- Where this blog came from:
- Getting Started
- GTD Technology
Getting started with GTD is much easier if you have a buddy. Preferably, two buddies, and experienced GTDer buddy, and someone who is at the same experience level as you in implementing GTD. See GTD buddy system for more details.
If you asked me how to get started with GTD today (see What is GTD before embarking on this journey), this is the advice I would give. Step zero, take a picture of your desk. If you follow this guide, and get GTD to stick, starting point chaos, will be a valuable data point to refer back to. Here’s my initial desk before embarking on GTD
- Order GETTING THINGS DONE and 1,000 3×5 cards
a. Buy the unabridged audible version of GTD and listen to it while you are driving.
b. And, buy a Kindle or paper version so you can highlight passages, when you circle back to re-read GTD.
- Order a Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500
- Go to CostCo and get 4 large (free) boxes in which to triage documents
- Subscribe to Evernote
a. Go to Evernote.com and click on “Sign Up”
b. Get you your credit card and pay the $45 a year
c. Get your email confirmation that you account is set up. Write down your username and password for evernote on a 3×5 card.
- Download Evernote and install the client on the computer you use most
a. Download Evernote
b. Install Evernote
c. Connect the installed software on your computer, to your evernote account (use the username and password you wrote down in Step 4 c.
- Install Evernote Clearly into the web browser you use most
a. Clearly is a browser add-in, separate from the software you installed above. Evernote = database. Browser add-in = on-ramp to database.
b. Go to a favorite web page of yours, then click Clearly (a Luxo Lamp Icon) and watch as Clearly removes the clutter from the web page, allows you to highlight text. And most importantly, allows you to save the page to Evernote when you highlight or click sae. You are done for day 1. Time to walk your dog. Your dog will feel stress lifting off you as Millie demonstrates in the picture at the top of this post.
- Practice with Evernote (open it up, see the pages you have captured, add manual notes, create notebooks, etc.) each day as you wait for GETTING THINGS DONE and your ScanSnap to arrive.
- Practice with Clearly every day as you wait for GTD and your scanner. You might want to read the RestartGTD post where the capstone line is: “Clearly all by itself makes Evernote worth it!” towards the bottom. Then go back and play with Clearly and Evernote.
- When the ScanSnap arrives, unbox it immediately, and install it on your computer with the included DVD. This will take you about 20 minutes. Do not read GETTING THINGS DONE until instructed to do so in Step 12. If you procrastinate on installing the ScanSnap to save 20 minutes now, it will take you 20 months or never, to get the ScanSnap installed. Do it. Do it now! (31 seconds in)
- After the ScanSnap is installed, get it working so you can Scan-To-Evernote with one click.
a. Start the installed ScanSnap software by clicking on its icon at the bottom of your screen
b. Left-click once on the ScanSnap software icon after it is running
c. Look for “Evernote” in the pop-up list, and left-click once on it
d. Put a page in the ScanSnap, push the blue button, and watch as the page appears in Evernote. Cool!
- Once you have steps 1 through 10 accomplished, then …
- Read the first three chapters of GTD.
- Read only the first three chapters of GTD. Don’t give in to temporary energy and enthusiasm, and read the entire book. Just chapters 1-3.
- Energized by your first wave of hope after reading …
Mark the 4 boxes you brought home from CostCo as
- Next put all your papers into the “IN” box. Don’t worry about making a mess. Just put each document in as a document. You will process and re-organize these documents later.
- After “IN” is full, then stop. Take the rest of the day off. I know you are eager to sprint to GTD nirvana. But, you need to pace expectations. Expecting to do a single good block of work at a time to implement GTD is a maximum. If you try to do more than a single block of work, you set yourself up for failure, self recrimination, and external ridicule. 83% of people who attempt to implement GTD fail. And they fail because they try to do too many things, too quickly, while tired. You did not make your organization a mess in a day. And you can’t transform it to a masterpiece in a day. One good thing a day is enough. If you want to see an organizational mess, check out the RestartGTD post on GTD Time Lapse at the top for before pictures.
