Is it possible to build a "trusted system"?

The title of this post is in response to a comment on Michael Dolan's recent blog post sharing his experience coaching team of people that are using Lotus Notes as a trusted system for GTD. Michael's post is worth reading, because he talks about the importance of being the master of your domain: knowing and controlling what crosses over the transom. Specifically, Michael addresses the issue of delegated tasks, not just in Lotus Notes but in general, and how difficult it can be to use well as a team.   (You should read Michael's original post and my response.)

What caught my eye, however, and the topic I wish to address today is whether or not it is possible to build a trusted system out of Lotus Notes. You see, a reader of Michael's blog, Doug Ransom, had this to say in a comment he posted:
... I think it is near impossible to build a trusted system out of Lotus Notes, which is why my assistants print everything out. We just cant trust Lotus Notes as a bring-forward system. I often find myself writing down the important stuff to do today on a piece of paper because there is no way in Lotus Notes to capture "this must be done today if possible". It is just too cumbersome to effectively review the lists.

Doug continues...
Everyone I know who switched to Lotus Notes from Outlook dropped off the GTD bandwagon. I am moving towards simply using Lotus to-dos for a "-waiting" category; anything I assign to my assistant or anyone else goes into this list. I'll go to some other system (paper, excel, or perhaps daylight (from marketcircle) for my GTD system. ...

Where do I begin?

You already know, from the title of my blog, that I'm going to defend Lotus Notes as a productivity tool. But what else do I have to say? Lots.

First of all, I think it's important to separate the methodology from the technology (the tool). In my eProductivity seminars and coaching, I begin by teaching my eProductivity equation:
productivity = knowledge * methodology * technology


I explain that each of these are multipliers, which means that any one element can make things better -- or worse. (Have you ever purchased some piece of productivity gear and actually had your productivity go down?)

As a technology for individual or group task management, I think that vanilla Notes leaves a lot of room for improvement. So does Outlook. But Notes and Outlook are just tools; tools and the way we use them can be improved upon. [Warning: shameless plug ahead.] Six years ago I created  eProductivity for Notes that makes getting things done in Lotus Notes easy. [End of shameless plug.] However, you do not need eProductivity to be productive with Lotus Notes or even to make Lotus Notes work as your trusted system.

Even with vanilla Notes, there is much that can be done. I offer as proof of this, my client, David Allen. The David Allen Company has been a Notes shop since I first deployed Notes for them, almost 15 years ago. However, employees at DavidCo are presently permitted to choose the tools they will use for their own trusted system. Several use Palm Desktop, some, like Michael Dolan, use Outlook, some use eProductivity, and some use vanilla Lotus Notes. That's right, vanilla Notes.

My point is that it's not just about the system you use for work, it's about the way your work your system.  

Go back to the eProductivity equation for a minute, you can take a technology and apply a sound methodology for getting things done (such as David Allen's GTD methodology) and achieve remarkable results even if the technology is not a supportive as you would like. In this case the methodology becomes the productivity multiplier that compensates for a weakness in another part of the equation. This is why before I will work with an eProductivity coaching client, they must have developed a thorough understanding of the fundamentals of GTD. I know, too well, that simply giving them a powerful technology -- like eProductivity -- will not suddenly make them more productive. They need the technology and the methodology.

What happens when you enhance both the methodology (e.g. use GTD) and the technology part (use Lotus Notes in a way that better supports the work process)? That's when things really start to happen.

I have clients that have mastered David Allen's GTD methodology and who now use eProductivity or Lotus Notes as their trusted system. Some of them report time savings of 10-30 minutes a day, not to mention the many intangible benefits such as completion, accountability, and results.

My offer to Doug Ransom:
 Doug, unfortunately your post on Michael's blog does not have a clickable link to your email or blog so I have no way to reach you. Instead, I will make this public offer. If you will meet with me and show me your system - how you presently implement Lotus as your support tool for GTD, I will show you how I use Lotus Notes as my trusted system, how I use GyroQ to capture my tasks quickly and effortlessly, and how I use a view I call the "Today" view to show me the important tasks I have decided to do today. Perhaps we can even do a podcast to share the experience so that others may learn, too. Interested? You can reach me at 661-242-8410.

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