Does it seem like there's a lot of activity in your office, but the important stuff doesn't get done? When your coworker is three weeks late giving you that report, do you wonder, "What have they been doing?"

This is a situation I've seen at many of the companies I've consulted for: a lot of stuff gets moved around, emailed, minuted, and checked off, but there's very little accomplished.

To understand this, let me tell you a story:

Pretend I'm a manager, and I walk into my office full of bright, eager employees and announce we're going to build a bridge. They all set off right away to put in 10-hour days with smiles on their faces, merrily getting ready to make the best bridge they can build.

Can you think of a more productive, ideal workplace? Everyone's happy and working hard.

There's just one problem: no one knows what kind of bridge we're building. One person's working on a little stone arch, and another's designing the next Golden Gate. We all have different ideas of how wide and long and high to make it, using what materials, and even whether to make an arch or suspension bridge or something else.

There's a crucial question that hasn't been answered: what are we trying to accomplish?

I've found that a lot of problems are solved by asking this simple question. Having a shared, clearly-defined idea of where to head (not to mention how to get there) prevents a lot of wasted time and effort, and also creates a shared sense of purpose and camaraderie.

This is for you personally as well. If you don't have a clear idea of what you're aiming for, you'll have a hard time trying to hit it.

So, do you and your team know what you're doing?


P.S. eProductivity was designed to nurture this kind of thinking. For example, when you create a new Project, eProductivity asks you, "What's the successful outcome? Describe as if already done; what would that look like?" This is meant to encourage you to think in terms of what will be true once you've done this thing. This approach helps keep you focused; plus, it automatically gets your brain thinking about how to achieve that outcome. The high cost of multitasking

Multitasking is not working smarter -- just the opposite, in fact.  This a quick, colorful infographic from Visual.ly and Fuze shows how multitasking actually slows you down and even decreases your IQ!

Click here to view. Here are a few of my favorite shortcuts -- these will let you instantly create new Calendar entries and eProductivity Projects and Actions from any window or tab in Notes.

Here's how to do it:
For Projects: press the Alt key, then type C M P
For Actions: press the Alt key, then type C M A
For Calendar: press the Alt key, then type C M C

Edit your new document, then save and close. It's that easy. Your Mail file doesn't even have to be open.

If you're using "vanilla" Notes without eProductivity
, here's what to do instead:
For To-Do's: press the Alt key, then type C M T
For Calendar: press the Alt key, then type C M C

Also, in case you didn't know, here's on of the best keyboard shortcuts ever: to create a new email, hold Ctrl and press M.

Happy productivity!

To discover even more Notes keyboard shortcuts, see here: Ramp up your workspeed with the most powerful key on your keyboard

(Continuing from yesterday): Chris Blatnick, a professional business coach and long-time eProductivity user, shares why he loves eProductivity's Weekly Review Coach and how it helps him stay on track:

The Weekly Review Coach in eProductivity is basically an enhanced wizard, walking you through all of the steps necessary for a successful Weekly Review. It's an elegant approach because it allows you to focus on just one thing at a time. This is key, since maintaining this focus will drive you toward completion faster and allow you to be more thorough in your work. The coach kept me engaged, targeted and on track. I'll admit that in the past I got distracted chasing an idea or item down a rabbit hole. While this can still happen in any system, I felt more focused because I had the coach to guide me through the review in the correct order.

After launching it, the Weekly Review Coach takes you to the first step in the process: Collect Loose Papers. For each step of the Weekly Review, the coach tells you what you should be doing and gives you suggestions to improve your game. You can see a sample shot from the Weekly Review Coach below.



Here are the steps of the Weekly Review covered in the Wizard:

  • Collect Loose Items
  • Process Papers
  • Empty Capture Tools
  • Process Email
  • Empty Head
  • Review Action Lists
  • Review Previous Calendar
  • Review Upcoming Calendar
  • Review Tickler Files
  • Review Waiting-for List
  • Review Projects
  • Review Goals & Objectives
  • Review Areas of Focus
  • Review Relevant Checklists
  • Review Reference & Support
  • Review Someday/Maybe List

As you can see, that's quite an exhaustive list of things to do, and it's no wonder that it can be daunting to consider performing a weekly review when you have all that staring at you. Of course, the scarier this process seems to you, the more you probably need to be doing it!

