If you haven't seen it yet, eProductivity has undergone a pretty dramatic make-over in the last couple of weeks. More than just adding new curtains or mowing the lawn, we've rebuilt the place from the ground up.
Among the improvements: a revamped message, a new product family, a free version, a fresh website, reduced pricing, and more. It's the result of much hard work by our team, inspired by the feedback and input of our loyal users.
Let me take you on a quick tour of what's new at eProductivity.
Information Overwhelm, Managed
During a customer satisfaction survey we ran this past December - January, we asked our customers to help us understand how eProductivity benefits them. Our team had it's ideas, but it's inspiring - and often eye-opening - to see what your customers think about your products. We weren't disappointed.
What emerged from the many stories and feedbacks that our users shared was a central promise of eProductivity that we'd known intuitively, but hadn't really grasped clearly. That is, eProductivity helps busy professionals manage the overwhelming flood of new information and inputs they face every single day. Whether that information is coming in the typical form of emails, or coming as voicemails, paper memos, IMs, social networking alerts, and more, eProductivity provides a system for keeping sane in the middle of overwhelm.
So while eProductivity saves you time, helps get your inbox to zero, keeps you on top of your deadlines, and more, it's central theme is much clearer...
Information overwhelm, managed.
New Product Family: eProductivity Stand-alone
During the same customer satisfaction survey, a few interesting pieces of data emerged:
Many users would appreciate an eProductivity app that doesn't change the configuration of their regular Lotus Notes mailbox
The eProductivity install process could be easier for new users
A free version would be helpful for introducing coworkers to eProductivity's benefits
This was confirmation of plans for a new product that we'd been considering for a quite a while. That new product is now here, and it's called eProductivity Stand-alone. So what's so great about Stand-alone?
Separate from your Lotus Notes mailbox Stand-alone doesn't change the configuration of your Lotus Notes mailbox. Instead, it runs as an separate app inside your Lotus Notes, in parallel with your mailbox.
Therefore, Stand-alone provides a great solution for folks who hesitated to install eProductivity on their Notes mailbox, perhaps because their company uses a customized mail template or because changing the mailbox is restricted by IT policies. Now those folks can use eProductivity without worry.
Dead-simple to install
Stand-alone is incredibly easy to install. Quite literally, all you have to do is download the eProductivity Stand-alone file and then double-click it to open. That's it. You'll be prompted to walk through a couple of setup steps, but the app is already installed. This kind of dead-simple install is unheard of for a Lotus Notes app.
There's a free version!
That's right, eProductivity now offers a completely free version, no strings attached. The free version, called the Essentials Edition, is part of the eProductivity Stand-alone product family. It offers many of the same world-class information management tools that other eProductivity editions provide.
So how do you get started with the Essentials Edition? It's easy. When you first download and install eProductivity Stand-alone, your app will run in fully-unlocked Trial mode. After the trial period, your software will automatically switch over to the free Essentials Edition and stay there, unless and until you apply a purchased activation key. So if you're content with the Essentials Edition, you can keep on using it as long as you like, completely free.
What are the main limitations of Essentials, you ask? Primarily, it's that you're limited to 25 Next Actions open at any one time. (If you're not familiar with Next Actions, they're what you use to capture tasks inside of your eProductivity app). If you use the Essentials Edition and run into the 25 Next Action limit, you can either complete or delete some actions to free up space, or you can purchase a paid edition. Most paid editions include unlimited Next Actions.
Renamed: eProductivity Integrated
The original eProductivity app is now called eProductivity Integrated to distinguish it from Stand-alone. Because it runs on top of the Lotus Notes mailbox, it provides additional powerful features such as syncing to qualified mobile devices and an integrated calendar. So if these features are important to you, we suggest checking out the Integrated product.
Lower Prices on New Subscriptions
To make it even easier to get started with eProductivity, the subscription prices have been reduced on all eProductivity editions, and annual subscriptions are available as well. See the new pricing
A New Website
More than just a fresh coat of paint, the eProductivity website has been renovated from top to bottom, and more changes are on the way.
We've added a new Resource Center that brings together our rich library of resources that help you get the most from your eProductivity software. The Download Center provides a convenient way to access the various download option while the Support Center makes it easy to find answers and request help. If you have coworkers that you could use some help with information overload, send them over to the Overview for a quick summary on how they can benefit from using eProductivity.
We think the new website provides a friendlier, simpler way to experience and enjoy what eProductivity has to offer. We hope that will be your experience too!
Recently in the news, Microsoft has been bragging about how schools are either currently using or switching to Microsoft Outlook. While that is true for most schools, our school, the Mack Academy has always used Lotus Notes and has made it an integral part of our school productivity toolkit.
Our principal realized the value of technology in the schools and started training us how to use computers at a very young age. In fact, I was two when my sister Amy and I were introduced to Lotus Notes and when I received my first email!
At this year's Lotusphere event in Orlando, Lotus V.P. of messaging and collaboration, Kevin Cavanaugh, presented the Technology Keynote. The presentation is worth watching as Kevin and Lotus Product Manager, Ed Brill, talked about the Lotus product strategy, roadmap, and of course, Project Vulcan. At one point in Kevin's presentation talking about how Lotus applications can bring a variety of information to the user, he stopped and addressed a key problem that many users face: information overload.
