As I mentioned over on the Notes on Productivity blog, this last weekend I talked with David Allen on a variety of subjects around productivity and Lotus Notes.

David allowed me to record a portion of our conversation, and he has this great riff on Outlook and Lotus Notes that I want to share with you.
I haven't been blogging much lately as we've been hard at work on the next release of eProductivity and planning something special for mobile users. Meanwhile here's a tip for my readers that like to get things done with Lotus Notes...

Ryan's running a promotion to acknowledge the eProductivity pioneers - the people who first saw the benefit in using eProductivity to GTD-Enable their Lotus Notes. The pioneers, using eProductivity primarily at the office, usually purchased the software with their own money. (How's that for a testimony of product value?) Anyway, Ryan's running a promotion to encourage these pioneers to share their story of how they GTD-Enabled their Lotus Notes with eProductivity, and how they are now getting more done in less time and with less stress than ever before. Between now and the end of the year, he's offering 5 free licenses of eProductivity to companies that purchase a 10-pack AND when they do, he's offering to refund the original purchase of eProductivity.

This is a great way to get even more value from eProductivity. You can learn more over at the Inside eProductivity blog.

Meanwhile, lots of things on the horizon for Lotusphere 2010 (you ARE going, right?) and beyond. I'll start blogging more regularly, soon.

Productive sidebar widgets in Notes 8.51

Monday, October 5th, 2009
I've been playing with Notes 8.51 and looking for ways to leverage the many features of Notes 8.51 with eProductivity to create an even better productivity system. A few things we have been looking at are Sidebar Widgets and Unified Task Management. The design team has been hard at work on the next major release of eProductivity for Notes 8.5x and Ryan just posted screen shots of a few new sidebar widgets that we are making available to our design partners now. These will show up in the next release of eProductivity within the week.

I'm also reviewing our unified task management strategy. As you may know, David Allen is a BIG proponent of a single unified inbox in which to collect your stuff. The eProductivity design team is  working on making it possible for you to drag and drop anything onto a sidebar context and manage it in Notes, GTD-Style, with eProductivity. This means that you'll soon be able to manage external links (e.g. web and mobile) as part of your eProductivity system.

I want to thank Stephan Wissel, a long-time eProductivity user and tireless champion as well as a relentless pursuer of sidebar views from eProductivity.

Read: Sidebar widgets for Notes 8.x, coming soon!

#LotusKnows Today - Free eProductivity Software

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009
The Lotus Knows campaign kicked off today. Congratulations to the Lotus Marketing Team for a great start. Apparently, there are sightings all over, including in the Wall street Journal and the Boston Globe print editions with more media coverage promised.


Here's a link to the Lotus Knows web site and to the Lotus Knows Twitter Fountain, hosted by Chris Blatnick. Here's a link to our Lotus Knows video entry with comments from myself and David Allen.


Rock Your Work with Lotus and eProductivity - for free

To join the celebration, I've decided to give away a free eProductivity license today -- that's a $399 value. Here's all you need to know:

Continue Reading "#LotusKnows Today - Free eProductivity Software" »

Rock your work with Lotus

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

Lotus doesn't know about this video.

[ YouTube Link ]

Lotus recently held a contest and asked people to create videos about how they're using Lotus products in creative ways. With everything I have going on at ICA and eProductivity, I made the choice to put "create Lotus Knows video" on the back burner. I knew this meant I would miss the deadline to enter the contest. That's OK.

Here's my video. It's a little rough around the edges, but it was fun to create. I certainly can't take credit alone for this video. I had help and encouragement from a talented group of people who helped me turn some of my unpolished ideas into the final video you see.  Hat tip to Brian, Tanny, Ryan, and Bruce.  (Yes, Michael, it was created on a Mac.)

It was a fun and creative exercise to put this together. I welcome your comments and feedback.

IBM to cut 5,000 jobs to Improve Productivity

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009
According to this Reuters news story, IBM will cut around 5,000 jobs in the United States. This is a sad but increasingly common turn of events as companies react to the changes in the market. Companies are losing good people and good people are now looking for jobs. This quote got my attention:
The company has not disclosed how many jobs it has cut so far this year, but has said it was making "structural changes" to reduce spending and improve productivity.
I can't help but wonder what the impact will be on the people who remain - who will be expected to do more with less.

This got me thinking: IBM wants to improve productivity. IBM employees all use Lotus Notes. eProductivity for IBM Lotus Notes can help users become more productive, save 20-30 minutes each day, and get things done. I don't know if leadership at IBM gets this yet, but I know many excellent and productive employees at IBM that do. How do I know this? because they are purchasing eProductivity with their own money.  

What does it say about a product when employees of a company see enough value to justify purchasing it even when their employers won't?

And, it's not just IBMers, either. Many of the eProductivity subscriptions and license purchasers are individuals who want to get things done while increasing their value to their organization. At less than $1 a day for a subscription to eProductivity, it certainly makes sense.

Link: eProductivity for IBM Lotus Notes
Several times a week, I receive testimonials from people that write to share their experience using eProductivity. Today, I received two fun ones.

The first needs no explanation:
Just to let you know.  I worked on setting this [eProductivity] up till about 2 am last night.  I had an empty in box when I went to bed last night for the first time in I don't know how long.  This morning I started dealing with email at 9 and now again have an empty mail box.  What a feeling.  I still have to finish setting up all my projects/commitments and I don't feel confident yet that I am using the software as effectively as I could, but I am very excited.  I really think this may be the tool that keeps everything together for me and allows me to "clear my brain" as David Allen would say.

I can see even at this early stage that this is a program I think I should invest in. I think I will look at GyroQ as well.
This is a pretty common theme from first-time users but I enjoyed reading every one.

The second is from a customer that had uninstalled eProductivity in order to experience and evaluate vanilla Notes 8.02. That experience wasn't as productive for him as he had hoped, so he switched back.* This morning, he wrote:
I'm very happy to be back on eProductivity -- EOM
I love it. eProductivity is about Getting Things Done with IBM Lotus Notes. Time and again, we are learning from our customers that David Allen's GTD methodology and the eProductivity software are having a huge impact on the way people get things done. It's also changing the way people think about Lotus Notes.

I think that's cool.

* eProductivity works well on Notes 6.5x, 7.x, and 8.x, 8.5x on Win/mac/Linux. We have many customers happily using eProductivity with Notes 8.02 and 8.5. This particular customer was extremely productive and proficient with Notes 7 and eProductivity. His move to Notes 8, from a productivity perspective, simply wasn't. Your experience may be different.  If you have an eProductivity experience to share  would love to hear from you. (If you are not using eProductivity yet, get started.)
IBMer and fellow Notes blogger, Chris Blatnick, has been blogging his experience using eProductivity to get things done:
On the Road to Greater eProductivity!
     Thoughts on the eProductivity Install...Smooth Sailing Really

Another IBMer, Peter Simmons, recently attended David Allen's Making It All Work Seminar in Amsterdam and decided, as a result, to evaluate eProductivity:
     eProductivity, the first experiences #GTD

I hope Chris and Peter will continue to blog about their experience; I look forward to learning what works for them (and what doesn't). I'm convinced that they will soon learn why David Allen uses Lotus Notes and why he and recommends eProductivity as the ultimate personal productivity tool for IBM Lotus Notes.

Now, I wonder how long it will be before fellow Notes bloggers, Ed Brill, Alan Lepofsky, Bruce Elgort and Thomas Duff are all as eProductive as Chris is now?  (That's an invitation, guys. Let me know how I can help.)

Update: Visit the The Official Inside.eProductivity Blog to sell a list of the blog posts people have written to share their experiences.

P.S. Blogger Opportunity

If you are a GTD, Productivity or Lotus Notes blogger on Planet Lotus and would like to experience eProductivity for yourself, I have an offer for you:

1. Contact me to let me know of your interest in reviewing eProductivity and commit to install and use it for 30 days
2. Over the course of the 30 days, write five blog posts sharing your personal experience using eProductivity. What you write is up to you.
3. At the end of your evaluation, if you decide that eProductivity is the right GTD solution for you, let me know and I'll send you a full licence key.

That's it.

This offer is open to the first 10 people to respond. Interested? Click here and select "I'm interested in writing about eProductivity."

My Lotus Notes is now GTD Enabled

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

I was delighted to receive an email from The David Allen Company that included this GTD Enabled logo for our software and web site:


eProductivity for IBM Lotus Notes is currently the only software product to be designated 'GTD® Enabled' by David Allen.

This is very exciting for me, as "Public version eProductivity shipped" has been on my project list for many years. Now that I can mark that one 'done' my next project is to get the word out.

Link to orginal Teamstudio press release

This evening, eProductivity Principal Architect Ian Armstrong and I were presented with a plaque for our honorable mention at the Teamstudio Spotlight Awards reception at Lotusphere 2009.

Teamstudio CTO Nigel Cheshire with ICA President Eric Mack and eProductivity Principal Architect, Ian Armstrong at the Teamstudio Awards Reception

The honorable mention was for "the remarkable application: eProductivity." I am delighted and we would like to thank Ian for his hard work and the folks at Teamstudio for this recognition.

Teamstudio Spotlight Award honorable mention for the remarkable application: eProductivity

As part of this recognition, the folks at DominoPower will be writing an article about the product. Until then, you can learn more, here.
I've seen the comments from bloggers who are unable to attend this year's Lotusphere conference. I know what it is like to miss out on Lotusphere; it's an amazing event full of opportunities to meet and make friends, learn, and take advantage of the many offers from the vendors in the Product Showcase. I've not been able to attend Lotusphere for the past several years and I am looking forward to this year's event.

For anyone that may be interested, I've decided to extend our eProductivity Lotusphere promotional pricing to everyone -- not just those who can visit us in the Product Showcase. Details here.

Anyway, after a long day of travel, I've arrived at the Dolphin hotel and I expect to start blogging about the conference, soon.
I'd like to replace the icons that we use for our eProductivity Mail and Reference database. The Mail Icon, well, it's a mail icon and the red check mark communicates that it includes eProductivity functionality to make Getting Things Done in Notes, easy. I want to reference icon to communicate that this database is to be used to store nonactionable reference materials.


I managed to cobble together the icon on the right showing what some users may recognize as a file drawer with 3-tab folders in it. I know we can do better than that. I'm just graphically challenged. 32x32 pixels in 16 colors isn't much to work with, but I've seen some amazing icons when those pixels are manipulated by someone with artistic talent.

I thought I would put this to the community by asking for suggestions either for an outstanding Icon designer or library. Perhaps I should hold a contest? Any ideas?
An expert on user interface design, Chris Blatnick, recently reviewed eProductivity and shares his thoughts on his experience from a design and usability perspective:
eProductivity is THE GTD solution for Lotus Notes.  It has a very simple and intuitive user interface, one that stays out of the way until you need it.  Since the GTD features are so finely integrated into the context of the work you do everyday, you immediately become more productive when using it.  eProductivity avoids flashy functionality and complicated routines and instead quietly empowers you to perform your daily tasks faster and more efficiently.  This is the hallmark of good software design, something the eProductivity team obviously knows a lot about.  For those that want to greatly improve their performance, I can highly recommend eProductivity for Lotus Notes.

Full post: Interface Matters:  On Total (e)Productivity In Lotus Notes

Thats right, Elguji is not a yoga position

Thursday, August 21st, 2008
Bruce and team Elguji continue to make inroads with IdeaJam, not only with the innovative product they have created it is but for creativity in advertising. Here's a screen shot from the latest PlanetLotus banner ad:


I think Bruce's ad is a little misleading: You do not need to be a Notes or Domino shop to benefit from Elguji's IdeaJam technology. A simple vanilla Domino install (or even a hosted instance from a third party) is all you need. (I told Bruce not to include mention of Notes & Domino but he only listens to me when I blog in public, like this.)

At ICA, we use IdeaJam to track ideas that our customers would like to see in our eProductivity (a product that makes implementing David Allen's GTD methodology in Lotus Notes easy). So far, IdeaJam is working well for us. I think it's a practical application of Web.20, bringing customers into the middle of the feedback and design loop. We had our eProductivityJam site up and running in minutes. No product development management should be without a tool like IdeaJam.
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.

Continue Reading "Your Brain as a Success Coach for Getting Things Done" »
You're not using ActiveWords?!!  You don't know who Buzz is?!! You're in for a real treat!  Tech evangelist, Robert Scoble will interview my buddy, Buzz Bruggeman, CEO of ActiveWords, on today at 10:00 AM PST.


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.

Update: Here is a link to a PDF of my ActiveWords Wordbase
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:

Michael Sampson:
eProductivity for Notes is About Ready To Go ... Eric Has a Special Offer

Chris Blatnick of Interface Matters:
eProductivity for Lotus Notes...Want To Be Way More Efficient?

Stephan Wissel:
Procrastinator Professional and (e)Productivity

Ben Poole:
Do you want to get things done?

Oliver Starr of GTD Times:
Eric Mack to Launch eProductivity: your chance to get a preview in this post

(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.

If this sounds interesting to you, read on…

Continue Reading "24-Hour Preview of eProductivity for Lotus Notes" »
Over on the Notes on Productivity blog, I asked Notes users two questions about what gets in the way, when implementing GTD in Lotus Notes.

If you currently use, have tried using, or are considering using Lotus Notes as your GTD implementation tool, I hope you will post your thoughts...

Productivity Countdown

Friday, May 23rd, 2008
eProductivity Countdown ClockI usually do OK tracking individual actions and small and medium sized projects. These are items for which I can easily envision the completed state - I know what "done" will look like and I know I will mark these complete in a few days or weeks. Sometimes, however, I have projects where the completion date is not days or weeks ahead but months or years ahead. I find those harder to keep in front of me. Even with regular review, I sometimes find it hard to keep a sense of time about a project that is off in the distant future.

As I prepare to launch eProductivity, a GTD implementation tool for Lotus Notes, I need to keep one or two key milestones in sight at all times. Specifically, we have a few big milestones - things like "launch web site" or "Prepare for meeting with David" or "Deliver presentation to IBM" that we have been working on for many months or in the case of the product launch, several years.

Several months ago, I watched a NASA Shuttle mission video and I was inspired by their countdown clock and their mission elapsed clock. I decided that I needed my own countdown clock, so I decided to create one for myself.

eProductivity Countdown Clocks for my team - notice dancing Ian?Starting with a countdown clock mechanism that I purchased on-line, I created a custom clock face and built five eProductivity countdown clocks. I set each one to the date of a key milestone. I kept one clock for myself and I sent the other four to key people on my team. Now, I have a tangible reminder of the event and the time remaining to complete. I've had the clock on my desk for a few months now and it's been a fun reminder of an event that I am looking forward to. The key question "What's your next action?" keeps me focused on the little things that I need to accomplish to achieve my goal.

It's been a fun way to get things done.

What makes a good GTD list manager?

Monday, April 28th, 2008
Friend and colleague, Kelly Forrister, recently posted her thoughts on what makes a good GTD list Manager.

I think Kelly's done a great job of defining the key requirements of a good GTD list manager. She proposes several key features to look for:
  • Sorting lists by context
  • Ability to assign a due date
  • Portable for on the go access
  • Easily accessible
  • More attractive to you than repelling
  • Doesn't force priority codes
  • Place to capture additional notes
  • Ability to search and sort in various ways.
  • Robust enough to handle all of your stuff.
The timing couldn't be better for me, as I'm in the process of doing a market analysis and writing copy for eProductivity for Lotus Notes, my own GTD implementation tool for Lotus Notes.  I think Kelly's list serves as a good foundation of the core features that any sound GTD implementation tool, whether low-tech (e.g. paper) or high tech (e.g. Lotus Notes) should offer.

If you have not read Kelly's excellent blog post, I encourage you to read it: What makes a good GTD List Manager?

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. Might make for an interesting discussion.  I'll blog my thoughts over on NotesOnProductivity.

What’s new with eProductivity for Notes?

Thursday, April 24th, 2008
Things have been pretty quiet on the web front with eProductivity. The web site hasn't changed from the "coming soon" banner I put up last year and eProductivity guy still needs a haircut.

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.

Otherwise, if you have signed up for the this eProductivity Newsletter, you'll be invited to a sneak preview, soon.
I've just posted the final installment in my series about how to ramp up quickly with GTD and Lotus Notes.

Today, I share some thoughts on the value of getting connected to people who have a similar interest in getting things done and the information to help you become a GTD blackbelt.

To learn more about my Knowledge Worker Productivity equation and to join an ongoing discussion about using GTD & Notes, visit the Notes on Productivity Blog.
I've just posted the next installment in my series about how to ramp up quickly with GTD and Lotus Notes.

Today, I share some thoughts on the value I found in hiring a productivity coach to help you learn how to get things done.

To learn more about my Knowledge Worker Productivity equation and to join an ongoing discussion about using GTD & Notes, visit the Notes on Productivity Blog.
I've just posted the next installment in my series about how to ramp up quickly with GTD and Lotus Notes.

Today, I share some thoughts on how to mobilize your Lotus Notes-based GTD implementation.

To learn more about my Knowledge Worker Productivity equation and to join an ongoing discussion about using GTD & Notes, visit the Notes on Productivity Blog.
I've just posted the next installment in my series about how to ramp up quickly with GTD and Lotus Notes. In today's segment I talk about using Lotus Notes as a List Manager and Implementation tool for GTD.

To learn more about my Knowledge Worker Productivity equation and to join an ongoing discussion about using GTD & Notes, visit the Notes on Productivity Blog.

The eProductivity Equation: Methodology

Thursday, April 10th, 2008
I've just posted the next installment in my series about how to ramp up quickly with GTD. In today's segment I share about the most important aspect of the eProductivity equation and that is: methodology.

Here's the link to my post today about GTD as a productivity methodology.

To learn more about my Knowledge Worker Productivity equation and to join an ongoing discussion about the GTD methodology as an aspect of knowledge worker productivity visit the Notes on Productivity Blog.

The eProductivity Equation: KWP = M x T x K

Thursday, April 10th, 2008
I've just posted the first installment in my series about how to ramp up quickly with GTD and Lotus Notes.

To learn more about my Knowledge Worker Productivity equation and to join an ongoing discussion about using GTD & Notes, visit the Notes on Productivity Blog.
In early February, collaboration analyst and independent researcher, Michael Sampson, sent me final copies of his two most recent independent research papers that evaluate SharePoint 2007 as a team collaboration tool.

Microsoft SharePoint 2007 Analysis

In the past 6 weeks, much as been written about these papers, both praising and challenging Michael's collaboration report card. Rather than get into that discussion, I'd like to tell you a little about the 7 Pillars of collaboration model and why I think it's a valuable tool to evaluate any collaboration tool, whether it's SharePoint, Lotus Notes, or a cloud computing application. Then, I'll provide some links where you can learn more about SharePoint and how it rates according to Sampson's 7 Pillars of Collaboration model.

Continue Reading...
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. I invited them 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.

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 webinar, I asked my host if I could share the audio portion of the webinar with other eProductivity users; she graciously agreed.

You can download the webinar audio from my Notes On Productivity Blog

I'm working on the new web site for eProductivity (yes, it's about time) and I'll be back to blogging, soon.
Some of my readers may know that I have been working to create the Ultimate GTD Implementation tool for Lotus Notes. Well, the past few months have been filled with accomplishment.

The eProductivity Beta is done.

I am now conducting workgroup pilots.
We completed the eProductivity Beta earlier this month and we are now deep into the eProductivity workgroup pilot program. This is where I work with productivity-minded individuals and workgroups to show them how to use eProductivity to get things done, using Lotus Notes.  The feedback has been excellent. Most surprising is how many people - even those with little or no awareness of David Allen's GTD methodology are able to quickly pick up and use the many eProductivity features we have created.  That's my definition of a successful productivity tool!

There seems to be a real need to a way to quickly and easily link actions, emails, and calendar entries to projects - all of which we do quite well.

I plan to keep things under wraps (e.g. I'm holding off on the web site launch) for a while longer so that I can focus on the workgroup pilot and collect the valuable feedback that our pilot program members have been so generous to share. No need for the distraction of a public launch until I'm really ready to open the flood gates. Already, it's daunting to keep up with the requests from people that want to join the eProductivity pilot program. (If you have a productivity-minded team of 10-15 people that are serious about getting things done with Lotus Notes, let me know. I have a few more slots for groups I can work with.)

I'm on an Internet diet, and it's working

In an effort to keep my easily-distracted brain on-task, I have temporarily eliminated all non-purpose-specific Internet web surfing and Internet news from my daily diet and reducing my RSS consumption to a few key sites just a few times a week. It's given me an amazing productivity boost.

So, great things on the horizon. I'll be back, to my blogging in February - unless my children's robotics team wins the state competition, in which case I'll be back, as a proud father, to share their accomplishment.
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.

So, I responded:
Continue Reading "People are asking Santa for eProductivity for Lotus Notes" »
Doug Ransom, had this to say in his posted comment to Michael Dolan's blog:
...I think it is near impossible to build a trusted system out of Lotus Notes, which is why my assistants print everything out. We just can't trust Lotus Notes as a bring-forward system. I often find myself writing down the important stuff to do today on a piece of paper because there is no way in Lotus Notes to capture "this must be done today if possible". It is just too cumbersome to effectively review the lists.
While I agree with Doug, that vanilla Lotus Notes Tasks can be cumbersome to use, Lotus Notes (or Outlook, or whatever product) is only a tool to support the work process. One of my clients, The David Allen Company, has a number of people that use Notes quite effectively to manage their projects and actions. For them, Notes is their trusted system. So, there must be more to this than just the tool....

Doug had a lot more to say and so do I. I have posted the rest of his comment along with my response, and an offer for Doug here, on my Notes on Productivity blog.

Do delegated actions for teams really work?

Monday, December 17th, 2007
GTD Blogging buddy, Michael Dolan, recently blogged about his experience coaching team of people that are using Lotus Notes as a trusted system for GTD. Michael's post is worth reading, because he talks about the importance of being the master of your own domain: knowing and controlling what crosses over the transom. Specifically, Michael addresses the issue of delegated tasks - not just in Notes but in general - and how touchy a subject it is.

I blogged about the topic of delegated tasks for group action management a few years ago, explaining that I felt that using delegated tasks incorrectly could create a situation in which the technology of productivity would likely clash with the methodology of productivity. It's proven to be a popular post and the question comes up often enough, so I'll share this quote and then link you back to my original post.
Delegated tasks create a situation in which the technology of productivity is likely to clash with the methodology of productivity.

The technology allows for tasks to be created and assigned to other individuals; however, without a sound methodology  and clear agreement on how these will be processed, (the action delegation protocol), it can quickly become a recipe for lost or missed actions, frustration, and incompletion.

03/01/2005  Delegated Actions for Group Action Management
12/12/2007 Master of one's own domain

I hope you will join the discussion, either here on my blog or better yet, over on Michael's blog.

Update: There's a comment on Michael's blog from a reader that asserts that "it is near impossible to build a trusted system out of Lotus Notes."  I could not have wished for a more wonderful blogging invitation - response coming soon!

Operation Overload

Monday, December 10th, 2007
Michael, Totty, of the Wall Street Journal, recently interviewed me for an article on personal productivity software.
It's an axiom of the computer age: The very technology that was supposed to make us more productive has instead overwhelmed us with more work, too much information and a blurred line between the office and home. And we've repeatedly turned to software to get more organized. But can it really help?
We talked about a number of productivity tools that I use personal and professionally with my clients. He was particularly interested in mind mapping tools, so we talked about two of my favorites: MindManager and Personal Brain. It's a nice article and worth a read. Link to WSJ article
It feels good to mark off a large project like this as "completed." It's been an exhilarating 12 days in Manila, speaking to over 4,000+ attendees of the Beyond Planning: eProductivity Conference. In the course of the six day conference, I delivered over 30 sessions and even added an impromptu session on my day off. The 24 hour trip (door-to-door) home was made ever more challenging by spending it seated next to a 2 1/2 year OLD boy that screamed about his bottle all the way from the airport, onto the plane, and through U.S. Customs and baggage claim. I was delighted to help the frazzled mother with her bags and on her way. I don't know how she did it.

I enjoyed my stay in Manila; the people were most gracious and caring. On the last day, I even got a private tour of the countryside, including a trip to see the volcano. That was fun. The country and people of the Philippines are wonderful. At the same time, I'm glad to be heading home to see my family, which is why this sign was so welcoming to me...


The conference has required a lot of my attention for the past 8 weeks, time away from family, school, clients and friends. With the conference now behind me, I'm planning to unhook for a few days of R&R, then, when I've had an opportunity to review my notes and the photos from the media crew, I will blog about the conference.

But first, just a few words of thanks:

Continue Reading ""Deliver eProductivity Conference" marked completed" »
Michael Sampson Skyped me with another of his daily reasons for why I should buy a Mac.

20071127NotesforAppleDownload.jpgApple'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.

Continue Reading "Good on you, Apple, for Lotus Notes featured download" »
One of the sessions I will present for each track will be a series of tips that I have collected and found useful. A few of these tips are my own invention, however, many are tips learned from colleagues, friends, bloggers and books. What I hoped to do was to tap the wisdom of the crowds to rank these. Unfortunately, I did not have enough time to do this before I left.

IdeaJam to the rescue

My friend and fellow Notes enthusiast, Bruce Elgort has IdeaJam, a fantastic tool to tap the power of the social network to find out what's most important, most valuable, etc...

Before I took off for Manila, I wrote to Bruce and asked him if he would set up an IdeaJam space to allow me to share some of my favorite productivity tips that I have collected and allow folks to rank them in terms of value to them. Bruce came though and created the Beyond Planning IdeaJam site. He's created sections for all three categories of tips I plan to share: General, Advanced, and Executive.

Or not

The problem is that the internet here at my hotel is very slow (imagine using the internet on dial-up) so I won't be able to upload anything to the site. It would take me all day to do it from here.

I need your help for 5 minutes, today, if possible

Continue Reading "I need your quick help, Idea Jamming on productivity tips." »
ScottMoehringWorkflowDiagram.jpgScott Moehring, a tremendously creative and talented design/process consultant offered me his workflow diagram to distribute, free of charge, at the Beyond Planning: eProductivity conference. Some of you may recognize this diagram as Scott posted it on the various GTD groups and forums.

I've been a fan of Scott's work from many years and I will use some of his diagrams in my presentations. This workflow diagram summarizes on one page, Scott's understanding of many key workflow behaviors in David Allen's Getting Things Done methodology. I've used this, along with my own diagram and a full set of GTD templates, to help me in my weekly review and action planning process.

We've arranged to include Scott's workflow diagram, in full color, on the 4,000-5,000 CD's that we will hand out at the conference.  I'm sure that the people of Manila will benefit greatly from the diagram.  (I wish I had time to solicit others from folks I know.)


Thanks, Scott!

Collaborative Newswire goes live!

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007
Congratulations, Michael. Last summer, we sat in a meeting with Marc Orchant and you shared your vision for this publication.
I'm delighted to see it become a reality and I can think of no one more qualified to be the editor than you. I'm expect this will grow to become a good source of sound reporting on all things CT.  Good on you, Michael and I wish the best of success to you and the publication!

Beyond Planning Conference Site

Thursday, November 15th, 2007
I've just activated the USA Mirror site for the Beyond Planning Conference.


If you click through to the site you will see a brief video commercial that is being broadcast in Manila.


Beyond Planning Conference Schedule
Beyond Planning Conference Poster

Web sites:

Beyond Planning (USA Site)
Beyond Planning (Asia-Pacific Site)

Special thanks to Vanj Real and the media team at COP. Vanj and her team created the site, the video, and all of the marketing/presentation materials for the conference. To Vanj and the team, I say, "Well done!"

Staying productive and focused with Notes

Tuesday, November 13th, 2007
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.
eProductivity Conference Planning Document Library
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:
eProductivity Conference Planning Document Workflow
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.

Lunch is over. Time to get back to work.

"Lotus Notes/Domino is a dead product"

Wednesday, November 7th, 2007
I do not agree, but that's what I was told when I visited more than one booth of vendors of KM search technology at This week's KM World conference in San Jose. (Steve Barth and I presented a workshop on Knowledge Worker Productivity at the conference.)

During this week at the KMWorld conference I've met many people that tell me they are using Lotus Notes successfully as their collaboration and knowledge management platform. I heard this same comment more than once;
"... people are all excited about this new tool or that new tool or tool 2.0, but our organization's had [most of] these capabilities with Lotus Notes for years...."
Of course, I did meet another speaker at the banquet who asked me if Lotus Notes was still being sold and supported. He was shocked when I told him that the last IBM # of Notes users I was aware of was 140 million Notes users. (Even if I'm off by a few tens of millions of users, that's nothing to sneeze at.)

So, what's the problem?

Why are there so many decision makers that attended Enterprise 2.0 and KMWorld 2007 (and many other conferences I frequent) unaware of the power of Notes?

Continue reading and post your comments

Thanks to my extended eProductivity team

Monday, November 5th, 2007
Several people have graciously offered to review the session outlines for my eProductivity conference in Manila, and to offer their input and suggestions.

