March 3, 2014 by Eric Mack
Here's another powerful customer story from the customer service inbox. It's from a passionate and productive customer: Brandon Starr. It's longer than many posts we feature but it's rich with details and worth a read if you want to learn how other smart and productive people are getting things done with less effort with eProductivity for IBM Notes. Brandon also mention's a product that he uses called ActiveWords. We use this ourselves and, as Brandon mentions in his letter, eProductivity integrates with ActiveWords. In fact, it's one of our recommended resources. Thank you, Brandon, for sharing your story and for allowing us to share it here to inspire others.
I became interested in the GTD methodology around 2009, when my former boss introduced me (and the rest of his staff) to GTD. After some additional research I found the GTD website. I was looking for a way to maximize my production (and also admittedly to impress my boss). While browsing the GTD website, I stumbled across a link to a program that David Allen recommends called ActiveWords (if you don't have ActiveWords you're working much harder than you should be). For the next two years, I gained a better understanding of the fundamentals of GTD, and also refined they way I used ActiveWords at work and on my home PC. During this time, I was also using Outlook at work.In July 2011, I transferred inter company to a department that uses Lotus Notes. At first, I was lost. Lotus Notes felt overwhelming with so many options and a much more complicated interface than Outlook. I felt like I needed to learn programming in order to effectively set up and use Lotus Notes. It took me 6 months before I found the To-Do's section of Lotus Notes. My calendar wasn't set up properly and I wasn't receiving notices for meetings, appointments,...or even for REMINDERS. Eventually our tech department found out my Lotus Notes was looking towards the wrong server and corrected it. Once they fixed my Calendar, I thought I might as well see if there were any ways to improve my Lotus Notes experience. After searching for ways to improve Lotus Notes, I wound up on the GTD site again. That's when I noticed eProductivity. At first I was a little tentative about downloading and altering my Lotus Notes. So I tried the free stand-alone version. I started manually migrating my emails into the eProductivity folder, and I set up a few projects and actions. I started to realize that eProductivity was basically using my Lotus Notes in a more efficient way. It was setting up To-Do's with contexts and due dates of my choosing. After I became more comfortable with eProductivity, I decided to try the Integrated monthly pay option. I successfully downloaded and installed it, and then I no longer had to import my emails into eProductivity...it became my mail template and main interface (BUT you can quickly and easily get to your normal Lotus Notes inbox). Then I really started to use it. I could drag an email and create a new task, project, tickler,...basically anything you might be familiar with if you've tried the GTD method. Even better, I could adjust the names of contexts and categories as I saw fit ("At Computer", "At Home", "Action Support", etc...). I could link new emails to existing projects so they would be together when I opened the project, and I could even link and open these projects and actions from my Lotus Notes Calendar. That's when I realized the power of eProductivity. It lets you shape and turn Lotus Notes into a simple GTD type system, or a full fledged granular interface. Lotus Notes only has To-Do's, and they are almost an oversight in Lotus Notes. Most people in my office have an inbox full of unread or even read emails that may or may not require action and the emails just sit in their inboxes (some people have thousands of emails in their inbox). My inbox is almost always empty, and the emails are assigned to relative tasks and projects, with due dates and assigned reminders. It's great to have an empty inbox! But you can't get that way by just deleting emails and trying to remember them. You have to put those emails somewhere outside of your mind and into a system that will remind you that something needs to be done with a particular context, place, and/or time. eProductivity does exactly that, and in a very easy to use and bug free interface. Also, eProductivity interfaces with ActiveWords!...the program I mentioned earlier that I found on the GTD website. I found no other Lotus Notes solutions that will help you keep your inbox empty and your mind clear. As for customer service, anytime I've had a question about how to do something in particular, they've always been quick to reply...no longer than a day and sometimes faster. I found the how to guides and videos as well, and they've done a great job creating easily to understand tutorials that are readily accessible. I recommend eProductivity without hesitation, and it's great to know you can try it for free as a stand alone add in for Lotus Notes, without changing your Lotus Notes template, or you can integrate it and make it your Lotus Notes template. It's up to you, and they even have instructions for how to remove eProductivity if you want. They even thought of that! But my guess is that you want need to look at that tutorial, because you'll be happy with it.
Brandon K Starr SENIOR SPECIALIST • INSURANCE GROUP New York Life Insurance Company
You can learn more about integrating ActiveWords and eProductivity here.
If YOU have a story about your experience getting things done with eProductivity, we'd like to hear from you. If you're willing to allow us to share it on our blog/web site, please include that in your email.
February 18, 2014 by Eric Mack
Have you ever asked yourself, "self, why did I waste my time in that way?"
I've done both. Many times.
As I continue to do research in high performance knowledge work and personal knowledge management, I've collected a number of tools and methods to help me make smarter decisions about what to do or not do.
Today, I'd like to share one of those tools with you. I call it my opportunity decision matrix,
When I was in graduate school and trying to run my consulting business and launch a software company and be a loving husband and father to my four daughters, I hit a wall. Something had to give. But what?
My good friend, Michael, gave me some sage advice that helped a lot. He told me to ask myself two simple questions to ask whenever I needed to evaluate options.
Here's how this works:
First define the "opportunity". Perhaps it's "Attend ABC conference". Next, evaluate that opportunity through the lens of two filters: opportunity and timing, like this:
Question #1. Is this the right opportunity?
