Do you ever find yourself unable to make a decision about whether or not to move forward on something?

Have you ever asked yourself, "self, why did I waste my time in that way?"

I've done both. Many times.

As I continue to do research in high performance knowledge work and personal knowledge management, I've collected a number of tools and methods to help me make smarter decisions about what to do or not do.

Today, I'd like to share one of those tools with you. I call it my opportunity decision matrix,

When I was in graduate school and trying to run my consulting business and launch a software company and be a loving husband and father to my four daughters, I hit a wall. Something had to give. But what?

My good friend, Michael, gave me some sage advice that helped a lot. He told me to ask myself two simple questions to ask whenever I needed to evaluate options.

Here's how this works:

First define the "opportunity". Perhaps it's "Attend ABC conference". Next, evaluate that opportunity through the lens of two filters: opportunity and timing, like this:

Question #1. Is this the right opportunity?

If it isn't,  stop. Don't waste your time. Done. Decision made. If it is the right opportunity, then, I continue to question #2

Question #2. Is this the right timing?

Many times, I have a right opportunity but bad timing. It makes no sense to proceed unless both the opportunity and timing are right.

I have since expanded into an this 2x2 opportunity decision matrix:
20140218-Opportunity_Decision_Matrix-Eric_Mack.jpg

This matrix has proven extremely valuable to me when I have a lot of hard choices to make and a new one shows up (like, "hey, do you want to fill in the blank.... ?")

For example, at a particularly busy point in my life, I got invited to speak at a conference. It was a great opportunity and I really wanted to go. However, it was not the right timing, so I declined. Having this simple two question matrix really helped me make a hard decision easy.  

The following year I was invited to speak at a different event. I concluded that it was both the right opportunity and  the right timing, so I accepted the invitation and the "Beyond Planning Conference" was born.


Sometimes, when it seems like I have many large or complex decisions to make, It helps me to pull out a sheet of paper and make a 4x4 matrix, like the one above. Then, I list of all of the options on my plate and one by one, and I write them into the appropriate quadrant.

It's usually quite a sobering experience.

Next, I cross off everything in quadrants 3 & 4 and move quadrant 2 items to my "someday/Maybe" list. This leaves me with only my quadrant 1 items, which I do.

By being ruthless in evaluating all of my choices against these two criteria, I can get unstuck quickly and feel good about the choices I make.

How do you make choices? What tools have you found helpful to make decisions?

Deja Office for Lotus Notes - Part 2

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014
After setting up Deja Office on my new iPhone, I have been experimenting with their "Memos" or Reference Database over the last few days.  Here is what I have found:

I created a new test document on the iPhone and synched it over to notes.  I made sure to choose a category for this test document, and was pleased to find that when I replicated with Notes, my test memo appeared and was correctly categorized.

New memo in Deja OfficeHowever, I was away from my computer yesterday and needed to capture some information into my Reference Database.  I pulled out my iPhone and quickly created a new Deja Office memo.  The information I was recording fell under two categories in my reference database, so as I was adding the category, I chose two categories, everything looked fine, so I saved the memo and double checked that it was recorded in Deja Office - no problem so far.

Deja Office Memo in Lotus NotesIt was not until I synched Daja Office with Lotus Notes that I noticed the problem.  I replicated Notes, then went to my Reference Database and opened the category I had filed the memo under to find the memo.  To my surprise, I could not locate the memo under either of the categories I had filed it in, nor could I find it in my uncategorized view.  It was not until I searched under "All Documents" that I located my entry.  It appears that Deja Office had created a new, invisible category that was a combination of the two categories I entered.  This new category does not appear as a category on the left side of my screen.  

This is a big problem for me as I often have entries that use multiple categories.  I would love to see a solution for this.

