2015 ends, Top 10 RestartGTD arguments for 2016

BeforeAfterDesk_pptx

Desk before and after GTD

 

Introduction: (http://wp.me/p5btlh-urk)

2015 is ending. Tool options for “how” to Get Things Done continue to eclipse my capacity to integrate them year to year. So I will continue to argue:

  1. OneNote and Evernote are complements, not substitutes.
    1. Evernote is THE REFERENCE FILING SYSTEM for the rest of us. Use Evernote Web Clipper to capture your browsing into Evernote, or iX500 scan into Evernote, and … DONE … PAPERLESS + find any note in 15 seconds.
      1. *Note* Evernote, the company, has begun pruning the non-filing system aspects of itself after having quality and other “spreading itself too thin” problems.
    2. OneNote is THE PROCESSING PLACE for the rest of us. When you have an *explosive* next action (i.e., that project that just landed on you by instant message), put it into OneNote and then use the outlining and image pasting to turn a multi-step next action, into a project plan, all on one page.
      1. Microsoft *appears* to remain behind OneNote. Microsoft does not “get” what Evernote does (reference filing) and so OneNote continues to miss one key component of a dominant design (reference filing) to replace Evernote. So use them together, you’ll be happier than with either alone.
    3. The twain never meet.
      1. Capture to Evernote if the answer to “Will there ever be a next action?” is maybe or yes.
      2. Process next action into a project plan in OneNote.
    4. Simple really. (#ThankYouRaleighMuns)
  2. That Evernote’s defects in losing notes, are more than overcome by Evernote’s utility as a document manager for reference files.
    1. *Sigh* as I say this Evernote has lost our family’s recipe for Shepherd’s Pie for Christmas 2015. Fortunately, I have emailed this recipe so I, this once, have recovered the data and put it back into Evernote. Twice. 2011_01_08_12_24_37_pdf_pdf
    2. Defect: Customer Service
      And I too, have been misunderstood by Evernote’s support “geniuses” who like car sales people can’t hear the loud “creek” in your new car after you are off the lot. Customer service people at Evernote do not even have brain resptors for:

      1. The user I’m talking to is knowledgeable about Evernote.
      2. There is a real problem.
        But despite this, after beating my head on the Evernote customer service wall (Andy), Evernote the product *miraculously* started recognizing the 2,000 previously unindexed notes. Perhaps reflecting on conversations after the email gets pissy, does take place at Evernote.
        ***With customer service, you can only tie or lose.*** This was a tie, which means victory!!!
    3. Defect: Security
      I would strongly prefer that Evernote run on my air-gapped Synology NAS at home. And the NAS has a note app. But, with 16,986 notes in Evernote, I’m a bit past being able to migrate. If only because I’m somehow certain that I’ll lose notes in the process.

      1. AmIwrong? Suggest alternatives in the comments below!!!
    4. Defect: Interviewing
      Just for fun, I would like to *note* that I had a job interview with Evernote 2 years ago. And I’m sure that a TWILIGHT ZONE episode could be made out of being interviewed by someone who understood their product vastly less than a thunder-lizard fanboi product fanatic with a low-rated blog.
  3. That the Evernote “false pretender” substitutes:
    1. http://www.fetchnotes.com/
    2. http://realmacsoftware.com/clear/
    3. https://workflowy.com/
    4. http://brettterpstra.com/projects/nvalt
      are a step backwards from having a REFERENCE FILING SYSTEM in the GTD sense. And WORSE they (a) either mix reference filing with processing next actions, or (b) they baffle your brains by focusing on outlines, and simultaneously leave you without a real reference filing system, assuming you have everything you need.
  4. That Evernote dumping Evernote Clearly (which has been displaced by Evernote Web Clipper) is bad.
    1. Why? Because:
      1. I find that I have to have BOTH Web Clipper and Clearly, to reliably be able to capture web pages. Clipper/Clearly don’t do the same thing. The should, but they don’t. So I’m going to have to capture HTML in 2016 to get all the data I need. Ug.
      2. Evernote by allowing parallel competitive products (web clipper and clearly), and then killing the “losers” off, is shaking the jello of customer confidence. I recently listened to an end user berate Microsoft for doing the same thing. Evernote may want to be the Microsoft of notes. But it is a “unicorn” and desperately needs to be the Southwest Airlines of notes. Focus. Focus. Focus.
      3. I like Evernote Clearly. I used it first. We are Borg.
  5. And Evernote dumping Skitch for Windows (same link as Clearly above) is bad.
    1. Highlighting the “afterthought product management” which in Latin is spelled “E-v-e-r-n-o-t-e”
  6. The first three chapters of GTD is all that a human brain can process in one year.
    1. I taught GTD to 200+ MBAs and even a fanboi unemployed person can’t implement chapters 4-13 of the first edition in one go.
    2. I’ve heard that only 17% of attendees to GTD seminars can implement the system. Getting GTD going is a volatile mix of ambition and disappointment. If you get too ambitious, you will be disappointed. And that can add up.
    3. If you don’t swing for the fences, and “take the walk” of getting reference filing going (Evernote, have I mentioned Evernote yet?), clearing your desk (mind=desk like water), and implementing 1-idea-1-piece of paper, next actions, and call it good. Your GTD survival rate will be 100%.
  7. Uneeda 27″ > 1080p monitor. C’mon, you work at a computer for a living. Why not invest in 2x the productivity? Cost = $300. That’s what, like a 1 hr/day payback?
    1. Personally I use el-cheapo refurbished dual-link DVI monitors (warning dual link is a pain) that Cost $200 (now, … but the price is lower at some times) and then get an Apple Mini MB571Z/A DisplayPort to Dual-Link DVI Adapter, which makes the total cost $280. 20% savings!
    2. But … I’ve seen the el-cheapo monitors for as little as $100. My boss got me 2 for work, $150 for the first one, and $100 for the second. Stalk and save.
    3. *Note* your status-oriented computing colleagues will accuse you of being happy with “crap” monitors if you follow this path. I find however, that “crap” gets my things done just as fast as $600 monitors would. :-)
  8. Uneeda 2nd 27″ monitor. Don’t argue. Just implement. Thank me later.
  9. Uneeda monitor arm to convert your (desk + monitors) from a giant monitor stand, back into a desk.
  10. We lived through 2015, we should declare victory, and gird ourselves for disciplined optimism in 2016.

