GTD Modularity: What is Up With That?

GTD hit me like a ton of bricks. Modularity bricks that impacted my skull in this order:

  1. Paperless reference filing with Evernote and a ScanSnap. If you don’t have it, uneedit.
  2. One idea, one piece of paper.
  3. Indulge your brain, organize to fit how your brain works.
  4. Organize, … just enough.
    Too much organization and your brain will refuse to use the organization, not enough, and you are hosed.
  5. Separate functions.
    1. Processing from doing  <== HUGE
    2. Building infrastructure separate from processing or doing <== HUGER
    3. Feeling guilty, from building infrastructure, processing, or doing <== Hugest!!!!

bill meade (please email me, don’t feel guilty about it! … just do it. Do it now!)

Number 3 Reason GTDers Don’t Use Evernote … after installing Evernote


TLDR: Why people set up and then don’t use Evernote

  1. The first reason is that implementing GTD changes too many things at once.
    So, Evernote, even if it is installed and working, won’t be used. Evernote is a sub-casualty of the 83% failure rate of GTD implementations.
  2. The second reason is because we blow off the GTD weekly reviews, infecting our GTD system with guilt that comes into focus (like a magnifying glass starting a fire) when we sit down to use Evernote. End result is we stop sitting down to our computers and stop using Evernote. *Note* This is also why people stop using Outlook, Omni-Focus, etc. for GTD.
  3. The third reason why GTD people don’t use Evernote after implementing it, that Evernote can be implemented in too many ways. And, … no two ways to implement Evernote agree. Too many choices to an overwhelmed brain = no choice. So, stop web surfing about Evernote, and start experimenting with your own work.

If you too have abandoned Evernote while trying to implement GTD, please share why?

Done! Good! Now go buy something to organize with, on Amazon! Invest in organization.


Why GTD people stop using Evernote is a surprisingly popular topic. So, I’m going to identify a couple more of the big reasons that GTD people stop using Evernote. This post is about reason 3, how the many alternative ways of implementing Evernote, stop people from using Evernote.


Source: .com

The perfect illustration of a GTD user implementing Evernote is not just a deer in headlights. The perfect illustration is a deer in a dozen of the spot lights used in police helicopters to run down fugitives.

User: “I think I’ll try using Evernote”

  • {event} Client installation on an iPad happens
    (10% of users who attempt to install quit here)

    • Wait, what? Why aren’t people installing Evernote on their PCs first? Seems that the PC is passing in influence. See RestartGTD’s Browser De Jure page for GTD viewership. GTD like it or not is becoming an iPad thing.
  • {event} Account setup happens
    (50% of potential users quit here)
  • {event does not happen} Opening Evernote for the first time on iPad
    (25% of potential users quit here)
  • {event} User opens Evernote for the first time

Even if we give Evernote 100% of the loyal users who open Evernote on their iPad for the first time, Evernote has still lost 85% of its users by the time a user opens Evernote for the first time.

Worse success rate than a David Allen GTD seminar!

Of course, I could be wrong about the percentages above. Still … Evernote is computer (desktop or laptop) first. With its new users swarming in from iPad and iPhone land, there are going to be a lot of wasteful problems (from the perspective of GTD).

For example,

  • once the person who has followed the steps above sees their Evernote account, what will they see? None of their existing information. = #EvernoteProblem
  • how can we fix this?
    • By installing Evernote Web Clipper and Clearly for a week or 10 days, so the user has some web-browsing history built up, that s/he will recognize when Evernote first opens. = #EvernoteProblem
    • By *distracting* the user to next import their paper with a scanner (scroll down to the file cabinet picture) before they open Evernote. Oh, crap, this requires Evernote to be installed on a PC with a scanner. Oops. = #EvernoteProblem
    • By scanning directly from scanner to Evernote on iPad or phone.
    • Without something drastic, can we fix this?


= #EvernoteProblem * #GTD Problem = .15 *.17 = Success Rate of Evernote & GTD

.15*.17=.03 Or, 3%


How can trying to implement Evernote with GTD be a good idea if it kills off an additional 14% of successful GTD users beyond what David Allen’s Company experiences?

  1. Once a GTD user puts their information into Evernote, it becomes easier to do reference filing correctly, than to not do reference filing. Reference filing is a keystone GTD skill. This helps *a lot* with people staying with GTD!
  2. Those 14% of GTD users were going to fade anyway. I *think* this because I talk to people who are “formerly known as GTD users” and they say “I use about 50% of GTD. I was really into it at first, but then it became too much to keep up with.”
    • Why? When I ask, “Do you use Evernote web clipper?” they invariably say “What is Evernote Web Clipper?”
    • Hypothesis: 14% of GTD users would be saved if they tried Evernote for their reference filing.
  3. Evernote is a platform, not a well-known, habitually used product. So what?
    • So … the marketeers at Evernote are clueless at how to help people who have a dozen police helicopter spot lights in their eyes. Platforms give markets new-to-the-world-capabilities, marketing people are trained to more efficiently sell old-to-the-world-capabilities.
    • So … in GTD terms, a new platform allows us to experiment with new degrees of freedom in organizing. The way our brains work with new platforms is trial and error. Our brains will try using the electronic tools, then pull back and compost on how the new platform *feels*. Then, confidence in a new way to use the tool appears from nowhere, and we implement the tool. And iterate improvements from there.