It's just three weeks until the conference,  and I have much to do to prepare. I'm thrilled to have Michael to help organize the conference and plan each of the sessions. I greatly value the feedback and input from several of my clients, colleagues and fellow productivity bloggers.

Late last week Michael sent out the session overviews and content statements to these people and we have already received great feedback from:
Tanny O'Haley
Jason Womack
Wayne MacKirdy
Steve Holden
Matthew Cornell

to name just a few...
Thank you very much to each of you for your insightful and perceptive responses
. There are a couple more responses due in the next day, and then we'll shift to the next stage of getting ready.

I'll try to post some more details as I go, but as you can imagine, things are hectic around here. On top of that, I'll be presenting on knowledge worker productivity with Steve Barth at KM world today. So, while I have great hopes for blogging, the posts may be sporadic. I'll try to blog KMWorld this week, though.
I'm deep in the conference session planning process. This weekend, Michael and I worked on the draft outlines and today I met with an advisor to go over topics. The sessions are looking really good! There's still much to do, which is why blogging has been light. As I have time to surface for a break, I'll share some fun posts about other things that are going on.

eProductivity on ABS-CBN News

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007
I just received a Skype chat with a link to ABS-CBN news in Manila. I clicked on the link to see the feature article. 20071023_ABS-CBNNewsFeatureStory.jpg There, I found a Special Feature by David Chavez Dizon, Senior Editor, ABD-CBN NEWS about my recent pre-conference planning visit to Manila for my upcoming eProductivity conference in November.

It's an interesting article and the reporter did a nice job of capturing portions of my presentation at the planning meeting. (If I had known I was being recorded I might have tried to say something really profound.) At the time he was recording, I had just given a big pitch for why I thought everyone should buy David Allen's book, Getting Things Done, and  master the principles contained within.  The video jumps in near the end of my 5-minute overview of what is GTD and how it works for me. Then, the video skips into our discussion about wild success for the conference. There's a link to a YouTube video at the bottom of the page.

Michael Sampson and I are meeting daily to work on the eProductivity session planning and to select content and finalize outlines for our next eProductivity advisor's meeting. I'm looking forward to the conference.

This article was a fun way to end the day.

ABD-CBN News: The art of increased productivity through collaboration
I've been working with Vanj Real, a very talented young lady assigned to create the promotional materials, videos, and web site for my eProductivity conference. We've been sending artwork back and forth across the Pacific and things are really looking good. Vanj does nice work!


Once I receive the final copy and the link to the new web site Vanj is creating, I will post the details here.

eProductivity Conference Session Titles

Monday, October 8th, 2007
It's been a very successful trip; I'm departing tired, but satisfied. Before leaving I finalized the session titles with Michael. I think Michael's done an outstanding job of capturing the theme of the conference and session topics and creating titles that work. I'm privileged to have Michael as a friend and trusted advisor. Now, what remains, is to come up with an outline and presentation for each of these sessions. Fortunately, I won't have to do all of it alone. I'm blessed to have a number of outstanding experts in their own right contributing to my research and presentation. I'll tell you more about these people and the sessions they will be contributing to in an upcoming post. Meanwhile feel free to have a look at the session titles. (If you would like to contribute to the conference, let me know; full credit and resource opportunities will be given for all contributors.)


   Beyond Planning: ePRODUCTIVITY

nformation, Communication, and Action tools to get things done.

General Track

Session 1:

eProductivity: Using Information, Communication, and Action tools to get things done

Beyond Toil: A Biblical Perspective on Work
Beyond Working Hard: The eProductivity Equation

Session 2:

Beyond Overwhelm: Methodologies for Productivity, Part I

Continue Reading "eProductivity Conference Session Titles" »

eProductivity BETA2 Release Candidate 1

Friday, October 5th, 2007
I just spoke with my development team and we are now ready for the next round of beta testing of eProductivity. This will be for a select group of 25 testers - people with 3 years of experience with Notes, 2 years with GTD, and six months with the Notes Task form. I need to keep this group small so that my staff and I can personally coach people.

I'm really excited about this release, it's working very well and we are receiving terrific feedback. I'm blessed to have a top-notch development team. They have done some amazing work implementing this version of eProductivity. (My lead developer was hoping I would mention that "it's quite possible that this is the best Notes development I have ever seen." I will. He earned it.)

This week, I plan to send emails to those of you who have corresponded with me last month in response to my email invitation.

eProductivity in Manila - Day One

Friday, October 5th, 2007
Today, I met my host and the conference organizing committee for my upcoming eProductivity conference in Manila, Philippines.
Some of the eProductivity conference organizating committeeeProductivity Conference Planning Meeting #1

The people of Manila are gracious hosts and hospitality ranks high on their list of traits. From the moment I stepped off the plane, when a government official met me to escort me through customs, to meeting my hosts, to seeing the office and staff that have been assembled to help organize the conference, I have been treated with great kindness and respect. Everyone is so friendly. This is going to be a fun conference to plan and deliver.

Apparently, in the city of Manila, 75% of the population is age 25 or less. There is energy everywhere, and people are anxious to work, to learn, to grow. It's exciting to plan for this event. I plan to share not only good information about the technologies and methodologies of productivity, but I also plan to share some key lessons learned about starting my business  (I celebrate 25 years this month) and the ups and downs along the way. The motivation behind this conference is to reach out and help people learn valuable skills that will help them in work and in life. I'm taking pages of notes and I hope to share the full story, soon.

Continue Reading "eProductivity in Manila - Day One" »

The Manila Adventure Begins - Day one

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2007
I'm getting ready to leave for Manila, Philippines, to plan for my upcoming conference on eProductivity in November.
Travel post card for daddy's trip to Manila, by Emily Mack
Emily gave me this card as a reminder - that's the Mack family on the tarmac in front of the plane.

I figure it will take me 23-24 hours door-to-door to get from my house to the home of my host, in Manila. A perfect time to catch up on some sleep. Many thanks to those of you who wrote to offer travel tips and advice. I'm sure it will all come in handy.

UPDATE: Oh dear, LAX doesn't do windows well

Continue Reading "The Manila Adventure Begins - Day one" »
I've been invited to keynote and present an eProductivity conference, in Manila, Philippines, in late November. With an expected attendance of 7,000-10,000 people, the conference will be presented as a service to the people of Manila and will take place at the The Cathedral of Praise, a very large church in Manila with a building large enough to seat everyone.  The Cathedral of Praise has a history of outreach and service to the people of the Philippines, both spiritually and physically, and I'm delighted to be a part of their service to the people of Manila.

This conference will be a wonderful opportunity to share thoughts and ideas on how to use information, communication, and action tools and technologies as well as best practices in productivity methodologies and workplace effectiveness with the audience. I'm most excited to be able to present not only some of my eProductivity tools and tips but also to introduce the audience to work by other business and productivity experts that have greatly influenced my own learning and work. My colleague, Michael Sampson, has agreed to help me coordinate the conference tracks. I've seen Michael's work at other conferences (e.g. Enterprise 2.0) and I'm honored to have him on my advance planning team.

Continue Reading "eProductivity Conference in The Philippines in November" »
Eric Mack,

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.

Here's the abstract:

Continue Reading "Lotus Notes and Me: Maximizing Personal Productivity with Lotus Notes" »
"Lotus Notes for Me: Leveraging the Power of Notes for Personal Productivity, Personal Knowledge Management and Personal Action Management"
[This is a working title. Keep this in the back of your mind as you read the rest of this post. Then, let me know if it resonates with you...]

Many people have asked me if I've thought about presenting at Lotusphere 2008. I have. In fact, my colleague, Bruce Elgort and I have been exploring the idea of doing a joint presentation for some time. (You may know of Bruce Elgort as the founder of OpenNTF of the Taking Notes Podcast and now, the idea exchange) Bruce and I would like to invite you to give us your input on possible topics you would like to see us present... There's a catch, we need your feedback right away. (I'm presenting at the Office 2.0 conference this week and the deadline for submitting our proposal is this Friday.)

While Bruce and I haven't finalized our proposal, there is a recurring topic that keeps coming up for me: How to use Lotus Notes as a personal productivity tool in addition to the excellent collaborative tool that it already is. You see, Notes is usually marketed as a collaboration solution to organizations, that's fine. Unfortunately, it's not marketed as a personal  tool. That's probably because organizations typically buy Lotus Notes - people don't. But I think that's part of the problem. Notes hasn't been made personal. As far as I know, there are few people or organizations that are doing anything to make Notes personal. Probably the best example I can think of, someone who is working to make notes personal, is Alan Lepofsky. Alan's blog contains an amazing array of productivity tips that the average guy can use to be more productive using Lotus Notes. if you've not read Alan's blog, I highly recommend it.  (Bruce, Alan, and I did a podcast together last year)

Continue Reading "I want your feedback: I'm thinking about presenting at Lotusphere 2008" »

"You had me at the pen ..." The X61 Tablet PC

Sunday, September 2nd, 2007
I recently visited with my good friend and fellow productivity consultant, Kelly Forrister, at her home in beautiful Ojai California.  The purpose of my visit was to show her the Tablet PC system and environment and to give her a tour of my most recent addition to my mobile knowledge worker productivity toolkit, the X61. I've known and worked with Kelly and her husband John at a number of organizations over the past 15 years and we share a common passion for finding cool gear to help us get things done. (For those of you who started with the first Palm Pilot and early Palm hand-helds, you may remember that Kelly published a very successful email newsletter with productivity tips on how to use the palm productively.)

Lenovo was kind enough to provide me with the amazing ThinkPad X61 Tablet PC and I have been enjoying using it and demonstrating to folks how Tablets work and how I use the Tablet PC. (Be sure to search my "Tablet PC" archives for other posts about this incredible tablet.) The X61 combines the best of features - a powerful processor, a long battery life, high resolution and highly visible screen, light weight and the fantastic ThinkPad keyboard 7 TrackPoint to create a flexible and powerful computer. Add to this, Microsoft Vista (I know; it's not ideal on the desktop, but it is a much improved Tablet OS) and I have a powerful tool for mobile productivity.

Listen in as I give Kelly a tour of the new Lenovo ThinkPad X61 Tablet PC.

Continue Reading ""You had me at the pen ..." The X61 Tablet PC" »

eProductivity Beta 1A at Last. Praise God!

Saturday, September 1st, 2007

Many years ago, I  took a number of useful productivity concepts and wrapped them in a Lotus Notes solution to make it easier for me to get things done using Lotus Notes. I made this collection part of my "eProductivity" toolkit and I have continued to enhance it over the years.

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you know that for the past 15 years my friend and client, David Allen, has had a profound influence on my work personally and professionally. (Thank you, David!) I've incorporated some of the productivity best-practices that I learned from David and his book, Getting Things Done, The Art of Stress-Free Productivity into my eProductivity template as well.

My personal eProductivity system has served me well and has evolved over the years based on daily use, testing, and feedback from some of my eProductivity consulting clients who use the template as part of their own GTD implementations.

The eProductivity software adventure begins.

Continue Reading "eProductivity Beta 1A at Last. Praise God!" »

Thank you, SameTime team

Friday, August 17th, 2007
The Skype outage happened at a really bad time for me as I was set to meet with my UK eProductivity development team in several meetings. Fortunately, I was able to set them up on IBM SameTime and business continues on.

Now, if I could just get SameTime to match Skype in it's ability to penetrate firewalls (e.g. My SameTime Connect client won't for audio or video, even though Skype could) I'd be a happy SameTime camper. Still, it's great to have SameTime and I love the rich integration with Lotus Notes.

Thank you, SameTime team.

Next Action: Temporarily move Skype to DeProductivity list.
Having recently returned from the Enterprise 2.0 conference, where it seems everything was something 2.0, I've been thinking a lot about my own tool kit of methodologies and technologies that I use to stay productive accomplish results, personally and for my clients.

Click to see Eric's Brain on GTD 2.0

As I prepare for my upcoming presentation with Steve Barth at KM World: New Fundamentals of Knowledge Worker Productivity, I realize that while the current iteration of GTD has been a transformative tool for personal productivity for me, it doesn't go far enough for the way I work today...

The business world is a much different place from what it was just 15 years ago, when I was first introduced to GTD. The pace with which decisions are made and the information needed to make those decisions has increased to the point where we are expected to be connected at all times (omnipresent) and aware of all of the information (omniscient) that we need to know. Of course, that's not possible for us mere mortals. Nonetheless, the expectations remain.

Continue Reading "Do we need a GTD 2.0? If so, what would it look like?" »
The Brain as a networked nonspatial interface to your thoughts: In this second installment of my interview with Harlan and Shelley, Harlan takes us on a tour of his brain and answers many of my questions. He even promises Lotus Notes users a treat before the product launch!

This podcast is an audio tour of a visual product, an interview Harlan Hugh and Shelley Hayduk of The Brain Technologies at their offices in beautiful Marina Del Rey, California. Also joining me, was my colleague and KM expert, Steve Barth.
As I've written before, Personal Brain is an amazing tool for mapping your brain. You might even call it a true mind mapping tool. Listen to the podcast and you hear why I think so. I plan to make The Brain a key component to my personal knowledge management toolkit along with Lotus Notes, MindManager, and other excellent tools.

You can listen to or download the second part of this interview with Harlan and Shelley over on my Notes on Productivity site.

Podcast: Part two of my interview with The Brain creator, Harlan Hugh.
I've got Notes 7.02 HF534 installed on this new Lenovo X61 Tablet PC (with Vista). As I always do first thing is enable "Right double-click closes window." I then exit and restart Notes.

But, it doesn't work.

Same problem on my new T60p.

Not that I think the hardware would have anything to do with it. It's working everywhere else.

This is a major productivity drop for me.

Any ideas?
Michael Sampson and I will be in Boston next week, for the Enterprise 2.0 conference. While we are there, we'd like to meet up with fellow GEECs (Global Experts in Collaboration) but the invitation is open to GEEKS (If you have to ask...) and folks who love tech, GTD, and PKM (Personal Knowledge Management). We did this two years ago and it was great fun.

Time and place to be determined. Pay your own way.

GEEC Dinner in Boston on Wednesday June 20, 2007

PS. While we are in town, Michael and I hope to visit MIT, perhaps someone would like to arrange a tour?

PersonalBrain 4.0 - whole-mind mapping

Thursday, May 31st, 2007
If you've followed my blog for any length of time, you know I like to use information visualization tools. In addition to MindManager, I've used Personal Brain as a tool for visualizing information connections off and on for a year now.


Last year I met Hugh Harlan, creator of The Brain software at KM World and he gave me a preview of the things to come in Personal Brain 4.0.

Continue Reading "PersonalBrain 4.0 - whole-mind mapping" »
Xerox LiveBoardIn my conference room, I have a huge machine called a LiveBoard. It was made by Xerox. Think of it as the extreme digital whiteboard. It's has a 60" rear projection system with built-in optics so that digital markers can be tracked anywhere on the surface.  The markers have no ink in them, they simply transmit an IR beacon that the electronics inside of the LiveBoard pick up to determine pen position. The system functions as a giant PC. Now, with a suitable internet or data connection you can connect two (or more) LiveBoards in such a way that anything written on one can will appear on the other and vice versa. It's a wonderful collaboration technology. Unfortunately 15 years ago, when it first came out, the $45K price tag put out of the reach of most businesses. I suppose the fact that it weighed 600 lbs was a detractor for some people, too.

Today, Microsoft introduced the first of its surface computing products (yes, Michael, just one more reason that the Windows platform has a long and innovative future ahead of it) which basically shrinks the Xerox LiveBoard functionality and more in to the size of your coffee table. Initially, multiple users will collaborate around the table, but in the future, they will be able to connect their surfaces for shared collaboration. Again, nothing new here.

Continue Reading "Microsoft brings LiveBoard to the coffee table with Surface" »
StackOfPapersSmall.jpg 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 recently decided to move all of our personal and business accounting operations to my accounting firm. Having the accounting firm handle all of the QuickBooks accounting including bank reconciliations, billing and writing checks for us is great but it exposes another problem - how to quickly move lots paper securely between us and the accounting firm. Over on my Notes on Productivity blog, I've posted a short video clip and screen shots of my paperless filing system in Lotus Notes.

SharePoint For Business White Paper

Tuesday, May 8th, 2007
Back in February my friend Michael Sampson announced his resignation from Foldera, and I said that Foldera's loss would be a big gain to the collaboration community. Well, we did not have to wait long to see what Michael would do next. He's relaunched Shared Spaces, (which he shut down when he joined Foldera) as Collaboration Success Advisors.


The first fruit of this effort is a 22-page White Paper entitled "SharePoint for Business", which outlines a six step strategy for how business decision makers need to approach Microsoft SharePoint to achieve collaboration success and improve business performance.  

I had the opportunity to review an earlier version of the paper and I gave him some feedback and advice. It's well written with lots of useful information on successful collaborative deployments with SharePoint.

I highly recommend that any organization looking to adopt or deploy SharePoint consider Michael's paper.

White Paper: SharePoint for Business
A blog reader just sent me this link to tell me that my Webinar,  MindManager as a Knowledge Management Tool: How I use MindManager and Lotus Notes to get things done, is now up for replay on the MindJet web site. Apparently, they (Mindjet/WebEx) ran into some technical difficulties and lost the last 20 minutes of audio. 20070328-MindManagerandNotesIntro.gifThat's too bad, because we covered some powerful uses of MindManager and Lotus as tools for Personal Knowledge Management. You watch the silent part can make up your own narrative. if you come up with something great, post it to you tube and send me a link!

Judging from my email, there seems to be considerable interest having me do a follow-up webinar; I'll definitely consider that for the future. If you have topics you'd like to see me cover in greater detail, please leave your comments on this blog post. I'll review these comments as ideas for possible future webinars.

Here's a link to the webinar replay.

I'm having a hard time finding the answer to this, so I'll ask the community.

The dock for the Lenovo T60p has a Dual-Link DVI output, and I can presently drive a Dell 24" LCD panel at 1900x1200.

For extreme mind mapping, I want to drive a Dell 30" display at 2560x1600 from my ThinkPad T60p.

The T60p has a ATI Mobility FireGL V5200 chipset, which as best as I can tell should  work at 2560x1600.

Of course, I'd like some assurance before I move on this. If anyone has done this, please let me know.

Meanwhile, I'll continue to research.
I've owned a handful of Palm devices since the early Palm Pilot days and I've always liked the simplicity and general reliability of the Palm OS. The Palm platform is also very big at the David Allen Company, where most of us have Treos - either the 650 or 700p.  Other than press releases, Palm's been long on promises and short on innovation with the Palm/Treo platform. (I know about the recent Linux announcement, but I'm not sure I want to wait that long...)

So, I'm thinking about getting a new smart phone. My initial motivation was to find a phone with EVDO Rev A capability to speed up my use of PDANet. My tests with the Treo 700p and EVDO found it to be a worthwhile productivity upgrade.

This an opportunity to revisit the Palm vs Windows Mobile decision. Whatever I decide, I don't want to lose the functionality I presently enjoy

I sat down tonight to make a list of things that the vendors would have me believe that I can do with a Windows Mobile device:

Continue Reading "Is it time to switch to the Windows Mobile Platform?" »
After my successful Webinar on how I use Lotus Notes and MindManager to get things done, Peter Simoons, an IBM Executive in the Netherlands, wrote to me to point out that I was still using the Notes Workspace to manage my databases:
...I had to smile when you showed your desktop, hey Eric you are on Lotus 7.02, the desktop is so Notes 4 or maybe even earlier! According to Lotus you should be using the bookmark bar and that one can still be divided into folders for better separation of the different chapters, like you chose Tabs in the desktop. that will give you another clean desktop. I made the switch when the Bookmark bar was announced...

Peter went on to blog about this in a well-written post: Lotus Notes: Workspace or Open List...

As an eProductivity specialist, I like to think of myself as a forward thinker, so Peter's email got my attention. We exchanged a few emails and I invited Peter to a web meeting so that we could show one another how we organize our Notes databases and why we do it the way we do. Peter accepted my offer and promptly sent me an invitation to use IBM's Corporate SameTime server for the meeting. I think SameTime is a powerful tool, and I use it daily to meet with clients and colleagues. It works great. Unfortunately, while IBM makes great stuff, they apparently don't eat enough of their own dog food but that's another very recently (and still) painful story.  Given the problems I encountered, I proposed that we ditch the IBM site and use my own SameTime 7.5 server. I'm pleased to report that my SameTime Server worked like a charm and we were able to meet without any further difficulty.

A productive meeting

Yesterday, Peter showed me his Notes workspace (He's on Notes 8 beta) and how he's using the bookmark bar to organize his databases. Next, I showed him my Notes workspace and how I organize my hundreds of Lotus Notes databases across a dozen tabs. It became apparent that the primary difference in our use is that Peter has access to only a handful of Notes databases - these can easily be kept on the bookmark bar and nested in bookmark folders. On the other hand, I routinely need quick visual access to a great many Notes databases and I like to see them all at a glance. I also like to see the number of unread items and the servers that the databases are on - something that is lost when using bookmarks.
Continue Reading "The Notes workspace is so last century, or is it?" »
If a  clean desk is a sign of a sick mind, is the same true for your Windows desktop?  


After 25 years in business, I've learned a few things about the way that I work, and I definitely work better when I can focus on the project at hand. In today's webinar on how I use Lotus Notes and MindManager as knowledge management tools, I shared a few productivity tips that I've collected and use; one of them was to clear your Windows desktop so that no icons would display. I mentioned that I considered this the most productive tip I found last year. As testimony to this fact, I'm still using it; I've found that most "productivity tips" aren't and seldom last more than a few days.  I received many questions about this simple tip and several callers asked me to share the tip on my blog, which I promised to do before the end of the day.

Continue Reading "Out of sight, out of mind. Out of mind, ready to focus" »
In case you are late to the game, Mindjet's asked me to share how I use MindManager and Lotus Notes to get things done.

I want to thank those who helped spread the word on their blogs. As of yesterday, Mindjet informed me that we had over 400 people signed up.

If you've not registered, there's still time to sign up for this free webinar.

I want to thank those of you who took the time to send in questions. I'll answer these during the presentation.

PS. A few folks have inquired about the new blog. A winter storm today and webinar prep has kept me busy, so I decided to postpone the launch until after next week.
MindJet just informed me that in the first week of sign-ups, over 250 people have signed up for the free webinar on how I use MindManager and Lotus Notes!

I'm still soliciting questions from people who are interested in using Notes and MindManager as a tool for getting things done and as a Personal Knowledge Management support system.

If you have any questions, please post them as comments to this post and I will do my best to address them in the webinar.


MindJet has asked me to present a webinar on how I use MindManager to get things done. I agreed, and on Wednesday, March 28, 2007 at 10:00 AM (PST) I will present a free webinar, entitled MindManager as a Knowledge Management Tool: How I use MindManager and Lotus Notes to get things done. That's the fancy title. My working title is "Mind Mapping in the Digital Sandbox." (See description below)  


I don't consider myself an expert in MindManager - to me that implies that I know all there is to know about Mind Mapping. (I don't.) Rather, I think of myself as a perpetual student of tools and methodologies for productivity and knowledge management. I'm always ready to learn and to share what I've learned.

I plan to share how I use MindManager in my daily work and how I've integrated it with other software tools that I use. No sales pitch, just show-and-tell about some of the geek tools I use daily.  I plan to cover a range of topics, including how I use MindManager and Lotus Notes and how I use MindManager teaching my children and coaching robotics teams. I plan to leave ample time for questions and answers.

This will be a fun opportunity, I look forward to it as much for the opportunity to share as to learn from your questions and comments. My goal is to make this presentation as informative as possible, so I invite you to submit the questions that you would like me to answer or things you would like to see. I look forward to hearing from you.

Please post your questions below. Also, if you blog, please help me get the word out about this webinar.

I've provided a link to sign up for the webinar at the end of this post.

Continue Reading "Sign up for my "How I use MindManager" webinar" »
If you're like me, you've probably paid the price, perhaps more than once, for a missed meeting, call, or appointment. If you've been into GTD for any length of time, you know how sacred the calendar is for mapping out the hard landscape. But what if that landscape suddenly shifts?

Are you aware that a new Daylight Savings Time (DST) law that went into effect on January 1, 2007 that will affect your personal or group calendar and any PDAs or smartphones that you use?

Beginning this year, the United States and parts of Canada will extend the period covered by Daylight Savings Time.  DST will begin the second Sunday of March (three weeks earlier than before) and continue until the first Sunday in November (one week later than before).  This document refers to the weeks that are affected by the change as “extended DST weeks”.

A very real possibility exists that some calendar entries, such as meetings and appointments that have been scheduled to occur during the extended DST weeks will appear one hour later and will need to be adjusted by one hour.

Continue Reading "How will the new DST laws affect your productivity?" »
Many of my eProductivity clients use the Treo 650 for phone and PIM applications. With the hype surrounding the new EVDO network devices I recently conducted several tests to help me determine if EVDO would indeed provide the performance benefits claimed by the respective networks. Note that I was not trying to determine the better network, simply whether the cost to upgrade to a Treo 700p could be justified on the basis of improved productivity.
Continue Reading "Treo w/EVDO - a worthwhile productivity upgrade" »
Following on from David Allen's Mind Mapping Webinar, where David discussed various ways he uses MindManager as a brainstorming tool, I 'd like to share how I use GyroQ and MindManager maps to support my GTD process.

I first learned about Gyronix GyroQ early last year when my friend, and mind mapping expert, Nick Duffill (of Beyond Mind Mapping) called me to tell me about his latest project. I was intrigued with the idea of a memory-resident capture tool that I could use to collect my thoughts to a map where I could see them organize them easily. I couldn't wait to start working with the product.


GyroQ captures ideas and actions quickly, without breaking your concentration - a kind of "interrupt management" solution. This supports how I use the GTD methodology helping me stay focused, and separating the capture of ideas and interruptions from their processing. A MindManager map can be a great place to process and review, and decide on whether something should become an action. But opening up MindManager or Lotus Notes just to add something to a list is a risky strategy, as there is every chance that I will become involved in the map again and start re-thinking, as my brain will have had time to incubate things since my last visit.
Continue Reading "GyroQ brings GTD and MindManager closer together" »

Journal: The undervalued notes program

Thursday, November 30th, 2006
Following up to my post on why business applications should be ink-enabled, I'd like to share this excellent post on why Microsoft Journal is the undervalued note-taking program.

Tracy Hooten, of the Student Tablet PC, recently wrote this detailed post about the power in the simplicity Journal as a tool for note-taking with digital ink.  (I had the privilege to work with Tracy last year during our 8-week paperless challenge. Details here.)

Tracy blogs about how she's returned to Microsoft Journal and she offers four reasons why:
1. Stability
2. Flexibility
3. Familiarity
4. Simplicity
Tracy's article describes both the beauty of the Tablet PC platform and the power we can find in simplifying our tool set.

Continue Reading "Journal: The undervalued notes program " »

My thoughts about an Ink-enabled Lotus Notes R8

Thursday, November 30th, 2006
Ed brill and I have exchanged a few e-mails about the idea of Ink Enabling Lotus Notes for the Tablet PC. I hope that Ed will post his thoughts on his blog, so I won't steal his thunder. Meanwhile, I will share one of my emails that summarizes my thoughts on Lotus Notes for the Tablet PC and whether it is critical for IBM to address digital ink in the next release of Lotus Notes (R8).
Ed, Aside from my personal desires, I do not see this as business critical for IBM/Lotus today, but I do see a shift in what users will come to expect in the future. I agree that, in the business, market Tablets are still niche oriented and vertical market. However, the once-large price difference between a laptop and a Tablet PC form factor has diminished rapidly. As it does, more tablets will be sold and more people will expect to use their  applications with a tablet.

Continue Reading "My thoughts about an Ink-enabled Lotus Notes R8" »
In response to my earlier post, about the lack of ink-enabled business applications, Ben Poole wrote:
Here's what I don't understand:
Why should ANY application be "ink-enabled"?

Seriously. Why?
The way Microsoft have approached the Tablet PC is all wrong in this regard: ink-enabling should be an OS-level abstraction. Applications should just take advantage of what the host operating system offers, using its input managers and what-have-you. It seems crazy to me that the OS vendor is relying on application developers to push *their* technology in this way.
I'm sure MS have their reasons for tackling the Table PC like this, but I must be missing something big time...

Yes, Ben, you've missed something.

So did IBM and the Lotus Notes team.

Continue Reading "Why should ANY app (e.g. Lotus Notes) be ink-enabled?" »

Tell me why I should open your email

Monday, November 20th, 2006
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.

GTD + Blackberry + Lotus Notes

Monday, October 16th, 2006
Here's a useful application for Blackberry users: S4BB recently released Next Action!, a replacement task application for the BlackBerry that claims to make it more GTD friendly.

The web site indicates that this new task application will maintain compatibility with existing desktop applications, such as Outlook and Lotus Notes. I've not had the opportunity to verify this yet, but this sounds like a promising solution for BlackBerry users that use Lotus Notes (with or without the eProductivity Template).