... we don't need more calendars... we need a way to consolidate and adjudicate between competing events. [Lotus Notes can do that] ... we don't need more ways to capture text; we need ways to reduce the stress of unfulfilled commitments and organize tasks for action.
Kevin goes on to talk about how users need help managing their commitments...
...As an industry, we're kind of guilty of multiplying lists, with no real method for how those lists of tasks might be managed. However, there are some great counter-examples...
To learn what the counter examples are, watch the 2-minute video below...
Kevin and Ed get it. In a time when CEOs have extracted all the value they can from IT by cutting costs. The only thing left to increase the value from IT is to find ways to make workers more productive and effective with the tools they use. Lotus has introduced many new improvements and enhancements to the product line that can help, but at the end of the day, Lotus Knows that value creation begins with the individual. It's at this level -- increasing worker productivity -- that the next great opportunity to create value exists. It's exciting to see Lotus explore ways to increase knowledge worker productivity by looking beyond Lotus software to the best practices and tools that can complement Lotus offerings to help users get things done.
I'll be blogging more about this in the weeks to come...
eProductivity is a featured app in the catalog, and I was really pleased to see eProductivity up on the big screen during a session called, "BDD101: Lotus Messaging and Collaborating drives Better Business Outcomes", presented by Kevin Cavanaugh and Mike Masterson.
Here are some pictures I took from the session (click for larger view):
In this clip from my interview with David, he relates his background as a long-time Notes user and advocate. He finds combining the power of Lotus Notes and eProductivity to be a natural fit and he's very pleased with the results.
Several bloggers have recently shared how they are using Lotus Notes as their system for Getting Things Done using David Allen's GTD Methodology. This weekend, Jens Bruntts wrote up an extensive blog post with screen shots detailing how he's using Lotus Notes and eProductivity as his GTD Solution. Not much I can add to this except that it was really neat to see eProductivity running under Linux (thanks to Lotus Notes cross-platform support). I'm aware that many people are using eProductivity on Mac and Linux but I have only seen a few screen shots.*
* Yes, I'm a Mack and yes, I'm Mac challenged. But I did make sure that eProductivity would run cross-platform so that I can switch at any time. The hard part will be finding equivalents for GyroQ and ActiveWords.
I'm very excited to participate in the first GTD Summit. As with my recent trip to Lotusphere, I will be wearing three hats: Attendee, Exhibitor and Panel Moderator
This year, I will be moderating the "GTD at Home: From the Board Room to the Living Room" discussion panel. If you have a question you would like to ask the panel, please post it here. IBM Blogger Chris Blatnick will be attending as well. Between Chris and Ryan on our team I'm sure the event will be well covered. Also be sure to keep an eye on the GTD Times site as they will have live updates, too.
I'm also excited that we will get to meet several of our eProductivity customers there. If you are planning to attend the GTD Summit, please plan to stop by and say hello, You can find me in the above session on Thursday and at the exhibit with Amy and Wendy during the week. Look for this sign:
Need a ticket to the GTD Summit? Here's an opportunity you won't want to miss.
If you are planning to be at Lotusphere, you are in for a treat! Stop by pedestal #722, say hello and hand us your business card. Then, pick up your Lotusphere 2009 resource CD from the Notes on Productivity Blog.
This CD contains the presentation slides from my Lotusphere presentation (BP304) with David Allen, a number of GTD Documents from the David Allen Company, two recent podcasts on using Notes productively, (courtesy of Bruce Elgort and Michael Sampson), links to useful resources, and a special gift from eProductivity.
This is my way of saying "Thank you" to the Notes community and for stopping by to say hello! I look forward to meeting you!
Remember: eProductivity, Pedestal #722 in the Lotusphere Product Showcase. See you soon!
The Notes community is buzzing with proposals for sessions for Lotusphere 2009. The IdeaJam site is busy with ideas and people are voting to show their interest (or lack thereof) in various topics. I think that this is a great use of IdeaJam to serve the Notes community.
This session would look at some of the best practices of information and knowledge organization as well as how to effectively manage projects and actions with Lotus Notes.
Last year, I proposed a session on Maximizing Personal Productivity with Lotus Notes, but with so many excellent developer and admin tracks last year, this topic was considered outside of the scope of interest for Lotusphere. (Lotusphere is more administrator and developer oriented.) Still, it seems to me that even developers and admins (and the people they serve) need to be productive.
I'm not sure if Lotusphere is the proper venue for a session that is not specifically focused on admin/dev topics. If there are enough votes to make this interesting, I'll rework my proposal and perhaps even talk to David Allen to see if he'd like to co-present this with me. Right now, I'm curious to see if there's sufficient interest to warrant further development of this session topic for Lotusphere 2009.
Note: This session, if approved, would focus on best practices for using Lotus Notes that do not require any third party applications. The goal is to present best practices that can be applied right away with any version of Lotus Notes. I would plan to mention some of the add-on tools that people are using to increase their productivity with Notes (.e.g. OpenNTF Mail Experience or eProductivity) but the primary focus will be to show people how to get more done with what the version of Notes that they already have installed on their computer.
As far as Lotus Notes is concerned, I run into folks that say they hate Notes as often as I run into users that say that they hate (insert product name here). (I even know Mac users that complain about their software. Shocking, I know.)
In my experience it often comes down to a) no understanding of "What's in it for me?", or b) lack of training - management simply said here's your new tool
How do we, the Notes community help fix this problem? I think we need to start by understanding the problem.
