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)

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

Paperless Resolutions

Bits Are Better Than Atoms:

Just noticed a Fujitsu ScanSnap on Amazon (not sold by Amazon so Caveat Emptor) for $350 which is just about $100 less than normal price for an iX500. Arrival is already after Christmas, but for those of you taking off for India (not naming names Shobhit!) for a month, might be worth considering.

And, from Amazon, there is an Evernote edition of the Fujitsu ScanSnap for:

  • Brand new for $406 which is still less than the iX500 has been costing. As of post time, this should arrive before Christmas.
  • Six open box iX500s for $356 which might be a deal for a small business!!! All 6 come with free 2-day shipping.

I heartily recommend the iX500 as can be seen by clicking here to read RestartGTD’s 40+ article ScanSnap library.

For those of you on the cusp of buying Evernote due to the 70+ RestartGTD article library, please consider clicking here to support RestartGTD (at not additional cost) as you sign up.

Best Regards for happy holidays and greener pastures for us all in 2017!!!

bill meade

GTDesk 2016

Before office picture with books

I read therefore i am leads to having too many books. About 5000 too many to be exact. So I consulted my engineering teacher friends and asked the best way to cut bindings off books to scan them to PDF. And the answer was a band saw.

This is the Ryobi 9″ US$130 band saw which I am using to saw-then-scan my book-library.

Lessons Learned:

  1. All the books that are out of copyright are available in PDF to download, just Bing/Google for the title + pdf.
  2. The default band saw blade on the Ryobi works just fine on books.
  3. Sawing off bindings makes sawdust the size and consistency of face powder.
  4. My ScanSnap iX 500 has now scanned 23,522 pieces of paper on both sides for a total of 47044 pages! So I’m 11.7% of the way to needing a new set of pick rollers for the ScanSnap.
  5. I have been forced to clean the face-powder-sawdust from the pick rollers twice. But the iX500 rocks as always. Run, do not walk to Amazon.com and buy one!
  6. I’m using an iMac with macOS Sierra and Apple broke Preview (mac PDF viewer) in this version. You can open a PDF and highlight text in the PDF, but not save to the original file name. So if you are on a Mac and you want to do the band-saw-to-pdf book thing, you’ll need a new PDF app.
  7. For the Mac, the best PDF program to read and highlight in many colors that I’ve found, is PDF Expert 2. It is available for Windows apparently. But I’ve been delighted with PDF Expert 2 as a replacement for Apple’s preview.
  8. I like my desk better empty, than with Bose Companion 5 speakers on it. Clutter is the STRATEGIC ENEMY. However, I do miss having the subwoofer from the Bose speakers to rest my feet on.
  9. This is my first post on RestartGTD in 2016. Leaving the land of start up companies for hopefully greener pastures, and more posts in 2017.

After office picture with PDF’d books:

With the books in PDF form, they all fit into the computer. So here is an update on my GTD Desk with my entire library in it.

Not really, I’ve scanned 200 books so far, 4,800 left to go. If you are in the market for stacking book shelves in Seattle, I’ve got a bunch you can have! :-)

Enjoy!

bill meade

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

3×5 Cool Tool

Amazon_com___Oxford_At_Hand_Note_Card_Case__Black__63519____Index_Card_Binding_Cases___Office_Products

Purpose of this post is to share a *find* … of the 3×5 kind. I have started carrying an Oxford hand-note-card case. And, it is FANTASTIC!!!

I keep the case with 10 or so blank 3×5 cards (stored in the middle pouch so the cards do not get beat up) in my right front pocket. Even the pen holder is useful. I keep a skinny red pen in the case, so I can drag the case out and be ready to capture. Ideas, projects, action items, … whatever. There are also front and back slots to keep cards that have been written. So the case allows me to keep next actions with me, separate from blank cards.

The workflow:

  • Take card case out, and capture the GTD open loop.
  • Slide the open loop into the front or back slot
  • Front slot is for general GTD open loops that can be closed without capture in my digital system. Probably about 50% of the open-loop-cards I capture will be completed without being entered electronically.
  • Back slot is for project related cards that for the most part end up in OneNote or Evernote.