Presently, many of my clients use Lotus Notes and a Palm-based device (e.g. Treo 650/700p) for their task management due to its simple interface and categories that make it easy to implement GTD.

While I am not personally a BlackBerry user I understand that managing GTD-style categories with the BB can be a challenge. I'm curious to see if this product delivers on its promise.

If anyone has first hand experience with this product, please post a comment.

via: Michael Sampson

Taking Notes - Why don’t people get Notes?

Thursday, September 7th, 2006
Two weeks ago, I blogged about GeekTD and David Allen's opening question: "Why don't people get Lotus Notes?"

Ed Brill of IBM quickly picked up on the discussion and Julian Robichaux joined in with Lotus Notes - Yeah, It Can Do That Too . Over one hundred comments were posted and many email were exchanged behind the scenes.  This week, I shared a recent experience and Ed continued to the discussion by blogging that Eric Mack and Julian Robichaux get the power of word-of-mouth.

Yesterday, I received a call from Bruce Elgort, inviting me to join him, Julian Robichaux and Alan Lepofsky in a discussion about using Lotus Notes productively and why some folks don't get it.

The Taking Notes podcast #31 is 27.6mb and runs 48:08 at 64kps (variable bit rate) and you can download it here.

How to save a Lotus Notes customer

Wednesday, September 6th, 2006
This week, I met with a client that was considering scrapping Lotus Notes in favor of an alternative solution.

I told  them that I thought they should switch away from Notes. I offered to help them make a shopping list of what they would need to purchase to match their current capabilities.

Half way through helping them with the shopping list, someone said, "But our [Lotus Notes system] already does all of that."


Continue Reading "How to save a Lotus Notes customer" »

GeekTD: Why don’t people get Notes?

Thursday, August 24th, 2006
Last week, I got to enjoy a fun afternoon in the studio with David Allen, Robert Peake, and Merlin Mann (43 Folders). David invited us to Ojai to record an upcoming GeekTD podcast. David though it would be interesting to bring together a few geeks with varying approaches to productivity. Merlin talked about how he uses his Mac, Robert talked about the power of Mac and Open Source solutions, and I talked about Lotus Notes as a productivity tool for Getting Things Done. The discussion went all over the place and I have no idea what will end up in the finished version. David asked great questions and tried to keep order, which must have felt like herding cats.

20060818 - DAC GeekTD Recording Adventure with David in Ojai.jpg

David opened the session by stating how cool he thinks Lotus Notes is; he asked why, after 20 years, it seems that  many people who use Notes still don't get the power of Lotus Notes. David shared that he frequently goes into organizations that use Notes only to find that people (and their managers) have no idea what their system can do for them (e.g. that they can create their own databases, participate in discussions, use newsletter summary, agents, collaborate, etc.)

Continue Reading "GeekTD: Why don't people get Notes?" »
This week, my pastor shared a funny story about the danger of sending email to the wrong person and the potential consequences of reading email not intended for you.

Continue Reading "The danger of reading email not intended for you" »

Last week, I posted a quick preview of a powerful capture tool for MindManager, however, I did not reveal the tool at the time. Well, the tool is GyroQ, it's from the team at Gyronix, and I've been working with this product for the past 6 weeks.


In this post, I'll share my thoughts on GyroQ and a simple screen movie to show how I use GyroQ and why I consider it a valuable addition to my productivity toolbox.

What GyroQ Does

First, GyroQ allows me to quickly capture ideas and actions via a small pop-up window, regardless of the program I'm currently using.
Second, GyroQ automatically populates a MindManager Map with all of the the thoughts and actions I've captured.

Continue Reading "GyroQ - a powerful MindManager capture tool" »

Mind Mapping for Results, Part One

Friday, June 23rd, 2006
Today, we begin the first in a series of podcasts in which Nick Duffill and I will discuss mapping for results. Today's discussion focuses on an overview of MindManager/ResultsManager, introduces my own personal mapping challenge for the summer, and describes the steps we will use to get there. (If you're using IE, you can view the embedded map, above; for non-IE users, I've provided a link to the map, below.)
Continue Reading "Mind Mapping for Results, Part One" »

Foldera Lives!

Wednesday, June 21st, 2006
My buddy, Michael Sampson, the new World-Wide Director of something or other, blogs that Foldera has starting the public beta of their web-based organizer and messaging/collaboration service.
... [Foldera's] web-based solution can save time and boost productivity for a range of businesses and enterprises. Foldera's user-friendly solution uses proprietary intelligent "Activity Folders" to automatically and instantly sort and file emails, instant messages, tasks, documents and calendar events.
Seriously, I know it's become the mantra of the decade, but who wouldn't want to save some time and boost productivity? I've not worked with the product yet so I cannot make an specific comments, yet.
Continue Reading "Foldera Lives!" »
I'm often asked how I work on the road and what tools I use to stay in sync, both for myself and for my clients. Here's a very brief summary of a recent project; I've made sure to provide links to previous blog posts and to manufacturer's sites so that you can explore these on your own. I hope you find this information helpful. (You may want to follow each link)

Two weeks ago, I helped move David Allen from his old Palm to a Treo 700p. I used mNotes, by Commontime to keep David's 700p in sync with the Lotus Notes applications we use at The David Allen Company. mNotes is a tool that allows for bidirectional synchronization of PIM apps (e-Mail, Calendar, Tasks, Address book and Memos) between Lotus Notes and mobile devices, like the Treo 700p. Over the years, I've worked with and deployed many wireless sync applications, including mNotes and Pylon Pro/iAnywhere. I like both products, and I've blogged favorably about both. Personally, I use mNotes for PIM apps, due to their rich feature set, and I will use the Pylon Application server to extend non-PIM Notes applications (e.g. custom Notes databases) to my Treo.

Continue Reading "Increased mobility with a Treo and mNotes" »

Mind Mapping A Whole New Mind

Friday, April 28th, 2006
I've just finished watching Dan Pink present "A Whole New Mind," using MindManager and WebEx. For just over an hour, Dan presented concepts from his best-selling book.

20060428 - Mapping A Whole New Mind.jpg

I enjoyed Dan's presentation for two reasons. first, the topics presented in Dan's book are eye opening.
The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind. The era of "left brain" dominance, and the Information Age that it engendered, are giving way to a new world in which right brain qualities - inventiveness, empathy, meaning-predominate. Value shifts from Information to Conceptualization, and the way in which people work shifts with it.

Continue Reading "Mind Mapping A Whole New Mind" »
Ivan Berger, of the New York Times, writes that you can increase your productivity by 20% to 30%, simply by adding an additional monitor. I've been using multiple monitors at my think space for the past 8 years and this has certainly been my experience. Steve Richards recently blogged about how he and Bill Gates work in a similar way. While Steve and Bill are dissimilar in compensation, they, like the New York Times, get the value of multiple displays as an extreme productivity tool. (See photos below)

This topic has come up a lot lately in various forums, including the Getting Things Done forum, the MindManager forum, [Both on Yahoo] and several blog sites. [Update: James Kendrick has just blogged on this topic, too.] For some time, I've blogged about the best external monitor for Tablet PC mind mapping. Microsoft has done extensive research on this topic and concluded that two screens are better than one. In 2005, Pfeiffer Consulting published their research report: Apple Cinema HD Display Productivity Benchmark. Bottom line: a bigger display area can help you get more done.

I don't have the time to write a lengthy narrative, however, I thought I would share a few photos of various incarnations of my think space.

Here's my current desktop:

20060320 - Think Station w Tablet and Dell Wide Screen.jpg
Tecra M4 Tablet PC, Dell 24" Wide Screen Display, IBM TrackPoint Keyboard

Continue Reading "Multiple displays boost productivity 20% to 30%" »

Mindjet listens. I get my wish

Thursday, April 20th, 2006
Mindjet is a company that does more than innovate; it listens.

Do you think MindManager is an excellent tool for visual mapping of ideas? I do.

Do you think Lotus Notes is a powerful tool for collaboration and document management? I do.

In the next few days, I'll share some exciting news about the Eric Mack feature set, coming soon, from MindJet.

Stay tuned!

Productivity Juice for Getting Things Done

Wednesday, March 29th, 2006
One of the challenges of using digital productivity tools for extended periods of time is endurance. Last week, I found a solution to this challenge.

Many new increases in portable computing power require equally significant increases in battery power. I'm not complaining. My Tecra M4 is not nearly as heavy as my first computer. Still, it's hard to boast about the utility of Tablet PCs and mind mapping software when I can barely get more than 2 hours of use out of my system. Again, I'm not complaining [much] but I want a solution I can use for 8-10 hours at a stretch, even when I don't have access to AC power. I considered travelling with a small super-quiet Honda generator, however, I decided against this approach in pursuit of a better solution.

James Kendrick once mentioned that he uses an extended-run-time battery pack, from BatteryGeek. I had resolved to buy a BatteryGeek power pack to use at the GTD RoadMap seminar in Santa Monica. Unfortunately, I did not receive a response to my email inquiry in time to place my order.
Time was running out; I had to get creative ...

Continue Reading "Productivity Juice for Getting Things Done" »

Flight status on your Treo, in real-time

Wednesday, March 8th, 2006
Several months ago, I wrote about real-time flight tracking from your PC. The next logical step, of course, is to track your flight from your web-enabled PDA. Here's a useful real-time flight-tracking application that I found for the Treo 650.

Flight Status 1.05 for Treo 650.gif
Continue Reading "Flight status on your Treo, in real-time" »

Consensus: bigger display, get more done

Thursday, February 16th, 2006
Well, my posts on the merits of high resolution desktop displays as a productivity tool (See here and here.) have generated quite a bit of discussion. The bottom line, if you work on a computer at a desk, get the largest high resolution display that a) your video card will support, b) your desk will hold, and c) your wallet can withstand.

Continue Reading "Consensus: bigger display, get more done" »

Total Workday Control, a new book to read

Wednesday, February 15th, 2006
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege to speak with Michael Linenberger using Skype. We talked about Tablet PCs as a productivity tool. It was a great discussion. Today, I opened my mail and found that Michael had just sent me his latest book, Total Workday Control, to review.

Last year I purchased Michael's previous book, Seize the workday -- all about the using the Tablet PC to increase productivity. It was worth every dollar I paid for it. I use many of the tips I learned from Michael each day. (In fact, Tracy Hooten and I talk about some of them in our podcasts on the paperless challenge.)

In Total Workday Control, Michael focuses on using Microsoft Outlook as a tool. Although I'm not a heavy Outlook user, I enjoy seeing what others are doing with various tools. I see that my buddy, Marc Orchant has written the forward. I know this book's going to be good.

Paperless Challenge Podcast, Part Four

Tuesday, February 14th, 2006
This week, we conclude the paperless challenge discussion by answering your questions. In case you missed the previous segments, here are links to part one, two, and three.  [Update: 2/15/2006 9:30 AM:  I've fixed the link to point to part four.]

Listen in as I discuss my 8-week paperless challenge with my guest, Tablet PC MVP, Tracy Hooten, of The Student Tablet PC blog. This podcast covers the various aspects of the paperless challenge, its inspiration, how we prepared for it, the tools and methodologies used and the lessons we learned. Most important, we answer the many paperless challenge questions posted to our blogs or sent to us by email over the last several months.

Continue Reading "Paperless Challenge Podcast, Part Four" »

Paperless Challenge Podcast, Part Three

Wednesday, February 8th, 2006
This week, we continue the paperless challenge discussion by answering your questions. In case you missed the previous segments, here are links to part one and two.

Listen in as I discuss my 8-week paperless challenge with my guest, Tablet PC MVP, Tracy Hooten, of The Student Tablet PC blog. This podcast covers the various aspects of the paperless challenge, its inspiration, how we prepared for it, the tools and methodologies used and the lessons we learned. Most important, we answer the many paperless challenge questions posted to our blogs or sent to us by email over the last several months.

Continue Reading "Paperless Challenge Podcast, Part Three" »

Paperless Challenge Podcast, Part Two

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006
This is segment two of the paperless challenge podcast. You can find segment one here.

Listen in as I discuss my 8-week paperless challenge with my guest, Tablet PC MVP, Tracy Hooten, of The Student Tablet PC blog. This podcast covers the various aspects of the paperless challenge, its inspiration, how we prepared for it, the tools and methodologies used and the lessons we learned. Most important, we answer the many paperless challenge questions posted to our blogs or sent to us by email over the last several months.

Continue Reading "Paperless Challenge Podcast, Part Two" »

eBooks: Have Your Cake And Eat It Too

Monday, January 30th, 2006
I've blogged quite a bit about my paperless challenge and my desire for innovation on the part of publishers - specifically, providing customers with books in formats that they want, will use, and are willing to pay for. At the same time, Michael Hyatt, President and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers has made several thought-provoking posts on the death of traditional book publishing and how publishers must adapt to the digital age.

Thanks to Calrion, a reader of my blog, I've just learned about an unconventional publisher that offers its books in print, PDF, and print+PDF.
But wait, there's more!

Continue Reading "eBooks: Have Your Cake And Eat It Too" »

Tracy decides to give OneNote another try

Friday, January 27th, 2006
In our paperless challenge podcast, Tracy Hooten, of the Student Tablet PC blog, told me that she wanted to to reevaluate OneNote.

I shared my experiences and I told her that although I had worked with OneNote at 30'000 feet, I'd not really put OneNote a thorough evaluation in a production environment.  It told her it was something I was planning to do.  I'll probably draft up a new challenge soon, using OneNote. I'm particularly interested to evaluate the pros and cons of using OneNote and GTD.

In any case, you can read about Tracy's OneNote adventures here.  If you'd like to learn about OneNote for collaboration, be sure to listen to Amy & Wendy's podcast on OneNote and Shared Sessions.

I'll edit and post the next segment of the paperless challenge podcast as soon as I free up some more disk space.  If you've subscribed to this site's RSS feed then you'll be among the first to know about it.

Paperless Challenge Podcast, Part One

Thursday, January 26th, 2006
Listen in as I discuss my 8-week paperless challenge with my guest, Tablet PC MVP, Tracy Hooten, of The Student Tablet PC blog. This podcast covers the various aspects of the paperless challenge, its inspiration, how we prepared for it, the tools and methodologies used and the lessons we learned. Most important, we answer the many paperless challenge questions posted to our blogs or sent to us by email over the last several months.

Continue Reading "Paperless Challenge Podcast, Part One" »

Wallpaper, Toilet Paper or ePaper?

Friday, January 13th, 2006
After nearly two weeks off the blog, I finished writing a paper that addresses this question and this week, I presented my research to my cohort in a fast-paced 50-slide, 12 minute, Dick Hardt-style presentation. I'd like to publicly thank my friend, Bruce Elgort for the inspiration and the excellent example at the LVNUG.  I think my presentation went very well, though I would have liked to have rehearsed it a bit more. I recorded the presentation, however, I've not listened to it yet. Perhaps when I have some free time, I'll put it on-line, though by now, you're probably tired of my blogging on this subject. I should probably find something else to write about for a while.

I really enjoyed my business law course, even though it was only a "survey" of the topic. I have a renewed admiration for the legal profession. I think one of my most useful takeaways from this course, in addition to what I learned about business law, was learning how to use the IRAC format to analyze cases. This is a great critical thinking tool that can be applied to almost any situation.


With respect to the photo above, the doctrine of First Sale permits me to do whatever I want with the physical book that I purchased - except for copying it. The Fair Use Exemption of the Copyright Law, however, provides guidelines for whether (or not) a copyrighted work may be copied without the permission of the copyright holder. Basically, there are four elements to the fair use consideration. These are: Purpose, Nature, Amount, and Effect. I believe that I made a compelling case that scanning my legally acquired (that is, paid for) textbook for my own personal noncommercial use, sufficiently meets the criteria to fall within the fair use exemption. *

So what?

Continue Reading "Wallpaper, Toilet Paper or ePaper?" »

Using MindManager as a Dashboard for Lotus Notes

Thursday, December 15th, 2005
The power of mind maps as a visual planning tool is undisputed. MindManager brings that power to the personal computer. Lotus Notes is a tool long-used by highly productive organizations for managing their communication, collaboration, and coordination of information-related activities. Hmmm. Can you tell where I'm going with this post?

Here's a screenmovie of my test mind map with embedded Notes

Notes Doclinks in MindMaps bring together two powerful tools for information management:

One of the Lotus Notes productivity features that I use regularly is doclinks. In Lotus Notes, a doclink can be created to jump to a Notes document,  database,or view. The ability to embed these doclinks in my project and action lists gives me a quick and easy way to link to all of my support material regardless of where they are located. The beauty of Notes Doclinks is that the Notes client will locate the target regardless of whether it is located on the local machine or a remote server.

Continue Reading "Using MindManager as a Dashboard for Lotus Notes" »

Stepping back to jump forward

Monday, December 12th, 2005
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.

Continue Reading "Stepping back to jump forward" »

How hard is it to digitalize a book?

Monday, November 14th, 2005
Many people have written to ask me how long it takes to create a searchable PDF (PDF+Text) document from a book. This weekend, I decided to time the process outlined here.

Book scanning is the most time-consuming method of digitizing paper. Unlike loose pages, which can be scanned using a sheet-fed scanner, book pages must be manually turned for each scan. A specialize book scanner can help to greatly reduce time it takes to make a quality scan. A traditional scanner is impractical for scanning more than a few pages.

I scanned a nine chapters, totalling 154 pages of text, including illustrations, and diagrams, for an average of 4.7 minutes of total time (manual scanning + conversion to PDF + OCR) per chapter. The average per-page processing time is approximately seventeen seconds (rounded up).

Here's the breakdown:

Continue Reading "How hard is it to digitalize a book?" »

Groove, MindManger & OneNote Tips

Wednesday, November 9th, 2005
MindManager and OneNote offer a compelling solution for brainstorming, visual mapping and digital note-taking. Unfortunately, they are not [yet] well suited for distributed group contributions.

I've come across a few posts about how people have creatively used Groove to handle file-sharing of MindMaps and OneNote Notebooks at the file-level.  I read that MindJet and Groove once had a formal relationship to develop tighter integration between their product. Unfortunately, information that I could find reference old versions of both products.

I'm curious to know if any of you are using Groove in conjunction with OneNote or MindManager. If so, perhaps you would like to share some of your best practices.

PS. Lots if interesting news on the home front. Busy with development at eProductivity.NET. My Paperless Tablet project is progressing very well ( I'm actually closer to YABHTU than I expected); and I've captured notes about my document scanning experiences. I hope to share these soon.

Before I recommend a new technology to a client, I like to try it in-house. My goal is to learn the ins and outs of new technology and software so that I can recommend the best configuration to a client. This means a lot of learning and experimentation. Often, everything comes together, just as I planned. Sometimes, the pieces just don't quite work well together. This weekend was one of those times.

20051107 - Software loading in the digital sandbox.jpg
The digital sandbox, this weekend.

I spent much of the weekend with a long-time colleague, Russ Chung, configuring a high-performance server for a productivity development project I'm working on.
Continue Reading "Sometimes, I get burned so my clients won't have to" »

How to convert a book to PDF+Text

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2005
One step on my paperless challenge mind map is to convert my 1096 page "Law for Business" text book into a searchable PDF file. Why PDF+TEXT? Beyond the obvious ability to search for text, Adobe Acrobat allows me to highlight text and then review only the highlights as a summary. (See yesterday's entry on highlighting Acrobat documents on the Tablet PC).

My book scanning station

Continue Reading "How to convert a book to PDF+Text" »

Acrobat comment markup using the Tablet PC

Tuesday, November 1st, 2005
Special thanks to fellow paperless challenge partner, Tracy Hooten, of The Student Tablet PC, for her detailed post showing me how to collect highlights made in Acrobat on to one page for quick and easy review. (See my previous post: "The Perfect Tablet PC Highlighting Application")

I was speaking with Eric Mack and he mentioned his search for a program which kept track of what you highlighted. It didn't dawn on me until then that Acrobat may be an answer (though not ideal). If you've used Adobe Acrobat 7.0 before, you likely know that you can mark-up your PDF files by highlighting text, underlining text, and adding comments. By selecting a commenting option and using the comment list/summary, you can give yourself a list of every word you mark up.

20051101 - Acrobat Comment markup Screen Shot.jpg

Continue Reading "Acrobat comment markup using the Tablet PC" »
I've received many requests for my paperless challenge brainstorm map. I've updated my original post with links to my source file, created in MindManager, and a PDF file of the map.

       For non-IE users, click here to download the MindManager map
       For a PDF version, click here
I use SyncToy to synchronize my files with a USB stick for safe-keeping. SyncToy is a free utility from Microsoft that helps you copy, move, rename, and delete files between folders and computers quickly and easily.  Now that I'm working paperless, I've become more paranoid about backing up my work. SyncToy is a big help.

Not long ago, I tried to post a thank-you and feedback to the developers of SyncToy, but the Microsoft web site crashed in my IE 6.x browser. After 3 attempts I gave up.  I kept the list and I've decided to post it here in case it might inspire other developers, too.

Continue Reading "Feedback I tried to leave on the SyncToy web site" »

Paperless challenge: here’s the map

Saturday, October 29th, 2005
Several readers have asked me to share my planning map for my Paperless Challenge. This afternoon, I created a MindManager map and dumped all of my current thoughts and ideas into it.

Here's the map.

Note, you will have to allow the Active-X control to see the MindManager viewer. You can move around, resize, print, or even download the map to your own PC. I recommend that you click on the menu button and open the map in a new window.

I can already tell you that the first challenge I faced today was my habit of printing my completed mind map out on a large 11x17 piece of paper. I like paper. I'm curious to see what my thoughts are in a few weeks. I can take comfort in thinking about all the InkJet cartridges I'll save. :-)

If you want to follow along and have not already subscribed to this blog, here's a link to the blog and comment feed.

For those of you who are interested in how I embedded the map viewer into my blog, it was really quite easy. Embedding the map amounted to pasting in a few lines of code. (See here for details)

UPDATE 11/1/2005

For non-IE users, click here to download the MindManager map
For a PDF version, click here

More on my 8-week paperless challenge

Friday, October 28th, 2005
I've always held that there's no such thing as the paperless office, but that there is the promise of a less-paper office. Well, I hope to prove one of these statements true.

Clients are watching and smiling

A client smiled yesterday, when I described this challenge. As a productivity coach, she's seen too many people get caught up in the tools only to reduce their productivity. I've had the same observation and experience. This challenge maybe no different. I explained that my objective was not necessarily to prove that it could be done, but to learn what was practical. I fully expect that there are areas in which I will become less productive by eliminating paper; at the same time I expect to discover areas where I can honestly say that the Tablet PC has made a significant improvement in my work.

When I advise clients who inquire about the productive benefits of using a Tablet PC along with applications such as OneNote or perhaps MindManager or some other tablet app, I want to be able to tell them (and show them) from experience what I've concluded. So for me, whatever the outcome, this will be a success in that I will know first hand, what works.

Continue Reading "More on my 8-week paperless challenge" »

I’m ready for my next Tablet PC Challenge

Thursday, October 27th, 2005
Inspired by this post, I've decided to challenge myself to see if I can effectively use my Tablet PC as a total replacement for pen, paper, and books. Next week, I start an intense 8-week business law course and I've decided to use this course as the subject of my next Tablet PC challenge. My objective is to determine what the benefits/drawbacks of using a TabletPC as my sole tool (to replace pen, paper, and yes, even Post-Its) for the next 10 weeks.  I've previously blogged about scanning and annotation tools. Now, I'm going to see if I can live with all of these tools in an intense way for the next two months. I figure this will be the tipping point for my use of a Tablet PC. Through this experiment, I'm certain to find things that I like, things that I dislike, and hopefully, a suitable collection of tools and best practices to help me use the Tablet in the most efficient way possible.

Why am I doing this? Well, for the past few months, I've used my Tecra M4 more as a laptop than a tablet. Some of this is due to the software issues I've previously reported. Some of this is because I got out of the habit of using the tablet after the various systems problems.

I still believe in the Tablet PC as a computing platform for the future. The question, for me, is whether or not it's truly a viable and productive tool for the present - at least my present.

Continue Reading "I'm ready for my next Tablet PC Challenge" »

New mNotes version 4.x looks good

Saturday, October 15th, 2005
I decided to re-evaluate the latest release of mNotes; I wanted to compare it to Pylon iAnywhere. I'm not ready to post a review, but I can say that the folks at Commontime have been busy. One thing I like about the mNotes product is that a license is per-user, regardless of the type of PDA, how many simultaneous PDAs are synched and regardless of whether you sync by USB, Bluetooth, or wireless. In fact, the server's the same for all three. The program is tightly integrated with Notes, too. The e-mail support Notes rich, including full bidirectional support for folders, which means that you can process your mail on your PDA. Handle it once; sweet. If you're looking for a sync solution between Notes and your PDA, mNotes is certainly an option to consider. Link: Commontime.

Maximum Personal Productivity

Tuesday, October 11th, 2005
What's your definition of Maximum Personal Productivity? My colleague, Jason Womack, just posted his:

I am most productive when I do what I said I would do in the time that I promised.

Simple and to the point. Not a lot of room to improve on that definition. Sounds like a great affirmation for a screen saver.

Jason goes on to share some of his tools of choice for managing commitments.

Thanks, Jason!

PowerBook to Tablet PC convert. Surprised?

Wednesday, September 28th, 2005
My friend, Michael Sampson's just packed his bag for a business trip. Normally he packs a PowerBook and his Tecra M4 Tablet PC.

Click here to see what Michael packed for today's business trip.

Continue Reading "PowerBook to Tablet PC convert. Surprised?" »

A compelling reason to use a Tablet PC

Wednesday, September 21st, 2005
Tonight I heard a very compelling reason for using a Tablet PC and I heard it on the Tablet PC Show #23. Twenty minutes into the show, Tracy Hoooten, of the Student Tablet PC Blog explained to James Kendrick why she preferred the Tablet PC over a traditional laptop:

Continue Reading "A compelling reason to use a Tablet PC" »

What would you reach for?

Monday, September 19th, 2005
This weekend, a friend asked me the acid test question for any PDA or Tablet PC user:
Eric, if right now, during this phone call, you wanted to quickly make some notes or map out an idea, what would you reach for?

Continue Reading "What would you reach for?" »

E-Mail: A help or hindrance?

Saturday, September 17th, 2005
Kelly Forrister, of The David Allen Company, asks the question:
"What would your job be like without email? Would you get more done or less done?"
Without email, it would be very difficult for me to do the things I do. Thanks to email (and I'm lumping IM in here, too), I'm able to serve a global client base from anywhere. While I would certainly be more focused without the disruption of email and other electronic messaging tools the nature of my work would be changed; I would be limited to serving only those people I could meet with, and the time it would take to get things done would increase significantly if I had to work without email.

Continue Reading "E-Mail: A help or hindrance?" »

Computing in the ICU

Friday, August 19th, 2005
My Domino server at the office collects my inbound faxes, email, and voicemail, identifies them, and routes them to my database to be picked up at the next replication. So, whether I work on-line or off-line, I have everything I need with me at all times.

There's no wireless internet at the ICU, in fact, no wireless devices are allowed in the unit. When I'm in the waiting room, however, I'm able to use my Sprint Treo 650 and PDANet to replicate Lotus Notes to my M4 Tablet PC.


Once I'm done replicating, I can walk back into the ICU with my tablet and process off-line. I'm actually not doing much in the way of processing anything lately, but at least I have the systems in place to do it if I wanted.

SprintPCS has a $15/month all-you-can-eat data plan and the PDANet software is $35. That's all you need. It's not as fast as an EVDO connection, but it allows me to surf the web, access my servers with PC Anywhere, and replicate my notes databases to pick up my email, faxes, and voicemail. I don't use it often, but when needed, it's been a valuable tool.

On the subject of cool tech in the ICU, lots of cool gear here. As long as I'm here, I'm going to explore and learn. If there's interest, I'll even come back and take some pictures of what I think is the ultimate Tablet PC (or book) accessory to show you....

Tablet PC - Productivity tool for business

Wednesday, July 27th, 2005
While I relaxed yesterday, Michael got the jump on me by writing an excellent post with suggestions about the type of people the he thinks will benefit the most from a Tablet PC.

Michael suggests that the business people who will benefit the most from a Tablet PC are those who:
  • Spend Lots of Time in Meetings
  • Use Sketches and Drawings to Communicate
  • Lead Seminars, Courses and Workshops
  • Review and Edit Letters, Documents and Other Papers.
  • Like to Use a Whiteboard for Communicating and Sharing Information.
What do you think? You can read his post here.

Michael and I agree that it is likely that the Tablet PC, as a mobile computing platform, will eventually replace laptops as the device of choice. I'm still looking for a brilliant Tablet PC developer to step forward with a solution to last week's challenge. Meanwhile, I'll work on the software side of the YABHTU equation. Michael's got a good list, and we're on the same page/screen.