Deja Office for Lotus Notes

Saturday, January 4th, 2014
apple-iphone-5c-1.jpgOur company recently purchased several iPhone 5c's for testing purposes and I spent a good portion of the day setting up my  phone and testing various productivity solutions to see how well they integrate with eProductivity.  I set up Lotus Traveler to synchronize my email, contacts, and calendar. Next, I set up the IBM Traveler Tasks application and the IBM Traveler Companion App I was disappointed to learn that IBM Traveler does not provide a solution for the IBM Notes Notebook as this is a key element in any personal information management (PIM) system.  I use my Notes Notebook as my go to Reference Database.  The Reference Database is a key tool in my toolbox and I find myself using it on my smartphone on a regular basis.

Continue Reading "Deja Office for Lotus Notes" »

Guest Post by Wendy Mack

Amy and Wendy at age two using their computersRecently 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!  

Continue Reading "How old were you when you first started using Lotus Notes?" »

Tungle App for BlackBerry

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011
Guest Post by Wendy Mack

Tungle for BlackBerry AppAs a follow-up to last week's blog post on Tungle for Lotus Notes, I decided to venture out today and install the Tungle application for my BlackBerry.  

The installation process went very smoothly, so much so that I am not going to document the steps here.   I simply downloaded the free application from my BlackBerry App World, and, once loaded, I followed the instructions Tungle provides to set up this app.  

Scheduling a meeting in the Tungle for BlackBerry AppWhat this application allows me to do is to initiate and respond to Tungle invitations from my BlackBerry, without ever having to log onto the web to schedule a meeting.  I am very pleased so far with everything I have seen and I am excited to continue using Tungle. For those of you trying to hurriedly schedule your meetings for Lotusphere, this should be a great help to you.

Lotus Notes and eProductivity were mentioned in a PCWorld article today: Work Smarter in Windows: 55 Great Productivity Tricks.

The closing section of the article features tips from recognized productivity experts such as David Allen, who happens to be a long-time passionate champion of Lotus Notes and eProductivity.

The article had this to say:

Allen is a Lotus Notes enthusiast, through and through, but he enhances the spartan Notes interface with the eProductivity add-on, which adds next-generation features to the software. One of these features, for example, enables the user to drag an e-mail message to a "call" button in order to place an immediate phone call to the person who sent the message.

David Allen also mentioned ActiveWords (which integrates seamlessly with eProductivity) and MindManager as being among his favorite tools.

Hat tip to Ed Brill.

Getting Things Done with Lotus Notes - Episode #6

Thursday, September 16th, 2010
We are now into segment three of the podcast series in which David Allen and I are answering the more than 200 audience questions from the recent Getting Things Done with Lotus Notes Webinar.

People often ask us to share what productivity tools we use. In episode #6, we talk about the tools we use in the areas of:
  • Information Management
  • Visualization & Planning
  • Mobile Productivity
  • Rapid Capture
  • Navigation
  • GTD Implementation

Following the discussion, we answer a number of questions from the audience. This is a long podcast, so I decided to break it up into four parts for easier listening.

Episode #6 of Getting Things Done with Lotus Notes - The Podcast

Hey Gmail, Lotus Notes did it first

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010
Guest post by Ryan Heathers. You can follow Ryan on Twitter.

I’ve been reading the many articles on the new Gmail Priority Inbox with great interest. People are praising this “innovative” Gmail feature all over the place. And it is pretty cool. But as Alan Lepofsky pointed out, Lotus Notes has had similar inbox categorization features for over a decade. But apparently, few people know that. Or maybe, few people care…

The Lotus Notes categorized inbox provides many of the features that everyone is raving about in Gmail’s release. In Notes, your inbox can sort emails according to high priority marks, calendar invites, and the unwashed masses of regular emails. It’s helpful. If you’re a person who receives critical calendar invites interspersed with stacks of regular emails, it can be a life-saving feature.  

Gmail Priority Inbox, courtesy of TechCrunch
Source: TechCrunch

Lotus Notes categorized inbox

The one feature that the Gmail Priority Inbox provides that’s unique is the learning algorithm that trains itself to know what emails are most important to you. But I can see the value of this feature swinging all over the place. The jury is still out on whether Gmail can accurately predict what's important to me.

Continue Reading "Hey Gmail, Lotus Notes did it first" »

Is it Actionable or is it Reference?