- Next day, approach the “IN” CostCo box, and pull the first document from “IN” box, hold it up. Look at it, suppress any feelings about it, and ask yourself:”Will this ever have a next action?”
a. If the answer is “Yes” put the document into “To Scan” and then go back to “IN” and repeat this step.
b. If the answer is “Maybe” then put the document into “To Scan” and then go back to “IN” and repeat this step.
c. If the answer is “No” then put the document in “Recycle” and then go back to “IN” and repeat this step.
- Once your “IN” box is empty, or your “To Scan” box is full (whichever comes first) then take another rest. At least 90 minutes to let your brain reset.
- When you come back, move the “To Scan” box next to your ScanSnap. Take each document out one at a time. Put the document into the ScanSnap, push the blue button. When the document is finished scanning, either put it in the box labeled “Recycle” or the box labeled “Precious” if the document needs to be saved.
- Once your “To Scan” box is empty, take the rest of the day off. Manage your expectations. One block of GTD work. One day. P-a-c-e yourself.
- Go back to Step 15 if you have more papers to process. And repeat Steps 15-20 until all the paper in your life has been recycled or captured in the box marked “Precious”
- Take the rest of the day off. Manage your expectations. One block of GTD work. One day.
- Once you have all the paper in your life captured in Evernote, the next step is to get your desk clear. Everything off. No pictures. No teddy bears. No momentos. Nothing on your desk in your field of view as you work. In particular, no pictures of faces in front of you where you work. Your brain will work processing faces without ever shutting off. One student has commented to me that this HUGELY reduced her fatigue.
a. If you don’t have a real desk. Get a real desk. No substitutions, kitchen tables do not count. Floors do not count. You need a big space where you feel pleasure when you work. Go to IKEA’s “As Is” department and buy returned legs, tabletops, panels, conference tables. And modify to taste.
b. Go to Amazon and get a monitor arm, wireless keyboard, and wireless trackpad or wireless mouse, to transform your desk back from being a giant monitor stand cluttered with paper, into being a brain’s desk that facilitates work. This is the most disregarded step in my instructions. But, it REALLY HELPS. So give yourself a leg up and try investing in your desk.
- Once you have a clear desk, and all your paper captured in Evernote, it is time to take your first “After GTD” desk picture. Put the “Before GTD” desk picture into Powerpoint on the left. And the “After GTD” desk picture on the right. Then save the PowerPoint slide where you won’t lose it. Here is my before/after PowerPoint slide:Before/after pictures are important. Before/after pictures are hope. Elephant food if you are a Heath & Heath SWITCH: How to change when change is hard fan.
- Next step is time to clear your mind. Most people have 300+ projects in their minds when they start GTD. Sitting down to scrape these out of your head and on to paper, is terrifying. But once you start, you won’t believe how it lightens your mind, and how the time flies.
a. Sit down and write down every open loop you can think of on 3×5 cards. Go for 100 at your first sitting.
b. Once you get to 100, take the rest of the day off. Manage your expectations. One block of GTD work. One day.
- Repeat step 23 until you don’t have anything else on your mind.
- Once your mind is clear, then lay the cards out on your desk. The bigger the desk, the easier this is. Then
a. group the cards together in clumps of similar stuff.
b. These clumps are your projects.
c. Organize each project’s clump into a neat stack on your desk. Once you have all the cards into their natural clumps
d. put rubber bands around each stack of cards/clump.
e. Take the rest of the day off. One block of GTD work. One day.