Many years ago, Zig Ziglar taught me that most people never ever change their mind. They simply make new decisions when presented with new information.
I've been able to show many a self-proclaimed Notes-hater new information -- a simple few things that they can do that will be personally beneficial to them -- and almost immediately they change their song about Lotus Notes.
Question: When you identify important projects, do you clearly define the successful outcome? Do you clearly describe, either in the project title or description what success, even "wild success" will look like? If you are not doing this, you are missing out on perhaps the most powerful productivity tool available to help you accomplish your goals and dreams: your brain. In fact, if you don't regularly do this, you're leaving your brain in park, when it could be driving you to accomplish wild success.
Visualizing the Successful Outcome Many years ago, David Allen shared with me that one of the first things he did when planning his first book, the best-selling, Getting Things Done, was to write the Wall Street Journal review of his book, first. He wrote the book review as he would like it to appear in print, even before writing the first chapters of his book. For many years, I've written my projects in the past tense -- as if they were "done" and I found that helped me to "see" done as the objective. I thought that David's example of writing a formal review of his book project was very clever and a powerful visualization tool, so I made note of it.
My Personal Application When I set out to develop my eProductivity software, I followed David's recommendation and decided to write my own review. I decided to summarize the product in two sentences, each from the perspective of a different audience. eProductivity is built on Lotus Notes, so I decided that the Notes community would provide one perspective. Since eProductivity embodies many of the principles that I learned from David's book, I decided that the GTD community should provide the other.
Buzz is always an interesting guy to visit with. To refer to him the CEO of ActiveWords is too limiting. Buzz is perhaps the best networker in the tech world - he's certainly the most prolific. (There are probably only 2-3 degrees of separation between Buzz and anyone in the tech world you'd want to meet.) I've had the opportunity to work with Buzz on several occasions as we share a common passion for all things mind mapping, GTD, and productivity.
Buzz and I first began talking about adding ActiveWords support for Lotus Notes several years ago. We finally did it and, with ActiveWords and eProductivity, millions of Notes Users can finally control the most productive aspects of Lotus Notes, from anywhere - even when Notes isn't running! I wonder if he will demonstrate or talk about ActiveWords and Notes on the show? (Hint to Buzz)
Anyway, here's the link to the live broadcast. I believe the replay will be up shortly, too.
A few days ago, I posted an eProductivity Preview Invitation for folks to see what we have done to create the ultimate GTD implementation tool for Lotus Notes. As part of the sign-up, I asked folks a number of questions, including which version of Lotus Notes. Here are the results so far.
As you can see, there are concentrations at each end of the spectrum with pockets for each version. This is to be expected. This is not a comprehensive survey, but it is interesting to see what the folks most interested in getting things done with Notes are using. Fortunately, we have coded eProductivity to support versions 6.02 - 8.5x of Lotus Notes across all platforms (yes, even Mac and Linux).
I plan to update this over time to see what more we can learn.
The sign-ups for the eProductivity preview program continue to pour in. We decided to increase the # of preview kits we will offer to 200 so that everyone that completes the application will be able to participate.
It's been interesting to read the forms that people have filled out to learn who uses Windows (99%) and who uses Mac (< 1%) and which versions of Notes folks are using. (Lots of activity in Notes R6.x and R8.x) and what challenges people face trying to get things done in Lotus Notes. I'll have lots to share as times goes on.
Meanwhile, I'd like to offer a special thanks to the bloggers that have picked this up, and I encourage you to visit their blogs:
(If I have missed anyone, please let me know. If you are a GTD or Notes blogger, let me know and I'll add you to our pre-launch list.)
I am preparing the preview kits and will send them out in batches of 25 as the completed applications are received. I plan to send the first batch tomorrow morning.
Some folks wrote with questions, e.g. what versions of Notes?, will I get a free trial?, etc.. I refer you to the eProductivity Preview Invitation which has all of the details. (Be sure to scroll down the page as there is a lot to read.)
Thanks, I look forward to posting great news, soon.
My blogging's been pretty limited for the past six months -- I've been hard at work on the public launch of eProductivity™ for Lotus Notes®
As you may know, we completed the eProductivity beta program in early January, 2008 and for the past six months we have been doing pilot programs with various companies around the world. Now, we are getting ready to share eProductivity with the public. (I know, it's been a long time.)
People in the pilot program tell us that they recover up to 30-minutes each day in time spent processing their email or managing their projects and actions. They also love the Weekly Review Coach that we have built into eProductivity. I think it's the ultimate GTD® implementation tool for Lotus Notes; however, don't take my word for it. I'll leave that for you to decide. I’m about ready to push the GO button and formally launch the commercial version of eProductivity.
Before I do, I want to make sure that our end-user download and evaluation process is easy to understand. I’ve decided to invite the first 100 people that respond to participate in a 24-hour preview of eProductivity.
I'm at home today, preparing for an important eProductivity meeting. I just emailed the following meeting confirmation and three questions to the 10 people who plan to attend. The first two questions are relevant to anyone that wants to implement the GTD methodology in Notes:
As I prepare for Wednesday's meeting, I want to make sure that I show you things that you will find useful - things which you can take back and put into practice right away.
I have 3 very quick questions to help me prepare... These questions assume that you are already using, have tried using, or are considering using Lotus Notes as your GTD Implementation tool.