Friday, June 25th, 2010

A key question to ask yourself when processing your stuff (emails, papers, etc) is "is this Actionable or is this Reference?" By separating your stuff into "Actionable" and "Reference" piles, you can keep your productivity system neat and tidy.

Some quick definitions:

  • Actionable: anything that requires your attention
  • Reference: Items that do not require your action, but you want to keep on hand

It's not enough to ask this important question alone. A key to making this separation work is having a place to park your reference material. For that purpose, the Lotus Notes Notebook (formerly called the Lotus Notes Personal Journal) is a great tool. And, it's built in to Lotus Notes.

Here's a screenshot of one of my Notebooks:

Eric's Lotus Notes Notebook

You can see that my Notebook has all sorts of valuable stuff in it. But because it's stored away from my email inbox and my To Do lists, I only have to think about my Reference items when I choose to - they're not hitting me in the face while I'm trying to work on projects.

Check out the Lotus Notes Notebook. If you want to take your reference filing to the next level, go get yourself a download a free eProductivity Reference template that you can use to upgrade your Notes Notebook.



IdeaJam: Productive and Innovative

Monday, July 13th, 2009

On the business side of the house, we rely on a number of productivity tools, and most of them them aren't our own. One of the tools in our toolkit is IdeaJam, by Elguji. IdeaJam makes it possible for our customers to have a voice in the feedback and design process. It simply works. IBM knows this and has awarded the Elguji team with a reception on Times Square.  Well done, team Elguji!

Podcast: An Inside Look at ActiveWords

Friday, July 10th, 2009

Kelly Forrister recently posted a new podcast on the GTD Times blog featuring David Allen and Buzz Bruggeman of ActiveWords discussing the productive benefits of ActiveWords:

One of the tools David Allen uses on his PC is ActiveWords, a tool often described as “solving a problem you didn’t know you had.”  It essentially streamlines the navigation and common tasks we do all day long; send emails, go to web sites, create new tasks, insert text, open files and more...

When it comes to saving time in daily tasks in Windows, ActiveWords delivers. And you can learn more about how it does that by listening to the podcast linked below.

20090707_DAandBuzz-ActiveWordsPodcast.png

Did you know that ActiveWords fully integrates with Lotus Notes and eProductivity in some especially cool ways? In fact, at around the 15:30 mark of the podcast, David and Buzz discuss combining ActiveWords and eProductivity to create a supercharged productivity system.

Here's how to install ActiveWords with Lotus Notes and eProductivity.
(Includes a 60-day free trial of ActiveWords)

 

I usually blog mostly about tools that I use daily, like Lotus Notes, eProductivity, The Brain, or MindManager, to name a few. Today, I want to tell you about two free utilities I recently discovered:

Find the long file names on your drives
Find and fix erroneous file names on your drive

These two tools do what their names say and I've already found them indispensable to help me locate file and folder names that were either too long or that contained characters that would cause my backup software to choke.

These tools have now earned a place in my productivity tool box

Both of these tools are from Proud Programmer, Rovert Ibsen Voith and can be downloaded for free from Voith's Code.

Video: How to use ActiveWords

Monday, June 29th, 2009
One of the essential components of my productivity toolkit is an application called ActiveWords. I use ActiveWords to control most of my Windows Applications.

I've just posted the video and related links over on the inside.eProductivity blog.

Since this blog is focused primarily on Lotus Notes, I know that the next question I will get is: "Will ActiveWords work with Lotus Notes?"

Yes and no.

ActiveWords works as if you had typed keystrokes at your keyboard and is great for launching applications and substituting text. These features work great in Notes.

Because Lotus Notes is itself a windowed application ActiveWords has not context from which to control specific features of Notes once launched. This is because it has no context.

For people that use eProductivity for Lotus Notes we have modified Notes in such a way that ActiveWords can effectively control most aspects of Notes. So, for example, I can type "IN" anywhere (Notes does not even have to be running) and ActiveWords will launch Notes (if not already open) and take me to my inbox.

