Is there an App for GTD?

How hard could it be to build a single app to answer all of our productivity needs?  Right now it seems that we use one app for reminders, another for the calendar, another for our project list, and so on.  It just seems obvious that one app should do the trick, and how come David Allen hasn’t made it yet!

Well it turns out he tried.  At the GTD Summit this summer, David told the group about this project.  It was again shared on his blog.

“At the Summit I briefly shared a vision of the “ultimate GTD app” which consists of 19 pages of hand-drawn drafts of the screens I would want to use. I just said to myself, “Can I click F1 on my computer and get to a clear head?” I spent two days creating those screens. This was in 1994. “Since I drew these, we’ve invested in two serious attempts at producing a software product that would do it (or at least come close). Both ended in a “not yet” conclusion, after tremendous research in the tech and analysis of the market (one in the mid-1990s and the last in the mid-2010s.) “

David has now shared the drafts with the world in the hope that someone will crack the code and make the ultimate GTD app.  Read the entire post on his blog to learn more.

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2nd Brain Paradigm Shifts

Have you shifted a paradigm recently?

Paradigms are philosophical and theoretical frameworks that we all employ in our minds to help us navigate the world.  Whenever someone experiences a radical change in perspective, we tend to say that they underwent a paradigm shift.

Tiago Forte believes that to succeed in our information abundant world, we need to undergo a set a paradigm shifts regarding how we understand and work with knowledge.  In a recent post on his blog, he explores a new way to think about the purpose of his course, Building a Second Brain:

“This may sound strange, but I increasingly believe that the purpose of this course is not to give students new ideas. It’s not even to give them useful techniques. Endless ideas and techniques are already out there for the taking. No, the purpose of this course is to take people through a series of personal paradigm shifts in their relationship to technology, knowledge, and the new world that is evolving ever faster.”

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Tiago believe the course allows for at least twenty paradigm shifts!  Have you gone through any of them yet?

What Does the Science Say?

There are many methods and techniques to become organized at home and work.  The list is long and includes GTD, Building a Second Brain, KonMari, and many others.  However, have you ever thought that the gains made by these approaches are only illusionary?   Perhaps they are all simply feel-good methods that work for a short time and then fade away?  In short, is there any science to back up the claims of these systems?

In a blog post on the revamped Getting Things Done web site, David Allen provides a brief overview to explain why methods like GTD have an impact that relates directly to cognitive science.

“Recent cognitive science research shows that the number of things you can mentally prioritize, manage, retain, and recall is . . . (hold on) . . . four! If you park any more than that in your head, you will sub-optimize your cognitive functioning. You will be driven by whatever is latest and loudest—rather than by strategy, intuition, or objective assessment.”

Read the rest of David’s thoughts along with his book suggestions on the Getting Things Done blog.David-Allen-GTD

The Office Martial Art – GTD!

For many years I was yoga teacher at a local studio in West Palm Beach, FL.  I was drawn to yoga for the exercise and the peace of mind that came from this meditative practice.  Later on, when I discovered GTD and related productivity principles, I saw them as the yoga of office work.  That is, skills and techniques that would provide calm in the face of workplace stress.

David Allen as long used a similar metaphor for GTD in his talks.  He views it as the martial art of work and in a recent blog post, offered ten ways that GTD and karate were similar.

1. There are no beginner’s moves.
You begin in karate learning moves that you will practice as a third-degree black belt. A roundhouse kick or knife-hand block is the same, whether you are just learning it or you are a sensei. Being responsible for your internal commitments, deciding what next physical action is required on something you want to do or change, clarifying your intention and vision—those are true from beginning to end, no matter how mature you are in life or its process. There’s no elementary way to process your inbox to zero.

2. It feels counter-intuitive and unnatural when you start.
Trying to stand and move gracefully in a karate “front stance” feels initially like one of the more unnatural things the body has ever attempted. It’s almost as weird as writing everything down that you commit to do something about, as it occurs to you. Or spending valuable time cleaning up non-critical open loops on the front end. Weird science.”

Read the remaining eight similarities at the Getting Things Done blog.

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Can a Second Brain be Built in a Day?

basbWe all know that Rome was not built in a day, but can a second brain be built in a seven hour workshop?

On Tuesday May 21, Tiago and Lauren from Forte Labs came to the Palm Beach County Library System to lead their signature course Building a Second Brain (BASB) for thirty five library staff.  Participants were recruited from across the library system, with many members coming from the Productivity Committee and the User Experience (UX) Committee.  All of them were excited about the benefits an electronic second brain had to offer.  Prior to the workshop, participants had a homework assignment to identify their “12 Favorite Problems” and to start capturing electronic items, such as articles, photos, news clips, etc.,  in Microsoft OneNote.  They also had access to an online version of BASB specially designed for the library staff.

At the start, the BASB workshop laid out the core tenants of the second brain philosophy: Capture, Connect, Create.  The morning was spent with a review of capture and then moved on to PARA which clarified the difference between projects, areas, resources, and archives.  Following lunch, the seminar moved to the theory and practice of Progressive Summarization.  Students then explored the concept of project packets that lead to the “Just In Time” project delivery system.  Finally, Tiago shared his view of the future of knowledge work in relation to personal knowledge management.

Library staff left the workshop energized and excited about the possibilities from mastering personal knowledge management.  So in the end, we learned that building a second brain is not a one time exercise, but an ongoing approach to curate the streams of information that flow around us.

Thank you Tiago and Lauren from all of us at PBCLS!

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Does Technology=Productivity?

DA-SmallWill a new iPhone make you more productive?  Perhaps the latest app can keep you on track to complete projects?  Is a digital calendar more effective than an old fashioned paper one?  With the constant cycle of technology there is always a new tool or software version coming out that promises to improve our efficiency and make life easier.  However, is this promise simply untenable?

In a recent blog post, David Allen addresses the intersection between technology and productivity.  He starts with a nuanced approach to the topic.

“Despite my thirty-five years of consulting, coaching, and training in hundreds of organizations, I don’t have an easy answer to that question. The digital tools we need and like require more intensive labor than they should. It would be great to have a digital dashboard that integrated all apps, allowed you to manipulate information in a single location, and then sent the revised data back to its original location. And all upgrades would happen automatically! Doubtful, in my lifetime.”

Despite this conflicted opening, David goes on to offer some straightforward advice on the topic.  Read the rest of the post on the Getting Things Done web site.

Time or Attention? Which Works?

AdamGrant_2016-headshot_previewWhen I ask students why they decided to attend an Efficient Librarian seminar, a common response is that they wanted to learn more about “time management.”  While it seems logical to believe that you can get more work done through better management of the hours in your day, it may not be that straightforward.  In fact, focusing on time management may actually make you less productive.

In a recent article on the New York Times web site, Professor Adam Grant argues that managing our attention, not time, is a better approach to getting things done.  He writes:

“Being prolific is not about time management. There are a limited number of hours in the day, and focusing on time management just makes us more aware of how many of those hours we waste.

“A better option is attention management: Prioritize the people and projects that matter, and it won’t matter how long anything takes.”

This reminds me of a classic David Allen quote from Getting Things Done:

“If you don’t pay appropriate attention to what has your attention, it will take more of your attention than it deserves.”

Read the rest of Adam Grant’s article on the New York Times web site.