- At this point, your mind is clear. You have all your ideas where your brain knows they won’t be lost. Now you have to decide how you want to move forward with GTD.
a. Whether you will go all analog, using manila folders - one for each project - with 3×5 cards in them, and keeping a master project list by hand.
b. Go digital OneNote to organize your projects. Creating project lists with [[projectname]] and then transcribing your 3×5 card notes for each project, into next actions. *Note* your 3×5 cards are likely not Next Actions in the David Allen sense. The step of taking a thought on your mind that you are feeling guilty about, and then compiling it into next actions as you transcribe the card into OneNote is not wasted effort.
c. Using Evernote to manage your projects as well as your reference files. Create a “Projects” folder in Evernote. Then, create a sub folder for each project. And then either transcribe your 3×5 card into next actions as in b. above with OneNote. Or, by scanning your 3×5 cards into Evernote.
d. Using OmniFocus (if you are a Mac person). OmniFocus is powerful … and dangerous. OmniFocus is probably the highest fidelity GTD software system. But you may experience over-organization from OmniFocus with the consequence your brain refuses to use the system … as I did. However, if you are a sales person, think hard (try) OmniFocus because David Allen has refined the GTD system to work for sales people. Nobody works harder than sales people, you will need all the system you can get to do your job well.
e. Some kind of hybrid system. My GTD trusted system is broken up across paper and electronic tools. This is less simple to explain. But, my brain will use it. I tried OmniFocus in a monolithic trusted system (27 d.), but I hated sitting down to my desk. So I had to retreat to paper.
The above 28 steps are the process that I’ve seen work the best for the about 200 people I’ve helped boot-up GTD. Personally, I’ve stayed on the GTD wagon because I have a ScanSnap and Evernote. These tools make it easier to capture information correctly, than to live in a mass of disorganized papers. My love of 3×5 cards and manila folders gradually gives way to electronic project organizing as a project lifts off. The cards and folders are early stage capture tools for my projects.
Your mileage will vary. My tools will not be perfect for you. I’ve changed my tools so many times (except Evernote and the ScanSnap) that I’m proof that one size does not fit all. Single design does not even fit one person all the time. But the point is to build your system gradually, experimenting, testing, reflecting on how it *feels* to your brain. Does it allow you to swing, to stop constantly worrying you’ll forget something? Does it *feel* fun to work with? Does your system cut your procrastination and guilt? Are you trying to do too much, too fast?
This process will not get you 100% to the way David Allen’s system. But, it will get you to the nearest local maxima of GTD productivity and GTD swing. Once you go paperless you will discover what a drag paper is. Your Evernote reference filing system will allow you to find everything … in 15 seconds. Evernote *secret* = Evernote does text recognition on all your documents. All you have to do is think of two words that would only be on the document you need, type them into Evernote and *zap* the document is at your finger tips.
Once you have all your projects in some kind of place (manila folder, OneNote folder, Evernote folder) you will feel release of stress. An emergency department doctor who I dragged kicking and screaming to Evernote and a clear desk said to me “I can’t believe how much less stress I’m feeling now.” After my first week of GTD my wife said “Why are you so happy?”
- When doing a mind sweep, I do not follow David Allen’s two-minute rule. This is the only time in my GTD life, that I don’t DO anything that can be done in 2 minutes, and instead, just write down the 2 minute tasks. After my mind is empty, it is easy to take the 2 minute pile, and burn through it. And, it gives you quick wins to keep expectations at bay.
- I’ve found that three steps in the above process are sticking points:
a. Getting the scanner out of the box and functioning. I’ve had to drive to people’s desks and make the scanner go for them because of this “out of box” sticking point. See RestartGTD post abomination of deskolation for case study.
b. Getting the desk clear. Again, I’ve found it easier to drive to desks and show people what their desk looks like REALLY EMPTY. If you contact me ([email protected]) for advice. The first thing I will say is “Tell me about your desk?” and what you need to say back is “I got EVERYTHING off it.”
c. P-a-c-i-n-g yourself. Manage your own expectations. Do not change everything in your organizing, all at once. Know that change will take t-i-m-e. Match building your GTD system, to when you have blocks of fresh energy. Energy is temporary. Read that sentence again!
- This step-by-step puts getting your computer infrastructure working as a pre-cursor to reading GTD. If you don’t put infrastructure first, you will try to get Evernote and your ScanSnap working while you are tired. Not a good strategy.
- When starting out, keep two separate kinds of files: (a) Project Files, and (b) Reference Files. Consciously separating the two kinds of files can prevents confusion. *Aside* I suspect that I *resist* using Evernote for project files because my brain likes having physically separate project and reference files.