The confession:

  • I lost the first hand note case I purchased, but because it had become indispensable for me, I’ve re-ordered another from Amazon.com

Discussion:

  • How can someone who uses both Evernote and OneNote need 3×5 cards?

Because my brain loves 3×5 cards. The most powerful organizing that I do is to lay out 3×5 cards on a giant table, and then re-organize them by sliding them into columns of related ideas.

popuporganizing01-1-1.jpg

When I put my entire trusted system into the MOST EXCELLENT OmniFocus, my brain refused to use the system. I could not bring myself to sit down at my desk. I *think* in Ready for Anything David Allen actually says “If you get too organized, your brain will refuse to use your system.” Certainly the case for me. So as I’ve documented in the evolution of my trusted system, I use 3×5 cards as my default “one idea, one piece of paper” capture system.

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

 

Evernote vs. OneNote … Redux

Presentation1

Introduction:

In my current job, I’m working with a lot of people from Microsoft. If I mention “Evernote” I often hear “You mean OneNote … Right!?!”

This post is just a small scream out to the inner Microserfs (The t-shirt with “IBM Weak as a kitten, dumb as a sack of hammers!” alone makes the book worth reading!!!) of my anonymous Microsoft partisans:

OneNote and Evernote are different. Really different.

Let me use a Microserf-ish analogy:

  • OneNote is Excel. Evernote is Power Query.
  • Or, OneNote is Excel, and Evernote is PowerPivot.

Yes, their functionalities overlap. But no, they are not competitors. To a GTD person, they are complements, not substitutes. Oops, another analogy from economics just inserted itself.

There is a healthy humility at Microsoft today. Gone are the arrogant people looking at your extended hand and saying “Do I need to know you?” They’ve been replaced by mortals who worry about being laid off as well as worrying about whether their market share can be *significant*.

My Microserf partisans, embrace this humility!

But, don’t let your healthy humility combine with an unhealthy fear of failure, that will react with humility to produce defensiveness. OneNote is great. OneNote is powerful.

But not as powerful as OneNote+Evernote.

Read that last sentence again!

Bill Meade

Easy GTD

cropped-restartgtd011.jpg

Introduction: 

I’ve discovered something. A way to make Getting Things Done (GTD) easy to do. Three words:

Love.

Your.

Job.

This Post’s Story:

When I finished graduate school in 1992 I read Waldrop’s COMPLEXITY. The book is about the development of chaos theory from lunatic fringe, to the Santa Fe Institute. The book is not available on Kindle, so I can’t cite the passage exactly, but there is a description of John Holland that goes something like ‘Holland is a nice guy, helping a lot of people, doing work he loves, and having a genuinely good time.’

When I read that I was … jealous. And ever since, I’ve wanted to be John Holland.

Along the way, I’ve come across books that have helped me become more like John Holland:

1. The Artist’s Way (TAW) by Julia Cameron

Mary Meade, my artist sister bought me TAW. Julia Cameron is the world’s greatest ninja in getting “stuck” creative people, unstuck. Her formula is “Write three pages every day. Does not matter what. Just write three pages every day.” Kind of like “one idea, one 3×5 card” in GTD. This unsticks writers, sculptors, painters, …

In TAW I learned:

  • About “crazy makers” who prey upon creative minds, giving them busy work and drama. Don’t have an agenda, crazy makers will give you an agenda.
  • That jealousy is a signal. It tells you what you want to be doing.
  • That getting ideas out, is critical. If you don’t get ideas out of your head, you can’t move the ideas forward.

2. Getting Things Done

Ian Watson basically got on my chest and said “I’m not getting off until you promise me you will read GTD.” I’ve tried to document on this blog, the result. If you haven’t seen the progress, start with the before/after post.

From GTD I learned:

  • Organizing is possible, and then fun. Until GTD, my wife said “I have to have a door I can close on Bill’s office.” Since GTD, the opposite is the case.
  • Organization is about figuring out how your brain works, and then structuring your work naturally. Example: I had a book that I knew I needed to write “stuck” in my head. For seven years I would sit down, try to “dump” the book, and fail. After 1.5 years of GTD, my work environment and mind became organized and synchronized to the point, where I sat down and was able to dump the book, in outline format (a first for me), into a computer.
  • When you organize, God comes along beside you and encourages. S/he has you on earth for specific reasons. Organizing is how we can figure out the reaons.