1. What is a key frustration to successfully managing projects and actions in Lotus Notes? (e.g. What gets in the way of doing this easily?)
2. If you could have any feature you wanted in Notes to support you in better managing your actions and projects, what would that be? (e.g. What's missing? What would help you be even more productive with Notes?)
3. What would you most like to learn about at Wednesday's meeting? (Please agenda, attached.)
Thank you for your comments.
The meeting will be in two parts. The agenda is below.
The timing couldn't be better for me, as I'm in the process of doing a product analysis and writing copy for eProductivity for Lotus Notes, my own GTD implementation tool for Lotus Notes. In addition to my own criteria, I plan to run vanilla Notes and eProductivity for Lotus Notes through Kelly criteria and see how they fare. I'll post my thoughts here, in a future blog post.
Behind the scenes, things remain busy as we work with clients that are currently getting things done with Lotus Notes and eProductivity using David Allen's GTD methodology.
At the end of last year, we completed the eProductivity beta program, and at the end of this month, we will wrap up a four-month eProductivity workgroup pilot program. We are now getting ready to turn on the web site so that the world can see what we've been up to. We still have some work to do on promotional materials, strategic partner relationships and training people to become future eProductivity coaches to support enterprise deployments.
I've decided to make eProductivity available both as purchased or subscription software so that users may choose the option that will serve them best. I'm going to need a bunch of people to test the new license activation system, if you'd like to help and (get a free preview of eProductivity at the same time), contact me.
There's a lot to be learned from reading books and attending seminars. I routinely do both. But when I really want to improve my skills or performance in a given area I turn to a coach, a mentor, or an expert that can help me accomplish my objectives. I think it's important to understand that hiring a productivity coach is not a magic bullet for getting things done. YOU have to do the work, but a good coach can help you see what may not be readily apparent to you and encourage you to build sustainable habits. (I'll talk more about sustainable habits at the end of this post.)
Here's what I wrote to the person who asked me about getting things done on the run...
As you learn more about GTD, you'll come to appreciate the value of getting everything out of your head and into a system you can trust no matter wherever you are and find a tool to support you. To do this, it's important that you equip yourself with tools that support you wherever you are; at home, the office, or on-the-go. I recommend at least one analog tool and often at least one digital tool, depending on your mobile information management needs. If you are someone that always has a computer available to you 24x7, then this section may not be useful. Lotus Notes does a great job of keeping information synchronized across distributed computers. On the other hand, if you are like me, you spend at least some part of your work day "out and about" and you need a way to keep your GTD lists and related information with you so that you can work from your lists, and manage your work.
Let's discuss the mobility aspect of getting things done while on the run...
We've touched on the productivity equation and we've looked at how methodology is the first component of the equation. Now, we'll look at the technology or tools that you use. Since you've already selected GTD as your methodology (a decision I wholeheartedly agree with) you now need to find a GTD implementation tool that will support you in the way that you work. From my email:
II. Choose your GTD implementation tool and master it From 3x5 card to paper planner to MAC/PC to BlackBerry -- there are a range of solutions. The brilliance of GTD, I think, is that it's platform agnostic so you can manage using the GTD methodology just as well on a napkin or using custom software. What you need to find is a very good list manager, something that is easy to use, is easy to integrate with your existing workflow, and is fast. Most important, it must be something you can trust.
We discussed your use of Lotus Notes at your company. I think Lotus Notes is a powerful tool for personal knowledge and action management. It also happens to be the tool of choice for me and for the The David Allen Company. (Disclosure, The David Allen Company is an ICA client and David is a good geek friend - I designed and deployed their Notes collaboration infrastructure and have supported David and his team for the past 15 years, so I'm a little biased as to the power of Lotus Notes.) Many people are successfully using GTD with Lotus Notes in a variety of ways.
Whether you are conscious of it or not, you have a methodology, a system, a habit for how you get your work done. Some methodologies, systems, and habits will be more productive than others; some can even be counter productive. I began this series by writing an email to help someone get started using Lotus Notes as his implementation tool for David Allen's Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology.
Over the years, I've learned several approaches to knowledge work but to date I have found none that made more sense and was more sustainable for me than GTD. It wasn't always this way. I used to find Stephen Covey's 7-Habits approach to be ideal and while I think it is an excellent approach for planning, I was unable to sustain it on a day to day basis and I often felt bad that my day to day actions were not getting me closer to my goals and vision. That's not to say that Covey's approach doesn't work - it does, but it was a great deal for me to maintain. Covey takes a top-down approach to productivity, starting with the desired outcome ("Begin with the end in mind") and then working down to daily actions that line up to support those goals. On paper that makes sense to me as the best way to go. In real life, however, it was hard to do, because, well, life happens. David Allen's approach starts at the bottom - clearing the decks -- so that you can think freely about the bigger picture stuff. I've been working with GTD since long before the GTD moniker and I can tell you that it is sustainable. What do I use today? A little of both. The foundation of my work style is built on the GTD methodology, while Covey has certainly influenced the values and planning aspects of my work and life.
OK, let's get practical: My advice for getting started with the GTD Methodology:
In my eProductivity Seminars I always begin by introducing my eProductivity equation for knowledge worker productivity:
KWP = M x T x K
Put another way:
Knowledge Worker Productivity [or results] = Methodology x Technology x Knowledge
That is, the outcome of any project will be influenced (one way or the other) by how well you use and apply (your methodology) your knowledge and tools to the problem at hand.