- Reference filing is a capstone skill of getting into and staying with GTD.
- Having a real desk is a capstone skill of getting into and staying with GTD. Clutter is the enemy, and there is more clutter on desks than everywhere else in your life. Win the battle against clutter, GTD will work.
- Managing expectations is a capstone skill of GTD. One block of GTD work. One day. Is the rule.
- Experimenting with new tools, selectively, is a capstone skill of staying with GTD.
Bill’s *Trick* for using OneNote Like Evernote to GTD
In my previous review of OneNote I mentioned that Evernote’s canvas was superior to OneNote because I could just insert objects (pictures mostly) and the canvas would make space for the object. I discovered last week, that OneNote does the same thing … as long as you do not get carried away. This post is a four step tutorial on how to make a OneNote page, behave.
Step 1: Create the page
From a GTD perspective, it is SO EASY to create a OneNote “Project” page, and start new projects from there, I’ve become pretty GTD-addicted to creating pages from m project list. Start with a blank project list like this:
Then type in the project name beginning with [[ and ending with ]]:
When you enter the 2nd ] your linked project page will be created and will look like this:
Step 2: Go to the project page
Go to the project page and click at the end of the project name so your cursor thinks you are going to modify the end of the project name:
The trick is to hit *enter* at this point. Cursor will jump down below the title of the project, and will wait for you to type something. Should look like this:
Step 3: Type Something
Step 4: Stay inside the text box
Now all you have to do to have an Evernote-like OneNote, is to NEVER ENTER ANY DATA OUTSIDE THE TEXT BOX. For example, maybe you want to put a picture of the weed mat after one of the next actions. Just create a new line in the list, and then drag the picture to the new line.
If you use a text box inside OneNote notes, you can make the OneNote canvas behave just like Evernote’s canvas. New insertions add their own new rows, and you don’t have to use one note’s “add space” tool.
Then I went from no GTD to GTD via Paper and Evernote:
My desk changed to this:
Then, I got really excited, and went to a 100% digital GTD system via Omnifocus:
This is the first time I fell off the GTD wagon. I could not stand to sit down at my desk. The feeling of drowning by binary proxy kept me out of my organized office and away from my organized desk. Ugh! But the seeds of RestartGTD.com were born. Somewhere I’m POSITIVE I heard (via Audible copies of his books) David Allen say “If you get too organized, your brain will refuse to use your system.”
I refactored, cut back the role of Omnifocus, got a new job, Evernoted/digitized the 94,000 pages of notes I had from my Ph.D. and went to a hybrid paper and digital system that looked like this:
And my four desks looked like this:
Then as I experimented with my system and changed jobs I :
- Dropped Dropbox for Google drive when I bought a ChromeBook. Google drive is not even in the same league as Dropbox as far as reliability goes, but I’ve stayed with Google drive and Google Apps for simplicity’s sake.
- Added OneNote to keep work notes separate from home notes. This has actually facilitated manila folders as OneNote makes it *trivial* to print all my tabs (virtual manila folders) and put them into real labeled GTD manila folders.
- Kept 3×5 cards. They are indispensable for organizing. Laying a large number of cards out on a big table, then re-arranging them into thematic clumps, is the most powerful project organization tool that I possess. *Note* to OneNote and Evernote folks, please please please add 3×5 cards and a flexible user interface for re-arranging cards to your programs!!!!!
- Kept manila folders. In my new job, I can see my boss relax when I pull out a folder that has an updated project plan in it. And once she saw that she could look in one place for my project list and see what is going on, again, I could visibly see her relax.
- Kept eMail.
So my system now looks like this:
And my dungeon desk looks like this:
Thoughts on Tools:
- OmniFocus is an awesome tool. If you are going to implement GTD to the letter, I don’t think there is a better software package. But I learned that implementing GTD to the letter is not for my brain. But there is TREMENDOUS power in OmniFocus if it is for you.
