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Category Archives: GTD

How I Work

I am a big fan of and try to follow David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD®) methodology. This post catalogs my process and tools for working and living.

Todoist GTD app. Not perfect but best I’ve found for me. Lets me stay in sync across Mac, Windows, Outlook on Windows, iOS on iPhone and iPad and web so I have ubiquitous access on and offline.

BusyContacts Replacement for Apple Mac Contacts application. It shows contacts by address book (associated with different Google, Exchange, iCloud or Yahoo! email accounts) and allows moving them from one address book to another by drag and drop! Great for getting rid of duplicates or segregating groups of people to different accounts.

BusyCalendar Replacement for Apple Mac Calendar.

Desk Desktop publishing client. I’m using it to compose this post. It’s really beautiful but still a work in progress for full functionality. The author has been working on it for over a decade as a labor of love and it shows. And he is clearly committed to continued addition of features. I’m eagerly awaiting the ability to post Pages to WordPress along with Posts. This Post really should be a Page since I’ll keep it updated as my tools and process change over time.

MarsEdit Desktop blog editing client. Not as pretty as Desk, but fully featured and easy to use. Supports posting to WordPress Pages.

Mail Apple email client. I’ve used Postbox a bit and I like some aspects of it but it doesn’t support Exchange which finally proved to be a deal breaker for me. Mail 8.2 seems to have cured the high CPU consumption I experienced in other releases that prompted me to look at other clients.

Death to paper!

Today marks the next stage in my war on paper: my new ScanSnap S510M scanner arrived. Galvanized by reading “Palimpsest: the guide to a (mostly) paperless life” on 43 Folders, I ordered the scanner from Amazon last week. It arrived this afternoon, complete with 4 CDs of software (ScanSnap Manager, Cardiris 3, ABBYY FineReader and Adobe Acrobat 8 Professional (while some of these are 1 release behind, it is quite a suite of software). These give support for managing scanning activity, scanning business cards directly into the Mac Address Book, Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to make searchable text and full PDF editing capability. This is a really fast sheet feed scanner (up to 50 pages) that scans both sides of the paper in a single pass.

I’m a long time DevonThink Office Pro user, so I get the full benefit of the ScanSnap and the included software, combined with one of the best tools for organizing all kinds of documents and information. DevonThink Office Pro integrates tightly with the ScanSnap so documents can be scanned directly into DevonThink. 

In the normal course of things, I am drowning in paper. I truly hate having paper to file: too much time, too much space taken up and not searchable. When I lived on the road for a couple years (commuting to Michigan from Colorado, full-time), I eliminated paper from my work routine pretty successfully. But not all of my life is electronic, so having the scanner and tools to get the paper stored digitally instead of physically will be a huge improvement in my life, my desk and my productivity.

A few documents (torn-out magazine pages, various color and black and white documents, a 3 page fax and a little piece off the surface of the scanner box with the bar codes) all have been scanned and OCRed, so I am now confident that my workflow will go fine. Still have the flat bed scanner for bulky items but it won’t see much paper now!

Bonus note: Fujitsu has a $50 rebate for units purchased by 12/31/2008.

Things for GTD

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I’ve been trying to use Midnight Inbox from Midnight Beep Software as my primary GTD software on the Mac. I really wanted to love this application – it is beautiful to look at and it implements the GTD process at a very detailed level. I am a pretty hard-core GTD person, so a full implementation appealed. But the implementation in the end is too picky and too quirky for me. It may work for you, so check it out. The response to my various questions and comments on the app from the folks at Midnight Beep Software has been spectacular – explanations of how it works and the philosophy behind the implementation approach – certainly among the most responsive, personal support I have gotten from any small software company, both before and after I had paid for the software.

So now I’m back to Things, from Cultured Code, which I had tried before. It has a much looser implementation of GTD, which put me off the first time I tried. But it uses tags in a way that allows them to serve as contexts (part of the GTD methodology), as well as tagging tasks for other purposes. Since I understand GTD well and have used it for a couple years now, I have internalize the use of contexts and I don’t need the tool to discipline me to use them, so tags work perfectly for me. Cynthia and I have been lusting after iPhones and will be getting 3G iPhones soon, so this week’s announcement of Things for the iPhone was a trigger to take another look at Things.

I think that Things will be my GTD answer but the choice of a GTD application is very individual since it gets down to not only your approach to GTD but aesthetic and work habit considerations that are different for every person. I found an excellent review of four of the key GTD apps for the Mac and commented on my experiences with Inbox and Things at greater length at Putting Things Off, a blog labeled by its author, Nick Cernis, as “The laid-back productivity blog.” Since Nick has gone the paper route, as described in his eBook todoodlist, it is interesting that his review of the Mac GTD apps is one of the best. If you are looking for a GTD app for the Mac, check out the review.

If you are interested in GTD and use Outlook on Windows, I highly recommend the NetCentric GTD add-in for Outlook which I have been using on my Windows work machines for several years. It is a very faithful implementation of the GTD methodology with outstanding integration with Outlook’s tasks.

It’s been FIVE MONTHS – did I get anything DONE?

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I certainly did! I got a new job at SAS Institute as a senior IT consultant, supporting the SAS® IT Resource Management product. I’m having more fun at work than I have had in a long time. I am working with computer performance and capacity planning and SAS, all the things I enjoy most about the computer and IT world.

Information Overload or why we need GTD

Basex, a consulting and analysis firm focused on collaboration and information sharing in organizations has published a new report entitled  “Information Overload: We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us“. While there is nothing startlingly new, the report is a concise, well-written treatment of the changes in work content for knowledge workers and the enormous impact of having too much information on getting things done, frequently referred to as productivity. They provide a few of the basic rules of e-mail, IM (instant-message) and telephone etiquette but don’t really get into the meat of how to deal with the onslaught of information many of us face. Which just takes me back to how much I need Getting Things Done. If you find it interesting, read the book. Then, at the risk of further information overload, go check out Merlin Mann‘s amazing 43 Folders site. There Merlin blogs and provides links to all kinds of resources and discussions on how to get things done. The only trick is finding enough time to read it all – Merlin is incredibly prolific. But take the time – it will be worth it and you will get things done if you use this system.

Getting Things Done is SOOOOOooooooo Satisfying!

The title says it all! It also explains why those of us who become GTD (Getting Things Done) fanatics tend to stay that way. While a number of online postings suggest endorphins may be the cause, various psychological texts and articles are rather equivocal. Anecdotal evidence of satisfaction from completing tasks is overwhelming, so I’ll confine myself to the purely existential, empirical observation that it feels wonderful to have gotten a bunch done today. All very mundane – catching up on my inbox, cleaning off my desk, paying bills and the like – but it has been wonderful to have some time to get everything in order before the new year.

It’s an e-mail…it’s an iCal event!

Apple has finally added one of the features I really like in Outlook to Mail and iCal. Now you can drag an e-mail onto the calendar to create a new event. A link to the e-mail message is created in the URL field of the event. Even if the e-mail is moved to a different folder, the link in the event will still open the e-mail. A side note about iCal Version 3 (installed as part of Leopard): the details of events are no longer shown in a drawer. Instead you double click and a metal surface window with the details pops up with a little triangle pointing to the appointment.

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