Once the Weekly Review becomes an ingrained habit, the process goes pretty smoothly. Even so, there's always the temptation to jump ahead and work on something more interesting. When I used the Weekly Review Coach, I found that this temptation wasn't there. Instead, it kept me completely on task, a characteristic of a great coach.

...it kept me completely on task, a characteristic of a great coach.

After the first step is complete, you check it off and the coach automatically takes you to the next step. I love the layout of this wizard, along with the graphic representation of what step we're on coupled with the help text. Of particular genius is the way the coach allows you to do all of your work in context. Thus, when it's time to review your action lists or empty your inbox, the appropriate view appears directly below the coaching instructions (see below). I've talked about the effectiveness of this technique in interface design before, so it makes me very happy to see this being implemented in other Notes-based applications. This idea helps the user stay in that focused, flow state, further improving the user's performance of the task at hand.



I did my first weekly review in eProductivity on Sunday night and I was amazed at how fast I went through the process. Granted, my system was nice and clean from just migrating all my actions and projects over, but I still credit the Weekly Review Coach with enabling this speedy completion. When you finish walking through every step (where you are even encouraged to work on the higher level stuff...goals, aspirations, etc.), you are presented with a nice summary report of when you started each step, when you ended and your elapsed time. This is a nice touch and will be a good reward and motivation for continuing to stay on top of the Weekly Review process.

You can find some additional information and screenshots of the Weekly Review Coach on the eProductivity site. I encourage you to take a look and consider this as yet another great reason to review eProductivity for your GTD implementation. If I had to use a single word to describe this software, it would probably be "frictionless". By that I mean that it so smoothly supports the GTD methodology, I don't really have to think about the mechanics of getting data into the system or getting the right information out of it. Instead, I can just do my work and be productive.

As it says on the eProductivity site, "Your Weekly Review just got easier". Yes...I'd say it did!



I don't know about you, but I'm very thankful to Chris for sharing his thoughts on eProductivity. Here's hoping it can help you succeed in the same way!

Connect with Chris on LinkedIn here.

Speaking of the Weekly Review, here's a guest post from Chris Blatnick, a GTD fan and long-time eProductivity user who was blogging before it was cool. He draws on his experience as a business coach to discuss why the Weekly Review is so critical, as well as why he loves eProductivity's Weekly Review Coach:

Webster defines a coach as "one who instructs or trains."

I'm a big fan of coaching. Whether talking about a presentation coach to help hone your skills on the stage, a performance coach to help you better your 5k time, or a life coach to get you to focus on your overall goals and objectives, coaching is a fantastic way to help you achieve your potential and then reach for loftier heights. In fact, I'm writing this post right now while waiting for my son to get out of his teen life coaching session. I occasionally work as a technology coach, helping people map out what they want to get out of using technology, then putting a plan together to meet that goal in the most efficient way possible. So right off the bat, I figured I would like the Weekly Review Coach functionality of eProductivity. I was wrong, though...I actually love it!

Ask any Getting Things Done fan, new to the system or grizzled veteran, what the biggest obstacle to complete mastery of the GTD concepts is, and they'll likely tell you it is the Weekly Review. The Weekly Review is the part of GTD that brings everything into focus, helping you to close open loops, determine what is needed to move your projects forward and keeps you on track toward your higher level life goals. David Allen calls the Weekly Review the "secret sauce," and in my experience that is very true. I've posted before about my GTD journey to this point, and the times when I was most on my game and feeling that I was living the vision that Mr. Allen maps out in his book was when I was diligently doing my Weekly Review.



But let's be honest...it takes some serious focus to plan out the time to sit down every week to look over what you need to be working on. In fact, in some ways, the Weekly Review exerts a certain force of opposition if you are afraid of what you'll uncover. You need to do this, however, to get full clarity of what you should and shouldn't be working on. Thus, the concept of having a "coach" for helping you get through this process is outstanding.



Tomorrow, I'll post the rest of Chris's thoughts on how well the Weekly Review Coach works.

How much is saving your time worth?

Time is the one thing you can't beg, borrow, or buy. That's why I so appreciate JT's story -- he recognizes time as "the most valuable resource of all" and credits eProductivity with saving it.

