What is GTD Warm Boot Step #1?

Where Does a New Work Flow Start?


The Author @ HP Boise Legal Circa 2001

The last time I had a cube in corporate America, the cube came with 4 walls. Apparently, a few things have changed since “back in the day.” Today a cube is truncated into a
c | u | b | e so that four people put together have four walls. So I’ve got a corner or 1/4 of a cube.

Ironic Math Question: Is a corner of a square, a square root?

Back story, at HP I asked that my cube have zero work surfaces. Instead I ordered two lobby chairs that had tablet arms for laptops. And on the chair I used, installed a long work surface that reached from the right table arm to the left. Top down my cube looked like this.


The fun thing about this set up was people would come in, sit down and say “Why is your cube larger than everyone else’s.” This was fun, because my cube was not larger than everyone else’s. Same as.

And same as brings us back to desk 1.0 at new job in the insuranceville company town.


It is only natural to feel a moment of remorse for moving from my dungeon desk (see below) to a corporate environment with a uniformity fetish. However, life is bricolage (RestartGTD link) and constraints set you free (see previous post).

One big constraint of the new work space is books. Perhaps you have seen my picture in my library around the internet …

Spitzweig 1850

Alas, no more shelves, ladders, or extraneous reference materials. The internet is some compensation, but Mostly I’m shifting my references into Kindle and where possible, PDF files.


GTD Start Up

I decided to start with a 3×5 card heavy GTD setup. One idea, one piece of paper. Then, a manila folder for each project. In slinking around the supplies room if found a lot (20) diagonal folder holders that were “locally available” to install without causing any drama. So, here is what my desk looks like when I arrive in the morning.

When I first arrive in the morning I move my monitors out of the way, up to the shelf, and then do a relaxed mind sweep. At least for now, I’m arriving at 8:00 am which is a scosh before my group, so I can take 10 minutes or so to allow ideas to bubble up, write them on cards, and then organize the cards into groups (columns).

My new boss (who no, has not read GTD … yet …) is great at emailing me projects, hints, tips, etc. So my first week, I started by taking her emails, cards where next actions were captured during conversations, and then hacking out an initial set of projects. Each project gets a folder, and a diagonal slot at upper right on my desk. Cards get filed in project folders.

This physical folder organization has felt to me like it has helped trust to develop fast. If I’m not at my desk, the information is available for my boss to walk up to the folders, find the project she is concerned with, open the folder and see:

  • At the very front a list of next actions for the project. Think of an excel spreadsheet list that has completed tasks and next tasks.
  • The individual 3×5 cards with next actions on them.
  • Supporting materials for the project (most of which she has lent me, so this is great for her to be able to “pull back” materials she needs)

I also have a “Projects” folder with a list of all the individual projects. This list has been handy as my boss is on the spot with her boss and her peers about what I’m going to be doing (this company has a strong norm of close monitoring of new employees).

That is the initial set up so far.

bill meade

Evernote OCR: A quick look

As a doctoral student in the late 1980s, I began reading biographies of scientists. The first biography I read was Charles Darwin’s Autobiography ($0.00 in Kindle store). Early in the book (p 54 L 800) Darwin talks about his organization system and concludes with:

"... by taking the one or more portfolios 
I have all the information collected during 
my life ready for use."

After reading this I sat back and thought “Whoa! What is today’s equivalent to Darwin’s organization?” and shortly thought “A database.” The next day I purchased the only portable computer I could afford, a Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 100 with 32K of RAM and a four-line, 40-column display.

I would type in the good passages of every article, every book, and every magazine that I read. Then, when the Model 100 was full (about 4 hours of reading and typing) I would ride my bicycle from MSU’s library to my office in the bowels of Hubbard Hall and upload the data to my desktop computer via RS-232, then erase the Model 100’s ram, and bike back to the library and repeat the reading and typing.