Best Regards,

Bill Meade wkmeade@gmail.com

“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:

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Now, here is a closer shot: 

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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: 

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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: 

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

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

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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 +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:

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  • 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:

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 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:

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

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How To Section:

I started with this configuration:

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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):

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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

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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:

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Abomination of Deskolation … Redeemed!

First the before pictures:

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

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Figure 1: The Abomination of Deskolation!

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Figure 2: The Accompanying Office

Now the after pictures:

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Figure 3: The wait, … what?

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Figure 4: Wow, just wow!

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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

 

 

The Perfect GETTING THINGS DONE (GTD) Desk

In this post, I’d like to dissect what I like about my current GETTING THINGS DONE desk, how it makes me feel, how it helps flow/mind-like-water, and how somehow, it magically helps me get a ton of work done.  See the previous Before/After post to get a fuller visual on my complete trusted system.

Desk 3.0 [*Note* Desk 4.0 has its own post and can be seen here]

OK, here is a picture of my 3rd generation GTD desk which includes the legs.  The rest of this post is a discussion of the elements of the perfect GTD desk.

GTDAfter2point0

  • Element #1: Clear desk surface

The longer I do GTD, the more I find that I need to spread paper out on the surface of my desk to organize it.  I keep parallel project folders: in atoms making up manilla folders, and in bits in Omnifocus projects.  I write one idea, one piece of paper into either atoms or bits, and I organize the pieces of paper on the surface of my desk.  It is just invaluable for me to put my ideas across the desk surface and then ask myself what the individual ideas are trying to tell me.

In addition, a clear desk surface lets you take a nice butcher block sized piece of paper to mind-map when you are kicking off a natural project management event.

Requirements for a clear desk are:

  1. Get the monitor on an arm that clears your desk (I use the Innovative 7500-hd-1500 arm because I’m holding 24 and 27 pound iMacs up.  I attempted to link to Amazon.com for this product but the links are not working, I bought my most recent arm from Seaboom.com as it was $65 to $110 cheaper than Amazon.  The three models at SeaBoom do not have pictures, but I figured out their colors and have a guide herethat you can use to pick your color.).
    1. Consider switching to a 27″ all-in-one computer (Mac, PC), makes a clean desk easy
    2. If you can’t swing an all-in-one, think hard about why your brain is not worth having a high resolution 27″ in monitor (Mac, PC). Do you cut from one window and paste into another for a living?  27″ monitors double efficiency!
  2. Get a wireless mouse, and
  3. Wireless keyboard (Mac, PC) so you can move keyboard and mouse off the desk and using the surface for your brain’s organizing pleasure.
  4. Resurface the desk, early and often.  I’ve had original veneer, maple veneer, and currently, a $45 sheet of Formica (works great as a whiteboard!) on the surface of my desk.  On my too-dark, too-depressing desk at home, I’ve resurfaced with whiteboard contact paper. Amazon has a veritable zoo of contact papers (easy on, easy off if you don’t like them) which allow your brain to employ whimsy to please itself as you work.  Experiment and enjoy!

