Comfy with My-Tech GTD

Preface: If you are just joining us, this article is part three and the final installment I have planned for my October 2006 ho‘ohana of “Nalu it!” a la GTD, Getting Things Done by David Allen. (February 2010: Link updating in process.)

To catch up and for best context, you’ll get the whole series this way:

  1. Our Ho‘ohana for October, 2006: Nalu it!
  2. GTD? Nalu it!
  3. GTD and a Story of Sequential Learning
  4. You’re in the right place! Keep reading :-)

When I think about the way my work habits have changed over the years, the last few of them are startlingly dramatic; any of my recollections about how I worked a scant three years ago often seem like ancient history. My personal journey with better productivity has been all about embracing change, our ever-flatter world, and new technology.

However, I believe in a balance of forward-thinking change and great-value constants. Through-out it all, my constancy has been Managing with Aloha; the MWA movement has given me a real-life, mission-critical focus of the good stuff I’ve wanted to consistently apply my productivity practices to.

Another undeniable factor in this short stretch between my now and ancient history, has been that I made a gargantuan leap from corporate life to that of entrepreneurship and self-employment in 2003. Ah! Sweet, sweet freedom. A seemingly never-ending supply of Christmas presents under a glowing tree of proactive personal choice. Some self-employment struggles? Sure. But relatively short-lived, and oh so gloriously worth it.

That’s my Context for this article.

For those of you still interested, this is my here and now of GTD application. I write this for those who know of and are practicing GTD in some form; from this point on, this posting is one filled with GTD jargon. If you never heard of it, you probably won’t want to keep reading ” take a look at the blog sidebar for other suggestions.

You still with me, and still have a need to know? Okay, two things:

a) These are the bones of my Trusted System (New update for 2010: Weekend Project: Hō‘imi your Trusted System). I say “the bones” because I’m still tweaking, still seeking to pare it down to the barest essentials, and there’s no sense in writing about the stuff I’m working to eliminate, right?

b) There are parts of this which could quite easily be spun off into a series of their own ”“ such as with email, that “big elephant you have to eat at one bite at a time.” We shall keep this as much to the highlights as possible, otherwise I may as well write another book ” this series has been long enough as it is!

Okay, here goes.


I so agree that psychic RAM is a terrible office, and low-tech collect and capture is the way to keep in mind like water state so you are more perceptive to the great opportunities which present themselves to you. You want to be an interesting human being to others, and live in the moment; you don’t want to be a productivity-obsessed robot.

Job One: over note-take, and write everything down. Use the gear you love to use for their tactile goodness. I am a journaler, for writing things out is part of my feels-good thinking process. Journal entries become blog posts, become submitted articles, become potential white papers and books in the making.

My UCT (ubiquitous capture tool) is a 5×7 blank book kept with me at all times, and I don’t bother with tabs (tried that, organizational fanaticism set in); I just write front to back. When my journal is full, I inhale the heady scent of my writing pleasure so captured and reward myself by buying another blank book. Tucked inside are a few index cards ”“ whatever size is on sale when I need to restock. What I write on the cards is any info that I’ll later toss into my One Physical Inbox to then Process/Organize into the mid-tech or high-tech parts of my trusted system.

I love paper tools for their tactile pleasure, but I hate filing, and to that end (Begin with the End in Mind!) I seek to be as paperless in my business as possible. The best thing you can put in my Christmas stocking is another mega-memory flash drive.

Also in this Low-Tech category:

  • Tickler files via expanding pendaflex. Love ‘em, use all three types: A-Z, January-December, and 1-31. They keep reminders/reference I need not double-entry into my Outlook Calendar or any other Mid or High Tech Processing.
  • 3-Ring binders are a mainstay in the kind of work I do with my clients, they work way better for me than manila folders, and they include plastic, removable/portable and recyclable 3-punched portfolios (one thing I still use the Brother labeler for) and slant pockets.