Because laptop computers were totally out of my reach, after building a text database in AskSam of all these passages, I printed out all the key passages I had read on 4″x6″ cards in 8 pt courier font. I picked 8 point font in order to squeeze as many characters on a card as I could. I printed approximately 1,200 of these cards on my HP DeskJet (1988) printer. The DeskJet entered my life in 1988 when first introduced, I think I paid $800 for it. My wife had pre-authorized the purchase of an inkjet “… as soon as it is under $1,000.

Here is an example DeskJet card:

I kept the cards in long boxes and then went through the boxes repeatedly, card by card, and making connections across cards. These connections were then captured on other 4″x6″ cards in hand written notes. I have approximately 800 of these “linking” cards making bout 2,000 4″x6″ cards in total. Here is what a linking card looks like:

Going paperless with Evernote, I scanned in all my 4″x6″ cards and then recycled them. The purpose of this blog post is to show the results from a quick investigation of Evernote’s optical character recognition on my machine-printed and hand-written cards.

Evernote OCR: Machine-Printed Cards:

First, the recognition on machine-printed cards. I “tested” evernote by opening the card and then typing the content of the card into the search box for that card. Here is what that looked like:

You can see the text I’ve typed in to search for, in the upper right hand corner of the note, and the yellow rectangles in the note indicate recognition hits.

The result is that Evernote has a pretty hard time on 8 point Courier font text. After doing this quick test and thinking about it, I’m going to have to re-read these cards in order to sift through their content. I can’t count on Evernote to find words for me when they are printed small. This is not a criticism. Evernote is always growing and adding capabilities. I just need to keep in mind the current capabilities in accessing my information.

I’m not just being pollyanna about Evernote. When I first scanned my files, I had probably 8 gigabytes of files to upload, and could upload only 1 gigabyte per month. At the time I wrote Evernote and said “Can I please give you money so I can add all my gigabytes?” to which Evernote replied “Thanks for offering, but not yet.” And within 12 months, they created the “gigabyte amnesty” program where you can pay $5 to upload a gigabyte of extra stuff.  So I’m patient with Evernote.

Evernote OCR: Hand-Written Cards

Next, I tested how well Evernote could read my hand-writing. No *flames* please for my awful writing. I gave up on cursive at the first possible moment, and bought an electric type writer to substitute. Consequently I “print-scribble” rather than write.

Opening the note for the card at the very top of this post, I obtained this hit list after typing in every word on the card:

Again, there are quite a few hits, but, a text search is not yet ready for prime time. As of 3/2014 I must read rathe than search information captured in hand writing.

Using Evernote is a Janus-thing. Janus was the Roman god of doorways, beginnings, and transitions.


Using Evernote is great. A dramatic improvement to my organization and productivity. What I’m already accomplishing is face #1 of Evernote. But, as an Evernote user, I’m on the cusp of doing so much more. The so much more is face #2 of Evernote.

Click here to see Liz Parrish’s two headed elephant. The Janus-experience of using Evernote.

bill meade


Amazing Kindle Book Steals!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Steal #1: Geoffrey Moore’s Gorilla Game for $.99

As I shared yesterday, Geoffrey Moore is a Ph.D. in literary criticism who somehow ended up in high technology marketing (see 1, 2, 3, 4 ($.99), 5, 6) and is the nicest person you could ever want to meet. Click here to get Gorilla game for $.99.


Steal #2: Will Durant’s THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY for $.99

Will and Ariel Durant wrote the massive Story of Civilization between 1935 and 1975.  His writing on philosophy makes me shake my head and say “Dang, why did I not observe this? … No … how could I have missed this?”

Both Geoffrey Moore and Will Durant (backed by Ariel Durant) write warmly and enthusiastically. Enjoyable!!!


bill meade


Kindle A Cross-Platform Handcuff Experince

Source: Microsoft

Source: Harper’s


As I’ve shared in previous posts, I’m a big Kindle fan.  I don’t own a Kindle device as I prefer to read on my iMac, iPad, and Google Chromebook, but I’m beginning to wonder if I should buy a Kindle Fire HD.  This post is a comparison of the Kindle reading experience across Mac, iPad, and Chromebook.  While highlights and annotations ARE SHARED across platforms, the fidelity of Kindle across these platforms is degrading over time.  