I look forward to the day when I can remove the telephone from my desk!  I currently do about 90% of my phone calling with Skype and a wireless headset.  I’ve thought about suspending the computer from the ceiling or from a cart that can be driven away from the desk to leave the desk space 100% analogue, but these are not currently practical given all the cables that have to be run.

  • Element #2: Big desk surface

The best data I’ve seen on the surface area needed for information workers comes from Demarco and Lister’s book Peopleware.

Before drawing the plans for its new Santa Teresa facility, IBM violated all industry standards by carefully studying the work habits of those who would occupy the space. The study was designed by the architect Gerald McCue with the assistance of IBM area managers. Researchers observed the work processes in action in current workspaces and in mock-ups of proposed workspaces. They watched programmers, engineers, quality control workers, and managers go about their normal activities. From their studies, they concluded that a minimum accommodation for the mix of people slated to occupy the new space would be the following: 100 square feet of dedicated space per worker 30 square feet of work surface per person

DeMarco, Tom; Lister, Timothy R. (2010-04-15). Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams (Kindle Locations 812-818). Dorset House Publishing. Kindle Edition.

30 square feet of work surface is H-U-G-E.  My desk is 34″ deep, so to have 30 square feet of work area, my desk would need to be 10.5′ long! As my desk is merely 6′ long, I’m coming up short with a 17 square foot desk.  I forecast that GTD will be adding some desk space to my office before too long.  But for now, I’m squeaking by with a single work surface and living 13 square feet below my potential.  :-)

Another interesting aside is how many of my students are trying to live on tiny desks.  Here’s Paulina Menchaka’s before and after desks (Paulina has kindly granted me permission to share these pictures).  See if these pictures feel the same or different when you think about sitting down to work at these desks?

My friend s Messy Desk 089Photo

Here is what my desk looks like today.  The mouse and keyboard can be moved out of the way, and the monitor can be pushed back to free up desk surface.

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Summary, you need elbow room to think.  You need to work with your entire brain, that means spreading things out in front of it, moving things around, giving the brain time to compost, and then listening as your subconscious bubbles up ideas.  No substitute for lots of work surface and unrestricted access to that surface.

  • Element #3: Slide-to-side room

I think it is required that you have the ability to roll your chair to slide sideways across your desk.  This is required first, because it gives you a sense of freedom not having your knees crowded from both sides (John Niebergall, you know who you are!).  Second, as projects are underway, new projects have a way of finding their way on to your desk.  With a clear surface and sideways sliding room, you can be practically opportunistic in sliding sideways and setting up a 2nd (and sometimes a 3rd) project that you have to run in parallel with your starting project.  I just get a sense of release when I look at a desk that is flexible allowing side to side sitting.  Open-ness side to side also lets you invite people to work beside you at your desk.  For example, I often have my students put their laptops on the right hand end of my desk so they can step through an Excel exercise on their own computer as I step through it on my computer.

  • Element #4: Conference table legs

My desk was part of a very business-like Jesper office set I bought in Boise in 2002.  I’ve been refining the desk ever since.

ORIGINALJESPERDESK

When, in January 2011, I was trying to fit the desk and its side skirt supports into my office a Concordia, I realized that there just were not enough degrees of freedom with side skirt legs.  For example, you can’t really have a meeting with someone across a desk that has skirts like this.  What I really wanted was a conference table.  Once I realized this, I went to IKEA, and bought a Galant leg set and table frame (IKEA part number 101.501.69 I can’t find it on their web site) for $80 and make my modified Jesper desk into the conference table style desk.

Meade s Theory of the Perfect GETTING THINGS DONE  GTD Desk

The more I do GTD, the simpler I need my desk to be.  It takes a lot of complexity to make a desk appear simple and purely functional.  Note that I have 2 cable management systems under my desk.  The white box attached to the left two legs is a $10 IKEA cable management solution that confines power strips and extra lengths of cable beautifully.  I don’t care how messy the cables are as long as I can’t see and don’t think about them.  In addition to the cable management system I have a Trip-Lite 12 outlet strip attached underneath the work surface.

Geek readers will detect an external USB hard drive on the top of the cable management unit.  In 2011 I decided to squeeze another 2 years out of my 2008 iMac by replacing the boot disk with a solid state drive and moving the home folder to external USB drive.  Amazing speedup!

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The second cable management system is perpendicular to the white box, and consists of the dark felt trays with the light brackets holding them to the underside of the work surface.  IKEA has apparently killed both these cable management systems, but fortunately, they have introduced new systems as well.  So, for $40 you can have all the under-work surface cable management you need.