In his own words, here's how he started getting things done in IBM Lotus Notes with eProductivity:

My company uses IBM Lotus Notes for email and calendaring. Lotus Notes v9 has evolved a lot compared to prior versions of Lotus Notes, however, it still provides what I would say are rudimentary To-Do list management and bare bones email processing. The volume of email hitting my inbox made it impossible to stay on top of my incoming email, which meant I was missing important To-Do's or actions that I needed to take on some emails because they were lost in the volume of emails where I was only cc'd and didn't need to take any specific action. I found myself constantly re-reading emails to remember what they were for, whether or not I had already actioned them or not. All-in-all, I was not very productive managing my incoming email.

The volume of email hitting my inbox made it impossible to stay on top...Now, my email inbox is emptied by the end of each day.

I knew I had to do something different to keep up with the ever growing number of emails passing through my inbox. I knew there had to be a better way and that surely someone had written software to address these pain points. This quest led me to find the excellent book "Getting Things Done" by David Allen. The GTD system made a lot of sense to me, but I struggled how to implement these GTD concepts using Lotus Notes.

After googling around a bit, I found the eProductivity for IBM Notes Mail product, which has forever changed how I manage my email. Today, my email inbox is emptied by the end of each day by utilizing the GTD system in eProductivity. I drag emails to the left to create actions for future To-Do's and drag items to the right that I want to keep for future reference. Finally, I delete any email which I don't need to perform any action and do not need to keep for future reference. Using the Today view, I get an overview of my meetings scheduled for the day and/or any actions that I have due that day.

One of the best features of eProductivity IMHO, is the "Waiting for" action. I send a lot of emails where I need someone else to respond or take some action on my behalf. Before eProductivity, I relied on my memory to remember what I had asked for and whether or not I had received a response within the expected time frame. With eProductivity, I click one button that says "Waiting for" when I send the email and a future action is automatically created as a reminder that I'm waiting for something to be responded to.

Getting all of these actions and To-Do's out of my head and into the eProductivity system has allowed me to manage my email my more productively. I hope one day that my company adopts eProductivity company wide, but until then, I'm happy to pay out of pocket for eProductivity because it saves me the most valuable resource of all, my time!

JT

Thanks for sharing your story, JT!

If you'd like to share how eProductivity has helped you, select "Send feedback" from the eProductivity menu:



Happy New Year!

-Nathan

You start the new year with energy, verve, and a resolve to Get Things Done! But how do you make sure those things keep moving forward week after week?

Here's the most critical habit to make sure you don't drop the ball: review your commitments regularly. Ideally, this would be done every week.

There are certain steps you can follow for a successful Weekly Review. These will help you empty all your sources of input, review your existing material to make sure it's current, and get inspiration from your goals and ideas.

David Allen's ideal steps for a successful Weekly Review are listed below:

David Allen's Weekly Review steps, as built into the Weekly Review Coach in eProductivity, the premier solution for getting things done in IBM Lotus Notes

These will work with any system you're using (even pen and paper), but I've also specially built them into eProductivity's Weekly Review Coach.

A few definitions

If you haven't been introduced to the Getting Things Done method, a few quick definitions may be in order:

Capture Tools: Any place where stuff collects, such as your inbox, email, and voicemail.

Tickler: Files for stuff you want to be reminded of at a later date. For example, you could have a tickler item labeled "Decide whether to attend the 2016 Olympics," with a due date of four months before the event.

Waiting-for: Just what it sounds like -- anything that you're waiting for from someone else.

Someday/Maybe: A list of things you want to do and could do, but can't, shouldn't, or won't do now.

Why the Weekly Review is so powerful

Following the checklist above will help you

  • Empty all the stuff that you've collected
  • Decide what you need to do about all that stuff (if anything)
  • Review everything in your world at least briefly so nothing falls through the cracks
  • Get inspired by your creative ideas

Personally, my favorite part of the Weekly Review is going through stuff I haven't thought about in a while, and it hits me -- "I could do this fun, exciting, creative thing!" I can't always do that thing right away -- often, it has to go on my someday/maybe list -- but it's energizing just to have those ideas!

David Allen on the Weekly Review Coach



To use the Weekly Review Coach

If you're using eProductivity, open the eProductivity menu and select "Weekly Review Coach" to get started!

If you're not using eProductivity (and you have Lotus Notes) click here to learn more and start a 21-day trial.

More info

Read more about Someday/Maybe

See here for a good two-sentence definition of Waiting-for

Read more about the Tickler File

Read more about the Weekly Review Coach

Here's to your success!

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"GTD®" and "Getting Things Done®" are registered trademarks of the David Allen Company. Lotus® and Lotus Notes® are registered trademarks of IBM Corporation.