Don’t web surf to figure out how to use Evernote. Experiment with your own next actions, projects, reference filing, and inboxing. See what pleases you and run with that. When you feel *hindered* by Evernote, stop doing that. 

You can start with paper, that worked for me! See GTD Time Lapse for my 5 year history of GTD evolution.

You can go all digital. That did not work for me. I went back to paper + Evernote.

The trick is to start. Don’t think “I can’t start without the perfect system.” Think, what can I improve the most, with the least effort. Or, better, what would be fun to really focus on and improve? After 200+ MBA students, I think getting a ScanSnap and Evernote going as your reference filing system can’t be beat.

Whatever you do, keep evolving your GTD. GTD is like a bicycle. When you stop moving, you fall over.

bill meade

Mac users, use your ScanSnap iX500 to scan to phone: Part 2 How?



This post will step-by-step Macintosh users through getting our most excellent ScanSnap iX500 scanners, to scan directly to our smart phones.

This journey began 2 posts ago with the discovery that when you set up ScanToPhone the first thing Fujitsu’s programmers want you to do is to update the firmware on your scanner. Then, 1 post ago I explored why anyone would want to scan directly to phone. Mostly, I just decided to close my eyes and try setting this up.

OK, this tutorial will assume that you have gone through how to update your firmware step by step and you now have your iX500 scanner all cutting edge and ready to go.

Step 1: Run “ScanSnap Wireless Setup”

Go to /Applications/ScanSnap/ScanSnap Wireless Setup and double click. Your should see this in your /Applications/ScanSnap folder:


Step 2: See which door opens up. Door #1, Door #2, or Door #3


If you see Door #1 this is good! You either have a Ph.D. (license to be absent-minded), you have not turned on your ScanSnap iX500, or both. Next action? Open the ScanSnap iX500 so that it turns on.

Presentation1 3

Fantastic, you are ready to implement your X clicks and to begin scanning from ScanSnap to phone. **Note** If you saw Door #1 and then opened your ScanSnap, you will see Door #2 in about 2 seconds.

Presentation1 2

Oops, you need to update your firmware before you can set up ScanToPhone. Go to my step-by-step tutorial “Think Like A Fujitsu Programmer To Upgrade your iX500 Firmware“.

Step 3: Click “Wireless Network Setup Wizard” in Door #2


… and then follow the dialogs along … 


… and find your network and click on it, then follow the dialog … 


… then enter your security key and follow the dialog … 


… then you will be informed that your ScanSnap is successfully connected, click on OK to continue … 


… you will be shown a dialog like this to indicate you have successfully connected your ScanSnap wirelessly … 


… next you will be asked if you want to scan to your mobile device (phone), click “OK” … 


… after you click “Yes” on the previous dialog you will see a new dialog that will send us from configuring the iX500, to installing Fujitsu’s phone app …


… so go to the iOS or Android store and download the free ScanSnap program to your phone … 


… once you have ScanSnap Connect Application installed on your phone you can click “Yes” on your Mac, (for having installed the app) and then click Continue …


… the next dialog you see shows you two critical facts:

(1) Scanner Network Name and = GTDiX500 for my scanner
(2) Scanner Network Password = 4674
for my password <- write this down

Now you are ready to open the ScanSnap app on your phone (see Appendix A for step by step instructions for installation on an Android phone) …


… and then click “Yes” and “Continue” in the dialog … 


… and the Macintosh part of setup is almost done! …



… Click finish and then the Macintosh side of ScanToPhone setup is complete. Now pick your phone up and open the ScanSnap Connect App, then your phone will find your ScanSnap and ask you for your four digit password … it should look like this …


Whoa, where was that password set? <<Panic>> Four digits? But, … I’ve got all my fingers … I’m confused!

Fear not! Setups involving two devices, are the worst. So take a chill pill and scroll up three dialog boxes. My password is 4647, your password will be different, but will be in that same dialog. Now wait, you wrote your password down right? :-) 

… enter your password phone your app screen will look like this …


… **note** the blue scanner icon in the lower right-hand corner. This is the indicator that your scanner is read to scan to your phone. Put your business card into your iX500 and then touch the blue icon on your phone …


… like magic, your phone will have a PDF scan of your business card. Mine looked like this …

Screenshot_2014-03-11-12-07-21… if all went well, you should be done and the happy owner of a ScanToPhone new core competence. For maximum payoff, use this capability to “Wow” your peers and make them say “Whoa, I’ve never seen anything like it!”  

