:

When I sit at my desk now, I’m in the semi-circle and can rest both elbows on the work surface at all times.  I can also reach a much larger proportion of the work surface.  I especially noticed the altered surface to volume ratio of the desk when I wiped it down with Windex to shoot the pictures in this blog post.  Standing in the semi-circle it is easy to wipe down the entire surface of the table.

When people try the desk out, the first word that comes out of their mouths is “Game changer!” and then “I’m going to do this to my desk!”

The monitor arm now swings the iMac completely out of the way of the desk.  Action shot:

D3M 5591

And when sitting at the desk, it looks like this:

D3M 5584

How To Section:

I started with this configuration:

D3M 5567

This worked OK, except that it began to bug me that the cable access door in the work surface did not do anything.  If a feature is not doing work then it is clutter by definition.  So I stripped the monitor arm off the desk, removed the power outlet and the IKEA cable management baskets, and then the un-drawer which you can just see peeking out under the work surface by the red mouse.

Then I detached the work surface, and laid under the desk sliding the surface to different places and then seeing how it *felt* from beneath and above the desk.  I had the idea to slide the desk forward and to the right to maximize the work surface overhang.

Next I started drawing curves on the surface of the desk.  Because it is a whiteboard, I was able to draw, look, erase, redraw, and play with the shape in my mind.  I like the idea of reshaping the desk with bulbous organic curves at the corners like this:

NewImageSource: Modenus.com

But, I was too chicken to cut very much out of the desk.  Because desks are experience goods, you can’t think your way to what you will love.  You have to generate and test.  So I decided to start simply with a semi-circle cut out.  Starting out the project looked like this (mr. batik supervising):

D3M 5576

D3M 5578

I decided to cut the cable access door plug from the semi circle and marked it with whiteboard marker.  Then I drew a 15.5″ radius semi-circle from the measured center of the front edge of the work surface.  Then cutting began with a jig saw and after the semicircle was cut out, I hustled the iMac back on to the left side of the desk this time.  I don’t know why I tried the left side of the desk.  Just happened that way.  At this point the project looked like this

D3M 5580

Once I re-mounted the iMac on the monitor arm, I was delighted to see that shifting the work surface forward created an opening between the desk and the wall, that allows the iMac to swing behind the far edge of the work surface.  This leaves the work surface completely clear for jotting down ideas, spreading out 3×5 cards, etc.  I like the additional openness of this configuration over where I started from.  Gratifying to contemplate.

At this point I cut a grommet hole out of the semi circle and then used steel straps to mount the cable access door plug and grommet hole plug from the under side of the desk.  Action shot (sorry it is blurry):

D3M 5592

Then I filled in all the gaps around the plugs with white plastic wood which I was very delighted to discover at HomeDepot.com.  Much sanding and re-filling and re-sanding ensued. And once I got the work surface to be “not terrible” I moved on to finishing the edge the jig saw cut.

I was surprised at how easily iron-on melamine edging went on.  Get a clothes iron, cut the length of edging you need, then slowly iron the melamine edge on to the work surface.  Took about 30 minutes from start to cleaned up.  And I’m very delighted with how the edging is staying attached.

Partial component list for desk:

Support RestartGTD by buying at Amazon.com with this link!

GTD Anchor #1: Reference Filing

NewImage

Source: HABRAHABR.RU

What do I mean by “reference filing?”

Glad you asked!  There are two components to my reference filing system: Evernote, and the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500.

Evernote

Evernote is document storage and synchronization infrastructure.  Pay $50 a year for a premium account, then install Evernote’s client software on as many Macs or PCs as you want, and all the documents in Evernote will be synchronized across all your computers without you having to take any actions.  Evernote could be described as a means of providing “working backup” where your Evernote store is used on each of your computers, so you are testing your backups whenever you switch machines.