- Evernote has been with me since the beginning of my GTD journey. I remember listening to David Allen say “the lack of a good general-reference system can be one of the greatest obstacles to implementing a personal management system” (p. 95 Kindle L1500) and realizing “Evernote! I can use Evernote to be my reference filing system!” You see I had Evernote before I read GTD, I just did not have a use model for it, because I did not appreciate how critical reference filing is to GTD.
- Evernote keeps adding tools. Some of them are wonky (Evernote Hello for example), but Web Clipper, Clearly, and Skitch have been game changers for me. Evernote has also gradually increased the kinds of files that it indexes (Word for example was a pain before Evernote started indexing it), and the handwriting recognition is slowly improving. The growth of Evernote’s tool set has kept me loyal as I know I don’t need to jump ship for the latest slick tool. Probably, this reticence kept me for too long from trying OneNote again. I was on the beta team for OneNote 1.0 and getting a change made to the program was like trying to teach a pig to sing.
- Dropbox is also an awesome tool. But it was (a) too expensive and (b) to focused on single users, at the time I adopted it. Dropbox too is adding tools, but unlike Evernote, Dropbox has not added tools at the point of most intense need for me, and built out from there. I’m sure to Dropbox, Evernote’s file replication must look plebeian, a pale copy of Dropbox with a different user interface. But to me, Dropbox is infrastructure first, and OneNote and Evernote are tools first, with backing infrastructure.
- OneNote has surprised me. The community of kindred minds around OneNote is much larger than Evernote. And OneNote has the same wonderful enthusiasm of Apple products and Evernote, among its users. OneNote has many of the same over-structured limits as Evernote, only 1 level of sub folders, for example. But, the user interface and the integration with Microsoft Office are freeing to my mind. And, I can’t wait to investigate OneNote add-ins. Evernote’s add-ins are a pallid picture of the promise of its API. More on OneNote as I delve deeper.
- Google Apps and Google Drive have converted me. I’m now keeping my evolving documents (like resume) on Google drive. I’ve had to delete and re-download my stored files three times. And when I look into my Google Drive folders now, I’m often missing files, finding renamed folders that indicate Google Drive has a problem with becoming confused. Dropbox has none of these issues. So I do miss being able to have confidence in my cloud storage. But I’m careful, back up A LOT, and limp through.
- Google Now. Another fun surprise. Google now reads my emails and then puts notifications on my phone and in my web browser automatically. This is a huge help for my absent mindedness (call me “Dr. Spaz” please).
Where GTDers are on our own.
David Allen does not recommend technology. Technology is too fad-y I suspect. So we are on our own in sharing experiences and frustrations. And, in dealign with providers like Evernote and MicroSoft and OmniGroup in advocating for GTD-helpful features.
GTDers are also on our own figuring out how to separate work and personal trusted systems. “When you’re trying to make a living there ain’t no such thing as pride.” Richard Marx - Don’t Mean Nothing Lyrics | MetroLyrics. And when you are in the middle or the bottom of a big company, keeping separate personal and work trusted system is a key survival skill.
- Title graphic has been recomposed to put GTD at the center. Ouch! When I realized I missed this in the original post. Ouch I say!
- Last graphic has been recomposed dropping Google Drive (unreliable) and swapping back in Dropbox. This will take some work as I have to squeeze down from 30 gigabytes of storage to 20 (the most storage I can have for free on Dropbox).
- Last paragraph has been edited to put both OneNote and Dropbox into project management (I use them both for project files).
- Added a fourth like about OneNote (Read on!).
This is not a full on review, but I’ve been using OneNote daily for a month, so I thought I’d *reflect* a little on how I like OneNote, and how it compares with Evernote. Just rule of three likes, dislikes and reflections in this post.
What I like about OneNote:
- The tabs. OneNote lets you have tabs on the top or right side of your notebook. This is a clear win over Evernote where notebooks (the equivalent of OneNote tabs the way I use both programs) are rigidly stuck in a list at the side of your screen, or in a rigid grid of notebooks in the main window.