I believe GTD provides an outstanding framework for managing work productively - the methodology; I think that Lotus Notes can be a powerful tool for information, action, and knowledge management -- the technology. As far as what your knowledge... only you know that.
Think about how this equation applies to your knowledge work. What are your methodologies (defined or undefined)? What tools do you use?
How does what you know influence the work that you do?
I recently sent out a call for productivity-minded people that want to implement David Allen's Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology in Lotus Notes to join the eProductivity Workgroup Pilot program. eProductivity came out of beta a month ago and now I'm doing the research on enterprise deployments to learn how they are using and benefitting from eProductivity and how I can facilitate deployments. The eProductivity workgroup pilot program is for workgroups of 10-20 people and allows me to personally coach a group of people and learn from them as they start getting things done in Notes. To help them get started, I offered to host private webinars for these pilot sites to assist them in the process of learning to use eProductivity.
This week, I delivered the first of several private webinars, this one for an eProductivity Workgroup Pilot at a large organization on the East Cast. Most of the people on the call were technically savvy but many were new to the GTD methodology.
Using some slides from last year's eProductivity Conference, I began by presenting a brief overview of my eProductivity Equation and some of the GTD principles and concepts that I have found most helpful. Then, we took a tour of some of the key eProductivity features. Finally, we wrapped up with an extended time of Q&A. We did not cover all of eProductivity but we laid a foundation for future webinars.
After the call, I asked my host if I could share the audio portion of the webinar with other eProductivity users; she graciously agreed...
I've received some interesting requests for eProductivity but none as original as the one I received this morning:
Re: eProductivity for Lotus Notes and GTD
Hello from Denmark :-)
I have told Santa that I would really really like to have a copy of eProductivity for Lotus Notes.
He said that I have been a good boy so I should contact you directly to request a preview....
I've had people contact me directly or via a friend to get into the eProductivity preview program, but this is the first request that I know of that solicited Santa's help. A novel approach to be sure.
Michael Sampson Skyped me with another of his daily reasons for why I should buy a Mac.
Apple's apparently listed Lotus Notes as a featured download. The link is not for Notes R8, but this is exciting nonetheless. I've ranted about the lack of visibility of Notes for end-users. This is a step in the right direction. No idea if this is an Apple, IBM, or user initiated activity but it's exciting all the same. I've not tested the link yet but I hope that IBM's provided a reviewer's guide for the Mac. So often the power of Notes is not realized until someone explains or demonstrates how key features and concepts work. Notes is unique in so many ways that much of the power is often missed without a tour. Fortunately, we are seeing many good video tours on YouTube. Perhaps someone will post one for the Mac.
Michael Sampson and I are busy working on the session planning for our upcoming eProductivity Conference. There remains much to complete, but we are supported by a wonderful group of advisors and great technology. I thought I wold take a quick break during lunch to share how we are using Lotus Notes to collaborate synchronously and asynchronously, across the Pacific. Michael and I are using a Lotus Notes document library that we have customized to allow us to track all of the session planning and content for the 36 sessions for the eProductivity conference. We've added some very basic workflow functionality. This allows us to flag any document as being in one of eight states: This allows us to work together on content, synchronously and asynchronously - even though we are on opposite sides of the Pacific!
As we work on content I update a field in the document to change the document state to any of the above. In the background, as I work, these changes are replicated from my Windows laptop or Tablet PC in California to my primary server in Arizona and from there to Michael's Tablet PC or Mac, in New Zealand. It does not matter who's on-line, when, or what platform we choose to use. (Michael and I have a few quiet preferences about PC or Mac) After replication, each of us will see the documents that require our attention, edit and comment and flag them for review and the cycle continues back across the Pacific.
Think of it as digital volleyball.
Thanks to Lotus Notes replication, we are able to simultaneously manage hundreds of documents in various stages of completion.
Add to this, our use of MindManager and other productivity tools and we've got a neat system for information sharing and collaboration across the miles.
For me, a powerful aspect of this approach is not only the ability to compress work into a small amount of time, but the ability to break our focus down to very next actions. Between my family, graduate studies, client work, eProductivity Beta, and preparation for this conference, about the best I can do is keep my head down and focus on the simple next actions, the things I can do in one setting.
I'm grateful to have Michael's expertise as the eProductivity conference organizer. I can't imagine doing this without his help and without a cool set of tools to make distributed work easy.
Thank you for submitting your abstract for Lotusphere 2008!.
In early November, you will receive electronic notification of the status of your session.
On behalf of Bruce Elgort and myself I'd like to thank everyone who provided feedback and topic suggestions for our proposed session at Lotusphere 2008. We've invited Alan Lepofsky to join our presentation; I think Alan would add a lot of value to the presentation and I would be delighted to have him on our team. I just posted the session abstract at the IBM/Lotus site; it's now up to the Lotusphere 2008 organizers. The process of preparing the abstract was a good one and has already given Bruce and me several ideas for upcoming blog posts and podcasts.
I often tell my clients, "I don't believe we will ever see the truly paperless office but I do believe that we can create a less-paper office." I'd like to share with you one way that I recently helped do this for a very special client - my wife, Kathy.
I share a lot of details in the post. For a short overview, click to the image below to watch a brief video. It's a minute and 16 seconds long and shows how the process works, If you want to learn and understand how this all works, then I encourage you to continue reading the rest of this post after you watch the video.