7 Pillars and OneNote Shared Sessions

Wednesday, July 13th, 2005
One of the highlights of the Collaborative Technologies Conference was the opportunity for me to attend and participate with my colleague, Michael Sampson in his 7 Pillars of IT Enabled Team Productivity workshop. Over the course of a the day, Michael walked us through each of the 7 Pillars. Throughout Michael's workshop, we split up into smaller groups to work on exercises designed to focus on specific areas of team productivity. It was great to hear what organizations, large and small, are doing to IT enable their team productivity. (There were many Notes/Domino organizations present, although IBM was notably absent).

During the section on shared spaces, Michael and I gave a live demonstration of OneNote shared sessions, using our new Tecra M4 Tablet PCs.

Michael used OneNote to mindmap the session objectives

Prior to the conference, Michael and I spent a lot of time working with OneNote shared sessions - the ability for multiple people to take notes simultaneously. Before our trip, Amy and Wendy met us in the Digital Sandbox and treated us to a live 4-way demonstration of OneNote and Michael and I followed up with several 2-way sessions. We even set up a network on the airplane just for OneNote. Our goal was to learn about and demonstrate what users can do today - using off the shelf solutions. We wanted to be able to discuss key issues that should be considered when selecting a tool for collaborating in shared spaces. Overall the shared session capability of OneNote worked well, however, there are still many opportunities for improvement in the area of joint editing and review. We've been in touch with the OneNote team, and we look forward to evaluating the next release. (Note: Michael's currently working on a paper that will summarize some of our experiences and his conclusions about OneNote as a collaborative tool. Keep an eye on his Shared Spaces blog.)

The folks at the CTC conference were kind enough to provide not one, but two 12' projection screens for this workshop, which made the demonstrations all the more impressive.

Michael and Eric in front of our giant OneNote displays

I think the only thing that would have been more impressive would be for Michael to have invited Amy and Wendy do the live demonstration of OneNote shared sessions.

Perhaps next year.

OneNote Shared Sessions at 30,000’

Tuesday, July 12th, 2005
Want to collaborate on a document with your seatmate at 30,000 feet? It's easy; all you need are the right tools.

Last month, on our way to the recent Collaborative Technologies Conference in New York, Michael Sampson and I put to use everything Amy and Wendy showed us about OneNote Shared Sessions. (Missed it? See here and here.)


Using our new Tecra M4 Tablet PCs, we were able to successfully conduct a OneNote shared session at 30,000' using our in-flight gigabit network. (Notice the red crossover cable between our seats.) Even more amazing to me, was that the guy across the isle from us overheard our evaluations and comments about OneNote and he jumped into the conversation. It turns out that he had recently joined Microsoft Research. (We promised him that we would not to post his name.) He was extremely interested in what we were doing with our Tablet PCs. and we spent much of the remainder of the flight discussing Tablet PCs, OneNote, and collaboration tools. If that's not interesting enough, he had - you guessed it - his own new Tecra M4, still in the box, in the overhead bin.

Michael and I offered to help him set up his new M4; I was even willing to extend our network across the isle so that he could help us test and evaluate OneNote Shared Session capability. (When I realized that the stewardess was becoming suspicious of our efforts to rewire the plane, I backed off from that plan.)

I'm still intrigued by the thought of three shiny new Tecra M4's all in the same row, at 30,000'. Now, what are the odds of that?

Note: I've made many posts about OneNote Shared Sessions. I've actually had these in my drafts folder for some time. Michael gently reminded me that if I did not blog about our trip, he would. Two more to go. Stay tuned!

OneNote Usability, Part II

Monday, July 11th, 2005
What about OneNote usability? Join Amy and Wendy in their second presentation/podcast on this topic.


This is actually an earlier podcast from Amy and Wendy's PowerPoint presentation on OneNote shared spaces; I did not plan to share it. However, when I listened for the second time, I realized that there's some good information that is not in the first public podcast.

So, while this podcast overlaps somewhat with our earlier podcast I think you will find it equally informative and entertaining.


OneNote and ActiveWords
OneNote at School
OneNote Templates
Action management
OneNote and the Tablet PC
Amy and Wendy (with Michael's help) again hint for a Tablet PC
Amy and Wendy share their reactions
What's your next action? Amy & Wendy's closing comments" title="Click to play, or right-click to download file.">Amy & Wendy on OneNote Usability
Eric Mack On-line - June 16, (30 min 43 sec) MP3 14.1 MB

Note: Amy and Wendy's entire PowerPoint presentation, this podcast, and their comments and observations are entirely their own. Other than supervising the loading of OneNote on their ThinkPads, I was not involved in their preparations. I'm very proud of their work.

Shared sessions allow two (or more) people to share a screen and collaborate on a document in real time. The latest version of Microsoft OneNote provides this capability from a simple menu option.

I recently asked my two resident junior technologists - Amy and Wendy Mack- to explore the shared session capability of Microsoft OneNote so that they might show their robotics team how to use OneNote to work together, apart. Amy and Wendy did this - they used OneNote and Skype to collaborate on a document from different rooms of the house,


I have invited Michael Sampson, of Shared Spaces Research and Consulting, to join me as Amy and Wendy teach us about how they use OneNoteShared Sessions. During this unedited podcast, Amy and Wendy even walk us through a live 4-way shared session. (It works!)


Brief overview of OneNote features
How to launch a shared session (A live 4-way session)
OneNote in School
Audio recording and playback (You can record video, too)
Amy's tour of OneNote as a clipboard for research
Wendy describes OneNote templates and planners
OneNote in School as a tool for note taking (Amy)
Note Flags in OneNote (Wendy)
Wendy hints that she really needs a Tablet PC
OneNote for Mind Mapping - Wendy says MindManager is better suited
Amy & Wendy share about their experience the FIRST Robotics Competition
Using OneNote and MindManager as collaborative tools for a robotics team


In this, their first podcast, Amy and Wendy, eProductivity specialists in their own right, teach us about their experience using OneNote Shared Sessions.

Amy & Wendy on OneNote Shared Sessions

Eric Mack On-line - June 16, (20 min 30 sec) MP3 9.3 MB

Amy & Wendy asked me to clarify that they did not actually get in trouble for using OneNote shared sessions during school. I promised them I would.

What’s your Knowledge DNA?

Monday, July 11th, 2005
Want to reduce information overload? Then you need an activity management system- at least that's the pitch by the folks at KnowledgeDNA. I recently met with Steve Strickholm, KnowledgeDNA's CEO, to discuss how his product can reduce information overload and provide group project and action management across organizational boundaries.

I'm particularly impressed by the project dashboards and the way that KDNA tracks completion of an item. Actions can be configured to require dual sign-off so that multiple parties must acknowledge completion, While it sounds like a lot of extra work, I can see how this might be used to reduce cycle time and improve accuracy in reporting.

Steve's got a clear grasp of a pain point in organizations: cross organizational collaboration. For my needs, he's going to have to address distributed workers in a disconnected world, or at least a world that works across a variety of devices and networks. Despite it's inherent inefficiencies, there's a reason folks continue to go back to email: it's ubiquitous, it works across devices, systems, and networks, and everyone uses it. I believe that KDNA must address this vital component or it may find that users vote with their keystrokes.

From my pre-meeting research, I was led to believe that KnowledgeDNA would install, perhaps as a gateway, at the perimeter of an organization;s email system and from there it would populate the tracking system with knowledge gleaned through passive observation. (At least, that's what I was hoping for.) The product does not do this - at least at this time. What it does do is take the conversation about projects and actions to a shared-space via a centralized web-based action management system. This is a connected model - no internet = no action management. E-mail is used primarily as the information update and invitation tool.

On the upside, by forcing everyone to login into the system via the web, all information is contained in one place, there's almost no overhead requirements, and the central nature of the system will allow project managers and users to access digital dashboards with real-time summaries of all aspects of project management

If you're looking for a web-based project and action management system and you are willing to switch your primary communications from e-mail to a shared-space, then I believe KDNA is a tool worth looking at.

Eric Mack: aProductivity Specialist

Thursday, July 7th, 2005
Michael Sampson's at it again. This time, he's picking on me for using, of all things, an analog tablet!
You can imagine my surprise, therefore, when during the next week Eric spent a great deal of time using paper and a pen! And in the past week, he's started to post about "analog productivity" (see Print a Next Action Form on the Back of Your Business Card and No Digital Tool Beats My Paper Scheduling Tool). What's going on? Is Eric changing from being an "eProductivity Specialist" to an "aProductivity" one? Look at the evidence and decide for yourself... link
Indeed, our trip was a great deal of fun; I did use paper and pen more than I planned to and internet and tablet challenges did provide ample opportunities for laughter. In fact, I can't remember when I laughed so much for so long. We talked about technology and productivity, solved the world's problems - or at least those at the Westin Times Square (like poor internet access, no WiFi) and enjoyed fellowship together.
Seriously though, I had a neat week hanging out with Eric. We had numerous discussions about technology and productivity, although not as many as I would have liked. Regardless of what happens next for Eric, here's my final word: There are many people who become so enamoured with electronic tools that they fail to see the pure simplicity of paper, pens and pencils. Eric defly demonstrates a clear understanding of the pros and cons of each, which is why I have no reservation in recommending his thinking and approach to eProductivity. Keep up the good work Eric (once, of course, you get back from a supplies trip to Staples).
Everything Michael wrote is true, and I did write those words on the display tablet at the Levenger store. (My M4 was...unavailable at the time.)
There are, however, many more pieces (and pictures) to the story than Michael shares in this post.

I'm saving those for a future blog entry ... perhaps when Mr. Shared Spaces least expects it...

Analog Scheduling Tools

Thursday, July 7th, 2005
Why, when the planning gets tough, do we often go back to pencil and paper?  Is it because our minds work better that way - with tactile tools, or, is it because some digital tools have not matured to the point where they present a significant gain over their analog counterparts?  I used to feel this way about mind mapping.  (For more than a decade, I created my mind maps the old fashioned way -  then, I found MindManager.)

Today's post is actually not about mind mapping; however, it's about personal and group scheduling.  I'm OK with digital tools for short-range planning - say a day or a week. When it comes to visualizing complex events over a month or more, I like the ability to see the landscape and move around the elements. There's something special about drag-and-drop - literally.

For more than 20 years, beginning with my first major client - a surgery center in Century City - I've been promoting the virtues of digital calendaring and scheduling tools. In this time, I've designed and implemented many scheduling systems - for a small medical center, a military base, and even one for David Allen's office. While the productivity benefits for each of these applications were significant, I always felt that something was missing. To me, what was missing was the visual element. I believe users should be able to make scheduling plans in a digital system as easily (or easier) than they can by moving around Post-it Notes.

Perhaps I should be embarrassed to make this post - after all, I am an eProductivity Specialist. I'm "supposed" to focus on digital tools for productivity. At the same time, I see what clients are doing, and I know what I sometimes do when I need to visually plan complex projects. I delight in sharing honestly what works and what does not. You probably won't be surprised, therefore, to see what's on my conference table today ...


For group planning and discussion with my staff, I've yet to find the ideal replacement for paper and post-its. Once we finalize the plans, we enter them into the computer and toss the paper. In some ways, it's inefficient as it requires double-processing. In many other ways, however, it's the most consistently productive scheduling tool I've found.

There are many good (but not great) digital tools for this type of planning and I continue to evaluate new systems and technologies; however, until someone can come up with a visual solution that does for individual and group schedule planning what MindManager has done for mind mapping, 3M will remain my long-range scheduling tool of choice.

With all of this talk about analog tools, I can see it coming - Michael Sampson's gonna blog about my shift in focus from eProductivity to aProductivity.

Here’s an analog productivity tip ...

Thursday, June 30th, 2005
Print a next action form on the back of your business card.

I'm still processing an overflowing in-box, a variety of notes - both digital and analog, a backlog of blog comments - and a stack of business cards that I collected on my recent business trip. (If you're waiting for a reply from me, thanks for your patience.) Today, I will address the stack of business cards.

Over the course of the past 10 days, I handed out and received many business cards. As I received each card, I carefully noted the date, occasion, something remarkable, what we discussed, and the next action I intended to take upon my return.


Some of the people I gave my card to took meticulous notes on the back, while others simply placed them in their coat pocket. For this latter group, I wonder if, now that a week has gone by, if they even remember what we spoke about and why I gave them my card in the first place.

It occurred to me that I could do something simple but powerful to increase the likelihood that the people I gave my business card to would take notes and define the next action on the back - I could print a next action form on the back of my cards. Now, I know that there's not a lot of room on the back of a business card to begin with; however, a simple trigger list should be sufficient to encourage folks to think of and write down the most important keywords that will help them deal with these business cards when they get around to processing them.

Here's what I've come up with so far:


What if everyone did this?

Thoughts? Additions/Changes?

The ActiveWords Team does it in ink!

Saturday, June 4th, 2005
Here's a quick eProductivity tool: ink gestures that will make your Tablet PC experience more productive.

The ActiveWords team has done it again - this time, in ink.

[Notice: If you're a Tablet PC user, move it away so that you don't drool on the screen. If you are not yet a tablet user, here's another reason to consider one ...]

Yesterday, during our geek day in the digital sandbox, Buzz treated David, Paul, and me to a preview of the next release of ActiveWords InkPad for the Tablet PC.

uses the LiveBoard to demonstrate how ActiveWords can be used to simplify
the internet search process

The new ActiveWords InkPad, presently in beta, allows for the immediate launch of any of the productivity features of ActiveWords with a simple gesture. Now, that's an eProductivity tool I can blog about!

Tonight, I installed the 1.5 InkPad beta on my Tablet PC, hovered over the target region and inked the letters "EMO," A few seconds later, my blog appeared. See for yourself ...

Watch me use the ActiveWords
InkPad to launch a web site

More encouragement for my wild journey to Tablet PC productivity.

I've got a busy week ahead; lots of client meetings. I'll blog when I can.

Life on the bleeding edge ...

Friday, June 3rd, 2005
My clients know that I live on the bleeding edge of technology. Well, I've been bleeding all week ... I'm used to it. I get the wrinkles in technology ironed out, so that my clients never notice. Still, the process can be painful at times.

James Kendrick shared these words of encouragement this morning:
We who live on the edge, sometimes fall off.
- A very wise technology addict."
I continue to face challenges with the Tablet PC as I work to integrate my applications. (I'm still not YABHTU. Soon, I hope.)  Right now, the biggest challenge is the pen speed issue. It appears that this may be an issue with pen utilization in the Tablet OS. I hope not. Several readers have posted excellent tips. Thank you. I'm still hunting this down.

Meanwhile, the problems I've encountered do not stop me from seeing the potential benefits of the Tablet PC platform and the Tecra M4 Tablet PC. I've shared plenty of negatives lately; here's a list of some of the positives I've observed.

10 Things I like about the Tecra M4
  • Big Screen, High Resolution. I can view two pages side by side
  • Accupoint - reminds me of a ThinkPad
  • Best of Laptop and Tablet in a single device
  • Crosspoint for Navigation in Tablet mode - very helpful
  • DVD Multi-Burner with Dual Layer 8.5 read/write
  • Everything's built-in. No expansion cards needed. (EVDO extra)
  • Bootable SD Card. Great for ghost, & special apps
  • East to see indicator lights
  • It's great to have both a tablet and a laptop with me at all times
  • I like having enough power to run CPU intensive imaging apps

10 Things I'd like to see added to the Tecra M4
  • Instant Mute
  • Keyboard Light for Laptop mode
  • Functions keys that are easier to read
  • Power Management to power down and lock CD from a profile
  • Legs (fold out)
  • Softer TrackPoint with smoother scrolling
  • Wide Angle viewing
  • Fuel cell for 10 hour continuous use OK, I'll wait for that.
  • A really nice bump-case for tri-mode use
  • A set of vanilla recovery disks free of embedded spamware
Meanwhile, I'll continue to work on the Tecra - I hope to have a final eMack configuration soon.

Special guests coming to play in the digital sandbox today. Gotta run ...

Spontania Video4Skype

Wednesday, June 1st, 2005
I routinely evaluate and use room and desktop video conferencing software for use with clients and associates. At ICA, we've used video conferencing in one form or another for the past 10 years. When you can't meet in person, a video conference is the next best thing. (In fact, a few years ago, the LA Times did a write up about our experiences.) For the past several years, we've been using a variety of IP-based video solutions internally across our VPN links.

Today, my colleague Michael Sampson, of Shared-Spaces, turned me on to a new product, still in beta:
Dialcom released Spontania video4skype, a free video conferencing plug-in for the Skype voice-over-IP and IM client. Available immediately, at no charge. For Windows only. Dialcom
Michael and I just tried Spontania on a video conference between the US and New Zealand. It worked very well. The integration with Skype is seamless. Overall the quality of the video was very good, and unlike MSN or other free video clients, no annoying ad-spam.  

Very promising.  I think we will try this out in the next geek meeting in my digital sandbox. (Coming soon, stay tuned)  [Update: If you want to join me for a geek dinner or breakfast in Boston or NYC, get in touch with me. We've got some neat things planned.]

If you decide to evaluate Spontania Video4Skype, let me know what you think.
That's the question that Thomas Weber asks in an interesting article on web-based to-do lists. (See the personal technology section of today's Wall Street Journal.)

In his article, Net-Based To-Do Lists Permit Collaboration By Family, Colleagues, Weber mentions some of the productivity sites he's visited in his research and he shares his evaluation of a few web-based To-Do lists:
Email programs like Microsoft Outlook can track your obligations and hassle you until they're completed, while PDAs and even cell phones offer task lists and reminder options. The latest twist is to-do lists that you keep on the Web. Several new services promise to store all the details of your responsibilities online, from your loftiest career goals to how many bananas you need from the supermarket. Once the list is online, you can allow a colleague to update project milestones or let your spouse add to the roster of household chores.
The sites mentioned include: (web-based task management), , (for business projects), and, (free web-based to-do list).

Weber's article mentions bloggers focused on productivity:

The desire to become more productive and better organized is a powerful drive, and it has spawned interesting blogs. For anyone looking to exert some control over the daily chaos of work and home, these make for interesting reading ...
He lists two productivity blogs: and that " .. cater to followers of the "Getting Things Done" method, known simply as "GTD" to devotees.

GTD devotee. Hmmm. I've never thought of myself as a devotee, though my signed copy of GTD is on my desk, right next to my NASB and I am blogging about this topic. I guess I am, as Weber states, a "follower of the "Getting Things Done" method."  I think it's great to see blogging and GTD in the mainstream. Too bad Weber does not include a link to the GTD Jedi himself, David Allen or to my favorite GTD portal.

I hope Weber picks up a copy of GTD for himself; the world can always use a few more productive people.

Here's a link to the full article:,,SB111705821195243399,00.html

X1/MSN Search MindManager & Lotus Notes?

Wednesday, May 18th, 2005
I'm still waiting for X1 to add MindManager search capability to their product. I've been testing their Lotus Notes Support for many weeks. The Notes support is OK, but not quite ready for prime time, IMHO. And, they have yet to implement the list of fixes and required features that I sent them.

I've pitched the idea of adding MindManager support to execs at both companies. The folks at MindManager have indicated that they are willing to play. I hope that the folks at X1 decide to play, too; I think MindManager support in X1 would be a powerful addition to their product.

For now, X1's still on my "must watch, but wait and see" list.

Meanwhile, the new Desktop search toolbar from Microsoft apparently allows plug-ins. And, there's a plugin for Mindmanager!  (ComputerWorld | add-in)

A while back, I blogged about how my ideal desktop search tool would include support for both MindManager and Lotus Notes. I wonder if we'll see a MSN Search toolbar add-in filter for Lotus Notes?

If they did, I might switch gto MSN. My clients might, too.

Wishful thinking?

Global Experts in Electronic Collaboration

Wednesday, May 18th, 2005
Hungry for information and discussion on electronic collaboration?

My colleague, Michael Sampson, is organizing a "GEEC" Dinner. It should be a lot of fun. I'm thinkiing of attending.

Right now, the plan is for a dinner in Boston; New York may be an option, too.


How often do you process your e-mail?

Tuesday, May 17th, 2005
The folks at Ferris Research suggest that it's best to process your e-mail 2-4 times a day:
The best email processing strategy is to process email two to four times a day. This reduces the number of interruptions as well as your workload. This policy applies across different work environments and different types of workers. Processing emails twice to four times a day results in minimum worker distraction due to interruptions while keeping the balance between email response time and primary task completion time.



Notes client for Linux?

Monday, May 16th, 2005
Earlier this year, Robert Peake (a client and colleague of mine at The David Allen Company) shared his thoughts on a Notes Client for Linux.

I particularly liked his idea of a diskless workstation, booting Knoppix and a Notes client.
Imagine hundreds of diskless Linux workstations booting into the equivalent of Linux Terminal Server or Knoppix for Domino. In fact, many different types of workers could handle all of their day-to-day tasks in this environment with substantial savings not only on the overhead of operating system licenses, but everything that goes with a complex user environment -- like viruses, malware, and (worst of all) the myriad of operator errors that go with giving users too much latitude.
Back in the early 90's the entire ICA network on diskless workstations, booting DOS and Win 3.1 across ArcNet. The workstations in the offices as well as those at my home (up the street, connected via WaveLan) were all diskless.

Worked great! I could upgrade the entire network in a manner of minutes. Of course, our reasons at the time weren't security or convenience as much as it was the high cost of disk storage. Once we got used to how applications behaved in a diskless environment, it worked quite well.

Robert's makes a good point. I'd like to see it happen.
Methodology + Technology = Productivity. That was the title of yesterday's blog article. The response, both publicly and privately, has been very interesting, so I've decided to take this discussion to a more public format.

Over on the GTD forum, I asked the question, "Do you distinguish between the technology and methodology of productivity?"  

I hope you will participate in my poll  on the GTD Forum of the David Allen Company web site. You can see the results in real-time.

In the coming weeks, I'll share my own experiences on the tech side of the productivity equation.

Here are the questions in the poll:
  • I'm clear about the difference. I use each where appropriate in a balanced way
  • I understand the difference, but I tend to focus more on the technology
  • I understand the difference, but I tend to focus more on the methodology
  • I routinely confuse the two, alternately focusing on one or the other to an extreme
  • Other

Which statement is true about you?

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.

Gadget bag: laser printer

Sunday, May 1st, 2005
I've tried (and tossed) a variety of so-called "portable" ink jet and thermal printers over the years. Unfortunately, though small, I've not found them to be worth the quality, trouble or expense to make it worth the effort. I need a high-quality solution for printing while on extended road trips.

This week, I found a quality solution that I can use when I travel by car.

Many of my clients are within a few hours drive of where I live. (In Los Angeles, that means 2-6 hours away, depending on traffic.)  When I stay at hotels near these clients, I'll often return to the hotel to do work on the afternoon/evening. When I'm on the road, I often miss having a printer close at hand. While I work digitally most of the time, I still use a printer to print reports & diagrams, client invoices, mindmaps and the like.

This week, I saw a small LED laser printer at Best Buy - the Samsung 1740 ($89 after rebate). It's small and light - it's half the weight of my first "portable" computer - and holds 250 sheets of paper - more than adequate for my travel needs. I promptly bought it.

Now, when I travel for extended periods, I have a mobile office again. It may seem like a lot to carry, and it is, but this gear allows me to be almost completely self-contained. (Sorry, no fuel cells yet)

My current "road kit" for extended trips

Feeling overwhelmed? You need a checklist.

Tuesday, April 26th, 2005
A checklist could save your life. Here's a not-so-subtle reminder about the value of checklists:

Have you ever found yourself emotionally shutting down in the face of a daunting project list and an overflowing e-mail in-box? I have.

The Air Force calls this Task Saturation and it can manifest itself in many ways. Some people hyper-focus on their email and new-mail alerts to the point where nothing gets done.

David and I made posts on Saturday and Sunday about the UK researcher who found that email distractions can cause a drop in IQ.

Fellow productivity blogger, Bert, from Open Loops, posted an excellent comment about how the military helps its pilots extract themselves from overwhelm before they have to extract themselves from their wreckage:

The Air Force calls this Task Saturation. When one is faced with a large volume of tasks, which is what you might see when you look at your backlogged email in-box, humans can shut down. Some, in an effort to deal with the tasks, begin to compartmentalize and channelize, meaning that they begin to concentrate on their email to the exclusion of all other communication and input that is still coming their way. This is why perfectly good pilots sometimes fly good airplanes right into the ground. In our lives, it means that we will not perform well on other tasks and responsibilities while we are struggling with that in-box.

Excellent illustration.  How does the Air Force help their pilots cope?
The solution? The Air Force provides tools and systems that pilots are supposed to fall back on in times of emergencies when task saturation can immobilize a pilot. They pull out their emergency checklists and start taking actions.

Checklists.  That's the ticket.

Got one?

E-Mail is bad for your brain

Saturday, April 23rd, 2005
It's not only bad for your productivity, it may also be bad for your health.

We all know how disruptive repeatedly checking your e-mail can be. Did you know that reading too much e-mail, too often, can lower your IQ, too?

CNN reports  that according to Dr. Glenn Wilson, a psychiatrist at King's College London University, constantly reading email is costing you a loss of productivity (we knew that) and possibly a few IQ points.

... the IQ of those who tried to juggle messages and work fell by 10 points -- the equivalent to missing a whole night's sleep and more than double the 4-point fall seen after smoking marijuana.
"This is a very real and widespread phenomenon," Wilson said. "We have found that this obsession with looking at messages, if unchecked, will damage a worker's performance by reducing their mental sharpness.
You can tell everyone that you aren't going to be checking your e-mail but once or twice a day.

I wonder what my IQ is now - adjusted for all of the e-mail I read, of course. Perhaps I don't want to know.

What about reading blogs?

Have a great weekend ... and don't check your e-mail!  

It will still be there on Monday.

The adventure begins

Saturday, April 23rd, 2005
After considerable research and public discussion, I've decided to purchase the Tecra M4 Tablet PC. The Tecra has all of the features on my wish list, so I expect to be a happy camper. It looks like an ideal combination of tablet and power desktop.

I just placed my order with Niki Spano over at ToshibaDirect. We were able to design my dream Tablet PC using the build-to-order site in real-time.  How cool, I was able to actually talk to the manufacturer and place my order - and on a Saturday!

Today's ordering experience was a delight. Niki is sharp; she answered all of my questions and made the buying process fun.

Well done Toshiba! I hope that the delivery experience is as smooth as the order process. (I'll be sure to let you know.)

My new Tecra M4 Tablet PC, fully loaded, should arrive in 2 weeks.

I can't wait!

My lists revealed

Tuesday, April 19th, 2005
Dean Wrote:
You may have done this already, but could you do a post on your GTD system? I’m curious about how you manage your lists, what those lists are, how many items you have on them, etc.
Thanks, Dean.
[I receive this type request from time to time, however, I've delayed a public response until now. I'm collecting these questions to use as topics for more detailed posts, once I launch eProductivity.NET - which I hope, will happen sooner than later.]

Dean, your email reminded me that this draft blog entry has been on my Someday/Maybe list for too long.

Some quick answers to your questions:

"how I manage my lists ..."

I've used many systems * to track my projects and actions, Dean. I keep coming back to my favorite - Lotus Notes. Notes allows me to integrate my action management system seamlessly with the rest of the systems that I use. Over the past 5 years, I've developed a custom template to help me manage my actions. Several of my clients use this eProductivity Template for Lotus Notes to manage their projects and actions as well.

"what those lists are ..."

My lists are rather simple. It was not always this way. Before I met David (when GTD was still known as MAP),  I used an action management system of my own design. Far from simple, it had many categories. Once I adopted GTD as a methodology for getting things done, I adapted my system, but I kept most of the categories.

Over the years, however, I've streamlined my systems and trimmed my lists down to the essentials shown in the screen shot to the right. My system allows me to create subcategories, so each major section can be expanded to reveal my list items by project, by functional area, etc. I review my lists and categories every six months or so. The subcategories change all the time, depending on what I'm doing. The top-level list has been stable for the last few years.

"how many items you have on them, etc. ..."

As of this evening, I have 3729 items on my lists. Yes, 3729. Too many for any sane person, but then ...   Don't worry, many are classified in subcategories under someday/maybe.

There are many other pieces to my "eProductivity system." As far as list management goes, this is a good overview.

It's been fun to reflect on this as I wrote this post tonight.

Thanks for your question, Dean!


PS. I'd like to thank everyone who has sent me emails or posted on this blog. I enjoy hearing from you and I will do my best to respond as time permits.

* I've used a variety of systems for list management, beginning with simple lists created in WordStar and then SuperCalc, both on CP/M. I designed my first action management system in dBase II - which brought sorting to list management. (In the mid-80's Tanny helped me rewrite my dBase app in compiled FoxPro for DOS.) In addition to these self-designed action management systems, I've used a variety of commercial systems - both paper-based and digital - including Time-Design, Goldmine, Palm Desktop, Act!, and Outlook.  As I mentioned earlier, I keep coming back to Notes. My systems continue to evolve and I change systems from time to time in order to evaluate new software. Currently, I'm experimenting with MindManager and ResultsManager. I hope to integrate these visual tools with the power of Notes. Stay tuned.

Tablet PC, too disruptive?