- Sub notes. If you create a tab for a project, you can insert notes underneath the project and indented from the parent tab. Again, a clean kill improvement over Evernote. From a GTD perspective this has helped me to focus more on the work, and less on the housekeeping of organizing the work.
- Linking. You create [[aroundwhatyouwanttolink]] and the note is automatically linked to the parent project list. For GTD people this allows you to have each project on a tab that you start from the master list of all projects. Just create [[NewProject]] on your master list of projects, and *poof* you magically have a new tab named NewProject, now, get to work!
- After a couple days, I have to add one more thing I like about OneNote … the connection between Microsoft Outlook and OneNote. I can drag an email into OneNote and choose either to have a PDF of it (printing to OneNote) or just an embedded copy of the email. This is not a clear win over Evernote as I can also capture email to Evernote from outlook. But, the thing is, because OneNote is a “family of Office” product, I intuitively knew that the link would be there. Evernote’s linking to email has to be discovered separately. My impression is that both OneNote and Evernote are improving their linking over time.
What I don’t like about OneNote
- The canvas. Evernote’s canvas is static, text-based, and more intuitively appealing to me. In OneNote, whenever you click the mouse too far away from what you’ve already typed, you create a new text window. Which does automatically scroll down when you type something in any other text window. This is an example of too much flexibility for me. I find myself creating only one text window per note, and then being sure to add new thoughts to that single window. Static canvas, clear win for Evernote.
- Too narrow a focus. OneNote focuses on you, your keyboard, and your projects. So it does not *feel* like a document management (or reference filing) system. Another clear kill for Evernote. I am forever adding a note to Evernote, and then much later taking that note out of my GRAPHICS or INBOXNOTEBOOK (the two big capture notebooks in my Evernote use) and either moving it to a project notebook, or copying the contents, pasting the contents into another note, and deleting the first note. OneNote is more narrowly focused than Evernote. I would not think about putting 14,000 articles and clippings into OneNote, for example.
- Adding new text after a pasted-in graphic. I can’t figure out how to get OneNote to allow me to create new bullet lines in an outline, from clicking on the clip, hitting right arrow, and then either return or shift return as needed.
- OneNote vs. Evernote, like Evernote vs. Dropbox is not a choice of one tool OR the other. They overlap in functionality. But OneNote is a lot more competition for Evernote, than it is for Dropbox. Here is what the overlap *feels* like to me.
- Both OneNote and Evernote are (to my liking) overly rigid. I’m still looking to be able to re-arrange virtual note cards on a virtual desk top. And, to be able to arrange notebooks in relation to one another. But OneNote and Evernote allow note arranging little if at all.
- Project focus is an area that OneNote excels in, and where Evernote is weak. I applied for a project management job at Evernote this year, and won the opportunity to work a test problem in new products. But, alas, no job was forthcoming despite my ENTHUSIASM and ranting and railing about Evernote as a platform. But, OneNote, if it shows nothing else, indicates how Evernote could up its game in the project management sphere.
- Evernote is a platform. OneNote is an application. OneNote feels like Excel or PowerPoint, a point-focused app that captures and structures analytical thinking. Evernote with its open API, back end infrastructure, and plug ins for browsers that make ripping just the information you want out of a web page, easy, feels like a platform.
In David Allen speak, OneNote lives in the land of projects and project plans. Evernote lives in the land of reference filing, and Dropbox and OneNote live in the land of project organizing infrastructure.
*Note* OneNote is free right now in the Mac App Store. I could not access OneNote by using Google Chrome, or even by going to the Mac App Store and searching for it. I had to use Safari, and I had to click on the external web-link to bring OneNote up in the Mac App Store.
THIS IS NOT AN ENDORSEMENT of OneNote. I seriously doubt that Evernote can be displaced by OneNote (but I’ll investigate and update this opinion after I’ve used OneNote). Evernote needs competition. Step 1: Go to Mac App Store Preview in Safari Step 2: Click the “View in Mac App Store” button. Step 3: Click the “Install” button Step 4: Go to /Applications/Microsoft OneNote.app and double click. Step 5: Ride the learning curve!