If it isn't, stop. Don't waste your time. Done. Decision made. If it is the right opportunity, then, I continue to question #2
Question #2. Is this the right timing?
Many times, I have a right opportunity but bad timing. It makes no sense to proceed unless both the opportunity and timing are right.
I have since expanded into an this 2x2 opportunity decision matrix:
This matrix has proven extremely valuable to me when I have a lot of hard choices to make and a new one shows up (like, "hey, do you want to fill in the blank.... ?")
For example, at a particularly busy point in my life, I got invited to speak at a conference. It was a great opportunity and I really wanted to go. However, it was not the right timing, so I declined. Having this simple two question matrix really helped me make a hard decision easy.
The following year I was invited to speak at a different event. I concluded that it was both the right opportunity and the right timing, so I accepted the invitation and the "Beyond Planning Conference" was born.
Sometimes, when it seems like I have many large or complex decisions to make, It helps me to pull out a sheet of paper and make a 4x4 matrix, like the one above. Then, I list of all of the options on my plate and one by one, and I write them into the appropriate quadrant.
It's usually quite a sobering experience.
Next, I cross off everything in quadrants 3 & 4 and move quadrant 2 items to my "someday/Maybe" list. This leaves me with only my quadrant 1 items, which I do.
By being ruthless in evaluating all of my choices against these two criteria, I can get unstuck quickly and feel good about the choices I make.
How do you make choices? What tools have you found helpful to make decisions?
February 4, 2014 by Eric Mack
David Allen opens his book, Getting Things Don, the Art of Stress Free Productivity, with this statement: “It’s possible for a person to have an overwhelming number of things to do and still function productively with a clear head and a positive sense of relaxed control” (p. 3). I don’t know about you, but my immediate reaction was, “Yes please!”
I’m going to give you a partial summary of the first chapter of Mr. Allen’s book. I’ll try to give you enough of a sense of what this book says and what it can do for you (and has done for me) without giving you all it has to offer (both to respect Mr. Allen’s IP and not get myself sued by him or his publisher).1
What do you want to get done?
Mr. Allen defines “work” as “anything that you want or need to be different than it currently is” (4).
So. Are there weeds in the garden? Are there emails in your inbox? Is your air conditioner broken? Do you need to help your kid decide on a college? How many hundreds of things are there in your life that you need or want to accomplish, do, create, or change? We’re going to take a little look at how to do it all.
This isn’t just a system for your job. It’s for your whole life.
What’s in your way?
February 3, 2014 by Eric Mack
The Natural Planning Method is something you’ve been doing your whole life without realizing it. Recently, I’ve been learning to consciously apply it to everything I do — and it’s been a huge relief. In a word, it’s given me a trusted process for dealing with just about anything I need or want to do. Now, instead of dozens of projects flying into my brain at random to tug my attention away from what I’m doing, I can focus on the present, because I know that everything on my to-do list is set to be taken care of. This isn’t anything quasi-mystical, and I’m not going to ask you to buy anything.
What David Allen (the speaker from the video that was the subject of my last entry) has done is reverse-engineer the process that your brain naturally uses to plan anything:
1. You identify something you want
2. You envision what having it will look and feel like — what will be true once it’s accomplished
3. Everything (information, ideas, actions) associated with getting it floods into your mind
4. You organize those ideas, actions, and info into patterns and steps
5. You determine the very next thing you need to do — and do it
How you’re already doing it
February 1, 2014 by Eric Mack
The solution is to start with leadership, not IT. Then, when leadership sees the value, they can request IT approval. I know this approach works as I have helped countless people around the world do just this.
So, where to start?
I recommend having a conversation (or sending an email to start one) with either to your manager or to the individual in your organization that you think cares most about workplace performance. That could be a manager that is in touch with how his people use their tools to get work done or it could be someone higher up the chain focused on value creation. In any case, it's not IT you want to start with but the people who "get" the value of working smarter.
Then. in a simple format, share your story.
Continue Reading: "How to tell your story in a compelling way to get management support for eProductivity" »
January 30, 2014 by Eric Mack
When I hear the words “productivity guru,” I picture a bald, fit, bespectacled man with a goatee and a flashy suit giving a jargon-heavy presentation to a group of executives (who are pretending to understand what he’s saying) on the subject of how to cram 100 hours of work into a mere 50-hour work week — and, more importantly, how to get their employees to do the same. His constant calendar-checking, emailing, and texting do nothing to interrupt his flow of sophisticated corp-speak.
I definitely do not picture a guy like David Allen speaking intelligibly about concepts I can understand and that get me excited about learning to get things done. The fact that my expectations were utterly confounded is the reason I recommend this video.
January 28, 2014 by Eric Mack
I'd like to introduce you to Nathan Paul, a friend of mine whose current blog title is "Aspiring pro writer and non-homeless person". Nathan is a recent graduate of The Master's College where I have the privilege of teaching as an adjunct professor in the business program. (I've also taught an introduction to robotics course as well). I've been mentoring Nathan and sharing with him topics and information I wish I had learned when I was his age. I've put together a list of topics and we are working through them together. I've encouraged Nathan to write about these topics and even to post some of them on his blog so that others may benefit as well.
Many of the topics we are exploring together have to to with personal effectiveness and life management. Nathan has given me permission to share some of these posts here on this blog.
I'm sure you will find Nathan's posts inspiring and thought provoking. If you want to read more, I encourage you to visit his blog, Nathan the Paul.