Thursday, April 14th, 2005
A week ago, I publicly teased my friend, Michael Sampson, by challenging him to cancel his order for a new PowerBook and to purchase a Tablet PC. I even asked for your help with persuasive arguments. Michael responded with a bullet-list of requirements and how the PowerBook suited his needs just fine. Several people posted or emailed comments with their experiences and opinions.

Mike Hyatt had this to say to Michael Sampson:
As you know, I have made the same journey. Initially, the Tablet PC was a delight to use. But then, like all Windows systems, it started bogging down with a bloated registry and annoying "bugs" that just wouldn't go away.
Mike, I've designed configured some amazing systems for some of the most productive people I've ever met. Over the years, I've developed a protocol for designing and tuning my client's systems so that they run exceedingly well. Still, I'll admit that it does take a lot of work to achieve this - I wish it was not so involved.

Most of the business applications that I use with my clients (and their clients, and their client's clients ... ) are PC-based; changing platforms is not a viable option.

In addition, the technology is just too conspicuous. I couldn't walk into a room with my Tablet PC without becoming the center of attention and people getting side-tracked from the business at hand. This made me very uncomfortable.

Mike, I am intrigued by your comment that  your Tablet PC was a distraction - especially in light of the quote from Michael Linenberger on your blog on  why you bought a TabletPC:

Placing a laptop with the screen flipped up in front of you on a conference room table creates a physical barrier between you and others in the room. This is literally a barrier to communication. The Tablet PC is normally on your lap, and out of sight. Or it is flat on the desk like a writing pad.

I would have expected that after a while people would pay no attention to your Tablet. I'm sorry the Tablet PC did not work out for you as you hoped it would. I'm still willing to give it a try. [I would be happy to send you my shipping address. :-)]

I've gone low-tech for meetings and love it. I carry a Moleskin notebook and write down everything. I put a "star" symbol next to those things I need to follow-up on. When I get back to my desk, I quickly transfer these to Entourage. My workflow is simple, unobtrusive, and 100% reliable.

I've been following the analog approach to note-taking. It's an attractive option. It's one of the key reasons that I plan to move to a TabletPC - I want the simplicity of analog note-taking and mind mapping with the benefits of digital recall.

And, I absolutely love my PowerBook 15". In my humble opinion (sorry, Eric), you're making the right choice.

I've since had many discussions with Michael Sampson, and I agree, that for his stated needs, it would appear that the PowerBook is an excellent option. As for me, yes, I would have to agree, the TabletPC is too disruptive - I think about it way too much.

Robert Peake wrote about a Linux-based Tablet:

If you've lost faith in Microsoft and are looking for a budget option, the Helium 2100

Robert, I've not lost faith in Microsoft, but I am discouraged at the effort it takes to get my hands on a new TabletPC. The Helium 2100 looks like a nice machine at a great price. I might even consider it. Too bad you have to buy 24 of them at a time. :-(

Several others chimed in with equally compelling arguments for either the Tablet PC or the PowerBook.

LBE made an excellent point:

[Eric,] you are confounding two distinctions - the operating system and the form factor. In the same form factor, an increasing number of people are finding Mac OS X to be more productive and stable for their needs. The rest just haven't tried it. If the tablet form factor works better for you than a standard laptop, then you are currently forced to by a Tablet PC.

and a good observation:

But that's not a reason to buy a Tablet PC, let alone advocate them. It's a reason to wish that Mac OS X came in a tablet form factor.

Good point, LBE. While I was having some fun with the  "PC vs Mac" debate at Michael's expense, my real comparison and interest, was Tablet vs traditional laptop. I should have been more clear about this. I hope Apple DOES jump in with a Tablet offering. It will no doubt raise the bar.

I'm still sold on the Tablet PC for my needs.
Michael Sampson lamented that it took Apple NZ 6 weeks to fulfill his order. I checked with him today, and he's since received his PowerBook and is happily working away. He plans to bring it with him in June, when he flies up to spend a day with me in the digital sandbox.

As for me, I have ... well, at least I'm still blogging about the Tablet PC.

ResultsManager Tune-Up

Wednesday, April 13th, 2005
I enjoyed a productive ResultsManager coaching session today with Nick Duffill, and Nic Tipler of Gyronix. These guys created the powerful add-in to MindJet's MindManager that allows you to visually manage your projects and actions.

As you know, I'm a big fan of MindManager and MindMaps. I've been working with ResultsManager for some time, however, I've always been aware that I was not using the program to its fullest potential. After today's tune-up, I see several new ways that I can use ResultsManager as a part of my planning process, weekly review, and for project management.

I'd like to eventually integrate ResultsManager and MindManager into the way that I use Lotus Notes so that I can visually map the information in my eProductivity template. The folks at MindJet and Gyronix are supportive of my efforts to do so, and have offered assistance in the process.  Last year, I evaluated a few commercial tools that provide Notes <> MindManager integration. At the time, I did not feel that either was ready for prime time - at least not for what I wanted to do. I'll revaluate both in the coming weeks. Hopefully, I'll have something exciting to show before long.

One neat thing about working with Gyronix team is that they are open to suggestions, and they are responsive. Already, several features that I have recommended have made it into the current product.

If you currently use ResultsManager, be sure to update to the latest version. The new ResultsManager Wizard simplifies many things. If you've never seen or tried ResultsManager, click over to You can download a 21 day trial of ResultsManager and MindManager from the site.


Notes Touchgraphs

Wednesday, April 13th, 2005
Take a look at what Alan Bell has done with Notes and Touchgraphs. This is precisely this kind of integration that I hope to achieve with Notes and MindManager.

Nice work, Alan!

From my RSS Comments feed.

Visual Thesaurus

Tuesday, April 12th, 2005
What do you get when you cross a visual mapping tool with a thesaurus?  Visual Thesaurus, of course.

For those of you who like to write and who think in mind maps, this application's for you. Type in a word and watch the map blossom before your eyes. Click on a word and watch the new branches germinate in real-time.

Thesaurus Screen Shot

A screen shot cannot do justice to the visual elegance of this application. You must  try it yourself.  Try the words "reason" or "review" and watch what happens. Though less exciting, there's even an entry for "blog ."

Ideal podcast length?

Tuesday, April 12th, 2005
I'm making slow but steady progress on the plans for the eProductivity.NET blog site and podcasts. I plan to keep the specifics under wraps a little while longer until I'm ready to launch. (For those who have already clicked the link on the site, no need to click again. When I'm ready, I'll send you an announcement and a link to a special podcast and the RSS feed).

I'm working on the outline for the eProductivity.NET podcast show format.  I'm curious to know what your ideal podcast length is and why.

Fifteen minutes? 5 minutes? 20 Minutes?

What works for you?

Share a tip, win a night’s sleep

Monday, April 11th, 2005
Do you have a productivity tip to share? Is it good enough to win an award?

Richard Giles, host of The Gadget Show, is offering a Sleeptracker watch as the prize for the best gadget-related productivity tip.

Richard invited me to be his guest co-host the Gadget Show Podcast. It was a lot of fun. We talked about computing, MindManager, Tablet PCs, and, of course, his review of the Sleeptracker watch.

Consistent with the theme of the Gadget Show, your productivity tip must focus on how you use a specific technology or gadget to improve your productivity. If you have gadget-related productivity tip that you would like to share, send it  to Richard. You may just win a watch and a good night's sleep, too.

Did I mention that Richard's asked me to be the judge?

I would like to wish you the best of success and I hope that none of you enter the contest.

Just kidding. Well, sort of ... I'd like to have the watch. I could use a good night's sleep.

Tablet PC vs PowerBook

Wednesday, April 6th, 2005
As my first act of Tablet PC evangelism, I tried to make a convert out of my colleague, Michael Sampson, today. I challenged Michael to cancel his pending order for a new Apple PowerBook and join me over on the "smart side." (And I don't even have a Tablet PC to show him yet! But that's another story.)  

Michael's just posted his thoughts on our discussion on Tablet PC vs PowerBook.

Working together, we can help Michael make the right decision, before it's too late. :-)

[I'll try to get my friend Mike Hyatt to join in, too. He's transitioned from PC to Tablet PC to a PowerBook. A PC guy switches to the Tablet PC, then to the Mac. How does it work out? Enquiring minds want to know. At least I do. Last June, Mike told us why he bought a Tablet PC. Then, in February, he took the plunge over to the dark side.]

I know that there are likely to be passionate discussions on both sides. For me, it all boils down to productivity, and I think that Michael makes a good case for ...  Or does he?

All kidding aside, I am very interested in the discussion that is sure to follow.  

It's not too late to help!

Michael has not yet taken delivery of the new PowerBook, but its arrival is only days away. We must act quickly! Can you provide Michael with compelling new information to help him make the right choice?

Post your comments and links to information.

This should be fun.


PS In the event that Michael does give in to temptation and accepts delivery of the PowerBook, I'll be sure to blog about it. :-)

Annotating paper on the Tablet PC

Tuesday, April 5th, 2005
As anticipate migrating to a TabletPC, I've been researching various productivity applications that I plan to use. This blog entry is not about a solution - yet. It's about my search for one.

One capability that I look forward to is the ability to mark up PDF files - not just any PDF files, but those that originate as paper. When I am in my office, I use my HP Digital Sender to take a stack of documents and scan them into PDF files so that I can work with them in digital form. However, when I'm out and about, with a Tablet PC, I will need another way to quickly capture paper documents into PDF so that I can edit them.

The options that I am considering will include a hybrid of hardware and software, hardware to capture and software to edit. The capture side has my attention right now. I'm presently considering two solutions: a portable scanner and a digital camera. Let's look at the benefits of each.

Portable Scanner

  • High resolution scanning
  • Suitable for OCR (for PDF+Text applications)
  • External device, cables, adapters
  • Additional steps to capture
Digital Camera
  • Easy to use
  • Much faster than a scanner
  • More expensive than scanner
  • Difficult to align for text capture
  • Images not suitable for OCR
  • External device, cables, adapters
  • Additional steps to capture
The ideal solution, in my view, would be for Tablet PC manufacturers to add a digital camera, scanner, or both, to a Tablet PC - I'd certainly pay for these options. I would like to snap a picture by holding up the Tablet. Likewise, I would like to scan a page in 1-2 seconds, either by drawing the Tablet across the page (like the HP Capshare) or by feeding the page through a slot at the edge of the Tablet.  I remember there was once a laptop with a built-in scanner.

I'm not asking for much. Once I see a Tablet PC with a built-in scanner and camera, I plan to ask for a built-in micro laser printer - don't laugh; it will happen. Right now, I'll settle for a fast and reliable mobile paper capture tool.

I'm certain that someone has thought through all of this long before me. Who will build it first?  (Toshiba? Fujitsu? Anyone?)

While I wait for an integrated solution, I plan to explore solutions that I can create using off-the-shelf technology.  I'll keep you posted.

Do you have a solution for real-time mobile import of paper documents into a Tablet PC?

Post a comment.

Evaluating TabletPC screens

Thursday, March 31st, 2005
In my pursuit of the perfect tablet PC for my needs, I've collected many documents and links to useful TabletPC information. Here are two documents and a link that may be of interest to those of you who may be evaluating TabletPC technology:

In response to my updated post about indoor/outdoor screens, Tom Bernhard, Fujitsu's Director of Strategic Product Planning, was kind enough to send me a document that covers the technology issues involved in designing and selecting TabletPC displays. It probably contains more information than most people would like to know, however  the document also contains some helpful summaries and illustrations. Earlier this week, I wrote to Tom to request permission to share the document. I've since learned that the document has just been posted to the web -- see below.

After reading this document, I have decided to go with the indoor wide angle SXGA+ screen for my TabletPC purchase. I believe that this will work best for my needs. Most of my work is done indoors and the wide angle viewing should make client demonstrations easier.

Another helpful document, also from Fujitsu, is the Fujitsu Mobile Whitepaper. Although a bit dated - it's from 2002 -- this document provides Fujitsu's response to Microsoft's TabletPC specification. While clearly written from the Fujitsu perspective, it has some good information and should be of benefit to anyone considering a TabletPC purchase.

Related documents: The TabletPC2 web site has an excellent field-trial comparison of TabletPC displays. Linda Epstein's done a fantastic job of comparing the screens and features of various TabletPC models.

I've still yet to order my new TabletPC. Unfortunately, there is no single SKU for my dream system. I know what I want, however, since it must be "custom configured," I'll need to sit down and map out all the options before I can submit my order.  While I have the flexibility to choose what I want, it means that I cannot just quickly call and order a new TabletPC overnight. That's too bad - I could have sold 3 TabletPCs to clients in the just the past week.

Hopefully, tomorrow will be a quiet day and I can get this order going. Then, the countdown will really begin.

Three great MindManager blogs

Monday, March 28th, 2005
If you want to learn more about the many things that you can do with MindManager, my favorite visual mapping tool, be sure to add these three people to your RSS reader.

Mike Jetter - MindJet's CTO
Hobie Swan - has a terrific  post about using MindManager on the TabletPC
Nick Duffill - Co-author of ResultsManager add-in for MindManager

Three reasons I use Skype

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2005
If you've called my office before, chances are you've communicated with me when I was using my portable VOIP system.

I've been using VOIP Technology to communicate with my staff and clients for close to a decade, but it always meant using costly H.323 endpoints, or unpredictable software. That's all changed. I've ditched my mobile voice kit. Why? Skype.  Skype is transforming the way I communicate with others over the internet. Download it, install it, and it works. It works.  Oh, it's also free.

This evening, I enjoyed a Skype conference call with Marc Orchant, in New Mexico, and Michael Sampson, in New Zealand. If you listened to my recent podcast from the digital sandbox, then you heard David and me use Skype to drop in on Marc on our geek day. Amazing, isn't it?

Skype boosts my productivity in three ways:

  • I can see when my contacts are on-line -- presence awareness
  • I can chat instantly with my contacts
  • I can instantly talk with one or more of my contacts

In short. It is now easier for me to communicate with people and for them to communicate with me. The barriers have been lowered.

My VOIP address has been on my business card for years. In that time, only a handful of people have had the tools (or ability) to successfully call me via Now, with Skype, anyone can.

Alright, I'm beginning to sound like a commercial for Skype. Skype Skype Skype. I can't help it.

If you'd like to say hello, my Skype address is eProductivityGuy.

Mobile podcast cart

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2005
I'm becoming more comfortable with the gear that I will be using for my podcasts. Two weeks ago, I put together a mobile podcast rig for my think station. It's basically a small oak cart on wheels with my Skype PC, mixer, headphone amp, and my digital audio transfer device. Below, I store cables, microphones and the headphones that my guest and I will use during the podcast.  

Eric's current
mobile podcast cart

I had a few opportunities to test this rig last week. We actually recorded several podcasts, however, I plan to hold onto some of them until I launch the new eProductivity.NET web site. (When will that happen? Real soon now.)

My current project is to streamline the process and technology that I will include in my mobile podcast kit so that I can capture, record, and produce from anywhere.  I'm still working out the settings for capture and encoding as well as the virtual audio circuits needed to make this happen in a compact and reliable way. I will continue to post the results of these experiments along the way. A big thank you to those of you, who have already responded with feedback.

As for the podcasts, I've already accumulated a list of people that I would like to interview, and I'm working on a format that will allow me to put these out quickly. It's been a lot of fun and I have met some wonderful people along the way.

If you know of someone you would like me to interview let me know.

David Allen joins me in the digital sandbox

Saturday, March 12th, 2005
After several attempts, David Allen and I finally got together to play in my digital sandbox and enjoy a good meal. We had a great time and we got to play with all kinds of cool technology, too.  David and I have been talking a lot about podcasting lately, so I invited him to help me test my new podcast rig. We recorded several segments, which I will share over on eProductivity.NET in the weeks to come.

Marc Orchant was the first to respond to my invitation to join us in the sandbox, so we decided to drop in on him via Skype, just to chat ...

from the digital sandbox

You're welcome to listen along, as David and I get our digital feet wet in this, our first of several podcasts together.

Eric Mack & David Allen in the digital sandbox

Eric Mack On-line - March 12, 2005 (23 min 29 sec) MP3  5.5 MB


00:00        Introduction & welcome to the digital sandbox
01:24        Eric & David make a drop in on Marc Orchant via Skype
03:57        Marc tells us about the Workforce Education Alliance
06:18        Articulated curriculum for a career in IT
08:02        David's vision for GTD in  education
11:02        GTD check-in
13:39        Embedding GTD into the corporate culture
19:04        The hallmark  of a GTD blackbelt - can you train yourself?
20:11        Wrap-up

Throughout the day, we received several e-mails and Skype requests to chat. Unfortunately, we were unable to connect with everyone who tried to reach us; perhaps we'll try again, soon. (You'll want to add my RSS feed to your RSS Reader and your podcast client.)

If you would like to be on a future podcast, drop me a line, using the "contact" link above.

Yesterday, Microsoft suddenly announced its acquisition of Groove Networks, and that Groove CEO Ray Ozzie will become one of the three CTOs at Microsoft, specifically charged with championing Microsoft's collaboration strategy. I say suddenly because, just two days before, Microsoft made public its collaboration strategy with Office Communications server 2005, and Office Live Communications Server 2005. No mention of Groove then. Why now?

We will certainly learn more about this in the days and months to come. While I am delighted to see increased competition and energy in the collaborative space, I'm not sure this is such a good move for Groove, Microsoft, or their customers. At a minimum, it seems that once again, Microsoft has introduced a new uncertainty to their collaboration strategy mix, something that IT managers will have to wrestle with as they plan for the future.

Michael Sampson, research director at Shared Spaces Research & Consulting attended yesterday's briefing with Bill Gates, Jeff Raikes, and Ray Ozzie; he's put up an informative and thought-provoking post on his site.

In an upcoming podcast, Michael and I will discuss this announcement and what we think it means.

X1 grants a wish

Friday, March 4th, 2005
I routinely use two tools for knowledge management: Lotus Notes and Mind Manager. I have long wished for a single integrated solution to search desktop documents, Notes databases, and MindManager maps. Well, it looks like at least one of these wishes will be granted soon.

The makers of the X1 Desktop search tool are preparing to add support for Lotus Notes databases. For the past week, I have been evaluating a beta release (I'm using ver. 5.1 Beta Rel 2, Build 1616zq) of the next generation of the X1 desktop search tool.  I'm really excited about the ability to use a single search tool to search Lotus Notes databases in addition to the documents on my local disk drive.  Right now, the search functionality is limited to mail databases, but I'm told that there are plans to add support for any Notes database. When that happens, it will represent a significant productivity boost for users of Lotus Notes.

Image:X1 grants a wish

One of the strong features of X1 is their support for a variety of document types; they have extended this functionality to searching text information stored within Notes as well.  So far, my testing has gone reasonably well; well enough to continue working with the product. Currently, there is no indication in the returned search results display which database the result came from, however, the basic mail folders are shown.

I would really like to see support for multiple databases
-- at least email, discussion, and doclib. I've worked out a way that this could be done. Hopefully, they have, too.

All in all, it's been a good experience so far and I plan to continue working with the product as it matures.

And my other wishes?  I've spoken with one of the representatives from X1 who assured me that he would post a link to my wishes on the X1 forum.

We'll see what happens.

If you are unfamiliar with X1, I recommend that you check out Marc Orchant's reviews of the product. Posted with permission from the folks at X1.
Should we really use the delegated task feature to delegate actions to others?

While many people are usually excited to learn that their action management system will allow them to delegate actions to someone else, I find that many who have actually worked with such a system do not often share the same enthusiasm.

I usually recommend that my clients avoid using the task delegation feature of their action management system-- at least until I can confirm that everyone is on the same page in terms of how they will use it.
In order for delegated tasks to work, a high level of trust and an "action delegation protocol" must exist between all parties.
The person doing the delegating needs to trust that when he delegates something to another, it will be seen and actually treated as an action by the assignee. Likewise, the person who receives the delegated action must have a way to become aware of, internalize, and "accept" the action as their own. Successful delegation requires trust and commitment. If either is not present (as is often the case) then delegated tasks won't work.

This is not a new problem, it's as old as paper, at least. Technology has just made it easier to quickly dispatch a barrage of computer-delegated actions to unsuspecting (and possibly unwilling) people.

Delegated tasks create a situation in which the technology of productivity is likely to clash with the methodology of productivity.

The technology allows for tasks to be created and assigned to other individuals; however, without a sound methodology  and clear agreement on how these will be processed, (the action delegation protocol), it can quickly become a recipe for lost or missed actions, frustration, and incompletion.
I recommend that my clients use David Allen's GTD methodology. In of my years of consulting on technology, I've not found a better system for thinking about your work than GTD. In his book, Getting Things Done, David emphasizes the importance of accountability in all aspects of delegating and accepting actions; he also makes it clear that the system used to track actions - be it paper or digital - must be absolutely leak-proof. These are two areas where delegated actions, if not used properly, can fall apart as a tool for organizational action management.

Microsoft Outlook, Lotus Notes, and even my eProductivity software all allow for tasks to be delegated to others simply by selecting the assignee from a directory. The beauty of this - at least from the perspective of the one doing the delegating - is that it is easy to create a project and then delegate actions to others.

One of my first action management systems, which I designed for the US Navy, did just this. The manager could initiate a project and then define and delegate specific actions to others in succession. Next actions could be queued so that as one action was completed the next would be delegated out in sequence. The system was a success, but I suspect that a large measure of this success was because the actions were effectively "orders" on the part of the manager and it was clearly understood that they were to be followed as assigned. The trust and protocol that I mentioned earlier were part of the environment. In a closed-system, with a clear chain of command, action management can, and indeed in some cases must work this way. That was almost 20 years ago. Today, a person is as likely to collaborate with someone in their own office as they are with someone  around the world. The relationship is less likely to be superior/subordinate, as with my Navy client, and more likely to be peer to peer. In this situation trust and protocol are essential.

The benefits of a delegated-tasks system can be significant. For the one doing the delegating, as tasks are entered into the system, they can delegate an action to someone else simply by indicating their name in the "assigned to" field. They can also can provide optional information such as a due date, status and alert notification request.

Outlook task delegation fields:


Lotus Notes task delegation fields:



For the assignee, they do not have to enter anything into their action tracking system - it's all done for them. Depending upon how their system is configured, they may have the ability to accept or reject assigned tasks first or the new tasks may simply appear on their to do list. Both Microsoft Outlook and Lotus Notes will display a list of delegated tasks, the responsible party, due date, and status.  For these reasons it is often quite tempting to use delegated tasks in the hopes of having a system of "total control and accountability."

Key things to consider when using delegated tasks:

1. Discuss delegated actions with your collaboration partners:

Will you use computer-delegated tasks at all? Will you allow others to add actions directly to your action support lists (risky) or will you use the propose/accept model (better) for delegated actions? What kind of feedback will be exchanged about the actions? What should be done when changes are required on either side?

2. Make sure that you understand how delegated tasks work:

Who "owns" the task? Will your system automatically place an action item on the assignee's to do list? How will they become aware of the new action? Do they have to accept it to make it their own? What is the process for delegating a task to someone and what happens when you (or they) cancel or change a task? Can a delegated task be delegated to someone else? How will you track these delegated items?

3. Make sure that everyone else understands this as well:

Simply having good technology in place will not necessarily make a team more productive. Sometimes it even leads to just the opposite. It is important, therefore, to have procedures and protocols in place for putting technology to work. My clients have found that training and coaching can make a big difference in the productive benefits they receive from their technology investment.

4. Have everyone practice delegating/accepting/declining actions:

Practice, practice, practice. As I've said before, in order for delegated actions to work at all, there must be a high level of trust - not only among the people but in their support systems as well.

Are delegated tasks simply a bad idea?

I don't think so, but I do think they can be very dangerous if not used properly. When used correctly, by a group of people, who have agreed upon a specific task delegation protocol, delegated tasks can be a powerful productivity tool. Unfortunately, more often than not, this agreement is not in place, and for this group of people, computer delegated-tasks can quickly lead to a lack of trust in systems and turn into a digital nightmare.

As I show clients how to use technology in support of the GTD methodology I find that few are really ready or need to use delegated actions. I usually coach these people to avoid using computer delegated actions and to use traditional  means, such as e-mail, phone or even paper as a way of exchanging information about tasks without entering actions directly into someone else' system. This way, each party can internalize the next action and their commitment to it, placing it on their own list as appropriate.

Is your organization using computer-delegated tasks? If so, how has it worked (or not worked) out?

I would like to hear about your experience.

Please post a comment (or send me an email) and let me know what you think!

This blog post is a transcript from last week's podcast on delegated tasks management.

Note:  For purposes of this discussion, when I refer to delegated tasks, I am specifically referring to the ability to create a task (an action) in a digital system such as Outlook or Lotus Notes, and to assign it to another individual, so that it will automatically end up on their action list.  

(c) Eric Mack 2005

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.NET 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

No geek day but a clean in-box

Friday, February 18th, 2005
David Allen was supposed to come over today for a "geek day." A geek day is something we do from time to time, though not as often as we'd like. It's our chance to hang out and talk about technology and any other fun stuff on our minds. It's a wonderful opportunity to make and break things and ask the questions "what if?", "how could that be used?", and "what would this mean to us or to other people?"  If you've been here before, then you will know why my colleague, Michael Sampson, calls these gatherings "a day-in-the-IT-candy-store."

I've spent the past few days in anticipation of this geek day, cleaning my office, reconfiguring my systems, preparing some new toys to show David, and processing my in-box. Yes, processing my in-box.

I even made a very good dent in my weekly review for the month. :-)

We had a lot of rain last night. This morning I awoke to an email from David, asking if we were still on to meet. I checked the weathercam on the roof of my house. There was already snow on the ground with more expected by mid-afternoon. I told him I was concerned about the roads. (I'm used to the snow; I have a truck that can deal with it. I was concerned that David's snow-covered Mini, if mistaken for a snow-drift, might get pushed aside or run into by the snow plow.)

We're going to have to reschedule again.

On the bright side, David, knowing I was a little disappointed at having to reschedule for the second time, said: "Look at it this way, if I reschedule for next Friday or the next Friday after that, you'll have an opportunity to get your weekly review done two weeks in a row!

That's one way of looking at it. What a guy!
A colleague of mine,  who now works at a large nationwide mortgage banking company, was telling me how difficult it has become, as an enterprise customer, to get evaluations or even product information on some new products from some companies. From his post today:

Why don't other companies like IBM do things like this? For instance, the company I work for wanted replace our custom built employee portal and asked several companies for help testing their products. When the person in charge told Microsoft that they'd like to try Sharepoint, Microsoft said, "sure, we'll send out two people to help you set it up." However when IBM was approached we were told that it would take three months to setup Websphere Portal Server and cost us a million dollars! All we wanted was a proof of concept so that we could make an informed decision!

Unfortunately, I've seen this as well. At the same time, clients tell me that Microsoft has been very aggressive at not only providing software but evaluation support for their products. I say, good for Microsoft. Perhaps this is one reason the boss loves Microsoft.  (FWIW: The enterprise customers I'm thinking of are currently Notes shops; one would think this problem would not exist for them. Apparently not so.)

I am increasingly amazed at how difficult some businesses are making it for customers to
give them money.  The only reason I'm bothering to blog about this is that it was not always this way.

I remember in the "old" days, when I used to design and deploy enterprise messaging systems. I could call up cc:Mail in Mountainview, speak to a real person, (who spoke English that I could understand), explain that I had a corporate client that wanted to evaluate a product, and have a box of software sent to us overnight. I used to be able to do the same for my consulting firm. As a result, we made many successful product demonstrations and enterprise messaging deployments for clients across the United States. These generated a significant number of enterprise sales for cc:Mail/Lotus/IBM. Things changed a bit when Lotus bought cc:Mail, but we could still call Lotus in Cambridge, talk to someone who spoke English (sometimes with a Boston accent), and have cc;Mail, Notes, or the various add-ins sent to us to demo to our clients. Since IBM purchased Lotus, my clients and I have found the experience has been much different.  That's too bad.  I know that there are many people at IBM who work very hard to make sure that the IBM Notes product is well represented to corporate customers. Probably the best example is Ed Brill, who works tirelessly to educate customers about IBM products and services. (Thank you, Ed!) Unfortunately for IBM, there's only one Ed Brill.

I'm not trying to play favorites between IBM and Microsoft here. I recommend and support products from both vendors - when I feel that they are a good match for my customer's needs. What I am trying to do is make a point.

I believe that software companies should consider the lost opportunity when a technology consultant or enterprise IT manager calls to ask to evaluate a product and they make it difficult for him to do so. How much does it cost to send out a product or email a link for a consultant or potential customer to evaluate?
Sometimes, the eagerness of making the sale combined with the formality of the sales "qualification" process can get in the way of developing an internal champion for the product. When that happens, it's a lost opportunity for both client and vendor (and sometimes, the consultant, too).

All of this won't prevent me from recommending or championing great products that I feel are a fit for my client's needs. It does make it much more difficult for me to show clients the products that I feel would be of benefit to them. Further, with some vendors becoming more aggressive in their pro-active marketing and customer support, I find that some enterprise customers now feel that "certain" software companies just don't care. As a result, they may make product purchasing decisions for reasons other than product suitability, quality, scalability, enterprise support, etc.. (Those end up being the most costly decisions for everyone.)

