Category Archives: Getting Things Done

My new favourite piece of technology

I’ve wanted one for a long time, but never had the nerve to buy one. I always thought I would look like a loser for having one. I can’t beleive the impact it has had on me in a few short weeks.

Olympus Voice Recorder

I’m talking about a Voice Recorder. It’s the latest input capture tool that i’ve added to my day to day life. For the longest time I’ve noticed that some of my best ideas or thoughts have come to me during my commute home in the car. This is usually when I decompress from the day and analyze my actions and those of the people I work with. I usually come up with lots of thought and ideas that need to be captured for processing the next day. For years I would call and leave myself voice mail. Dialing the office and waiting through my  greeting is a long process and usually meant I would only bother for the most profound ideas. Now, I carry the voice recorder wherever I go. I tend to leave myself 2 to 3 notes during every drive. The next day I process those notes and capture the next actions during my morning review.

I’ve played with variations over the years including voice recorder software that’s built into cell phones and pda’s. None of them stuck with me ultimately. Many of them took too many keystrokes to activate or required that I be looking at the screen in order to operate. It’s also easy to forget about your messages because you use your PDA or cell phone for many other functions. I find that having the voice recorder around prompts you to check it periodically to see what you’ve left on there. Being able to operate it with a single button without looking is a huge advantage and a must if you want to use it in the car.

If you’re serious about productivity or GTD I suggest you pick one up.

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Work Life Balance

I’ve just finished reading (listening to actually) David Allen’s latest book Making it all work. He makes an incredibly profound statement in chapter two; work life balance becomes irelevant if you are able to achieve pure stress-free productivity or the “Mind Like Water” state.  David Allen believes that if you are able to completely remove all the stress and anxiety associated with your day to day life you will experience deep focus and enjoyment of what ever you are doing at that moment. You will not be distracted by the minutia that normally occupies your subconscious. You will enjoy the time spent with your family at a deeper level because you are not distracted and stressed by your work. You will enjoy your work much more because of your deeper focus and higher level of productivity. He is dead on.

I can attest to that since re-implementing GTD in my life I have felt less stress and better focus in my work. This has led to a much happier and engaged father and husband at home. I have felt more energetic and more creative. This in turn has pushed me back into the gym and gotten me blogging and writing instead of watching TV.

GTD : The Blackberry

While doing a personal audit of my system, I realized that I was touching emails twice. I was reading them on my Blackberry and then archiving or filing them for follow-up on my desktop. To make things worse, emails that I had processed on my laptop were still showing up on my blackberry. It was obvious that I could save a lot of time ans stress if I could process email once; especially if I could use those empty minutes between meetings processing email once using my Blackberry.

I should clarify that I am currently using a Macbook with OSX and Entourage 2008. I am connecting to an Exchange Server and have a BES server synchronizing email between exchange and my Blackberry. After doing a considerable amount of research on this topic, here’s what I came up with.

1. I created copies of my offline email folders (“Archive”, “To Act On”) to my exchange account. This now gives me the ability to “File” emails to these folders using my Blackberry. This is easily done by pressing “i” while in the email, “a” to select the archive folder and “enter”. I’ve been able to train myself to get through these three keystrokes pretty quickly. I’m still looking for ways to get this done to one keystroke. I may have to write some software.

2. Enabled Folder Redirection on your blackberry.

3. Modified my Applescript files (See my previous post) to move email to my online Archives instead of my offline. The last two steps ensure that email that I have processed on my laptop does not show up as unread and unprocessed on my blackberry.

I am happy with the early results, though I’m still trying to refine the technique. The Blackberry is finally starting to payback time instead of sucking it away.

GTD : Processing your inbox

I’ve been going back to basics lately and working on re-launching GTD at work and at home. This time around I’m comitting to implemeing the full system including things I haven’t tried before such as the Tickler.

Dealing with email is a major part of my day to day work. Generally I’m forced to deal with 100 to 200 emails a day. My approach is a combination of Inbox Zero and GTD. I strive to keep my inbox empty. I process my email into three categories: 1. Archive for future reference, 2. To Action, 3. Trash. I’ve setup offline folders to support each of these categories. To speed things along, I’ve written some macros / scripts so that I can easily move email into each of these folders with a simple key stroke.

Currently I use a Macbook and entourage for email. I’ve written some Applescripts that move the currently selected email into the “Archive” folder or the “To Action” folder. I use a cutom trigger within Quicksilver (Alt-M) to run the script and move the email. I use separate versions of the script for each offline folder. (Alt-T for Move To “To Action).

Get the Script Here

If your using Outlook (most people are) I’ve used this VBA Macro in the past. Unlike Entourage, you can map this macro to a keyboard shortcut right within Outlook.

Back to Basics

2009 is proving to be a wild year so far. Success this year is going to be a fight to the finish. Everyday brings new challenges and problems to solve. I’m loving every minute of it.

The pace is taking it’s toll however.  I’ve noticed that some of the little things are starting to slide. Tasks are getting lost, my organizational systems are starting to break down. It’s time to get back to basics.

I’m re-reading Getting Things Done by David Allen. This book changed my life a few years back. If you have ever felt overwhelmed by your workload, life or job you need to read this book.

David Allen teaches that much of the anxiety you experience in your work comes from the overwhelming amount of information we allow our subconscious to manage. Entrusting this information to a system that we know we will review regularly allows us to clear our minds, experience deeper focus and be relaxed.

I actually bought an audio book download through Audible.com and listening to it during my daily commute (way better than listening to the radio). Audible.com seems to have the best collection of audio books available for download including the hard to find personal productivity and business books.