Even without the connection to Lotus Notes, I think ActiveWords is a remarkable application and certainly one I am never without!

ActiveWords Web site

Two interesting discussions today. (Well one at least, my post has no comments yet.)

Ed Brill: What kind of apps do you run on the Notes client stand-alone?
Eric Mack: Just what is Lotus Notes good for, anyway?

There's discussion about what people use Notes for and whether it can be personal or not. I just posted this comment to Ed Brill's blog, but I think it is valuable to re-post here. It deals with the issue that when tools become personal, people become passionate about them - and they tell their friends, and their friends, and their friends...
@12, one of my clients, David Allen, loves to show end-users and senior company execs the Notes Journal - something most have no idea exists. If you have ever attended his Getting Things Done (GTD) seminars, you know that he often mentions and shows how he uses Lotus Notes and then he talks about the power of the journal and the ability to customize. 10 years ago (it maybe more) David stumbled on the Notes Designer client and created his own quote application - an app then he still uses and shows off today.

The key here is that Notes became personal to him. Once a tool becomes personal, people can't help but tell and show their friends. Think of the iPhone.

The key point I want to make is:
When tools become personal, people become passionate about them - and they tell their friends, and their friends, and their friends...

In this illustration, and end-user "discovered" something that created great value for him (the Notes Journal) and then he "discovered" that he could customize the way he works with his information using the Notes designer client. the tool became personal. Now, you couldn't pry it from his hands. I know many people that feel the same way.

As I teach in my seminars: "for tools to become productive, they have to become personal."

What do YOU think?

This productivity tip is not just for Lotusphere presenters, but for anyone that wants to move their documents to the Open Document file format...

How to quickly convert your LS09 presentation to ODF from PPT


The deadline for submitting the Lotusphere 2009 presentations is tomorrow.  IBM added a new twist this year by requiring that all presentations be created in Symphony. While I appreciate the intent behind the request  -- to get everyone using and showing Symphony -- it may not be a practical solution for everyone. I'm all for learning Symphony, but if I have to choose between working on my presentation deck for Lotusphere or learning Symphony so that I can convert my PowerPoint slides to it, guess which I'll choose?

I pinged Stephan Wissel over this and, after some ribbing about why I've not yet converted to Symphony (I know, shameful, but I plan to, soon), he told me about a plug-in from Sun Microsystems that will ODF-enable Microsoft Office:
  • The ODF Plug-in seamlessly integrates with the Load and Save As dialog and the Save (Ctrl+S) shortcut of Microsoft Office Word.
  • A new toolbar in Microsoft Office Excel and Microsoft Office PowerPoint simplifies the import and export of ODF documents.
  • Make the ISO standardized OpenDocument file format the standard in your company, and switch the standard file format in Microsoft Office Word to ODF.


Here's a link to the Sun ODF Plug-in for Microsoft Office

I am preparing to write a series of posts about my 2009 Productivity Toolkit. For that adventure, I've purchased several tools for myself and my team, including the new BlackBerry Bold 9000 some new Lenovo Laptops and a variety of software applications.

20081126-BlackBerry9000Bold.jpg

I've had the Bold for just 24 hours, long enough to collect my thoughts and first impressions. Here's my 24-hour report card:
Setup/Operation EXCELLENT
Device Design EXCELLENT
Screen/Keyboard EXCELLENT
Use of standard connectors EXCELLENT
Voice Call/Quality/Volume VERY GOOD
Size/Weight EXCELLENT
Navigation/Ease of Use EXCELLENT
AT&T Coverage & Network (so far) VERY GOOD
WiFi Integration EXCELLENT
BlackBerry as Modem POOR
BlackBerry Desktop Software VERY GOOD
Task Management POOR
Overall Satisfaction VERY GOOD


Some of you may disagree with my POOR ratings.  I wanted to capture my first impressions. I will continue to test and evaluate these and other features of the Bold offering. I simply wanted to capture my first impressions.

Continue Reading "My Bold First Impressions of BlackBerry 9000 Bold" »