Key features of Evernote in decreasing priority value are:

  1. Full text search.  Pictures, Word files, plain PDF files, and even some hand-written scans, are processed once a day so that the documents become full text searchable.  Once you start using full text search, you tend to do much less organizing of documents into notebooks, because documents become so easy to find via keyword search and tagging.
  2. Friction-free capture of (advertising-free) web pages.  <== Turns Evernote into short term memory for me.
  3. Keyword searching.
  4. Tagging.
  5. Friction-free synchronization.
  6. Cross computer availability of all mission-critical documents.
  7. Remote access to documents.  Evernote has a cloud component, so you can be at an internet cafe, decide you want to print a document, and then log in to your Evernote account, download the file and print it.

Some people have their entire GTD system in Evernote.  Not me.  When I first started doing GTD I put my entire life into OmniFocus, and my brain hated the one-electronic-system-to-rule-them-all solution.  I could not sit down at my desk and use OmniFocus after I had entered every open loop.  Welcome to my first “off the GTD wagon” experience. Since then, I’ve been iteratively refining my GTD trusted system, keeping it as simple as possible, but no simpler.

I use Evernote purely for reference filing (purple region 3 in the following figure).  Evernote has several nagging weaknesses: (1) it does not search within all file types, (2) It does not have a simple highlighting function.  Lack of a highlighting function causes me to read documents in PDF form, highlighting them in PDF, and then emailing them to Evernote, and using Evernote just to recall documents and original source web pages.

EvernoteReferrence 1

Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500

I can’t say enough about this little machine.  It enabled paperless reference filing, via Evernote.  It folds up into a very small package.  It scans fast enough that a 150 pages scan, in under five minutes.  I strongly encourage you to at least go to Amazon and look.

Here is my sales pitch on selling you on buying a scanner:

  • In under a week, you can be paperless via Evernote and the ScanSnap S1500.  I started with 94,000 pages in December 2010 and in 4 days, I had recycled the entire 94,000 pages.
    • Once you are paperless in Evernote, you will discover that you can “find” documents you never would have bothered to look for, while the document was in paper.  I’ve found old newspaper articles that were handed out to me as a student, and then forwarded them to my students.
    • When was the last time you could find any document that you knew you had?  You can be there again with Evernote and a ScanSnap.
  • There are four tricks to guaranteed scanner success:
    • First, go through all your papers and sort them into boxes labeled “Recycle” and “Scan.”  When in doubt, put the paper into your “Scan” box.  Once you pre-sort, you will know which scanner to buy.
    • Second, buy the right scanner for the amount of paper you need to scan.  If you have less than 500 pages you can buy the slightly cheaper ScanSnap S1300.  I did this at first when implementing Evernote.  I found that the S1300 with its 12 page paper bin, and slow speed, was just too clunky to get it done with my piles of paper.  If you have 400 pages to scan and a doubt about buying a slower unit, or, if you have 501 pages to scan, then you are crazy not to buy the ScanSnap iX500.
    • Third, as soon as the scanner arrives, take it out of the box and put it on your desk.
    • Fourth, once the scanner is on your desk, call your friend “Bill” the gadget guy and tell him what is on your desk.
  • Remember “Meade’s Law” which is “Buy the best, only cry once.”
    • I was lucky and a friend offered to buy my ScanSnap S1300, I warned him that he’d be happier with the iX500 but he insisted.  By the way, “Thank you Steve!”
    • For most people with a bureaucratic residue of disorganization, the Fujitsu iX500 is going to be the happiest, highest-utility long run solution.
  • If you’ve read this far, ask yourself, “How long have I been thinking that a scanner ‘might be useful’?  If you have been thinking about this for longer than a month, the time is now to GET YOURS. You won’t regret it.

What happens next?

One you have a reference filing system, you have an anchor set solidly into improved organization.  Whenever your fall off the wagon with GTD, no matter what, your reference filing system will be in ever increasing order.  Evernote and the ScanSnap make it easier to be organized, than to be disorganized.  Once you have an anchor in improving your organization, you have a home base to work out from as you refactor your life to incorporate more effectiveness and more efficiency.

If anyone has had great experiences with other scanners, please post what scanner you have (make and model), how long you’ve used it, what the one best thing about it is, in the comments to this post?