Video: Kathy demonstrates her new digital filing system.
If you use Lotus Notes and the GTD methodology, you'll be pleased to know that the long awaited GTD and Lotus Notes implementation guide is now available. My colleague, Kelly Forrister, and her team worked hard to assemble a valuable collection of tips and tricks for using the Lotus Notes Calendar, Email, Personal Journal, and To Do's more effectively.
David Allen and I began using Lotus Notes long before The David Allen Company first opened its doors. Over the years, I've not only learned for myself what works and what does not, I've had the privilege to watch other highly productive people use Lotus Notes effectively. I think Kelly's done a great job of collecting some this wisdom in one place. Continue Reading "The GTD and Lotus Notes Implementation Guide is here!" »
One simple e-mail productivity rule that I started using many years ago -- originally as a defense against viruses -- is the "tell me why I should open it" rule.
If a sender, clients, family, & friends included, can't tell me why I should open an email in the subject, I delete it. It's their fault for not gaining my interest and differentiating their email from the 300+ junk emails I receive daily.
Subjects like: "billing," "software update," and "Scott's computer" don't cut it. Instead, I encourage my clients and friends to be more creative in their subject lines. Example:
"Eric, please review billing for November. I need your approval by Friday." "I've installed MindManager on David's computer. No action required." "Jack's Tablet PC arrived; Are you available to meet with him Tues?
Of course, this rule works two ways; I'm still training myself to improve my own subject line habits.
Lotus Notes and GTD; productivity combination or curse? If you frequent the Getting Things Done forums you'll find many posts on this topic with differing both points of view.
As I have written before, I believe that the ideal solution for getting things done involves both the technology and the methodology of productivity. It does not matter if you use a napkin, pencil and paper or a powerful tool like Lotus Notes; if you don't have a logical method for organizing your projects and actions any system will become equally dysfunctional. Likewise, if you do have a good methodology in place for getting things done, then you may wish to consider any of a number of tools, including, pencil & paper, a napkin, or even Lotus Notes. I've used all three and I find that each offer key strengths. This blog post however, is about using my current favorite, Lotus Notes, as a tool to support the GTD methodology. (At the end of this post, I've included a link to some helpful information on using NOTES & GTD.)
Lotus Notes and GTD For the past fours years, I've been using a custom template that I developed to support my use of Notes to manage my lists of projects and actions. Gradually, I've added to or improved upon many of the features of the standard Notes forms and views to make it easier for someone familiar with the GTD methodology to jump into using Lotus Notes as their information management tool. (Note that I did not say that the other way around. if you already use Notes and do not understand the GTD methodology, my template will not necessarily make you a better organized person, though it may help. If you are unfamiliar with GTD, I recommend that you consider this book.)
Given the nature and level of my work, I'm somewhat removed from the challenges that many people face trying to implement GTD in vanilla Notes. Migrating from Palm Desktop or Outlook or even a paper-based system like Time Design into Lotus Notes can be a frustrating experience both due to the new way that work is done and the need to create new habits. I spend so much of my day using my eProductivity template for Notes that I sometimes forget that Lotus Notes out of the box is not as intuitive as it could be for managing projects and actions with the GTD methodology. In short, I want to re-experience what it is like to move to and use vanilla Notes to manage projects and actions. I want to revisit what does not work, what's improved since I last did this and what still works well. I believe that the only way I can truly do this is to jump in with both feet.
It’s easy to buy the latest and greatest in technology, but that does not guarantee a boost in productivity. Without a method for its effective use, the potential benefit of a new technology will be limited. Technology might even get in the way.
It's important to distinguish the difference between your method of getting things done and the technology that you use to support your work. These separate elements must work together in order to be productive.
This weekend, David Allen blogged about things that get in the way of productivity. Last night, he asked his seatmate on the plane what got in the way of his productivity:
... I asked him what he thought was the main thing that got in the way of his productivity. He didn't have to think very long before he said, "organizational processes." Too many forms, too many boxes on the forms, too many rules and regulations for filling out the forms.
This comment reminded me of a conversation David and I had over 10 years ago. At the time, I was using a custom Notes-based action management system, patterned after a system I had designed for the Navy. As I had learned about new methodologies of project/action management, I simply "built" what I had learned into my system. This was great, but it added a measure of complexity to my system. I remember I once showed some new features to David. He smiled; I think he even said something like "check back with me in two months from now and let me know if you are still using it."
Two months later, I wasn't using my own system … at least not fully.
You see, my system had gotten in the way of my process. Rather than allowing my system to be just a support tool, It had morphed into a do-all system with lots of features, including the proverbial "kitchen sink." While it allowed me to do many things well, it did not always make it easier to do them.
Many years ago, I scrapped all of my systems and started over. I decided to separate the methodology from the technology. That was a good move. The result was my eProductivity Template for Lotus Notes. Now, my system complements the way that I work. I even incorporated a key concept of the GTD methodology: organizing actions by context. This small change had a tremendous impact for me. I've been using this template ever since, and I’ve provided the template to several clients who are using it to manage their actions and projects with excellent results.
Make no mistake. The system does not do the work – it’s only a tool. I still have to "work" my system ... and some days I do this better than others.