Corporate life taught me the discipline of using trace dates, and plastic slant pockets are great movable Next Action holders from binder to tickler file, to nose-to-the-grindstone Project Work and every back-and-forth movement within the Project cycle. They slip out of my carry-on easily in all the traveling I do.


I’m a graduate of the Franklin-Covey calendar/paper planner system, and today, my mid-tech is Microsoft Office and my printer: Outlook Calendar, Contacts and for Email. I no longer use the rest of Outlook, but I do learn all the bells and whistles that come with those three applications so that I am quick as I can possibly get in using them.

Core to my mid-tech thinking: I am an incessant planner, and I cannot imagine life without a calendar —absolutely impossible! My Outlook Calendar is easily printable when I need it on paper and helps with my low-tech capture within time-specific windows: When the time it covers is over, and any notes added to it are processed, the paper version is shredded. If I process it correctly I don’t need to archive it.

I have several email addresses for different reasons, and they all get channeled into my one Outlook Inbox. The two-minute rule gets applied to my email inbox, and I get it to zero by the end of the day when possible, and in my next Weekly Review without fail (including ruthless purge and delete.)

Outlook email folders work exceptionally well for my customer, community, and relationship correspondence because I use email so much. When people leave me voicemails, I’ll often transcribe their message as part of an email string we had already started.

My Sent box in Outlook is my GTD @Waitingfor; Sent is like “Tag, you’re it!” for me. If my sent message is the end of something I delete it right away; any needing a response stay there until I get one or send a reminder, and I check it regularly, seeking to get to zero, same as my Inbox.


It may be different for you, but I think of high-tech as

  • my cell phone
  • my laptop
  • my blogs and web-presence
  • Microsoft Word for long documents (and most of my writing)
  • Excel for spreadsheets AND for Lists of all kinds
  • and any web-based tools I use. Examples of these are Constant Contact as my e-letter editor, Basecamp for my clients’ project management, Skype just recently, and Gmail/Google Groups functionality for the Ho‘ohana Community. Love tagging as my online reference manager.

I optimize my use of my cell phone and laptop in all they offer ”“ and only those two pieces of equipment-type tools. As I’ve said before, no PDA for me. (2010: Things do change! I am now a mac-user, and loving my iPhone apps :)

I have been an Excel user for a long time, and as far as I’m concerned it remains the best List Manager ever. No Excel macro knowledge is needed; macros are complexity gravy. I have an Excel File simply named “Task” that is a constant open window and/or printable file for me. I make good use of the Auto Filter (which also Sorts by alpha). Collect/Process/Organize all within the two minute rule is an easy given for me using Excel.

As an example, these are the columns I filter in this Excel Task file:

  • Column A: Tag A Context (Think Category)
  • Column B: Tag B Context (I use Columns A and B like tagging of the Column G entries.)
  • Column C: Start Date (A long-lasting first-in/first out discipline, another procrastination killer)
  • Column D: Last Worked Date (Clues me into notes kept in my Outlook Appointment notes section.)
  • Column E: Due Date (Invoke the Discipline of Deadlines!)
  • Column F: Event Date (Will correspond to my Outlook Calendar Appointments)
  • Column G: The Task/Project
  • Column H: The Next Action
  • Column I: Other Notes

You can do the same thing for other Lists.

These are the other GTDisms and ROSAisms which have shaped my Trusted System; they are concepts I remind myself of all the time because they’ve “come true” for me.

  • Form should follow Function, and function is about Focus. I like light (I’m small), and virtual with as few gadgets as possible.
  • Focus with Allen’s 2 Basic Questions: What’s the successful outcome, and What’s the Next Action?
  • Neat and organized is not the same thing. More purge and delete = less need to clean or organize.
  • Productivity enables good living, it does not rule over it! The 5 Stages of Mastering Workflow must take as little time and effort as possible, and they must evolve into intuitive, best-life habit magic.
  • Took me a while to wean myself from my mouse, but I’ve learned to use my speed keys. Seems like sa small thing, but it does make an amazing difference.
  • How do I Nalu it, and re-group when I am surprised, get thrown a curve ball, or hunger for a new opportunity? The answer has to be supported by my trusted system.
  • Honoring the hard landscape of your calendar is critical.