Thank you!

bill meade

Abomination of Deskolation … Redeemed!

First the before pictures:

Ladies and gentlemen, 28 years in the making, RestartGTD brings you THE ABOMINATION OF DESKOLATION!

IMG 0977

Figure 1: The Abomination of Deskolation!

IMG 0979

Figure 2: The Accompanying Office

Now the after pictures:

IMG 1106 JPG

Figure 3: The wait, … what?

IMG 1102

Figure 4: Wow, just wow!

IMG 1106annotated

Figure 5: How It was accomplished

The Story:

This is John Niebergall’s desk.  John is an engineering teacher at Sherwood High School in South Portland.  As I’ve gotten to know John (i.e., seen his desk and had him over to my office to see my desk), I encouraged him to read GETTING THINGS DONE.  Over the holidays John listened to GTD three or four times via Audible, and then wanted help translating the ideas in GTD to his work processes.  I believe the specific words were “I’m a visual learner, I don’t do well reading books.  I need to see it.”

John is the target blog reader that I started RestartGTD to serve.  I’ve traveled to John’s office, carrying my Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500M (I use portable Macs), had John take down one of the three ring binders against the back wall of his office, and we scanned it into PDF.   Done!  Four minutes, and now the paper and the binder both can go in the recycle bin.   It was hard to let that first binder go.  But the liberation grows on you rapidly.  It gets easier the more space you free up in your office.

Seeing scanning is believing.  John ordered his own Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500 (PC) and I made another trip down to his office to take the scanner out of the box.  Maybe I should do a poll of how many GTDers have purchased scanners and never taken them out of the box? You know who you are! De-boxing is the key next action in getting a scanner up and contributing to your mind-like-water.

In addition to the visible things on and around John’s desk, I believe there is a second USB hub that is hidden inside the typing elevator drawer space.  And also, that there is a power adapter in that space to feed the label printer and scanner.

Reflections on Abomination’s Redemption:

Note in Figure 1, that John had a trackball on his desk when he started GTD.  This desk makeover has shifted him to a small travel mouse. There are wireless trackballs from Logitech and Kensington, but they cost $30 more than the Logitech M305.

John chose to keep his legacy desk with leg stalls.  That is this style of desk is like a horse stall, only for your legs.  I prefer sliding side to side so that I can start parallel projects on different parts of my desk during the day as interruptions happen.  My advice to John was to cut the surface off this desk and then mount it on IKEA legs. Ikea’s desks have inexpensive cable management options, and they are simple to work with.

The glass on the desk feels disruptive to me.  Glass is cold when you put your hands and forearms on it.  I think I’d prefer to remove the glass, and then I’d probably resurface this desk with white-board-contact-paper.  White lightens the room (always welcome in Portland where we get 5.5 inches of rain per month), and gives you a place to jot notes with white board pens, so you can save paper.

John is a public school teacher who has been in Sherwood High School for 28 years.  And he is digging his way out via GTD.  Teachers, you CAN DO THIS!   If I can shift to GTD, anyone can.  The key is to start.  Don’t start big or small.  Don’t give yourself the chance to over think this.  Just start.  John got the scanner, Evernote, and then beautifully reconfigured his desk (putting the scanner on the old typewriter elevator is genius!:-) to support his workflow.

Thank you John for sharing your before after.  Anyone else interested in sharing?  Before/afters are fantastic motivators.  Email me if you have pics you are willing to share.

bill@basicip.com

 

 

GTD: Before and After

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

Question 1: What is GTD?

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

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

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

TrustedSystem03 pptx 5

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

TrustedSystemgenerations01_pptx

GTDBefore01D3M_2516.jpg

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

D3M 6097

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

iPhoto

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

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

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

TrustedSystem03 pptx 3 1

D3M 2955

D3M 2956

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

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

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

TrustedSystem03 pptx 1

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

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

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

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

Screenshot_2014_10_02__10_43_PM

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

NewImage

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

Trustedsystem04

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

bill