I recently helped a client evaluate an enterprise wireless solution. I sent the same letter to several vendors, introducing myself and asking to evaluate their products on behalf of my client. Only one company made it easy for me to do so. Guess which one got my client's business?

What do you think? What kind of experiences have you had trying to evaluate enterprise-class software products?

MindManager Wish List

Saturday, February 12th, 2005
This evening, I met with Marc Orchant via Skype to talk about geek stuff. (Blogs, Podcasting, RSS, etc.)  I first met Marc through his office and tablet blogs. Our common interest in using technology to get things done has brought us together for extended virtual geek meetings more than once. (I know, pretty sad. A geek party on the phone on a Saturday night.)

Our meeting went something like this:  we initiated the meeting in Skype, then I brought up MindManager - my idea capturing tool of choice -- and then Marc connected to my PC using Glance. It's not a very good testimony for tight software integration, but at the same time - unlike our misfortunes with MSN Messenger - everything worked.

Our conversation quickly shifted from Blogs and Podcasting to MindManager and how each of us were using it. I shared with Marc some of the things that I would like to see, add-ins for MindManager that I believe would add utility to the product.  He suggested that I blog about them, so here are my three wishes:

1. I want to be able to search Mind Maps using X1

I know I'm not the first to suggest this, but I think X1 and MindManager represent a powerful combination for information management. The people who use Mind Manager are already into idea capture, knowledge management, and tracking; it is logical, therefore, that they will want to search what they have entered into their maps. I should think that MindManager customers would represent a potential instant customer base for X1 -- especially since no other product that I'm aware of provides desktop search into MindManager files. (I don't think this would be too hard to do either; the MindManager X5 files are all in XML and they already have an awesome viewer.) For the MindJet marketing team, having a powerful desktop search tool, such as X1, would certainly raise the level to which people might be willing to use MM to track their information. I know that for me, one of the negative aspects of using MM for information management is the limited ability to search outside of MM. I believe this combination would add significant value to both products.  

2. I would like to use MindManager as a front-end for X1

MindManager has a nifty feature to allow it to pull in an RSS feed. What if it could import the X1 search results, automatically generating a visual display of the information on your computer, complete with hypertext links to content and files. Now that would be really powerful.

3. I "wish" MindManager could read Trackbacks and referrers

OK, I'm not going to push hard for this feature, but I think it would be neat to be able see a real-time visual map of a particular blog post and all of the related blog posts that refer to it.  Marc described this as something like fractals for blogs. I like that metaphor.  MindManger already has the ability to pull in an RSS feed and it actually does a respectable job. I'm sure a clever and talented programmer (hint) could come up with a way to script what I want to accomplish.

What do you think? Do any of these features sound like useful tools to you? I'd like to hear from you. I will be sure to pass along your comments to people I know in the MindManger community. Marc's offered to do the same for X1. My hope is that if there is sufficient interest in these features these fine vendors will take notice. (Hint, hint)

Perhaps, by the next time that Marc and I have our next virtual geek call, I'll have more news to share about my three wishes.

GTD IT Vision and Strategy meeting in Ojai

Sunday, February 6th, 2005
This past week, David and Kathryn flew in the tech & marketing team to discuss vision and strategy.  For the most part, most of the team works remotely and it is rare that we get to all meet in person together. It was a delight, therefore, to have the entire team in one place to hear about David's vision for the future and to plan the projects and actions that will get us there. I certainly have my work cut out for me as I plan for and implement new technologies and systems for personal and group productivity. It was an intense few days in beautiful sunny Ojai, California, filled with good meetings, good company, good food, and good friends.

In my role as an eProductivity specialist, I've had the privilege to work with many fine individuals over the years. It is an honor for me to serve and be strategic part of the team at The David Allen Company.

More than clients, they are friends, and I wake up excited, knowing that the work that I do best, showing people how to make technology work for them, enables them to do what they do best: helping folks get things done.


Peloria Software Products

Wednesday, January 19th, 2005
Peloria Products.jpg
MailScout, Server-Based Rules for E-Mail

PagerGate, E-Mail to Pager Gateway

Over the past 20 years, I have invented a number of software and hardware products to help me live my dream of mobility & information management anywhere. Most of these inventions never leave the lab.  (If you've been here, then you know what I mean...)  Fortunately, a few of them have and have become quite successful.

In the early 1990's I licensed a few of my product designs to Peloria Technology Corp. - a software development company I co-founded by an early client, Bailey Williams. Bailey's vision, determination and leadership, allowed him to build a company that went on to sell several hundred thousand licenses of my products to clients in every corner of the world.


I was always looking for a way to stay informed without having to stay put. I had managed to get most of my messages into my e-mail but had to stick near a terminal to check it. PagerGate was my first commercial software product. I developed this at ICA in the mid-1980's and then Peloria updated this product in the early 90's. PagerGate is a one-way e-Mail Paging gateway that works with any standard alphanumeric or numeric pager. Now, I could have all of my e-mail on my belt no matter where I was.

Mail Scout Server Based Rules

After I designed PagerGate, I found a flaw - I quickly realized that I did not want all of my messages coming to me wherever I was. I only wanted certain messages to find me. I also wanted a way to have my computer respond on my behalf when I was out. I began work on a product called the ICA Information Gateway in 1986 and continue to tinker with its design. One of the products to come out of the ICA Information Gateway Product Suite,  is Mail Scout.  Mail Scout  brings true Server Based Rules to e-Mail environments. Mail Scout will file, forward, delete, respond, and wirelessly deliver your e-mail while you are away from your desk. Tanny O'Haley, Peloria's V.P. of development,  did a fantastic job of implementing this product.

Skytel Two-Way Messaging Gateway

Imagine being able to receive and respond to your e-mail from wherever you are? I did. I wanted a system to allow me to not only receive my e-mail when I was on the road or in the mountains, but respond as well. One of the products, I designed in the mid-1990's, was a two-way wireless gateway for use with the Skytel 2-way wireless messaging system. This product was used by Peloria, Skytel, Motorola, and other wireless companies to offer wireless e-mail to their customers.

All of the above products were sold and supported by Peloria Technology Corporation.

Managing the flood of e-mail

Wednesday, January 19th, 2005
Looking back: Just 10 years ago, I took MailScout, our server-based rules package for cc:Mail and Lotus Notes, to exhibit at Lotusphere. Back then, spam was a small percentage of the total email received and many people felt that 25 - 40 emails was a high volume of email to receive in one day. MailScout helped people manage this "flood" of email.

One of the many success stories to come from our effort was an award of a single contract to deploy 80,000 seats of our productivity software for a single enterprise client. MailScout changed the way that productive people around the world managed their email, and I'm amazed to see that 10 years later, no one has quite matched some of the features in our original product.

Lotus Notes was rapidly growing in popularity in the enterprise messaging arena while the future of cc:Mail was uncertain in many customer's minds. We wanted to be ready for anything so we decided to play both sides of the fence by handing out thousands of buttons so that people could show their loyalty to either platform. (See photos)

Loyal Notes User and Loyal cc:Mail user buttons from Lotusphere 1995

The buttons were a huge hit, and people came to our booth in droves. Once there, the Peloria team of myself, Bailey Williams, Jennifer Jackman, and Tanny O'Haley provided information about our product and offered demonstrations.

The Peloria Technology Team at Lotusphere 1995 (Bailey, Eric, Jennifer, and Tanny)
The Peloria Technology Corporation team
(That's me, next to the guy who forgot to wear his binoculars.)

Lotusphere was a big step (and investment) for our tiny little software company, part of an amazing adventure, one which I will never forget. I'm thankful for the dedicated team (Bailey, Michael, Tanny, Jennifer, Linda, Jonathan, and Jenny, to name a few...) along with the investors who helped grow the company. (I eventually sold my interest in the company and moved on, resigning as CTO to pursue personal projects. Sadly, a few years later, Peloria became a casualty of the era.)

Looking forward:
Today, 25-40 emails in a day is considered just a trickle, while flood status from some executives looks more like 250-400 emails in a day. I continue to work on innovative ways to show people new ways of getting things done using technology to enhance their personal and group productivity. Plans are in the works to attend Lotusphere next year to showcase several new eProductivity products and services.

To my friends and associates who will be attending Lotusphere this year, I wish you the best, safe travels, and an exciting time. It could be a big step for you as it was for me.

Do you have an interesting story to share about MailScout? If so, send me an e-mail with your story and I'll send you a button. I only have 5 left!

Productivity in Motion, Part Three

Tuesday, December 7th, 2004
In part one I explained how I use robotics to teach productivity skills to children.  Well, this year, our all-girls Jr. Robotics team earned the top awards at not one, but two competitions! I'm very proud of them. I hope that you will take a moment to look at the pictures and read girl's own story of how they went from 39th to 1st place on their team blog site.

Many thanks to this year's our sponsors and partners:

Our sponsors for 2004:

The David Allen Company - Thank you, Mr. Allen, friend and team champion
ICA.COM, Inc. - Sponsorship, laptop computers, and robot kits

Our partners for 2004:

Microsoft OneNote Team - Our electronic team notebook
MindJet - for MindManager, a helpful tool to map our ideas
Gyronix - for ResultsManager, a visual project management tool
eProductivity.NET - team building tools and support
ProjectDX  and Tanny O'Haley - for your support with our first team blog

Our Visitors for 2004:

Channel Nine Guy - for cheering us on.

And the Parents and Mentors of team #1144, U.S. FIRST Jr., Robotics Team.

Treo 650 Update #1

Tuesday, November 30th, 2004
Last night, I configured my new TREO 650 with the beta release of PdaNet so that I could evaluate it as a wireless modem for my IBM ThinkPad.  I was very pleased with the results. I was able to surf the web, replicate my Lotus Notes databases, connect to my server via PC Anywhere, and use instant messaging. The speed tests report throughput between 100k and 140k, which is satisfactory for these applications. I was able to do this quickly and easily, using the USB cable. I also tested this via Bluetooth. Bluetooth worked the first time, however, I could not get it to work again. (I understand that the software is still in beta.) In all, I'm quite pleased.

Another busy week ahead. I've just returned from my daughter's second robotics competition. I'll wait for them to post their blog entries before I share how the event went.  (hint: it was amazing)

Coming soon, I'll be sharing the results of my evaluations of a few on-board productivity tools that I am using with my Treo 650.
UPS delivered a shiny new TREO 650 SmartPhone today. My plan is to fully integrate the TREO 650 with Lotus Notes for a variety of eProductivity.NET applications using Pylon iAnywhere to mobilize them. I've done quite a bit of integration using Pylon products over the years, and I highly recommend them.

Lately, I have been looking into a product called mNotes by CommonTime. The mNotes product is similar to iAnywhere in many ways, however, it has a few features not found in the Pylon product that are of interest to several of my corporate customers. These include: support for multiple calendars, multiple To-Do lists, multiple email users, and on-device folder support. This last feature will apparently allow for the filing of messages on the device and to have those changes replicated to Lotus Notes wirelessly. I'll let you know how the evaluation it works out.

My primary reason for choosing the TREO 650 and the SprintPCS network is their $15 PCSVision plan with unlimited internet. Thanks to the Sprint PCS network, I can replicate data between the TREO and Lotus Notes. When changes happen at the desktop or on the device, they will be immediately replicated to the other location.  Earlier this year, I deployed this system for a client using Pylon iAnywhere and I was very pleased with the results. On the unified messaging front, I've been using and recommending Remark! Unified Messaging for the past 8 years; my next project will be to look for ways to integrate the TREO and RUMA.

BTW: The SprintPCS activation process, while mostly smooth, left something to be desired. After entering all of my data on my touch-tone keypad, I was connected over a mediocre quality VOIP connection to Ray, in the Philippines. (I sure hope Sprint's PCS voice quality is better than their customer service voice quality). Of course, I had to give Ray all of the same info that I typed in when I placed the call -- the same information I had to provide when I placed the order. So much for integrated ordering. :-(  20 minutes later, after sharing all of the information that you are not supposed to give to strangers over the phone, I was assigned a temporary mobile phone #.  As for the famous $150 rebate, the rep told me that it would take between 4 and 12 months to get  the rebate and that I would have to initiate it after 4 months. I wonder if I'll see that $ again.

There is no wireless coverage up here in the mountains where I live, so I'll have to wait until I drive down to the city to see how it really works.

Best wishes for a blessed Thanksgiving. We have much to be thankful for.


ActiveWords and eProductivity

Thursday, November 4th, 2004
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)

Image:ActiveWords and eProductivity                    

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.

Thanks, Buzz!

Treo 650 and Pylon iAnywhere

Monday, October 25th, 2004
I have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Treo 650, from PalmOne. The TREO is an ideal match for my Pylon iAnywhere server,  which allows me to keep my Lotus Notes E-Mail, Contacts, and other databases in sync with my mobile devices. While I probably won't send too many e-mails from my phone, I love the idea of having my Lotus Notes databases replicated to my handheld so that I can access all of my information in one place. (See my previous thoughts on this topic.) I should point out that the Pylon iAnywhere server is device independent, so I can (and will) keep profiles for multiple devices (e.g. Tungsten C, Treo 650, Pocket PC) and then just pick and take whichever device most suitable for my needs or happens to be closest at hand.

Back to the real story: Palm Infocenter is reporting the announcement of the Treo 650 SmartPhone; Treo central has a hands-on review of the unit, as well. Wondering about price? Treo central has some information on that, too. The Treo 650 looks like a good unit, I'm ready to buy two, and to encourage my clients to do the same.

Sprint has just announced service for the Treo 650 on their network and I am sure that other carriers will be quick to follow suit. There seems to be some concern about whether (or not) the Sprint offering will allow the Treo 650 to be used as a wireless laptop modem.  The current buzz is no. If that's the case, I'll be moving to AT&T's Edge network. I have faith in our competitive economic system; I know that other alternatives will emerge soon.

For me, I'm immersed in a few key client projects, so the blogging will be light. Big plans in the works for eProductivity.NET, but those will have to wait another month or so, until I complete some of my present commitments.

Beyond Crayons

Tuesday, October 12th, 2004
Nick Duffill, of Gyronix, (co-creator of ResultManager - a visual GTD Dashboard for MindManager) has just joined the blogging community. His new blog is called: Beyond Crayons.

Nick plans to focus his blog on visualisation for professionals, but I hope that he branches out (OK, pun intended) into other areas too. He's an interesting guy with lots to say. He also likes robots -- which says a lot in my book.

As I have previously posted, I'm in the process of working ResultManager into our Jr. Robotics team planning meetings. Nick's been a great resource for me and has generously provided his software and remote training to us along.

If you are familiar with Mind Mapping, Mind Manager, and the GTD methodology, take a look at ResultManager, a powerful tool to help you visualize your projects and actions.  Here's a brief overview, by Chuck Frey, of InnovationTools.

I've added Nick's Blog to my RSS reader and I'm now anxiously awaiting Nick's next words....  (hint)

Welcome to the Blogosphere, Nick!


PS. Looks like this month will have me focused on client projects and new deployments of my eProductivity template for Lotus Notes. Between these activities, life, and coaching the team, my own blogging may be a bit sparse for the next few weeks. Stay tuned, though. Lots more to come!

eProductivity Update: 09/28/2004

Tuesday, September 28th, 2004
I received many inquiries about eProductivity consulting and my updated eProductivity Template for Lotus Notes.

Image:eProductivity Update: 09/28/2004

I have been focused on several key client projects as of late, which has required that I delay the launch of the  eProductivity.NET web site a little while longer.

I will be posting an update on current events with respect to the template and the site very soon. (If this is something that is of interest to you, be sure sign up at eProductivity.NET. )

In the mean time, if you have a pressing need, you can send me an email via the "contact" link at the top of this page.


Good-bye mouse, hello ActiveWords

Saturday, September 25th, 2004
ActiveWords will save you time - clear and simple.

Inspired by Jason's recent post on High tech productivity, here's my long-overdue summary of a product that I began working with about a year ago...

In short, ActiveWords will allow you to develop a list of shortcuts that you can call up using a simple keystroke (CTRL+SpaceBar). No menus to navigate, just type in a word and go. These shortcuts can launch applications, open web sites, retrieve information, replace text in a document, or fill out forms - you get the idea.

Image:Good-bye mouse, hello ActiveWords

No time to think about creating a list of shortcuts? ActiveWords will do that for you, too. I let ActiveWords watch what I'm doing and then propose shortcuts. It's a little irritating at first, but in a short period of time, I have developed a list of keywords that I like.

To tell the truth, I installed the product a year ago, allowed Buzz Bruggeman, ActiveWords evangelist, to show me how it worked, and then got distracted with client projects, writing, speaking engagements, etc. Big mistake. I could have saved a lot of time had I been using ActiveWords to help me navigate Windows.

I recently switched laptops and ActiveWords was one of the first applications to get loaded onto the new ThinkPad. It has made a huge difference for me in launching programs and performing routine tasks. (For those of you, who use a TabletPC, there is an InkPad version of AW coming.)

I'm particularly excited about the scripting capabilities of this product. With it, I hope to be able to write scripts (in my spare time, of course) to automate many of the repetitive tasks that I need to do in Lotus Notes and other key productivity tools that I use.

I plan to recommend this tool as a standard part of my eProductivity consulting toolkit.

You can download a free trial at the ActiveWords web site.


Mind maps as a study tool

Monday, September 13th, 2004
I recently blogged about MindManager, and how I have been using it for a variety of business applications.  As a technologist, I really enjoy evaluating new software and hardware in order to advise my clients. On the personal side, I am planning to teach our Jr. Robotics team how to use MindManager, ResultManager, and even OneNote to help them capture and manage their ideas for the competition. (More on this and a link to the girl's blog soon.)

For the past 8 weeks, I have been noting my progress using MindManager exclusively as a note-taking tool for a New Testament Survey course that I have just completed. I wanted to see if I could take an entire course, using only mind maps as my knowledge capture tool. I also wanted to see if the visual capture, representation, and retrieval of information could be accomplished in real-time, on my laptop, as efficiently as I have been able to do in the past by hand...

Mind mapping has helped me increase my understanding of the material that I studied; it also improved my ability to quickly recall information in context. It was easy for me to visually organize the topical relationship between my notes - both while I was studying as well as in review.

[Image Missing]
Image:Mind maps as a study tool

I found that taking notes in class on my ThinkPad was easy, however, I was concerned that it might be distracting to the professor or to others in the room. (Michael Hyatt has addressed some of this in his post on why he bought a TabletPC.) Therefore, for the first part of this experiment, I primarily used MindManager outside of class to make maps of each book as I read and studied them.

One unexpected result
of making mind maps for everything that I read or studied, was that it increased my study-time. However, It also increased my ability to recall information, so it was well worth it. I attribute this to the ease with which it was possible to go into greater detail -- sometimes much more than was required for the course. I found that it is simply more fun to study a visual map of my knowledge rather than a page of notes in linear form. Ultimately, I did have to limit the scope of my maps, based on my available time. Again, this is not a flaw in the methodology or the technology -- just me, learning how to best adapt these tools to my needs.

I consider my experiment, creating visual outlines in real-time, to have been a success.

Both my note-taking and my studies of the Scriptures have been enhanced as a result. Mind Manager, as a capture tool, facilitated the process greatly. I am starting to add ResultManager into the mix so that I can capture assignments and actions in real-time.

In addition to the digital maps on my laptop, I now have a 3-ring binder at home with large fold-out maps on each book I have studied and its background. (Yes, I know, I could keep the maps on my computer, but I still like the feel of flipping through paper.) I'm sure that when I get a TabletPC, I will think differently. (Open invitation for Marc or Michael to respond.)

For the student in us all, I highly recommend visual mapping as a study aid;
MindManager is my tool of choice to create and manage my maps.


*The source materials I used for the course were, the New English Translation (NET Bible), as well as two reference texts: Survey of the New Testament, by Paul N. Benware, and The MacArthur Bible Handbook, by John MacArthur.

Notes, OneNote, where to keep my notes?

Thursday, September 9th, 2004
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.

[NOTE: Original date of this post was September 7, 2004. I am posting this again today, because a problem prevented some people from posting their comments. If you would like to post a comment and are having difficulty, please e-mail it to me using the link at the top of this page. I will post it for you.]

Image:Notes, OneNote, where to keep my notes?

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.

Rich storage

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.

Familiar look

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.

Image:Notes, OneNote, where to keep my notes?

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.

If you who want to learn more about Tablet PCs and OneNote, be sure to visit Marc's blog, Michael Hyatt's blog and the TabletPC Buzz forum.

Right now, I'm trying to figure out how to retrofit my LiveBoard to turn it into a monster Tablet PC on which to run OneNote and MindManager.  If get that working, I'll blog about it.

Meanwhile, of you have any thoughts, feel free to post a comment.

How does he answer so quickly?

Thursday, September 2nd, 2004
I'm about to let you in on a little secret: it's that red ball to the right of my ThinkPad.
Image:How does he answer so quickly?

When a client calls, I reach for the phone with my left hand and the red ball with my right. Then, as the client asks their question, I flip my wrist and read them the answer.

Image:How does he answer so quickly?

Every consultant should have one of these.

Image:How does he answer so quickly?

A., now you know.... :-)

More productive with[out] e-mail?

Monday, August 30th, 2004
Could you live without your email for a day? Do you think it would make you more or less productive?

Twenty-one years ago, I helped develop one of the first 8-bit LAN e-mail systems. (This one ran on the TurboDOS network.) At the time, I offered this new e-mail solution to my corporate clients; however, I could barely give it away.

The typical answer at the time was:
"Why do we need email when we can walk over to someone's desk, pick up the phone, send a fax, or send a Telex?"
Eight years later, I worked with a client that was using MCIMail -- which was only a step up from using Telex -- to send messages from one desk to another in the same building -- a process that took several minutes. It was actually faster to walk across the hall then it was to use a dial-up modem to upload each message at a cost of up to a dollar a piece.

Now, e-mail has all but replaced Telex machines and faxes are only used for paper documents that cannot be sent in electronic form.

Jump forward to the age of the Blackberry, where people not only expect to be able to send a message to anyone, anywhere, at any time, but some companies expect their employees to actually respond within 2 minutes! A big change from the MCIMail days.

For better or for worse, email has certainly changed the way that people communicate over the past 20 years.

This month's Fast Company Magazine has an article about how Veritas has declared each Friday to be a no-email day.

How has e-mail changed the way that you work? How would the elimination of e-mail, if only for a day, change things for you?

MindManager for Kids

Friday, August 27th, 2004
To visualize some ideas for their U.S. FIRST Jr. Robotics Team, I taught Amy and Wendy how to use my computer to create a mind map. We loaded up MindManager and within minutes the kids were using the software to create their basic map.

Image:MindManager for Kids

Mind mapping is not new to my kids. MindManager just makes the process much easier.

I really enjoy coaching Jr. Robotics because it provides me with a tangible way to show young people the results of their creative thinking in action.

I plan to look into teaching the team how to use MindManager as part of the preparations for this year's competition.

Over the next 4 months, the girls and I will be blogging about our team experiences on the way to the robotics competition. Be sure to add this site's RSS feed to your reader so that you can remain informed.  

Until then, here's a link to the girl's 2002 Jr. Robotics web site.
My colleague, Michael Sampson, has just published the first part of his two-part white paper: Collaboration Software Clients: Email, IM, Presence, RSS & Collaborative Workspaces Should Be Integrated for Business Communication.

In his paper, Michael returns to "first principles," as he discusses the types of software-facilitated interactions the information professional deals with on a day-to-day basis. I think Michael does a great job of identifying the key requirements for functional collaboration while proposing how things, in his view, "should" work.

Michael's paper examines the strengths and weaknesses of:
Instant Messaging
RSS Newsreader
Collaborative Workspaces

I've known Michael for many years and he does amazing work. We first collaborated together in 1997 on a presentation for the Electronic Messaging Association,  (EMA), on the topic of "Smart Messaging." At that time, Michael was a strategist for Telecom, New Zealand, and I was CTO of Peloria Technology Corp. I moderated a presentation with Michael and another colleague, Eva Wylie, of Unisys Corporation. Together, the three of us spoke about the present and future needs of collaboration in the area of multimedia messaging. It's been fun these past years to see some of our predictions come to pass.

There is obviously still a long way to go, and Michael seeks to address these issues.

A neat thing to know about Michael, is that he writes these reports and his daily Shared Spaces blog as a way of staying sharp in his field. No doubt, he generates new business from some companies, who read his work and choose to engage him for strategic consulting, but the driver, as he once explained to me, is the public accountability that his blog and these reports create for him.  Michael's already published that he will post part II of his paper in September, so he's already got a stake in the ground.  (You will want to add it to your "Waiting For List"). I'm sure he won't disappoint us.

Nice work, Michael!

I've got a busy week ahead; I'll probably have more to say about Michael's report soon. For now, I encourage you to download it and have a look.

Help! I can’t find my in-box!

Thursday, August 5th, 2004
It was right there, next to my monitor only a few days ago...

For the past few days, I've been highly focused on a few key client projects.

Image:Help! I can´t find my in-box!

This morning, I looked up and noticed that my in-box was gone!  Funny, I don't recall moving it and I don't think anyone came in and took it.  And, what's this pile of "stuff" doing here? Where did THAT come from?

Ok, the truth: no one actually stole my in-basket; it's just entropy.

My office is a documented entropy environment. (I guess my work style must create the ideal conditions for it or something.)

Oh, well, time to get out my GTD workflow diagram and clean this mess up.
Last week, I publicly promised Dr. Radicati that I would post her written response to my questions in its entirety on my web site. Monday a staffer from The Radicati Group called my office to let me know that I could expect a written response to my e-mail on Wednesday. Here then, is yesterday's e-mail exchange from Dr. Radicati:

From: []
Sent: Sunday, August 01, 2004 9:50 PM
Subject: Dr. Radicati, do you plan to respond to Michael Sampson's response to your Messaging Market Analysis?

Dr. Radicati,

My name is Eric Mack; I shall assume that you are aware of me --  if not for work with the EMA many years ago, when I was CTO of Peloria Technology Corp, then at least from my recent comments on my personal blog:

Michael Sampson's response to your Messaging Market Analysis a week and a half ago raised many questions for me and for my clients. Many companies and trade publications refer to your reports and analyses for information on the messaging marketplace. As you can imagine, Michael's response has generated more questions than it answered.

Your recent response to Ed Brill's blog on your web site answered several of the questions that I had about motivation for the publication of the report, thank you. What I was hoping that you might also address, were the specific issues that Michael Sampson raised. So far, I have seen no response to any of Michael Sampson's comments about your analysis -- from you or from anyone else. Michael's objections to your analysis and conclusions were specific and clear. I'd like to know what you think.

Dr. Radicati, will you post a public response to Michael Sampson's response to your paper, or should I assume, that Michael's observations and responses are correct?

If the referrer activity on my web site coming from other blogs and from Google searches seeking "Radicati" is any indication of interest in this topic, I am not the only one with questions. I know that at least my clients and I would like to know what your response is to the Sampson paper.

As I have offered on my public web site, if you would like to respond directly, and I hope that you will, you may reach me at my email (below) or at my office, 661-242-8410 x101. I look forward to hearing from you. I promise to post any written response from you in it's entirety.

Eric Mack.

Eric Mack,
eProductivity Specialist,
Making Technology Work For You

VideoPhone:         661-665-7878  H.320 Codec, 2x64 (ISDN)
Corp Web Site:
eProductivity         http://www.eProductivity.NET
Facsimile:                 661-242-0171
Telephone:                 661-242-8410 x101
--- Nothing new below / Fin du message transmis ---

From: "Sara Radicati"
Date: 08/04/2004 11:37 AM
Fax to:

Subject: RE: Dr.Radicati, do you plan to respond to Michael Sampson's response to your Messaging Market

Hi Eric,

Thanks for your email - I read Michael Sampson's response to my paper but frankly, I don't see where it raises issues that I still need to respond to beyond those which I have already posted on my web site.

My view/position is:

1. I believe Michael is entitled to his opinion about the market for Notes, Workplace and Microsoft Exchange. My company clearly has a different position as expressed in the whitepaper.

2. Nothing I have read in Michael's response changes my mind about anything we have already written in our paper.

3. I am amazed at the amount of discussion/publicity all of this has genrated given that my company had already openly come out against IBM Lotus's Workplace strategy since the beginning of the year. I have given countless interviews in which I expressed the opionions which are summarized in the whitepaper in question. I have also made my views known to IBM Lotus senior management when we have had briefings and they have asked for our feedback. In a nutshell, I believe IBM Lotus's workplace strategy is weak and will cause than to lose market share over the next four years.

4. I am also amazed that it seems that a portion of Lotus Notes customers/followers don't realize that Workplace Messaging is a replacement strategy for Notes - I guess they must not be understanding the same things as they listened to the IBM Lotus formal presentations.

