Thursday, May 31, 2007

Is it time to declare email Bankruptcy??

Sometime the e in email means enough.

One of the trends is to declare email bankruptcy.

If you've sent me an email (and you aren't my wife, partner or colleague), you might want to send it again. I am starting over
Capitalist Fred Wilson speaking to the Wall Street Journal.

The volume of email has doubled in the last ten years and with Blackberry becomes more and more common place the pressure for immediate replies is more intense than ever.

  • Delete old email
  • Start afresh
  • return to voice communication and face to face where possible
  • process effectively, think who you need to include and what level of detail is required
  • avoid the use of reply to all
  • help others, if you need them to do something include them on the To: line
  • help other, if you are having them as FYI
      • Do they need to know?
      • If you're sure have them on CC:
  • State clearly the action to allow people to scan for their name and what you need them to do
More reading on email bankruptcy

Friday, May 25, 2007

GTD: The Collection Process

For those of you that have adopted the GTD collection process and have a physical in tray where you can store tangible items (magazines, articles etc) you have probably created something similar for your email. Maybe some form of basic file structure where you can move new mail to for follow up, assignment/delegation, reference or someday/maybe.

This all works very well but I need something that I can use when I'm mobile and have a thought. It's not always convenient to write something down on paper so I got to thinking about a way to use the one thing I always have with me, my mobile phone.

There are some good products out there. If you're in the US you can subscribe to Braincast but I don't think it's viable for me in Thailand due to cost.

So what are the other options? I had a look around and I found a service that provides an SMS to Email bridge. The service is hosted by IntelliSoftware and allows me to send an SMS to their number. So this was step one for my collection plan. I can now send an SMS with my thought/note/action.

Step two was to use the features of blogger, specifically the email interface. I can create an email account that allows me to create blog posts. Now I send an SMS which gets turned into an email. I set up the email account to be by blogger interface and now I have a 24x7 collection system that I can feed from anywhere (mobile roaming) and access from anywhere (blogger at an internet cafe).

Using labels in blogger I can create a basic processing system. I can view this output via label specific label RSS feeds, the same way that I have provided Time Management only or People Management only from this blog. This gives me flexible and scalable processing power for my GTD actions on the move.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

An Eye for Jeteye

I have just listened to the podcast with David Hayden of Jeteye.

As soon as I got the chance I registered and straight away I have found the product to be extremely useful and a great booster for me.

The theory is simple. Rather than wander around and create bookmarks use Jeteye to collect objects (files, links, videos etc) into a jetpak. The collection process is a simple but effective drag and drop interface which is very intuitive for today's users. The collection is then stored and highly available from your account page on

This jetpak collection can then be shared, with the usual controls over actions, which is a real boost for collaborative and virtual teams.

I'm definitely going to be using it to collect objects around some of my projects (as in the GTD term) and I am going to try and see if I can find a way to overlay it into my organization.

Maybe there are plans to allow a company to deploy it standalone inside a corporate network. It's such a powerful tool for me I could see it easily displace some of the quickplace stuff we use today.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Improving your estimates - TaskBlaze

My previous posting on David Seah's Emerging Task Planner states that one of the key benefits is the ability, over time, to improve your ability to estimate the effort required for a task.

The way I do this is using a neat little tool from Brad Isaac from his AchieveIt site called TaskBlaze.

This is a simple stopwatch with start/stop functionality that integrates into Outlook to create a calendar entry with categories that you choose.

This gives you:

  1. A record of the actual elapsed time taken
  2. A record with codes that easily allow you to update your timesheet
This will help you measure your ability to estimate and for those of you that use EVM it gives you a way to track your SPI for a given task.

David Seah, Printable CEO - Emergent Task Planning

When I started to get organized in an effort to get on top of all of the tasks, work and personal, I looked around for ideas.

I found David Seah and his Printable CEO Series. A great lead in and really got me started on planning and, importantly, measuring my work for the day.

In essence the series is a set of PDF files that you can use to layout your day and tasks amongst other activities. The key takeaway for me was the Emergent Task Planner. This is the analogy of the big rocks and the sand. Take a container and load the sand in, now take the big rocks and see how many you get in. It's more efficient to place the big rocks first and then pack the sand around you'll get all of the big rocks in.

Now this container is your day and the rocks and the main tasks that you need to achieve. The sand is the small stuff you do in the day, email, phone calls, browsing etc.

This is where the Emergent Task Planner comes in. Using 15 minute time boxes you can lay out the key tasks for the day and see what is the optimal fit to get them all in.

I found this a great way to overlay some structure to work within. The main benefits are:

  • Time boxing gives a visual marker to see how full your day is
  • Making an estimate forces you to set a baseline to work to
  • Marking the actual elapsed time enables you to make increasingly better estimates for similar tasks
The only downside for me is the limitation that a paper based system brings. I travel a lot and don't have the room or the energy to cart a load of paper around with me. So I took some steps to create a fully editable soft version for myself using Excel. The basics structures are there but a slightly different layout for convenience of cells alignment if nothing else.

Get the file from File Den

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

GTD: The Killer App. - Context

Many tools, services, devices and ideas need that compelling reason for people to adopt them.... The Killer Application.

For the world of GSM this was SMS, Short Message Service led to the explosion of cell phone adoption and led the switch from analogue to digital.

For Getting Things Done the killer app. is context. Context is the label that is applied to the action or project (more than one action).

The best thing about context, and in general the GTD framework, is that it's personal to you and not a system that you have to adjust yourself to.

For example I use my laptop a lot and a logical context might be @computer. However there are some tasks I need to be on the internet for some I need to be on the corporate network.

This then allows me to plan for @VPN or @www. If I'm on a plane and there are somethings that I can do without a connection at all, this becomes @pc.

The granularity is what YOU need it to be for YOU. Another example you might have write message to John, this could be @email or @gmail and @notes.

If you have the correct tool choice the lists and views should be able to flex for the dimensions, contexts, that you require and evolve your use of the framework in to.