Tag Archives: GTD

5S methodology (a couple of quick notes)

I just read the wikipedia page on the 5S methodology, a Japanese workplace organisation method.

Some of the 5S elements resonate well with parts of the “5 stages of mastering workflow” in Getting Things Done. GTD essentially is about storing, organising, tracking and retrieving task-related information.

The words “creativity” and “innovation” weren’t used in the wikipedia article at all. So it does seem that the 5S methodology is particularly geared towards standardised production environments and doesn’t really cater for ambiguous knowledge work.

The Shitsuke step probably leaves most room for doing things differently.


Book is coming out soon – The final push

We’re doing the final push to launch

“Personal Productivity for Knowledge Workers”

as soon as possible.

Hey, it might even be tomorrow!

It’s been a tremendous project and I would do it all again.

But it’s also great to see the finish line looming around the corner :)

I can already say that we’re offering a really good price for the early birds among you.

Stay tuned!

Prelaunch announcement of the book “Personal Productivity for Knowledge Workers”

Book-writing is an important part of what we do at Workplace Prosperity.

In a few days our first publication will be available. This is a massive milestone, and I’m very excited about it.

The book is called:

“Personal Productivity for Knowledge Workers”

I’ll leave it at that for now Wink

Needless to say, there’s more to come soon!


Edwin C. Bliss and “Getting Things Done”

I have a lot of respect – and time – for the work of Edwin C. Bliss. He worked as a business consultant, author, and time management expert in the 1970s/80s (and possibly beyond).

I read two of his books over the past few months. Even though they are obviously dated in some ways, both of them i thought were excellent. (References are at the bottom of this post.) His third, and last, book is on its way to me in the post, and i can’t vouch for it yet.

E.C. Bliss writes eloquently, with humour, originality, and the information presented is well-researched with ample references.

His written work resonates remarkably well with David Allen’s productivity method “Getting Things Done” (2003), for instance:

1. Edwin C. Bliss published a book titled Getting Things Done in 1976. This was nearly 27 years before David Allen’s first publication under the same name. Allen has trademarked Getting Things Done & GTD since.

2. In his book Doing It Now (1984), Bliss advocated dividing a project into “a series of tiny tasks, each of which, considered separately, is manageable.” David Allen, also strongly argued that office work should be converted into smaller steps called “widgets” each of which represents a small step in the right direction.

3. Bliss recommended having a weekly review to monitor work progress. This corresponds to the 4th stage in David Allen’s 5 Stages of Mastering Workflow called Review.

4. Bliss strongly believed in list building and he stressed this regularly in his writings. Lists are the condicio sine qua non of GTD, too.

5. Bliss was a proponent of writing things down (e.g. “A pencil and piece of paper are two of the most powerful tools of time management”). David Allen often talked about “distributed cognition,” but that’s only different in name.

6. Bliss quotes William James as “Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.” David Allen puts it as “Much of the stress that people feel doesn’t come from having too much to do. It comes from not finishing what they’ve started.”

7. Bliss describes the “three D’s” when handling work: “Do it, Delegate it, or Ditch it.” David Allen also identifies three options when processing actions: “Do it, Delegate it, or Defer it”.

I’d still highly recommend the books of Bliss.

Further reading:

Some questions I’ll be weaving into next week’s session

Just compiled a preliminary list with questions I intend to address during a 2 hour session on Getting Things Done I’m running next week.

Likely to refine it over the coming days, but at least I’ve got something to start off from:

  • What actions are occupying your mind right now? Have you captured these somewhere?
  • What is the root cause of real change?
  • What is a calendar?
  • How do you reflect on your own way of working?
  • When do you consider an action ‘finished’?

The participants are mostly PhD students, so I’m looking forward to a good debate :)

Use your calendar

It may not feel like it, but your diary / calendar / agenda is a plan.

A plan is a preferred scenario of the future. The steps that take you to some other, better place or state. Most people like this prospect of growth, development, and achievement.

Professional living without a plan may seem like an enviable and carefree moment-to-moment state. The final proof of having mastered The Now. Bliss and all that.

But don’t let the New Age doctrine mislead you.

If your (professional) life’s aspirations haven’t somehow been committed to your calendar, then everything is fluid and pliable.

Not reaching your goals then becomes a lot more probable than reaching them.

As the adage goes: He who fails to plan is planning to fail.

I’d add to that: make sure your plan is committed to your calendar. If your professional life’s activities don’t fit in there, it’s probably wise to have a think about your priorities.

Now is a good time.

Implementing Getting Things Done (GTD)

I wish I could teach you how to implement GTD.

Let me digress slightly and ask: Is it possible to teach somebody how to ride a bicycle?

I mean, if you’ve ever riden a bike – like most of you probably have – did somebody actually tell you how to balance, where to focus your attention, what to feel, how to use the hundreds of muscles in the body to accelerate?