Finally, I am not interested in blogging or discussing this topic much further since everyone's opionion is fairly well ingrained and polarized at this point. We have stated our opinion as it stands in the whitepaper and we will continue to stand by that position. I do, however, take a great deal of offense when people attack my company's integrity simply because they don't like our point of view. I think that is extremely sad for our industry and very underhanded.

You can make this entire email available to others if you wish but frankly that only encourages what I think is by now a fairly pointless discussion.


Sara Radicati, PhD
President & CEO
The Radicati Group, Inc.
595 Lytton Ave.
Palo Alto, CA 94301
Tel: 650-322-8059 x.18

From: []
Sent: Wednesday, August 04, 2004 11:03 AM
To: Sara Radicati
Subject: RE: Dr. Radicati, do you plan to respond to Michael Sampson's response to your Messaging Market Analysis?

Hello Sara,

Thank you for your email today.

While I do not share the conclusions raised in your report, my real objections have to do with undisclosed interests or even the appearance of such -- either of which can be damaging to you and to the credibility of our common profession, as technologists and consultants.

I won't repeat here what I have already written on my blog, but I do encourage you and your analysts to read and consider some of the procedural objections that have been raised. I would be happy to discuss the concerns that I have raised, either publicly or privately.

Before I leave this issue, may I please encourage you, in any future reports, to address the concerns which I have raised on my web site up front. If a reader understands the objective, the sponsorship, and the method used to reach the conclusions presented in your papers, then they will be in a better position to make use of the information that The Radicati Group has to share.

As I promised, I shall post your email in its entirety as a comment to my blog.  (I feel an obligation to at least bring closure to the question that I posed, of whether or not you would respond to the Shared-Spaces response paper to your report.)

Thank you for taking the time to share your position with me.

Eric Mack

Eric Mack,
eProductivity Specialist,
Making Technology Work For You

VideoPhone:         661-665-7878  H.320 Codec, 2x64 (ISDN)
Corp Web Site:
eProductivity         http://www.eProductivity.NET
Facsimile:                 661-242-0171
Telephone:                 661-242-8410 x101
--- Nothing new below / Fin du message transmis ---

From: "Sara Radicati"
Date: 08/04/2004 12:19 PM        
Fax to:
Subject: RE: Dr. Radicati, do you plan to respond to Michael Sampson's response to your Messaging Market Analysis?


I think you have not understood a single thing I just wrote to you - again, everything I needed to say about this topic or our methodology, ethics, processes, etc. is already posted on my web site.

I really don't have any more time for these endless discussions.


Sara Radicati, PhD
President & CEO
The Radicati Group, Inc.
595 Lytton Ave.
Palo Alto, CA 94301
Tel: 650-322-8059 x.18

My previous blogs on this topic:

July 23,2004 When does Market Analysis Research" become "Marketing?
July 28,2004 Radicati Market Research Questions
July 30,2004 Dr. Radicati Responds... Well, sort of

Franklin, on getting things done

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2004
I find Benjamin Franklin's thoughts on productivity inspiring and convicting. Perhaps you will too...

Last night, I surfaced from a marathon string of client projects which I had been working on for the past several days and evenings. In need of a break, I pulled something from my electronic read/review folder to shift my focus.  I found an old essay that I had written about Benjamin Franklin's views on time and its use. Any of Franklin's maxims could become the foundation for an essay on how we use our time. Here are a small collection of his thoughts...

Franklin, on personal productivity and the effective use of time:

Benjamin Franklin, who lived from 1706-1790, is often remembered for his many inventions and experiments, political writings, and witty common sense.  In 1732, Franklin began to publish some of his stories, wit, and wisdom under the pen-name of Richard Saunders in a publication by the name of Poor Richard's Almanac.  Poor Richard grew to become one of the most influential publications in American history and Franklin's numerous sayings and words of advice have remained an active part of American thought ever since.  

Inasmuch as the author is up late on the night before his American Literature class completing the required reading assignment of Poor Richard Improved, dated 1758, he is convicted by Franklin's admonition: He that riseth late, must trot all Day, and shall scarce overtake his business at night.  Thus condemned, the author will highlight some of Franklin's words of advice concerning the subject of personal productivity and the effective use of time from Franklin's publication.

Franklin begins by explaining that while government taxes may be burdensome and costly we are taxed twice as much by our idleness.  Thus, we are to be constantly seeking to make productive use of our time at all times since time is the stuff that life is made of and lost time is never found again. Franklin further reminds us of the fleeting nature of time since thou art not sure of a Minute, throw not away an Hour. And, as the author is reminded this evening, time enough proves little enough. Franklin encourages us to plan ahead and points out that there is value in not putting off things that need to be done: one today is worth two tomorrows. We are further encouraged to take action immediately upon becoming aware of the steps to move ahead: - have you somewhat to do tomorrow, do it today. Finally, Franklin tells us that just as employees are mindful to not be caught by their employers wasting time, we are our own masters; he thus admonishes us that we are to be ashamed to catch ourselves idle.

Franklin provides many examples of the benefits when our time is used efficiently and productively. These include financial and edible benefits: plough deep, while sluggards sleep, and you shall have corn to sell and to keep, leisurely benefits: employ thy time well if thou meanest to gain leisure, and good fortune: Diligence is the Mother of Good luck. At the same time, Franklin points out that the consequences of not using our time productively can be costly: The sleeping Fox catches no Poultry and Sloth, like Rust, consumes faster than Labour wears, while the used Key is always bright. The benefits of the effective use of time can also be seen with the relative ease with which things can be accomplished compared to the effort required when time is not used efficiently: Sloth makes all Things difficult, but Industry all easy.    

Finally, Franklin demonstrates that small things done consistently can have great effect in his example: constant dropping wears away stones.

The wisdom of Benjamin Franklin and the wit with which he dispatches it, are amazingly to the point. In fact, in the example of this brief essay, more words have been invested in the illustration of Franklin's advice than Franklin's advice itself - which violates Franklin's maxim on the economy of words: a Word to the Wise is enough.

Do any of these words of wisdom apply to you?

If so, what actions can you take now to move you towards your desired outcome?

Dr. Radicati Responds... Well, sort of.

Friday, July 30th, 2004
It has been an interesting week for the Radicati Group and my web site activity has jumped as a result. The most recent surge in activity first began a week ago, when I asked the question: "When does Market Analysis Research" become "Marketing?"  Since then, the traffic has only continued to grow; however, I still do not have answers to my most pressing question. And now, I have one more. (Sorry)

On Wednesday, I posted my three questions about the recent Radicati Market Analysis. These questions were my own, and arose after I read the Radicati Market Analysis and the response from Michael Sampson, of Shared-Spaces Research and Consulting. As a technologist, I read both papers and I felt that the questions that I had were reasonable and that they were ones that any reader should know the answers to before making an IT purchasing or planning decision based upon the Radicati (or anyone else's) market research projections.

Here were my original questions:
1. Who is the actual author of the report?

2. Who paid for it?

3. What were the sources of information used and how did they lead to the conclusions presented in the research paper? I asked if it would be possible to see a list of citations of the sources consulted and for the figures and graphs presented?
At the conclusion of my post, I publicly solicited answers to these questions from anyone who might have been involved in the production of this particular market analysis, who may be able to shed some light on my questions. I also invited Dr. Radicati, who I assumed authored (or at least approved) the research, to personally respond to my questions, and I offered to post her response in its entirety on my blog.

I have not heard anything yet; however, this evening, I noticed that Dr. Radicati had posted an official response on her Web Site entitled, "Our Response to Ed Brill's Weblog."

Let's see if Dr. Radicati answered any of my questions:

In her response, Dr. Radicati states that the views contained within it represent the "company position," and that any questions may be directed to Sara Radicati directly. OK, so that answers question number one.  Sort of. Continuing to question number two, I read that this paper was not funded by any particular vendor and that it is "based on excerpts from the 5 full length reports..." and it goes on to list reports which may be purchased for $3,000 each. OK, that works for me. If I had five papers to sell, I too, would likely offer a summary paper, showing highlights of my best work, free of charge, so that the public might get a glimpse of the quality of my work and hopefully, want to buy my  full length reports. As far as I am concerned, I will accept that as an answer to my question number two. This leaves me with only my question number three.

Before I go on, I would like to publicly state that I do not work for IBM or Microsoft; however, I represent many clients, who make sizeable investments and purchases from both companies each year. As an independent consultant for ICA.COM, Inc., I consult on the technology integration of products from these manufacturers and others with an eye towards making technology work to increase productivity. Internally, I use Microsoft Windows 2000, XP, and Office, as well as Lotus Notes for all of my Information, Communication, and Action tracking.  Oh, I also use Outlook and I have corporate clients who use Lotus Notes, Outlook, and Exchange, for  their messaging platforms. As you might expect, I am interested to know what others have to say concerning the future of any of these products. I am also very interested to know how they reached these conclusions, so that I may learn from them and advise my clients accordingly.

That said, I now come to my question number three -- the one that was of greatest interest to me as a technologist: "What were the sources of information used and how did they lead to the conclusions presented in the research paper?" No response. Michael Sampson, a consultant and analyst in messaging and collaborative technologies, made accusations of poor quality research and analysis when he wrote:
My overall analysis of this White Paper is that it is a headline grabbing publication lacking analytical rigor, logic and appropriate follow-through. The paper is unbelievable in this respect, making me wonder whether it is really an independent publication, or marketing material sponsored by Microsoft. The author seeks to compare two platforms that are entirely different in terms of scope and imagination, and then recommends a path for clients. I strongly believe that the author entirely misses the point, is totally wrong in the commentary on Microsoft's messaging strategy, and therefore provides market share growth figures that are just plain wrong.
Well, Michael was certainly right about the headline grabbing part, and I suspect that he's probably right about the rest, too. I note that Michael did not just make his bold accusations without supporting them. In fact, He wrote a paper, complete with citations, in response: Response to the Radicati market analysis study of June, 2004. In it, he responds, point by point, to the information and projections by Dr. Radicati. (I encourage you to read both Michael's response and the original Radicati paper for yourself and formulate your own opinion. I'm curious to know what you think about either paper.)

So far, there has been no response from the Radicati group or its president, Dr. Radicati, publicly or privately. (I checked with Michael this afternoon.) This makes me wonder: why did Dr. Radicati not respond to Michael's detailed response? Could it be that he was right?

Concurrent with all of this, there has been a lot of excitement over at Ed Brill's blog, here, and here, with each generating pages of comments. (You can draw your own conclusions about this.) The issues going on at Ed Brill's web site, in my opinion, are small, compared to the alleged fundamental flaws in the Radicati research, as pointed out by Michael Sampson.  If this were a political campaign, I might wonder if the things that happened on the Ed Brill site, were intended to distract our attention from the real issue...

The Radicati response continues in Q2:
Essentially, none of the content of this whitepaper is new - the paper is entirely based on information which we have already published and market numbers which we have already made available to the press over the last 7 months in countless interviews, articles and discussions.
OK, so are my enterprise clients and I to assume that the "analytical rigor, logic and follow-through" demonstrated in this "free" paper by the Radicati Group and promoted by Microsoft is representative of what we would find if we paid $15,000 to buy the full length reports from which it was "lifted?" If so, what kind of impression should we then formulate about the suite of Radicati research papers? What should we now think about Microsoft or other vendors when they quote these reports on their web sites? Who should we trust?
In the closing of Sara Radicati's response to Ed Brill, she writes:
"Finally, we believe that the comments on Ed Brill's blog represent his own personal opinion and that of his friends, and do not reflect the opinion of IBM Lotus' management."

I am not going to get involved in the discussion about what transpired on Ed's site; however, I have been following it with amazement. I am interested to see what IBM  and Microsoft have to say. As for me, I will simply close this lengthy post by asking one last question of Dr. Radicati:

Dr. Radicati, will you post a public response to Michael Sampson's response to your paper, or should I assume, that Michael's observations and responses are correct?
My clients and I would like to know the answer to this question. A few others may be interested, too.

As before, I will close with this offer: Dr. Radicati, if you would like to respond directly, and I hope that you will, you may reach me at my email (above) or at my office, 661-242-8410 x101. I look forward to hearing from you. I promise to post any written response from you in it's entirety.

Eric Mack.

Radicati Market Research Questions

Wednesday, July 28th, 2004
Michael Sampson's recent rebuttal to Sara Radicati's paper: "IBM Lotus & Microsoft -- Corporate Messaging Market Analysis," (available here), generated considerable reaction from a variety of sources, not the least of which was Ed Brill of IBM, on July 23 and July 26.  I posted  my own concerns  a few days ago and I have been following this topic with interest ever since.

Why do I care? Well, as a technology consultant, I make recommendations to my clients. If my opinions and recommendations are inconsistent with what other "experts" think, I want to know what the facts are that lead us to our separate conclusions. In the case of the Radicati research, I find myself disagreeing with many points; I owe it to myself, to my clients, and to my profession, to explore this further.

Microsoft promotes Sara's research on their web site, so I can assume that it represents a position that they believe (or would like to believe) will be true. I expect that IBM will respond publicly soon with their thoughts. (Ed?)

I'm really curious to see if a sharp industry blogger or editor will decide to investigate the facts presented in Sara and Michael's papers. It would be great to see someone like Mary Jo Foley at Microsoft-Watch or Barb Darrow, industry Editor for CRN, or someone from eWeek do an investigative write-up on this. Who knows, perhaps Robert Scoble, Microsoft's chief blogger, would care to offer another perspective.

Here are three questions I would like to know the answers to:

1. Research papers have authors.  Who is the actual author of the report?  If the author is simply " The Radicati Group," is it fair to say that the report accurately represents the expert opinion of Dr. Radicati and all of the research analysts that work for The Radicati Group as an organization?

2. Research costs money. Someone paid for it. Who was it? Was this research funded in-house, by The Radicati Group, by any of the vendors mentioned in the report, or by a third party? As a consultant, consumer, and distributor of information, I do not think that it is unreasonable for me to ask this question.

3. Research papers require research. What were the sources of information used and how did they lead to the conclusions presented in the research paper? Would it be possible to see a list of citations of the sources consulted and for the figures and graphs presented?

I publicly solicit answers to these questions from anyone who may have been involved in the production of this particular market analysis, who may be able to shed some light on my questions.

Dr. Radicati, if you would like to respond directly, and I hope that you will, you may reach me at my email (above) or at my office, 661-242-8410 x101. I look forward to hearing from you. I promise to post any written response from you in its entirety.


Mind Mapping for Results

Sunday, July 25th, 2004
I've just finished the second of two delightful and informative web-conference calls with Nick Duffill, of Gyronix. Nick and his associate have developed ResultManager -  a powerful add-in to MindManager, that allows it to be used as a visual project management tool. I must admit that I had initially looked at ResultManager as just a great collection support tool; however, after a brief tour with Nick, I'm convinced of its potential as a visual management tool for meetings and projects where many actions or delegated activities need to be tracked.

Image:Mind Mapping for Results

In short, the process of "Mind Mapping" will change the way that you brainstorm forever. Rather than writing down a linear list of ideas, you to collect ideas into a visual "Mind Map." Mind mapping, by the way,  is nothing new; Tony Buzan developed the concept of Mind Maps at a time when I was still using crayons to illustrate my ideas visually.

I've been using Mind Mapping as a brainstorming technique for many years; however, I have usually preferred to use colored pens and paper or a digital whiteboard to draw my maps. Most software tools that I have looked at were simply too slow or cumbersome for me to quickly collect my thoughts digitally. Of course, the appeal of being able to edit my maps digitally has kept me looking at new tools.

The MindManager software takes mind mapping to the next level  by allowing me to draw, edit, and manage my maps on my PC. Now, I can keep my mind maps in view on the wall in front of me while I keep my work visible on my laptop or an adjacent display. At the encouragement of Marc Orchant and Michael Hyatt, I might even finally consider a tablet!

Image:Mind Mapping for Results

Much has been written about the MindManager software lately so I won't attempt to rewrite what others have already said. Here's a quick 2003 write up from Innovation tools. I have also recently started a discussion in the GTD Forum on how MindManager might be used in the context of the GTD methodology. (I recall that Marc and Michael have both written on this topic as well; I'll post the links when I find them.)

For those of you who are already using MindManager and want to take digital mind mapping next level for project management, be sure to take a look at ResultManager. I've installed version 2.01 of ResultManager, which adds some powerful features for visual project management.

I'll have more to share about this in the near future as I am presently mapping out several very large project using both tools. I continue to be a student of tools and technologies for enhanced productivity. I'm excited about MindManager and ResultManager.

I welcome your comments and feedback.


PS. You can download 21 day evaluations of both products from the Gyronix web site.
When does "Market Analysis Research" become "Marketing?"

If your company relies on market analysis research reports offered by the many independent research organizations, you might wonder how there can be so many widely conflicting conclusions resulting from what should be the same (or at least verifiable) sources of information. Shouldn't the facts speak plainly, and shouldn't the "independent experts," who write these reports adhere to standards of professional conduct?

Michael Sampson, has just thrown down the gauntlet in response to a paper entitled, "IBM Lotus & Microsoft -- Corporate Messaging Market Analysis". The paper, published by the Radicati Group, makes bold, yet apparently unsupported claims about the future (or lack thereof) of Microsoft's Exchange and IBM's Lotus Domino and Workplace.  

Michael's Response to the Radicati market analysis study of June, 2004, challenges the accuracy and conclusions of the paper and calls the nameless author to account for the positions presented.

I applaud Michael for his response -- not for only the questions that he asks, but for doing his part to raise the bar of professionalism for independent consulting, research, and reporting.

Many years ago, when I was CTO for Peloria Technology Corporation, I had the opportunity to serve with Michael along with members of the Radicati group on various committees of the Electronic Messaging Association, (now, the Open Group).  The commitment of these individuals to objective evaluation and analysis of the messaging and collaborative issues of the day helped propel the industry forward and I am excited to have played a part in that process.

It concerns me, therefore, whenever "independent research" is presented in an unscholarly way -- without support for the conclusions presented and without citations of sources for the "facts" and figures quoted. Further, when a paper is presented anonymously, I am forced to wonder whether the opinions presented represent the entire organization or just someone who is unwilling to stand by his or her claims. The fact that the paper is offered free of charge on the Microsoft site further suggests to me that Microsoft, at a minimum, stands by the veracity of report or at least wants me to.

I encourage you to read both papers and to draw your own conclusions.

Aside from any technical or marketing reaction to these papers, I think that the greater issue at stake is the behavior and professionalism of "Independent experts." It is my strong desire that Michael's response will serve as a catalyst that will call us consultants and research organizations to a high level of professionalism and accountability in our research, analysis, and presentations.

As independent consultants, our clients rely upon us for our expert analysis and recommendations and we have a vested interest in the reputation and perception of our industry. We can improve that reputation by following Michael's challenge to demonstrate analytical rigor and integrity in our work.
Many corporations spend millions of dollars, purchasing and implementing new technologies, hoping to become more productive, while their current systems remain largely underutilized. When organizations deny themselves the productive benefits of technology that they already own, they are wasting their investment and their employees' time. For organizations that use Lotus Notes, there is no excuse. Much of what they need to be productive is already built-in or can be easily customized.

The inspiration for this post came from yesterday's rant in the David Allen Getting Things Done Forum, entitled: Corporations, technology and ROI, they just don't get it!

I provide eProductivity consulting and seminars to companies who want to get more from their investment in technology. Many of these companies already happen to use Lotus Notes, which in my opinion, is currently one of the most powerful tools for information management available. Some of these companies equip their people with the tools and training to use Notes productively, and they achieve a significant return on their investment. Others use Notes for little more than e-mail and perhaps a calendar. It is to this latter group that this essay is addressed.

There is a big difference between companies that really use technology to achieve productive results and those that just talk about it.
That difference is a willingness to invest in training and services to help them fully utilize their technology investment.

For those companies that currently use Lotus Notes, two powerful capabilities (among many) that they already have are the ability to customize Notes and the ability to replicate changes across an entire workgroup or organization with ease.

An organization can customize their databases to better support their needs by adding custom fields, workflow, agents, and a host of other capabilities. Over the years, I have helped many companies increase their productivity by showing them how to customize Lotus Notes for their needs. I have packaged many of the things that I have learned about productivity into my eProductivity template for Lotus Notes. For those of you who are familiar with the GTD methodology, here's a link to the steps that I use to implement GTD in Lotus Notes.

For my work, I took the standard Notes mail template and added several powerful enhancements to support the way that I manage my information, communications, and actions. Using my eProductivity template and methods for Lotus Notes, it is possible for anyone to easily save five, fifteen, or even up to sixty minutes each day. (Now that's ROI!) This template does not actually change any of the underlying data, only the way that the information is presented and managed. This way, compatibity is maintained with the other Notes applications that I use, including wireless e-mail on my Palm. The neat thing is that these templates can be quickly and automatically deployed, whether to a workgroup of 10 or an organization of 200,000. In a similar manner, templates can be replaced or updated just as easily. The great part about all of this is that the driving technology -- Lotus Notes -- is already sitting on millions of desktops.

The undoing of Lotus Notes usually happens from within.

Sadly, a problem that I frequently encounter is sabotage; many of the same organizations that had the vision and foresight to invest in Lotus Notes to help their people become productive, sabotage its potential productive benefits. They do this, either by poor implementation, lack of training, or refusal to consider use or deploy custom templates. Many organizations do not even train their people to use the built-in features of Lotus Notes effectively. As a result, many people never venture beyond the obvious features, using Notes for little else than e-mail and calendar.

(This problem, by the way, is not unique to companies that use Notes; I encounter the same problems with organizations that have deployed Microsoft Outlook or other productivity applications. They sabotage their deployments in the same way and the potential benefits are limited.)

Now, I understand the reason that some organizations lock down their systems: they want to prevent users from making changes and creating an extra burden for IT support. At the same time, the decision to prevent users from customizing their desktops should not translate into a policy of refusing to consider any customization or template changes that have the potential to bring significant value to the company.

Refusal to equip or allow employees to fully use Lotus Notes is not much different than prohibiting employees from creating their own spreadsheets in Excel or using macros in Word. In either case, the productive potential is wasted.

The battle for increased productivity is often lost at the desktop.

I recently consulted for a large organization that had an established policy of archiving everything in employee mail databases after 60 days. The problem I have with the way that they had implemented this is that tasks and appointments disappear after 60 days. (This is not a problem with Notes - just the way they chose to implement it.) As you can imagine, the employees do not trust their systems. The result: many do not use Notes for anything but email, and the potential for productive gain and significant ROI is lost.

If I could convince companies of one thing as a result of reading this post, it would be this: Lotus Notes is a powerful productivity tool, and there are many simple things that can be done to equip people to effectively use Lotus Notes to manage their information, communication, and action.

An organization's investment in Lotus Notes is often considerable, yet many achieve a return many times their investment. The difference between those companies that realize a significant return on their Lotus Notes investment and those that do not is usually how they use it.

I started writing this essay because I was frustrated by the large number of people that tell me that they want to become more productive in the way that they use Lotus Notes, yet their organizations will not provide training, approve the use of any third-party templates, or even allow them to customize their Notes preferences.

It seems contradictory to to me, for an organization to invest in a powerful information tool like Lotus Notes and then tie the hands of the people who stand to benefit the most.

If this sounds like your organization, please be sure to forward this essay to the people who make these decisions --  I'd like to get their reaction. Meanwhile, if you have a viewpoint, I would like to hear from you. Click on Add/Read comments (below) to share your thoughts.

This afternoon, I drove over to David Allen's house to do some work with him. When I got here, he and Marian Bateman were sitting at a table in the yard, working on a coaching project. The neat thing was not that they were working, but where and how they were working. David had set up an 8' projection screen, propped up with rocks, and he was projecting from his wireless ThinkPad. (And I thought I was a geek! )

Actually, I was quite delighted to see this. You see, 6 years ago I had a discussion with David about the benefits of unplugged computing and I shared my vision that someday, he would be able to work while connected, from anywhere -- even under his favorite Sycamore tree.

Image:Backyard computing. Connected to the great indoors.

While many executives spent their Monday afternoon indoors, perhaps in a stuffy conference room, dressed in suits and isolated from the outdoors, David and Marian were able to enjoy the outdoors and have a delightfully productive meeting while connected to the server indoors.
I love it when technology works for people.

Now that summer's here, I can take my wireless laptop and VPN/VOIP Kit down to the lake to get some creative work done in the tranquility of the outdoors.

Image:Backyard computing. Connected to the great indoors.

So, If you see some propellerhead sitting at a picnic table with his laptop, solar powered battery back, and a tripod with a yagi antenna pointed up at the mountains, that's me. (A blog for another day)


P.S. I almost forgot. David showed me a low-tech method that he uses to add animation to an otherwise static PowerPoint presentation.

Image:Backyard computing. Connected to the great indoors.Image:Backyard computing. Connected to the great indoors.

Apparently, this is a trick he's mastered during the breaks at his seminars.  
I think I'll go home and teach the kids. :-)

5 Steps to GTD in Notes

Thursday, June 24th, 2004
A member of the GTD Forum recently asked if anyone had implemented GTD using Lotus Notes and a Treo 600. I started to respond with my recommendations, based on my own experience; before I knew it my post had turned into a mini-essay.  

My response: Five steps to implementing GTD within Lotus Notes

What value, wireless E-Mail?

Thursday, June 24th, 2004
For me, the measure of success in evaluating a new technology or productivity tool is the degree to which it becomes transparent to the actual work being done, and the level of productivity that is gained as a result. A doctor should not have to think about his scalpel or stethoscope; neither should a writer have to think about his pen or legal pad. In the same way, a knowledge worker should not have to think about his information processing tools. Any time he does, he robs himself of the opportunity to get his real work done.

Yesterday, Michael Hyatt blogged about his experience, using the Blackberry. Michael presents a cogent overview of his experience using his Blackberry to help him get things done.

As an eProductivity specialist, I enjoy reading about people's successes (and challenges) as they attempt to work various technologies into their "systems."

Technology now exists to enable us to process, or at least access, our email and calendar from anywhere; but where should we really handle this information?

Two months ago, David Allen, in his blog: "Coaching to 40,000 feet," wrote about one of his clients:
"He tossed his Blackberry ("Crackberry" as he called it!), agreeing with my recommendation that e-mail should be processed most efficiently for most people from at least a laptop, and he ordered a Palm to distribute his Outlook lists into for portability. (Though there are exceptions, this is usually the best configuration for most people in an Outlook environment)."

This casual comment touched off a flurry of responses about the value of a device that can provide instant email. I've been watching the log files with interest ever since, to see who would pick up on his comments -- either to agree, or to share an alternative viewpoint.

I agree that for most people, including myself, email can be more efficiently processed at a computer -- a context in which it can often be completed or processed down to the very next action. I authored one of the first wireless e-mail solutions for LAN messaging  in 1992, when I was CTO of Peloria Technology Corporation. In those days, we were dealing with simple one-way and eventually two-way devices, basically pagers.  Since that time, the on-device technology and speed of delivery has vastly improved, but the process of dealing with e-mail on the road has changed little. Often, e-mail on a mobile device is still treated as a page or alert -- which can be important and useful; however, the user must still return to their desktop to process these messages a second time to decide what to do with them.  This is not as efficient as it could be.

To be fair, David did not fully explain the reason for his view that e-mail is better processed at the computer, but I suspect the fact that the same message must often be processed twice (at the device and at the desktop) had a lot to do with it.

For many of us who live the mobile lifestyle, waiting until we can get back to our desk to check or process our email is simply not fast enough.The demands of modern competitive business often require that we be in-touch. The ability to respond or make a decision quickly, based on new information, can be a determining factor in the success or failure of a project, or even a company. So for some, the cost of double processing, is more than offset by the value of the information.

David did allow for these exceptions. (Perhaps Michael and I fall into the "exceptions" category, or maybe we are just exceptional people.)  

In the end, I believe that what matters most is not where you process your stuff, but whether or not you are getting things done.  Having to process email twice is not much different than folks who capture their thoughts on a voice recorder -- they have to process their ideas twice. Both approaches are inefficient, yet they aren't. For some, the extra mobility outweighs the inconvenience of double-processing.

While many of the current generation of wireless devices now allow for onboard deletion of messages, they continue to fall short of their potential by not allowing messages to be filed or converted into projects and actions at the device. Developers and device manufacturers still do not seem to understand the value [or potential] of being able to fully process your information on a mobile device. They provide us with wonderful tools, yet they often miss the mark by only a feature or two. In this case, the ability to really process the stuff that we receive wirelessly in a seamless fashion.

What I would like to see, is the ability to file an email in a folder and have that sync to my desktop application. I would also like to have the ability to convert an email into a project, action, or calendar item. These seem like simple things but they would have a profound impact on the utility of these devices.  Perhaps they should attend one of David's GTD seminars or have me participate in their usability testing. If they did, and if they truly got it, I'm sure that we would see big changes in the usability of the these products.  (This is my eHint to: RIM, PalmOne, Sybase and Microsoft)

For me, I continue to do the best that I can, using variety of eProductivity solutions to support me in my work.  Having the ability to quickly review my projects and actions and at the same time receive or send receive e-mail or calendar updates in real-time, from anywhere, remains a powerful productivity tool.