Best Kindle Platform to Read With: iPad

Of the three platforms I use, the iPad’s Kindle reader is head and shoulders better.  Here is a snapshot of the highlighting tool in Kindle for iPad.  Note the multiple colors to choose from.

Source: A Kindle for iPad - A First Rate Madness page 78

Here are the annotation options on the Kindle for Mac software (version 1.10.5 (40381) freshly installed before I wrote this post.  

Source: A Kindle for Mac - A First Rate Madness page 78

Here is the annotation option on the Google Chromebook using Amazon Cloud Reader: 

Source: A Kindle Cloud Reader on Chromebook - A First Rate Madness page 78

Kindle iPad ≠ Kindle Mac ≠ Kindle Cloud Reader … So what? 

When I discovered the multi-color highlighting in Kindle for iPad, I thought to myself about how DICE (Deep Indulgent Complete and Elegant) Kindle’s software has become.  For example, here is a highlight that I created the first time I read A First Rate Madness:

Source: A Kindle for iPad - A First Rate Madness page 78

 And here is an updated highlight that allowed me to separate the ideas I was pointing to in the passage: 

 Source: A Kindle for iPad - A First Rate Madness page 78

The ability to more finely highlight for a bookworm like me, is a big deal.  As a professor, I’m looking forward to the day that Amazon will allow me to share my highlights with my students (and whomever else wants to see them) in a branded by me, way.  

However …

When I look at this same passage on Mac or Chromebook, the passage is one large blob of highlight.  So, … I’m now shifting my reading largely to my iPad, just so I can highlight in a more nuanced way.  And, I’m beginning to worry about whether … 

  • Amazon will preserve the integrity of my highlights into the future. 
  • I will be able to see my nuanced highlights on Mac and Chromebook, and if so, when.
  • I need to buy a Kindle Fire HD in order to avoid an adulterated Kindle reading experience. 
  • Google (resistance is futile, we will all be assimilated) will allow me to port my Amazon books to their reader with my highlights.
  • There will be an App for Kindle that will allow me to export my Kindle book highlights to a neutral format where I can re-apply my highlights to new formats of books that do not yet exist.   

Kindle as a GTD tool is incomplete.  I wish I could:

  • connect my highlighted passages to projects that the passages can support. Like I take my 3×5 cards with ideas on them and drop them into manila project folders.  It would be cool if I could print highlighted passages on 3×5 cards, so that I could move ideas from bits to atoms. 
  • link highlighted passages across Kindle books. 
  • have multiple Kindle books open on a single device, the digital equivalent of the bookworm on the ladder above.
  • dynamically link passages in Kindle books with web links (pictures, movies, slideshares, etc.)    

Finishing Up: 

Kindle is amazing, I’m sitting in my office surrounded by about 5,000 books.   So many books, that the thought of moving them actively repels me from the job market.  My computers running Kindle on the other hand, each have 215 books in them.  And, none of the devices carrying these books weigh any more than when I purchased them.  


Source: Google Nexus 4 in my office

So, every format of content, has pluses and minuses.  But the lack of fidelity in Kindle software across hardware platforms, gives me pause about whether Kindle is really earning our patronage as the book of the future.  

The biggest bugaboo of Kindle across platforms is that text-to-speech is not available unless you are reading on a Kindle hardware device. I had previously written off ever having text-to-speech thinking that Amazon is trying to force users to buy their devices.  But when you compare Kindle software on non-Amazon hardware, it becomes clear that text-to-speech isn’t the only Kindle experience adulteration.  

Any RestartGTD readers who have a color Kindle device, if you could compare the highlighting colors between Kindle device and MS Windows Kindle, it would be good to know if my experience is isolated, or is a signal to a more widespread adulteration.  

bill meade