3. & 4. The House That Cleans Itself (THTCI) and 2,000 to 10,000 (2Kto10K)

  • THTCI taught me about the concept of “stations.”Stations are how you organize to eliminate localized clutter. The formula is to let clutter build up in your life, then take pictures of localized clutter storms.

    Then, figure out the clutter storm’s function. Once you “get” that you are manufacturing clutter when you are doing a specific function (ex., creating draft after draft of writing, dealing with multiple projects simultaneously, missing appointments (temporal clutter), or forgetting tasks) you can organize your environment, trusted system, calendar, etc. to focus on the function at a station optimized to slam dunk the function.

    In a way, GTD as a book, is a pre-fabricated system of stations (next actions, one idea one 3×5 card, project list, 2 minute rule, predigesting tasks by context, etc., etc., etc.). Stations are how I evolve GTD.

  • 2Kto10K taught me about matching enthusiasm to work.Rachel Aaron, a novelist and the author of2Kto10K kept a log of how much she wrote each writing session. She then figured out that she wrote faster and better when she:- Knew what she was going to write before sitting down to write (this is what I’m doing when I take 3×5 cards of ideas, rearrange them before doing)
    – Had long blocks of time (1 hour = 500 words/hr, 5 hours = 1,500 words/hr)
    – Was “was in a place other than home” while writing.
    and most importantly
    – Was enthusiastic about what she was writing.

    Being behind in Rachel’s words was “the perfect storm of all my insecurities” … (feel *familiar*)????? But her ninja-nerd writing log helped here avoid perfect storms, by structuring her work naturally. What I got from Rachel, and what provoked this blog post is …

    The importance of enthusiasm. The word roots of “enthusiasm” are en which means “in” and “theos” which means God. Enthusiasm is “the God within.” Work you loves has the God in you coming along side.

So what?

I’m in a job right now, that makes applying GTD easy. This blog post is my attempt to be a Rachel-Aaron-like nerd, to figure out … Why?

For me, it is about dread. Here is what my task completion time looked like while I work in jobs that were, well, … OK.

Screenshot_022115_121906_PM

Dreading a task is 50% mentality, and 50% environment. When I’ve worked in jobs that I don’t love, the phone rings, there is a knock at the door, there is a meeting that pops up. And for me, very often, a crazy maker boss that drops in. So out of 100 minutes I was only getting work done during 40 minutes.

When in a job that I love, I preemptively manage the environment part of dread procrastination. I turn off the phone, close email, log out of Lync, so I can focus. And, the 1/2 of dread procrastination (just about what the task takes to complete), that is mental … evaporates.

When I love my job, I look forward to rough organizing, and then slam dunking the next action. When you love your job, you avoid the dread tax and get more done. You begin to be more like John Holland:

  • Help more people.
  • Genuinely enjoy the work.
  • Be nice.
  • Do your job effortlessly.
  • Build momentum.

I worked 75 hours this week. Trip to Mexico, lots of driving around and meeting people. Sharing the gospel of simple models applied to the obvious data, to solve obvious problems. On the flight home I realized “I feel like John Holland in Waldrop’s book!”

A first for me.

Implications:

  1. If you find GTD “too hard” to do. You might need a different job.
  2. If you need a different job, you probably know it.
  3. If you know you need a different job, if you are like me, you have not:
    1. created a “find a job of destiny” project, then
    2. rough organized the job of destiny project, or
    3. started executing the job of destiny project.
  4. If you don’t execute on finding that job of destiny, you won’t find your job of destiny.
  5. It is easy to shift blame to GTD for being too hard, when the root cause lies elsewhere.
  6. Looking back on jobs that I did not love, GTD was depressing. Keeping track of all the stuff that isn’t fun, is depressing. Unloved jobs truly are “same shit, different day.”
  7. If dread is part and parcel with doing GTD for you, see implication 1 above.

Bill Meade