Tuesday, February 17, 2009

On the Road to Greater eProductivity!

Hi again, folks. Those two or three of you that have been coming here for awhile now know that I am a fan of productivity systems and that I am a follower of the GTD methodology. While not a black belt by any means, I've found that it is the best system for me, helping me keep on top of the ever increasing pile of work I find thrust upon me (or that I volunteer for) and assisting me to close open loops.

I first read David Allen's Getting Things Done several years ago and it really struck a chord with me. Up to that point, I kept pretty much everything in my head. Luckily, it's a big head (haha), but it was quite leaky too. As much as I loved to write, I never enjoyed taking notes in meetings or keeping lists. I realized I needed help as my workload increased, which is what lead me to David's book in the first place. On the surface, the methodology couldn't be easier, but there are many subtle nuances which can only be learned with patience and persistence. In the beginning, I was only fractionally taking advantage of what GTD had to offer, but it was still leaps and bounds beyond where I had been. The idea of the two minute rule, making decisions on e-mails...wow! Common sense stuff, to be sure, but it often takes someone to point out the obvious for us to become truly aware of it. Over time, my performance and level of execution of GTD increased and I felt like I was certainly "working smarter". Like many geeks do, I probably toyed around with different systems too much, going back and forth between analog (moleskine, hipster, etc.) and electronic (mind maps, web-based task systems, and so on) ways of keeping my lists. In the end, I came to the realization that the tool doesn't matter nearly as much as the method. There are a few key things you need. First, it needs to be always accessible. Second, there needs to be some attraction to the tools. If you hate carrying around a paper pad with you everywhere you go, then an analog GTD system is probably not right for you. After this became evident, I decided the best place to GTD was in the context of my day to day work environment, Lotus Notes. Thus, I created my own, home-grown extensions to my mail file (easy for me, of course, as a developer). This served me very well until I left my last company and came to IBM. Not wanting to make changes to my IBM mail file, I was cast adrift in a sea of too much information and quickly found myself drowning in it.

For the last year and a half, my GTD-fu has been suffering greatly. When you have a great tool and it gets taken away, it's hard to readjust, especially as you get as old as I am. I once again found myself needlessly testing various implementation practices, finally going back to an analog system (just keeping my next action lists and projects in a simple notebook). While I found myself enjoying the simplicity of that world, the truth is most of my existence and work is in the digital realm and so a lot of needless double entry and context switching was going on.

Before we get to where I'm at today, I need to step back a little. In the beginning of 2007, I was fortunate to begin speaking with Eric Mack, who most of the folks in the yellow bubble now know as the brains behind the eProductivity product. I had been reading Eric's blog for some time, and was very impressed with his approach toward productivity and personal knowledge management. It was at this time when I started to get some sneak peeks into what he was doing with eProductivity and I was definitely impressed. I even helped with a couple UI pointers, but mostly his team was doing all the right things. The short summary of what eProductivity is is this: It is THE tool to use for implementing GTD in Lotus Notes. If you need any more proof than me saying it is so (tongue firmly planted in cheek), consider this: David Allen uses eProductivity for Lotus Notes as his personal system. If it's good enough for the guy that created the methodology, I think it's worth looking into! ;-)

I had the opportunity to reconnect with Eric at Lotusphere this year, to attend his great talk with David and to get another look at some of the pieces of eProductivity that I hadn't yet explored. I was really impressed. Not only is it a perfect implementation for GTD, but it's an incredibly cool Notes application...just another example of how powerful this platform really is. After I returned home, I figured it was time to really buckle down and try eProductivity full time in my production mail file. As it turns out, Eric was keen to have some people try out his system and blog about their experiences, so the timing was right. Last week, I took the plunge and accepted Eric's 30 day challenge. We spent some time on the phone and he coached me through the eProductivity install process. Now, I'm up and running with eProductivity as my full-time, 100% committed GTD system. The verdict so far? I definitely like what I see! There's a lot to explore and I have to get used to some of the workflow, but it's really one of the fastest ways I've been able to create projects and next actions to date. I'm mostly looking forward to trying out the Weekly Review Coach and some of the other advanced features, as I think these will take my GTD skills "over the top".

If you are already an advocate of the Getting Things Done methodology, then I would highly encourage you to check out eProductivity. If you've not yet read the book, then I'd recommend two things. First, make sure you buy GTD and read it cover to cover. It's short and easy to digest (which is good, since you'll want to read it again in a few months). At the same time, get started with the trial of eProductivity. While you'll get the most out of the system if you know GTD, there are enough productivity best practices and help features within the software to improve your game right away. Then, you can grow into the system as you master the GTD principles.

Next time, I'll talk about the install process and how easy it is to start getting things done with eProductivity.


Eric Mack said...

Thanks, Chris, for sharing your experience. I enjoyed meeting you at Lotusphere and helping you last week.

As you have seen, eProductivity is like an onion with many layers of features tat we have refined while working with clients for the past 7 years. The good news is that you can start as simple as you want and never visit the preferences page. It is really a testimony to Lotus Notes that we can embed ourselves into the daily workflow with Notes. No other product can do that so well. It also helps to have a top notch development team to take those years of research and design and turn them into something that really works. I appreciate the user feedback you've offered along the way.

Let me know how I can help you as you sharpen your productivity skills. Ping me when you are ready for your next coaching session. I can't wait to read what you have to say after our next meeting.

Best regards, Eric.

Auldbreck said...

I liked the look of the demo as well. Unfortunately for some reason it doesn't properly work on my Mail File. Not I hasten to add because there is anything wrong with the App but I think it is a glitch in my Mail file (I've always had a problem with the To-Dos going back years, no-one's been able to sort it so far). It is definitely worth a look I would recommend it to anyone looking for this sort of App (and hopefully it will work in your Mail file). :-)

Eric Mack said...

@Auldbreck Viwit http://www.eProductivity.com and click on SUPPORT. Use the Contact-Us to let us know who you are and we'll see if we can help. We have a tool that removes bad designs from mail files that may help.

dannielo said...

For implementing GTD you can use this web-based application:


You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, schedules and a calendar.
A mobile version is available too.