The Weekly Review is critical.

  • Learn to Say No, and Learn to Let Go. Do not take on more Responsibility than you can handle WELL.
  • Develop a sense of urgency with taking Next Actions. Make more room in your life with Do it already! Purge and Delete. ‘ÅŒpala ‘ole: do without the clutter which weighs you down.
  • Have fun. Chores are least likely to get done.

Whew! I think this is quite enough talking about Getting Things Done. Let’s get back to doing it, shall we?

GTD is a great philosophy, and I think David Allen is pretty brilliant; I am very grateful for what he has taught me. There is much, much more we can talk about, but I think it becomes too much writing and not enough doing for me today. Time to turn to my own Next Action; probably for you too.

Thank you for the time you took to read this far.

Related Reading:

GTD and a Story of Sequential Learning

I have a promise to keep: I had written GTD? Nalu it! before the earthquake, and I had said,

I’ll work on a part 2 for this next, and share what my “trusted system” has evolved to today, sixteen months since I first discovered David Allen and GTD. Stay tuned.

If you have stayed tuned in, thank you. Our programming hereby resumes”

My GTD learning adventure was a highly kinesthetic experience for me; I had to learn it by doing it, tweaking my practice, and doing it s’more. The kinesthetic method of feeling my way through it was just the beginning though; this is a story of Sequential Learning.

Sequence One: Pure Devotion

In the beginning, I obeyed the master. What author David Allen said to do, I did, following the instruction manual within Getting Things Done to the letter. I bought my manila folders in bulk at Costco, got the Brother labeler and redid my files. I cleaned up my act with one inbox, my tickler files, two office set-ups so my whole house wouldn’t be a gigantic, out-of-control inbox, and I date-stamped my project work to kill any tendency to procrastinate.

I’m largely a visual learner by nature, and I kept the “rosetta stone” work flow diagram on my desktop for a full year so I could religiously follow the right sequence of events: Collect, Process, Organize, Review and Do. I kept up via the Two-Minute Rule, separated Next Actions from Projects, got my inbox to zero daily, and kowtowed to the sanctity of my Weekly Review.

Pure Devotion didn’t work. Now, I’m good with self-discipline; too good. I was losing sleep because I was up too late getting my inbox to zero or finishing my Weekly Review. I had processed a LOT of stuff, and my paper files were overflowing into cardboard banker boxes. It was all too much; GTD had added to my clutter. I went through this low point of being less productive because I was so good at it! It was a system, but it wasn’t my best system. What went wrong?

Sequence Two: Context and Tech-Savvy

Productivity journey aside, GTD was now becoming a case study in how I learned best. I’d started off kinesthetic and was still largely learning that way. I incorporated a lot of visual re-learning with mind mapping, the GTD diagrams, and reconfiguring my Outlook design with the GTD add-in; in particular, the Outlook experience really helped me understand and integrate what Allen coaches about working in Context.

So next, I looked to cement my study with auditory learning: I was able to borrow the GTD Fast CDs from a very good friend. Now I could listen to David Allen walk me through it; there were a host of aha! moments for me in things I missed kinesthetically and visually. During this time, I even wrote an article called, My Aha! Moment in Auditory Learning.

This was when my own “trusted system” started to take better shape. Throughout my listening I began to shift my practices from to-the-letter obedience to the low-tech/ mid-tech/ high-tech separations which worked better for me. A biggie? All those paper files just had to go, for they were creating clutter-stress. I had a “Go paperless!” goal for a long time before GTD was even a blip on my radar screen and had made significant progress with it: Why on earth had I gone backwards? I still use that Brother labeler (those adhesive labels stick to almost anything) but the manila files are on their way to gone. My goal became to reduce all my filing to the 43 folders (pendaflex for me), my desk drawer, and a single short filing cabinet for tax and legal papers —period. I’m almost there; just old Reference stuff to purge.