Cable management above the work surface is a matter of twist ties, cable ties, double-sided-sticky-tape, and corrugated finger-pinching tube.  Here is the behind the scenes cable management story of my desk.  Since this picture was taken, I’ve drilled a 3″ hole at the base of the monitor arm so I could route all the cables directly through the desk to the cable management trays beneath it.  Here is the right hand side of the monitor arm: Note my pen and trusty 3″x5″ cards at the ready behind the iMac monitor.

Red arrows show tools behind the monitor, yellow arrows in the following two pictures show the extensive re/use of double sided sticky tape in desk enginerding.

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On the left hand side of the monitor arm you can see two Bose speakers, a 7 port USB hub, a 5 port ethernet switch, and an $11 fluorescent light, all attached with double sided sticky tape. All this is a mess, but I don’t care, since I can’t see the mess. Out of sight means no open loop for my mind.

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Note the white plastic objects in the yellow file folder fingers on the diagonal part of the monitor arm.  These are 3D printed objects that I need to have readily available.  They are clutter unless I need them, so I keep them behind my iMac screen.  I don’t see them and so am not bothered by them while I’m working.

  • Element #6: Killer Cool Paper Trays

The current state of GTD paper tray technology is deplorable!  Even before I discovered GTD, I conducted a frustrated search of the internet to find something that was not boring, something I called “goofy.”  What I found was a multiple tray system designed by Shaunn Fynn and sold by Custom Plastics Inc of Elk Grove Village, Il.  I think that Custom Plastics has given up on selling this multiple paper tray.  You can still find a very similar desk organization system at high end wood product components manufacturers like Doug Mockett but the series is being discontinued.  No matter.  I think the requirement is for some element of whimsy in your paper trays.  By whimsy, I think that GTDers need to go beyond tidy.  We need a dash of not-too-over-organized-and-fun, on our desks without introducing clutter.  Shaun Fynn’s elevated multiple trays, are a perfect entry point a fresh breath of creative desk whimsy!

Story: When I moved to Concordia University last January, I took my original paper tray system that looked like the 3 tray system in the right of this picture:

FYNN

And then I blatantly sucked up to the awesome physical plant team at CU, and they removed the base of the tray system, and then J-B Welded the paper tray base to the base of my monitor arm.  These paper trays are fun because they can rotate around the axis of the vertical post.  You can line them up one above the other if you are felling left brained, or you can align them asymmetrically if that is what pleases your muse.

I use the top tray for my inbox (please note that since having a week to work undisturbed in my office I’m at INBOX ZERO!), the second tray has my natural project management form (I turned GTD chapter 3’s natural project management process, into a 1 page form.  See Appendix A at the end of this post if you want a copy), and the bottom tray has blank white letter sized paper.

Killercoolpapertrays 1

I started doing GTD in March 2009 (after meeting Ian Watson at COMDEX 2009 at the end of January).  It took Ian a month to get me to promise to read GTD.  The time since then has been a roller coaster journey of increased productivity, decreased stress, then increased stress, decreased productivity.  In the process I’ve refined, refactored, rethought, and redesigned my desk.  When I sit down now at my desk, I feel pleasure at being able to work.  This is true at my office desk and at my home desk (BTW, stay tuned for a blog post on an upgrade to the home desk in January 2012).

I have learned, that if I am feeling pressure from work that there are two causes:

  • First, I have not done my review.  I don’t think weekly is enough for me to get current on everything.  But daily is too often.  I have an annoying meat brain and continue to search for the sweet spot of my meat spot.  :-)
  • Second, I am not organized enough.

My desk is a key component of my trusted system.  Desk is the place where I work on atoms and bits of my next actions.  As I’ve sharpened my desk, my physical filing, electronic filing (Evernote for documents + Kindle for ebooks), I’m becoming more productive and less stressed.  I see this working for my students as well.  I think it can work for you if you have that knot of doubt in your stomach about whether you can ever hear someone say “Your desk is awesome!” (My wife Beth said this 2 days ago about my 2nd-string home office desk, and it made my week!).  If I can implement GTD, anyone can (check out the before/after pics here if you haven’t seen them: http://restartgtd.com/2011/12/29/gtd-journey-after/).

For now, my theory of the perfect GTD desk is to bring together 6 elements (However, I reserve the right to add more elements if needed!):

  1. Clear desk surface
  2. Big (ideally 30 square feet)
  3. Slide to side (open front)
  4. Conference table legs
  5. Cable management
  6. Killer cool paper trays

In addition to my work desk, I have used GTD to redesign my wallet into a pico-desk, my BookBook laptop computer case as a nano-desk, and my Kensington rolling briefcase into a mobile desk.  More on these in later posts.

  • Appendix A: Meade’s Natural Project Management 1-Page Form

MeadeNaturalProjectManagment

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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