As I consult with clients about how they use technology, I make sure that they clearly understand the difference between the methodology and technology they use to do their work. If I don't believe they have a sound methodology for managing their actions and projects, I give them a copy of David's first book, Getting Things Done. (I always keep a few of these books and tapes on hand for this purpose.) While I can deploy the latest and greatest in technology, I know that without a method for its effective use, its potential benefit will be limited.
When I work with my clients, I usually create an ICA flow diagram of their work. The ICA approach considers three aspects of the workplace: Information, Communications, and Actions, and the diagram allows us to see what they do and how they do it. Once we are clear on the workflow, I show my clients various technologies that they can use to support them in their work.
More than once a client has remarked, “if only I had the system you use [i.e. Lotus Notes, eProductivity Template, a Palm, whatever.] then I would be more productive.” Not true. As I explained earlier, without a sound methodology, the benefits of technology are limited. Begin with the methodology first. If a client does not have a clear grasp of this important concept and a well-defined way of thinking about their work, I refer them back to Getting Things Done.
Methodology + Technology = Productivity
I've continued to refine my systems over the years; I suppose I always will. Now, however, I’m careful when adding new “features.” I don't want technology to interfere with my work. If, after a few weeks, I find that I’m not using a new feature, I remove it.
Remind yourself that while your systems should support you in your work, they should not restrict or otherwise limit it.
Do you make a clear distinction between the methodology and the technology that you use? If so, I'd like to hear about it.
I'm supposed to be studying and writing a research paper, however, I checked my email this evening, and saw a topic that inspired me to blog. One thing led to another, and, well, that's why I'm here at midnight producing my first podcast. I've actually been laying the groundwork for a series of podcasts for eProductivity for sometime, however, tonight, I just decided to go ahead and do it and see what happens, so here goes ...
Using Delegated Tasks for Group Action Management - How to use (or not use) the delegated task feature in Microsoft Outlook and Lotus Notes. Format: MP3 Size: 4.37MB Duration: 10:54 minutes
I'll be adding proper Podcast enclosures soon which will allow you to automatically download my Podcasts to your iPod or other audio player. Meanwhile, here's the link to my RSS Feed. All of this is still at the early developmental stage. Feedback is most welcome
Buzz Bruggeman, president and chief evangelist at ActiveWords, called me this morning to show me how he is integrating ActiveWords with Palm desktop. I mentioned my eProductivity Template for Lotus Notes, and how I planned to add hot key control to all of the unique features of my template for an enterprise customer. Buzz quickly showed me just what I needed to know to use ActiveWords to create powerful shortcuts that integrate with Lotus Notes and my eProductivity template.
I can now quickly create a new action item from anywhere -- even outside of Notes. A simple hot key will automatically launch Notes and open a new action form. I've even set it up to automatically populate the date & time for me so that all I have to do is enter my next action, select my context, and save. (See screen shot)
To take things to the next level, I created a hot key that will allow me to select an email and convert it into an action in one step. Cool.
I've blogged about ActiveWords before, and I remain enthusiastic about the product. Not since Actioneer came out with Actioneer Pro for Lotus Notes 4.0, have I seen such a powerful shortcut tool that I can use to quickly capture my actions. I've recently enhanced my eProductivity template to support Notes R6 for an enterprise customer. ActiveWords will help add further value to the template.
For those of you who are interested, I plan to share my ActiveWords wordbases so that anyone who uses Lotus Notes can enjoy them and enhance them to suit their own needs.
I've been working with OneNote 2003 today. To help me evaluate the product, I plan to process a chunk of my current in-box (paper and e-mail) into OneNote. This will give me an opportunity to capture, process, and organize information from the multitude of inputs that I deal with daily.
A digital 3-ring binder
At first glance, the current release of OneNote appears to be primarily focused on individual note taking and research support, and I like what I see so far. For starters, I've copied some of the action contexts that I use into OneNote so that I can try it as an action management tool. I'm sure how OneNote will work out for me in this capacity. It appears that OneNote is more appropriately suited as an action support tool. Time will tell. I suspect that after I enter a quantity of items, I will think of a better way to organize this information, which will probably provide me with the opportunity to reenter everything again.
As a rich information capture, storage, and organization tool, OneNote offers many powerful features, including apparently unlimited folders, sections, and pages, along with web integration. Each page can contain rich objects, such as ink, images, MS Office files, and even audio/video. I've been doing this [storing rich objects in documents] for over a decade with Lotus Notes, so it was easy for me to apply existing work styles to the test. (It's too bad doclinks don't work between the products.)
Things I look forward to...
As a capture tool, OneNote certainly makes the process of getting information into digital form easy. I'm sure that at some point, Tablet PC's will become available with a built-in scanner (like the HP CapShare) or a hi-res camera. When they do, there will be little need for a traditional notebook. Even in its 1.x iteration as a digital notebook, I see a lot of potential.
I wish I had a program like OneNote when I was a kid in school!
I think every student ought to have a program like this and know how to use it.
Collaboration in OneNote
I'm particularly interested to see how OneNote can be used in a collaborative environment. I still need to review the help documentation -- yes, I do read the documentation -- so that I can learn more about how this product can be used in this way.
OneNote contains some hints at future groupware capabilities. The menus currently show support for shared whiteboard (peer to peer) and, with a suitably configured SharePoint server, the ability to share files as a group. I'll probably invite Michael Sampson to join me for a shared OneNote meeting so that we can both see how it works as a collaborative tool.