I’m a road warrior and my cell phone and laptop are indispensable tools for me, for my ‘office’ goes where I go, but after successfully ridding myself of the Palm, I will never, ever, tether myself to a PDA again. To me, small screen is no screen, I prefer my laptop and it’s always with me. As a writer I relish some tactile low-tech capture, and my context for it is whenever my laptop is off. I carry a journal and index cards with me at all times. So in this second sequence of my learning, I went back to how I like to work. I indulged myself with my favored habits.

ConSequence Three: Habit Magic

When GTD first made its way into my consciousness I thought about habits and Stephen Covey. This post I had written at the time remains one of my top traffic grabbers here on Talking Story; search engines love it, and once they’ve found it, bloggers love linking to it: Why GTD Reminds Me of The 7 Habits. The magic of habits never strayed from my consciousness in my new learning to integrate the best practices of GTD into my own workflow. I still use GTD because I love the way it has perfected my own feels-good habits.

So I guess I did what Allen says to do; Create a trusted system. He never asked me for pure devotion, that was just the kinesthetic to visual to auditory learning sequence I had to go through to arrive where I have with the most success. What I do now is GTD My Way, and that is the Rosetta Stone you need to create for yourself with GTD. I’m still tweaking, for I believe there will always be continuous learning in one’s productivity. As I now understand it, the trick is to harness the power of habit creation once you’ve learned something you want to retain.

Related Reading: Changing your Habits: How badly do you want to?

Consequence Four: Nalu it for Abundance

The true bonus? Now, I can Nalu it with other goodness which comes my way.

If a new opportunity presents itself, I can Nalu it (go with the flow) with optimal success when I consciously integrate into my trusted system whatever goodness I want to retain as a keeper. I can embrace more abundance.

Your trusted system has to have this room for growth; it has to have some flexible edges you can push against so that you aren’t watching golden opportunities pass you by.

The GTDism which really helps with this most? I have gotten really, really good at Purge and Delete; those paper files were just the beginning. Now I even purge my electronic files. My preferred bucket of choice is Excel. The whole use of Task in Outlook went bye-bye, and I now use Excel as my Context Guru and List Manager.

Example: a file simply titled “Task” is always an open window for me when my laptop is on, and it is easily printable for my offline Context. Task in Outlook was slick, but it became a big rabbit hole for me; my Weekly Review got stalled in analysis paralysis. Notes in Outlook was horrible as my List Manager, for it violated the two-minute rule in my own practice.

When you cultivate an abundance mentality as opposed to one of scarcity, you also stop holding on to things that have ceased to add value to your life, for instead, you are always on the lookout for something better. You don’t add to your clutter, you replace. This entire learning process has helped me rid myself of some emotional attachments to my old stuff. “Reference files” had become memories, and I could make the distinction better with what I needed to work well versus what I simply wanted to keep. Momentos are not easily purged, and they do deserve better places of honor.

Joyful Passion and Ho‘ohana

These days, if I am not somehow consumed by specific action commitments with SAY LEADERSHIP COACHING (my business) and Managing with Aloha (my work’s mission), I find I am instantly thinking about only one other thing; the Joyful Jubilant Learning Network, and what I will do there next, whether it is visible to everyone else, or behind the scenes.

Why? Because it is all about Passion.
And Passion? It absolutely does make me feel joyful and jubilant. Like joy, JJLN has become an exquisite experience.

Not since my writing and publication of Managing with Aloha have I felt this sense of something great stirring. There is something happening there, and we all know it.