And yet – given the opportunity of two wheels and a bit of steel to tie it all together, most of you would happily take off.

You taught it yourself.

In my view it’s similar with learning how to manage your workflow. For instance, David Allen’s ’5 Stages of Mastering Workflow’ is the vehicle you can use to progress your day. But the actual driving is down to you. You’ll learn by trying and constantly refining.

As I’ve written in an earlier post here:

Practice. Fail often. Persist. Celebrate your successes. That’s how we learn. If we’d given up in our attempts to walk as a toddler – shying away from all discomfort - we would still be crawling on all fours as adults.

Bon voyage.

Photo credits to paukrus (Flickr)

GTD in Action: Managing Workflow with Gmail, Google Calendar, and Evernote

I did a post last week on list management and email synchronisation from a Getting Things Done perspective (see here).

There was a comment from Pablo suggesting I add some screen shots to it.

I’ve now produced an 8-page paper which describes in greater detail how I use Google tools and Evernote to manage my workflow.

It’s still in draft and further updates are likely.

I’d greatly appreciate your comments and suggestions for improvement.

Click here to open the pdf.

Getting Things Done: List management and email synchronisation

♦ Note: This is a rather ‘technical’ post. It will only make sense if you have knowledge of the Getting Things Done (GTD) method.♦

I’ve been reflecting on email, list management systems, and GTD – and how to integrate these 3 areas.

Ultimately what I’m looking for is a single system from where i can manage the entire life cycle of all my actions regardless where they come from.

This isn’t my email inbox, because email is an information-exchange tool that isn’t particularly effective as a task management system.

For instance, actions that come in through email:

  • Tend to be embedded in messages along with irrelevant information, which is ‘noise’ from a to-do point of view.
  • Often lack clarity and proper ownership.
  • Get on my radar alongside several other information streams with potential actions in them, such as face-to-face meetings, phone conversations, text messages, off-line thoughts.

I need a repository to manage clear-cut, sanitised actions – and nothing else – in one place.

I currently use Evernote for this purpose. Apart from a few short-comings on the Mac platform, it suits me pretty well.

Now I agree with the writer of this post that the quickest way to Collect the email-related actions in Evernote is forward them from your email system on to Evernote.

In Evernote, one may then:

  • Refine / rephrase the actions and remove the unnecessary bits.
  • Add checkboxes to track their status and make completed/incomplete actions searchable.
  • Relate them to projects and other actions, particularly through tagging.
  • Split the incoming note into two or more notes so that the actions can be managed separately if needed. Note that this can only be done via a workaround: duplicate the note and then edit the individual notes separately.

Some additional thoughts to the above:

  • Only emails that fall in the category ‘Defer’ or ‘Delegate’ would have to be transfered into Evernote. Small stuff that can be actioned quickly – i.e. within one or two minutes – can be processed directly from the regular email inbox. The latter includes archiving or deleting the email in order to not clog up the inbox.
  • Similarly, when you forward the email to Evernote, I recommend you archive the message in the appropriate folder of your email system immediately. Again, this helps to maintain an empty inbox. The psychological value of Zero Emails shouldn’t be underestimated imho ;-)
  • If your email requires a response – as many do – this should be part of the ‘Doing’ stage of your workflow. You’d have to locate your original email (easy enough in an email system with powerful search capabilities such as Gmail) and write / send your response from there.

So what the approach outlined here essentially does is add a small manual step to the Collection phase of actions that come in via regular email.

There’s also a small extra step in the Doing phase in case it requires an email response to the sender: tracing the email in your system and responding from there. It may be worth preserving a rather unique search string with the description of the action for easy reference.

All in all to me this seems acceptable overhead, especially when considering the clarity, control, and mental space one would get back in return.

If i were to have a very high email workload of say 60+ messages a day and a significant % of these aren’t quick to resolve – and thus fall into the Defer category – I might consider using my email system rather than Evernote as the central repository to manage my actions. For instance, in MS Outlook there’s a feature to convert an email into a task.

The main downside of this, however, is that one’s focus would be on the email application very regularly, and I think GTD is trying to encourage us to break away from exactly that.

I mean it will be very difficult to resist checking email while Processing / Organising / Reviewing / Doing actions in Outlook. GTD’s stages such as ‘Collecting’, ‘Processing’, and ‘Doing’ would have a tendency to blend into one time-consuming mash. Which defeats the purpose of having clear boundaries between Doing and Planning – a GTD hallmark.

Mash - Which is Collecting, Processing, Organising, Reviewing, and Doing?

This approach would also imply using dual systems. One for email-related actions, and one for the rest. Getting a single overview of a project’s status would be more difficult here.

As I said in the beginning, this is a rather technical post. But in my experience it is what happens at this nitty-gritty level which determines the success of your GTD implementation. So it needs a fair amount of attention early on.