But can it replicate?
A feature that I would really like to see, is some form of transparent replication between computers. My expectations in this area are quite high, however, as I have been spoiled by everything that Lotus Notes can do. I wonder if I can get OneNote to deposit its .ONE files into Lotus Notes so that I can have my information accessible everywhere? Hmmm, I'll have to work on that one...
OneNote isn't just for text or ink. It can record sound and video, too.
A neat feature of OneNote, that I know I will find useful, is the ability to record audio on my laptop while taking notes. The notes are synchronized along with the audio track. OneNote will allow me to click on the notes to hear the corresponding audio and vice-versa. I expect that this will be helpful useful for some of my extended meetings where I will both record and type my notes. After the meeting, as I clean up my typed notes, I can refer back to the specific audio segments as needed to insert any missing information. Years ago, I used to do this with VideoNotes.
You can search all of your notes
Like Lotus Notes, OneNote provides a full-text search capability, allowing you to search any of the notes that you have entrered, no matter where you entered them or in what form. (This includes the text behind digital ink.) The search results are returned in a nice hypertext view.
It's really too early for me to comment in detail; however, I can say that I like the familiar (and proven) notebook tab metaphor. It appears to copy Lotus Notes's tabbed sections to provide a logical way to group related information together. Unlike Notes, however, OneNote provides additional levels: Folders, Sections, Pages, and even subpages. This make it easy to visually organize information hierarchically.
This may seem trivial, and there may even be a setting to adjust this; OneNote's folder tabs do not appear to automatically resize. I've become so used to this feature in Lotus Notes that to not have it seems like a gross oversight. Notes and OneNote
As I write this blog entry, I have to work hard to keep my references to [Lotus] Notes and [Microsoft] OneNote straight. I cannot help but wonder what confusion this will cause as customers refer to both products as "Notes." This reminds me of the VisiCalc days. When SuperCalc and then Lotus 1-2-3 appeared; folks still called these and other spreadsheets, "VisiCalc." Perhaps this is a fitting albeit unintended tribute to Lotus, for their pioneering work creating Notes in the first place?
The ultimate test - a group of students...
I've come up with a way to really test OneNote to see what works and what does not in a small group: I plan to include OneNote in the suite of software that I will be teaching to our U.S. FIRST Jr. Robotics team. The kids won't hesitate to tell me what they think and I won't hesitate to blog about it.
All in all, for a first generation product, I believe OneNote shows significant promise for digital note capture, organization, and retrieval.
I look forward to watching this product and others like it develop further!
Thank you's and more information:
A word of public thanks is due to Marc Orchant, for his willingness to answer my many geek questions late at night, by phone, and by email. When it comes to all things Tablet, Marc's got a strong grasp on the technology.
I've just returned from Chicago, where
I delivered a private Lotus
Notes eProductivity seminar
for an enterprise client with over 100,000 Notes users. Illinois is very
green and quite beautiful this time of year; the campus and facilities
at Northern Illinois University, where I gave my presentation, were equally
beautiful. The audience was great and became quickly engaged when I told
them that I would show them things that they could do right away with Lotus
Notes to increase their productivity and save 10-15 minutes (or more) each
For three hours, I demonstrated how the power of Lotus Notes can be harnessed
to transform the way that an organization works. I provided specific
examples of some of the ways that effective organizations are using Lotus
Notes today to stay connected and to even to pull ahead in this changing
economy. I was able to show some simple steps that anyone can take
to use Notes for maximum effectiveness: categories as contexts, the secrets
to processing e-mail efficiently, and how to quickly customize their Notes
desktop Welcome Page to get away from the tyranny of e-mail and to focus
on their defined actions.
Of course, talking about this only fueled my enthusiasm and passion for
sharing what I do, as you can see below.
Everyone left with a new way to look at how they can use Lotus Notes to
more effectively organize and manage their information, communications,
One of the people in the audience was Ed Brill, IBM's Senior Manager of
Messaging and Collaboration. It was fun for me to know that Ed was able
to see not only what I do for my clients to help them benefit from Lotus
Notes, but also how a large, forward-thinking enterprise is working
to equip its people for action and to get the most benefit from its Lotus
Notes investment . I'm not sure whether this was a good thing or
not but it seems that while I was speaking, Ed was busy taking notes on
his laptop and updating his blog
"Eric's methodology on how to increase
productivity is compelling. I don't want to give away his trade secrets
here, but it seems like he's got a great way of applying David Allen's
Getting Things Done methods, plus of course his own insights, within the
capabilities of Notes."
Brill, April 20, 2004, www.edbrill.com
I was surprised to leave the presentation to a message
from a friend "did you see what Ed just wrote about you?" Thanks
Ed, for your kind words. It was nice to meet you. I'm a little embarrassed
that it took me two days to update my own blog.
Speaking of weblogs, many people approached me after the seminar to ask
if I was planning to share more of my best-practices of how to set up Lotus
Notes for maximum efficiency. Good question. That's exactly the focus of
site, which I hope make live in the next few months.
While the presentation was exhilarating, and I had the opportunity to meet
many wonderful people, nothing can surpass the joy I felt as I exited my
American Airlines flight at Burbank airport to find my sweetheart of a
wife and four beautiful daughters, waiting for me with open arms and a
"welcome home daddy" sign. These special ladies are the
reason that I do everything that I do.