The people now involved with JJLN eagerly volunteer to be passionate. They volunteer their time, whatever energy they have to give, and their very precious attentions to JJLN because they are driven by the passion of joyful, deliberate intention. Their leap of faith back in the waning days of September when JJLN was a fuzzy idea, has become our constant celebration of passion in less than a month’s time.

They, those who are involved with JJLN, are all people in our community who are obsessed with learning, who love to write, and who adore the thoughts of working at learning with others who are equally excited, intelligent and highly perceptive, respectful, trustworthy, and zealously passionate about community collaboration. They have come to love supporting each other, and encouraging you.

I talk a lot about Ho‘ohana here
; you’ve come to know it is my mantra, my guiding light, my life’s fire. Ho‘ohana is passion at work (with ‘work’ as the verb). It is the work of joy’s calling.

If ho‘ohana is something you feel still eludes you, if it is something you are still looking for, and hoping to discover, join the community at our Joyful Jubilant Learning Network. I promise you, we’ll help you find it. That’s what being around people of passion delivers, for passion is infectious, exhilarating, and superbly, beautifully, JOYOUS.

People with passion create ho‘ohana and they eagerly share it.

Click over to JJLN and get involved. There’s a lot of joy to go around.

How Do YOU Get Involved in JJLN?

Redefine the word “work” and make it yours.


Working with intent and with purpose.

There are far too many negative connotations being spoken in connection with the word “work,” when in practice they should overwhelmingly be positive and energizing instead. There can be, and should be, great fulfillment and pleasure in work. It should feel wonderfully satisfying when you say, “Boy, I really worked hard today.” For this to happen, you must work with purpose, and feel that your work is worthwhile.

Work in celebration of your natural strengths, talents, and gifts. Work at something you love doing. Work to fulfill your personal mission. Work to make a difference. Work to serve others well. Work for a cause you deeply care about. Work to leave a legacy. Work to create a better future. Work to deliver a gift to humanity. Do these things, and you Ho‘ohana. You work passionately and you work intentionally. You work for yourself.

Ho‘ohana urges you to indulge in your passion for the pleasures of work by choosing the right work in the first place. You work where and when it enlivens and moves you, and it feels so wonderful to be creative and productive, to celebrate your talent, knowledge and skill. Work becomes that third of your life where you gain meaning, fulfillment and fun. Contrary to popular belief, this is a reality not reserved for entrepreneurs and those who are self-employed: It can be reality for everyone. Why not let it be yours?

From Managing with Aloha, page 31

Nalu it, Planning, and Success

Spent my peaceful, quiet Sunday morning in the throes of my Weekly Review, flavored with a blog-reading break or two, home-brewed café latté in hand, and I am feeling ready to take on the world in the coming week. As productivity goes, there are few things more satisfying for me than planning in the right degree. That is, planning enough to feel together and decently organized, but without going overboard into analysis paralysis and pretty-but-not-actionable organization.

Nalu it and Planning

More thoughts on “Nalu it” (go with the flow) our ho‘ohana this month:
Unless you are one of those people able to be completely happy with allowing heaps of happenstance into the character of your life (not me), even when you “Nalu it” there’s planning involved.

Planning comes into play if you want to optimize your windows of opportunity.

Tony D. Clark is absolutely right when he says,

“The final ingredient, and the one that ties them all together, is planning. You won’t know where you’re going, or if you’ve gotten there, without a map.”

Tony had Your Planning as the fourth ingredient in his Key Ingredients That Will (Almost) Guarantee Your Success, along with Your Passion, Your Gifts, and Your Value. Good stuff.

Read: Are You Living for the Weekend?

And then Read: Key Ingredients That Will (Almost) Guarantee Your Success

Success from the Nest

Tony writes Success from the Nest. Those of you who have always thought about working from home or taking that big leap toward self-employment should add Tony’s blog to your subscriptions:

“This site is geared toward parents who want to work from home so that they have more time for their family. It’s a place to help you discover work that’s meaningful, that utilizes your unique talents and genius, and that is in line with your values, personality, and view of the world.”

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