Or, if this did not work for you, contact me, or at least vote on why it did not work below:


Support RestartGTD by buying at Amazon with this link!

bill meade
Data researcher seeking team

Appendix A: Installing Scansnap Connect Application on an Android phone 

Go to Google Play Store:


… then click on “Apps” …


… then search for “ScanSnap Connect Application” and choose “INSTALL” … 


… the app will then install … 


… and once installed will give you the option to open or uninstall … 


Mac users, use your ScanSnap iX500 to scan to phone: Part 1 Why?



This article will show Macintosh users how to set up their ScanSnap iX500s to scan directly to their cell phones.

I know, I know, you are thinking “Why would I want to do that?” I’ll tell you: “I don’t know.” But, just because you do not want to scan to your phone, does not mean that you do not need to scan to your phone.

I’ve learned the differences between wants and needs many times with computer technology:

  • Before I used email a colleague said “I’ll show you how to use email!” to which I replied “Why would I want that?”
  • Once I was using email, AOL instant messenger happened, which made me say “Email already does that! Why would I use AOL messenger?”
  • When spreadsheets game out, I said “Why would I want a spreadsheet when I can program in BASIC?”

You get the idea. About the time Lotus 123 Version 2.0 came out with regression analysis built in, I began to get with the program and look at new features as discovery opportunities rather than as opportunities to demonstrate my instinct to fixate on the fossilized residue of what I already know.  I still relapse frequently, only adding a facebook account in order to access the facebook accounts of my children. But in the main, I “get” that change is the dance in the dealing with computers.

Use Cases:

What are the use cases for putting information on your phone? Does anyone DO THAT?


Rule of three: There must be at least three compelling reasons for using ScanToPhone, for Fujitsu to create the capability. I don’t count “Because it is cool!” which no doubt was used on the ScanSnap product manager by the firmware programmers.

  1. Showing off. Like the remote open and close doors on a mini van, there is “demo value” in new features like ScanToPhone. Getting your peers to watch you demonstrate new information technology, and then hear them say “I’ve never seen anything like it!” Is dollars in the pocket, and not just for Apple. Nice idea Fujitsu!
  2. As if! It is possible in the not distant future, that people will carry all their stored information (health records, Evernote accounts, photo libraries, etc.) on their phones. As storage technology approaches atomic resolution limits, the amount of “stuff” we organize, carry, access, and forward, on our phones may become very large.  Again, Fujitsu is there ahead of the rush.
  3. Thumb in the dike. One can argue that 90% of the documents that we access are created or are locally available on computer (or LAN). ScanToPhone then can be rationalized as being a way to get the remaining 10% of our information (since we are on the internet, pictures of cats for example) on our phones where the pictures can be accessed while we are in “meat-space” with other humans. So, ScanToPhone is arguably the thumb in the 10% leak in the dike of 100% of digital information available everywhere at all times.

Next post, Use your ScanSnap iX500 to scan to phone: Part 2 How?

Support RestartGTD by buying at Amazon with this link!

bill meade
Data researcher seeking team

Think like a Fujitsu programmer to update the firmware on your ScanSnap iX500

ImageJust a quick post to end the week. I’ve been working on a post showing step by step how to enable the ScanToPhone capability of the ScanSnap iX500 scanner. In the process of setting up ScanToPhone. The *first* thing that happens when you start enabling the ScanToPhone feature is that your ScanSnap’s firmware gets updated.

Now, having worked at HP in LaserJet-land, I’m always for firmware upgrades because they are the king. Upgrade firmware, you can do more, do faster, do with less heat, do without hassle, etc. New Firmware = Goodness.

In fact, I have checked for firmware upgrades for my iX500 at Fujitsu, multiple times, but have not seen them. Once I began setting up ScanToPhone *bam* first thing is a firmware update. Here is how (on the Mac):

Step 1: go to your /Applications/ScanSnap/ folder and click on “ScanSnap Wireless Setup”


The first thing you will see after you open this program is:


As I said, I’m a sucker for updating firmware. Whenever I see a dialog button saying this, I click it. When you click “Update Firmware” you will then see a thermometer dialog that looks like this:


And when you look at your iX500 you will see that the panel light is indeed orange as indicated in the dialog. The dialog will progress for about 3 minutes, and then the panel light will turn blue and you’ll see a dialog like this:


And then you will see the gateway dialog to the ScanToPhone setup process that looks like this:


And you are done. Your firmware has been updated in your ScanSnap iX500!


Support RestartGTD by buying at Amazon with this link!

bill meade
Data researcher seeking team

GTD Anchor #1: Reference Filing



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 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