A while back, I wrote about how I was using a wireless Palm along with Pylon iAnywhere. I have continued to use this solution to provide myself and clients with real-time push of email & calendar updates from/to the office. (This solution works with both Lotus Notes and Microsoft Exchange, by the way).

Image:What value, wireless E-Mail?

As with the Blackberry, the e-mail processing is not perfect (the folders on the mobile device do not yet sync to the desktop), but the advantage of being able to do a quick scan of my email and calendar is worth the extra effort of possibly having to occasionally process these items twice.

The real beauty of this solution, for me, is that it has now become transparent to the way that I get things done.

Do you have another viewpoint or experience to share? I'd like to hear from you. Feel free to post a comment.


On the road, wirelessly

Tuesday, May 18th, 2004
Whenever I travel for an extended period, I bring along an unusual array of gear that allows me to work remotely yet stay connected to my office, my associates, and clients. While perhaps exciting to me, I would not normally have blogged about this were it not for Jason's blog today by the same title. When I read Jason's post about high speed wireless internet in hotels, I was in fact on the road, wirelessly connected to my office and to a client. Kathy took a quick photo before we checked out, so that I might show you how I work on the road. I should have worn my propeller hat, for this geek post.

Image:On the road, wirelessly

For the past several years, my extended mobility kit has included a SonicWall VPN Appliance, a network hub, a 2.4 GHz wireless access point/bridge, a 2-Line Multitech VOIP Gateway, and a 2-Line 900 Mhz cordless phone. This setup allows me to simultaneously replicate my e-mail, VoiceMail, and other databases from my Notes server back at the office, support clients, and video conference with my virtual assistant, Jenny.

Image:On the road, wirelessly

I have seamlessly integrated all of this into my office network and PBX so that I can access my servers and receive and make calls just as if I were in the office. In fact, when clients call, they usually have no idea of whether I am in my office or in a hotel somewhere. With two lines, I can be in a call, yet my office can still ring through on the intercom to alert me to another call. With this system, I can even hold a video conference with a client, even when I am away from my office.

Image:On the road, wirelessly

With the wireless, I can roam the hotel, while connected to my office.  Several years ago, before public HotSpots were available, I was able to sit in the lobby with my cordless phone and laptop wirelessly connected to my hotel room, connected back to my office through my hotel room Internet connection - how's that for mobility? Shortly, I will be able to do all of this from just my WiFi enabled laptop; for now, I'm content to carry the extra gear.

I'm glad to be back home now, and tomorrow will be a regular day in the office, but it is nice to know that I can use technology to bring my office with me whenever and wherever I need it. That's what I call eProductivity!

It’s Empty, It’s Empty!

Tuesday, May 11th, 2004
"It's Empty, It's Empty, It's Empty! I never thought that would ever happen. Thanks!"

These excited words are from a client, who recently learned how to quickly and effectively process his overflowing e-mail Lotus Notes in-box to zero as a result of attending one of my presentations. Reading his email made my day -- and it reminded me of why I enjoy doing what I do at ICA.

The most valued thanks that I receive in my work is learning how something that I was able to do for a client has positively impacted their life and their business.

Today, Jason Womack inspired me to share summaries of a few comments that I have recently received:

Eric, I have changed my Notes Welcome Page to look like yours and turned off my "chime" when incoming mail arrives.  I am literally amazed at how much of what I NEEDED to get done was accomplished yesterday.  I handled every one of my new emails and have even cleaned up all the way back to Monday (which if you saw my in-box is pretty good).

The question that you asked that struck a chord with me was whether or not we really knew what projects we were working on, and what tasks we had to complete to move them along.

I have started to use the Notes To-dos to manage my projects. Now, everything I need is at my fingertips.

I have processed my in-box to empty, and I am now working from my To-do list. As I adapt to your methods (and customize them to my needs), I hope to reduce the stress in my life, and become more effective.

I was energized to think differently about how I use Lotus Notes.

It is so gratifying to hear from my clients, current and past, about how I have been able to help them increase their productivity and find the time to do the things that really matter to them.

It is a privilege to serve each and every one.

Pylon Anywhere

Thursday, May 6th, 2004
One of the neat things about being an eProductivity specialist, is that I have the opportunity to research, test, and deploy a variety of new technologies for my clients. Before I recommend any technology to a client, I work with it in-house. If, after a few weeks, I'm still enamored by the solution, then it will find its way into a recommendation for a client.

One technology that I have used over the years is a product called Pylon Pro, which allows me to publish Notes databases to a Palm or Pocket PC device. I've been helping my clients to deploy the Pylon desktop solution for many years (since the 1.0 release), when it was first developed by a small company called Globalware.  Now, after several acquisitions, Pylon seems to have found a home and an outstanding support team as part of the iAnywhere family of solutions, from Sybase. The neat thing is that Sybase did not just add Pylon to their existing family of solutions and park it there. No, they have continued to develop, extend, and refine the Pylon technology into their suite of M-Business products.

Image:Pylon Anywhere

I am most excited about two products: Pylon iAnywhere -- a server-based tool to extend PIM information from Lotus Notes or Microsoft Exchange to any number of handheld devices (Palm, SmartPhones, PocketPC, etc.), and the Pylon Application Server, an M-Business solution that allows me to extend the reach of Notes/SQL/ODBC databases to a mobile workforce.

This means that my clients can now take the same databases that they have on their desktops with them on their PDA or SmartPhones. Changes made in one location are immediately reflected in the other.

This takes mobile computing to a whole new level, as I'm now able to quickly design and deploy eProductivity applications for my clients which can be used anytime, anywhere.  

This morning, I received a call from Gabe Stanek, a systems consultant from iAnywhere Solutions. Gabe gave me a private tour of the new Pylon Apps Server 6.0, which delivers client-side processing to their existing product. This means that I can now deploy mobile applications that will do onboard look-ups, validations, and updates to records as they are edited on the device. My enterprise clients will be quite excited to learn about this!  I can now deploy a database as a mobile application with client-side logic -- something that used to take days or weeks of development -- in just a few hours . Nice work iAnywhere team!

I'll have much more to share about this and other productivity enhancing technologies, when I launch my eProductivity.NET blog site.

eProductivity Seminar in Chicago

Thursday, April 22nd, 2004
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 day.

Image:eProductivity Seminar in Chicago

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.

Image:eProductivity Seminar in ChicagoImage:eProductivity Seminar in ChicagoImage:eProductivity Seminar in Chicago

Everyone left with a new way to look at how they can use Lotus Notes to more effectively organize and manage their information, communications, and actions.

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 in real-time:
"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."
- Ed Brill, April 20, 2004,
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 the eProductivity.NET 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.

Image:eProductivity Seminar in Chicago

Lotus Notes for Action Management?

Monday, April 12th, 2004
Have you ever tried to use Lotus Notes to manage your projects and actions? If so, then you know how frustrating using the To Do form can be. Out of the box, I find it entirely unsuitable for serious action management.  Even the Notes 6.x To Do form, which makes some needed and helpful improvements, is still lacking as an action support tool. Lotus Notes is not alone here; the Microsoft Outlook Task form also looks like developers attempted to include many task management features without giving consideration to which ones are essential for action management. The result is that these product's To Do and Task forms are overly complex and counterintuitive. What is needed, is a simpler To Do or Task form -- one that captures the essential information yet presents it in a context that galvanizes the way that we think about what we have to do. For me, it must also be fast; I have found that if I can't create an entry in a few seconds, I won't consistently use it.


Fortunately, Notes forms can be easily modified using the Notes Designer tool. In my opinion, two capabilities that make Lotus Notes the most powerful application for local and distributed collaboration are that 1) almost all aspects of Notes applications can be extended or enhanced, and 2) these changes and the data that they affect can be quickly and easily replicated throughout an organization. (That may sound like a biased comment, but after consulting for more than two decades, including working with Notes for the past 12 years, I still have yet to find a software product that comes close to having the power of Lotus Notes. Until I do, Notes will remain my preferred tool of choice.)

One of the first things that I do in my eProductivity seminars or coaching sessions is to show my clients how to tune the Notes To Do form to turn it into a powerful action support tool. The book, Getting Things Done, by David Allen, describes an approach for action management that is powerful and easy to use; the principles can be easily applied to Lotus Notes by moving a few fields around and changing the way that categories are used. Perhaps the most profound change is to change the text labels for categories and subject to context and action. (See below)


These may appear to be minute changes; do not underestimate the power in their simplicity.  For me, these changes have completely transformed the way that I use Lotus Notes for action management.  

If you want to get even more from Lotus Notes as a personal information management (PIM) tool, be sure take a look at my eProductivity template, which leverages the principles of the GTD methodology along with other best-practices for productivity -- all within a Lotus Notes context.

If you have thoughts about today's blog entry on the use of Notes as a productivity support tool, I'd like to hear from you!

Is the Chicken Cooked?

Monday, March 22nd, 2004
Lately, I have been thinking about how thankful I am for cooked chickens, which have been a part of my workflow consulting toolkit for many years.  This post is dedicated to a dear Christian businessman, Jim Hill, who introduced me to the concept many years ago.
Mmmm . Looks delicious but make sure it's cooked.
Now that the dust has settled from the unexpected launch of David's blog last week, I realize that the event could have been a total disaster had I not "cooked the chicken" during each of the early steps of preparation.  While I did not plan that the site would become public when it did, all of the systems on which it depended had been precooked. When hundreds of web visitors began to visit the site, the only surprise was that they were visiting so soon.  By now, you may be wondering about this principle; let me explain...

Early in my career, I designed business automation systems for a variety of companies, both large and small.  One of my clients at the time was Quick Food Systems, of California  --  a reseller of food preparation equipment, such as you might observe in a KFC, restaurant, or supermarket deli. One day, I deployed a new server for this client and drove back to my office.  When I arrived at my office, Jim Hill, the president of the company, was already on the phone:  "you forgot to cook chicken, Eric," he said.  "What does that mean?" I asked.   Jim told me to come back to his office and he would show me.  When I returned to Jim's office, I quickly found the problem and resolved it.   "Now that I've fixed your systems, tell me, what does cooked chicken have to do with a computer?" I asked.  

Continue Reading "Is the Chicken Cooked?" »

The Adventure Continues...

Friday, March 19th, 2004
Wow!  An interesting day for blogging.  After last night's adventures with David's site, I took some time to review some of the referrers in my weblog. My WeatherCam remains quite active as usual; thanks to referrals from David and others, including Ed Brill and John Porcaro, my site has attracted quite a bit of attention.  So much for keeping a low profile.   I had actually planned to stay under the radar  until I was ready to launch my eProductivity.NET site, where I will blog about technology to enhance the productive edge.  I guess I shouldn't turn down the free publicity.  What  do they say in Hollywood? Any publicity is good publicity?  Seems to be the true for the blogspace.

Since eProductivity.NET isn't live yet, I'll blog about another favorite site: Michael Sampson's Shared-Spaces.  Michael writes an excellent blog on cross-enterprise collaboration architecture.  It is a useful site to stay on top of the latest developments in collaboration.  I first met Michael 8 years ago, as part of our work in the Electronic Messaging Association (Now, OpenGroup).  At the time, Michael and I co-presented on the subject of Unified Messaging.  Companies are beginning to used the technology Michael and I talked about all those years ago.  Through that experience, Michael and I maintained a close friendship, despite the fact that Michael is in New Zealand and I'm in California.  Like us, Michael and his wife, Katrina, educate their large family (all boys -- I stopped counting at 5, but there have been more since, and more are on the way) at home.  Hmmm Michael, you have all the boys, and we have all the girls. Let's talk in 15 years.  

Looks like I'll be travelling to Chicago in April, to speak at a corporate conference on the subject of eProductivity with Lotus Notes.  I'm looking forward to it.

GTD on PDA, easy as 123

Thursday, March 18th, 2004
Two weeks ago, I wrote about how I read blogs on my Palm when I'm away from the office.  It's a convenient way for me to stay on top of my favorite blogs from anywhere.  I've just subscribed to David Allen's personal weblog so that I can keep up with David's musings from anywhere.
Image:GTD on PDA, easy as 123

Ready for Anything?

Thursday, March 18th, 2004
I just finished helping my friend and associate, David Allen, bring his weblog on-line tonight -- though not in a way that we had ever discussed.  

In the book David gave me, he talks about being prepared for the unknown: "Something is coming," David writes, " -- probably within a few days -- that's going to change your world. You don't see it yet. You don't know what it's about. But it's there, rolling inexorably forward, destined to throw you a curve that you do not expect..."  (Hold that thought.)

Yesterday, David called me to discuss my weblog and how he really wanted to get one going.  (For a several days now, Buzz Bruggeman and Robert Scoble have been publicly encouraging  David to start a blog.)  Since David and I both use Lotus Notes extensively in our organizations, we discussed the possibly of using Notes/Domino as the platform for David's new weblog and for his company's group blog reading.  I offered to set up a proof-of-concept prototype so that he could create content on the airplane and then replicate it from the airport or from his hotel.  I quickly created a prototype site using DominoBlog, which I had used for my own weblog. Working with Tanny O'Haley, a talented developer and friend, we quickly created a functional weblog in a matter of hours.

Since this was to be just a prototype, much of the content was my own, or material that I had copied from David's past newsletters, along with a few sample posts that David had sent me.  I sent David a link to the first prototype, mentioned that I would follow up on Thursday, and went to bed. This was Tuesday Night.

"it's there, rolling inexorably forward..."

Today was my day off.  This afternoon I was at the library, doing some research, and I decided to check the server log remotely to see if David had looked at the site. Nothing.

"destined to throw you a curve that you do not expect..."  

An hour later, I checked again, and there was a flurry of activity, but not from any addresses I recognized.  Then I realized what had happened. While testing the key links on the sample site, entries were recorded in the referrer log of Buzz' site.  From there, things took off like a rocket, or more accurately, a virus.

I had no phone with me and none was to be found, so from a kiosk, I immediately pinged Tanny, and sent an urgent alert to David.  A few minutes later, as the referrer logs started growing, Tanny was on-line with me.  A short while later, David joined me on-line from his hotel room. We quickly discussed the options and David decided it was time to roll.  We quickly posted "Off and Running," and began to make the site ready for company, while everyone watched.

Working together, the three of us quickly deleted the some of the original (test) content and replaced it with new content, which David wrote on the spot.  We made the finishing touches to the site, and tested it. It was really quite amazing to watch -- I had two SameTime IM sessions, one Notes Session, and two Internet Explorer sessions going as I juggled keystrokes between David and Tanny to get things done. (good book title?)   For those of you who may have been reading the site during this time, it must have been interesting to watch posts appear, only to disappear, and then reappear.

I belive this is called "Shifting gears as required." (See page 4, Ready for Anything)

The site is now live, the logs are growing, and I'm going to bed. I've had enough excitement for one day. :-)

Here's David's version of tonight's events.

What’s the desired result?

Tuesday, March 9th, 2004
Often, when I consult with clients about ways that they can use technology to enhance their productivity, I find that the discussion can quickly shift from the problem at hand to the technology that they intend to use to solve the problem.  This usually only makes the original problem worse.  Without a clear definition of the problem, and more specifically, what things would look like if it were solved, it is unlikely that a new tool will help.

I understand that it is much more exciting to talk about a new piece of software or a cool gadget than to focus on a problem, especially in the area of productivity.  I also understand that it is easy, even desirable, to get distracted in the tech solution and forget the problem altogether.  I've experienced this myself -- more than once.  Do not forget, however, that a tool -- no matter how many lights or buttons or features it may have -- is only a tool; it does not become part of the solution until the problem is clearly defined and the outcome can be measured.

I find it helpful to look at productivity issues from three distinct perspectives: Information, Communication, and Action.  Put another way, when defining a problem that is affecting productivity, I ask my clients to answer these simple questions:

   What information is needed?
   Where is it needed, and in what form?
   For whom, and when is it needed?  
   What needs to happen with it or as a result of it?
   How will I know that this problem has been solved?        

With the answers in mind, they are better equipped to define the next actions and to effectively select  tools, methodologies, and solutions to help accomplish them.  More importantly, they now have a benchmark so that they can truly know when they have achieved the desired outcome.

These are simple questions, yet powerful tools to help keep the proper perspective in the transition from information to action.

Wireless Weblog

Sunday, March 7th, 2004
I've just installed a neat utility; it's called Hand/RSS for Palm.  It allows me to quickly pull the latest posts from my favorite weblogs and other sites
of interest.  I can read the summaries of the various blogs I track. I can easily select an article and have the reader launch the original post in my handheld web browser.  I use the wireless connection on my Tungsten C to allow me to quickly download and read news stories on a variety of subjects; I even use it to monitor my own weblogs for new posts.
Image:Wireless Weblog
As more and more sites provide RSS feeds of their content, this will certainly become a more popular tool for keeping up with the web.  It will be interesting to see how long it takes for the mainstream web sites to begin offering RSS feeds of their content.

A Shower of Ideas

Thursday, November 6th, 2003
Have you ever noticed that you tend to have your best ideas when you are least able to collect them adequately?

For me, this often happens when I'm in the shower.  Five years ago I set up various capture devices throughout my offices & home, including -- you guessed it -- the bathroom.

A shower of ideas - I'm always ready to capture a great idea. (Digital whiteboard coming soon!)

Despite my introductory statement, I did not stop having good ideas now that I had the means to record them.  I DID find that I no longer lost the ideas.  I don't want to give the impression that I intentionally use my bathroom/shower as my brainstorming center, however it sure is nice to be able to capture the ideas at the point of thought.  

I can now say that many of my best ideas have come -- and been captured or elaborated upon -- while shaving or in the shower.

Ready for Anything

Tuesday, September 16th, 2003
Image:Ready for Anything

OK, I learned a lesson today.  When someone gives you a book, always open it promptly and check carefully for any comments inside -- even if it means reading the whole book. :-)   A few days ago, I was in Ojai, doing some work at the offices of David Allen.  Waiting for me on the desk, was a copy of his latest book, Ready for Anything, with some kind words, which David had written inside the front cover.  That David had given me an early copy of his book was not a surprise; I have been working with David for more than a decade, and I share his passion for the productive edge.   I took the book home and put it on the top of my Read/Review pile.

Last night, I showed the book to Kathy, and we discovered that David had also written words of appreciation of me in his acknowledgements on the first page.  I was surprised and emotional, to say the least.  This is yet another wonderful example of the many reasons that I enjoy being on David's team.  David is the kind of guy who treats people well, and who does not hesitate to express his gratitude in recognition of others -- even those who work mostly behind the scenes. It is with equal gratitude that I accept his book and his kind words.  

I hope that you all rush out and buy a copy of David's book.  

Seriously, the book is sure to do well.  Why?  Because it is practical information that you can apply quickly to accomplish profound results.  At first glance, it would appear that the book is simply a collection of his Productivity Principles Newsletter, and in a way it is.  But it is much more.  Closer examination reveals that David has carefully restructured the material and distilled the essentials of Getting Things Done, into 52 easy-to-read, focused essays, with a checklist and key questions at the end of each section. In fact, the key questions are my favorite part.  I plan to start working through one section each week.

Here's to David, and another best seller!

Productive in Ojai

Monday, July 28th, 2003
I always look forward to this time of year, and I am not disappointed.  Twice a year, I travel to Ojai to work with the David Allen Company team at their semi-annual staff meeting.  It's a good time of hard work, learning, and fellowship.  This year, Kathy and the girls were able to join me for part of the week. During the day, they used the hotel as base camp for their homeschool field trips to tour various California missions.  
Image:Productive in Ojai
Amy, Daddy, David Allen, Julie (standing) and Wendy

Each night of the staff meeting, we are treated to a delightful dinner (more like a banquet, really) by David and his lovely wife, Kathryn.  Friday night was a real treat, as David invited Amy & Wendy to be his guests.  We went to the Ranch House, one of the Ojai Valley's finest restaurants.  In all, it was a great week, with plenty of beautiful [hot] weather, fine dining, and good company.  Did I mention that the meals were outstanding?

Oh, I almost forgot. This week, we celebrated the 1st anniversary of my 39'th birthday.

The Impact of Spam

Thursday, July 17th, 2003
The impact of Spam on personal productivity

Last July 15th, I began a test, which was to last one year.   Instead of deleting my junk email, I added a Spam button that moved the Spam into a separate database, where I could track what I received  and what the impact on my productivity might be.

In just one year, I received over 53,000 unsolicited commercial email (a.k.a. Spam) totalling over 400 megabytes of data -- in just one of my email accounts!
Image:The Impact of Spam
If I consider the amount time spent downloading, identifying, deleting, and replicating the junk email that I received for just one year in just one email account, the numbers are staggering.

In the past, I had avoided purchasing SPAM elimination tools because I perceived the cost of the software and the time for me to configure it to be too high.  I thought that I was quite efficient at selecting a range of documents and pressing the DEL button -- multiple times a day to clear my mailbox.

Now, I see that I was wrong. Big time.

Let is consider a scenario in which each message received consumes 2 seconds of my time to download, identify, delete, and replicate.  (This is a very low number when you consider download and replication times)

53,000 junk email  x 2 seconds each = 106,000 seconds = 1767 minutes = 29.45 hours = 3 3/4 work days.  
(Based on an 8 hour work period)  

That's almost 4 work days lost annually, if we use the very conservative number of just 2 seconds total time lost per message!
   And, its is getting worse by the day!

In actuality, I think the average is probably closer to double that.  And again, that does not include the lost productivity due to interruptions or distractions, nor does it include the slowdown on your computer, your server, and your backups.  This weekend I was at a hotel and it took 20+ minutes to download the SPAM before I could get to my important email.  How do I begin to put a price on the cost of the disruption?  And what about all of the viruses that I received this year from people I did not know or want to hear from?  I do not even want to think about it.

There used to be a day when the "New Mail" indicator actually meant that a message from a someone you wanted to hear from had been received.  Now, most of us turn this feature off so that we can get some work done.

My next big project, will be to research how to configure the built-in SPAM reduction capabilities of Domino R6 as well as a few third party products that offer whitelist and blacklist capabilities.  

Personally, I will probably end up using an approved whitelist solution as I believe that it will be the most effective.  

Either way, I do not plan to give up another 4+ days to junk email in the coming year.  

I intend to solve this problem for myself, my staff, and for those clients who want to gain back their time and their productivity.


Paperless or less-paper?

Saturday, December 28th, 2002
I recently designed a system, using an HP Digital Sender, an OCR & Bar code imaging server, and Lotus Domino, to allow me to store PDF+Text images in Lotus Notes databases.  Once there, they can be viewed, printed or searched.  
Image:Paperless or less-paper?
The way that this all works is that I drop a document in the scanner, select from a menu, press a button, and file the document in the database.  I'll post more on this in my eProductivity site. For now, you can read up on it in my collaboration scrapbook:  (Click on the Document imaging link)

Mind at light speed

Wednesday, November 27th, 2002
As I have recently returned to school, I have tried to apply my technical expertise to solving the productivity problems of the student. One challenge, which I am working on, is to improve the speed at which I can digest large quantities of textual information that I need to study.

I use both speed reader and audio/visual queuing software for this purpose.  One program that I found especially helpful is a tool called Ace Reader Pro.

They have an expert mode that queues text to your eyes as fast as your brain can digest it. The program starts out at 150 words per minute and can stream up to 2000 WPM.  I can get to about 550 WPM before I find that I lose comprehension.  The program has an expert mode, with speed drills and techniques for improving your reading speed and comprehension.

Overall, I have found the program valuable for speed reading and for training my eyes to follow streams of text at rapid rates. It has been interesting to hit a wall that is not one of technology, but one of the mind.  

This is not a replacement for curling up with a good book and a down comforter. On the other hand, it can be a useful tool to improve your reading skills and to reduce the time spent absorbing new information.  It recently helped me get through Moby Dick in 17 hours compared to the estimated 36-48 hours it would have taken otherwise.

I looked into this technology a few years ago from another company. They pulled their product off the market, choosing instead to pursue licensing their technology to PCS phone manufacturers. I like the concept and, based on my experience, would recommend it above any small screen solution.  Hopefully, someday soon, I will find a comparable application for my Palm.

My Capture Tools

Tuesday, October 8th, 2002
A discussion came up recently on the Getting Things Done Palm forum.  We were discussing how we collect our ideas and information.  I outlined some of the tools that I use....

I have a few more collection points than you have listed, but ultimately, everything ends up in one of two in-baskets.

Here goes:

I have two in-baskets. The first is on my desk. It is used to collect papers, mail, brochures, personal notes, and especially, notes taken in my note taker wallet. When it is time for a weekly review, I'll walk around and anything that is not supplies, decoration, or reference material, gets tossed into this in-basket. I usually only deal with this in-basket once a week -- or whenever I cannot see my desk.

My primary in-basket is my Lotus Notes e-mail In-box. I have designed my systems so that all of my collection points feed into this single in-basket for processing.  Here are some of the collection tools that I use, in order of frequency of use:

E-MAIL    - messages from others, messages from myself from different devices, Spam, etc.

FAX       - I do not have a fax machine. My fax server archives incoming faxes and then emails me a hyperlink when the fax is ready to view.

VOICEMAIL - The VoiceMail system I have designed deposits the voice message as an attachment along with caller information in my mailbox. If sufficient
information is available, I can reply to the VoiceMail as an e-mail. I have set up a private extension to be used to collect VoiceMail messages from myself.

SCANNER   - I Use an HP Digital sender to collect and file my papers. I have configured a system so that, at the touch of one button, I can take a stack of document, scan them, convert them to Searchable PDF files, and deposit them into a notes database with a doclink in my mailbox. This allows me to process the linked document as an item yet keep my filing in its own database. Because everything is full text indexed, I can quickly search for anything as I need it.  My primary application for this system is to file client work, documents, articles, personal notes/diagrams, etc.

AGENTS    - Being a notes fan, I have setup agents that will go out and collect other information that I want to keep an eye on. This may include other Notes databases, web sites, or system monitors that I have set up. The results of these queries are deposited in my in-box for processing with a doclink back to the source material.

In addition to the above, there are several other collection tools that I may use depending on the nature of the work that I am doing. These include:

PALM      - I have found that I do not use my Palm as a capture tool as much as I thought that I would. This is due in part to the fact that I am often at my laptop and in part to the fact that I use my note taker wallet. I seem to go in phases. When I do take notes on my Palm, they are deposited to my in-basket for processing.

VOICE          - Although I go in phases with this tool as well, when I use it, I use the Dragon Mobile Voice Recorder because of its 99 folders for capture. I map these folders to Notes applications.  At one time, I have designed a system so that the voice attachments would go to my assistant and to be transcribed and them come back as text. Now, I often enter the items myself.

DIGITAL WHITEBOARD - My favorite tool. I have two in my office and one in my conference room. I often save drawings and mind maps.

CROSSPAD - Again, a cool capture tool. I don;t use it often but when I need to take lots of notes on the road, it really helps.

HP CAPSHARE - Great for capturing from newspaper, magazines, or books when doing research

DRAGON DICTATE - An excellent product but you really need to stay in practice to get the most of it. When I do, it works well.

Again, I do not use all of these tools all of the time. Only when appropriate.

As I capture my information, regardless of the tool used to do so, I then process the items one-by-one in my in-basket.

As far as where my stuff goes, My information system is built on a custom template in my Notes mail. If I am not deleting a message, I select it and
click a button to convert the e-mail into a to-do, calendar, file, tickler, or other action item.  (You can see an overview of my system on my web site.

This system works for me because I am usually at my laptop and my laptop connected to my server via a wireless connection at all times.

Now, for my Palm, I presently use it mostly as a look-up device. I replicate most of my key desktop items, my calendar, my wife's calendar, my action list (2220 items as of today) and my reference files to my Palm using a product called Pylon Pro (Now from AvantGo).  

Despite the variety of capture devices, my system works well for me and is really not as complex as it seems. Basically I collect things electronically (in e-mail) or as papers (in-basket) and then I process them.  I try to get most everything into my e-mail so that I am really living and working with just one e-mail in-basket.  That is why there are so many collection devices.

Well, there you have it -- a glimpse into my connected world.  I hope it helps inspire someone else.  This has been a fun email to write. I realize that I need to update my own GTD flowchart as I have added many devices and tools since I last updated it.

So much for simplicity. :-)

Virtual Assistants

Sunday, September 29th, 2002
Jenny and I were recently interviewed from our home offices on how we have worked together over the past decade. Here is an article from this morning's Sunday Edition of LA Times Magazine.   For all of the interviews, the end-result is short, superficial and trendy. And yes, Jenny actually looks like the sketch  - at least what I get to see on the video monitor. :-)

Nonetheless, it's a fun review.  The graphic is missing from the on-line version so I pasted it below.  The article is on-line
(Click on the  Enter the Stay-at-Home Steno link in the center of the page.)

Technology Could Make It Lonely at the Water Cooler
Image:Virtual Assistants
Enter the Stay-at-Home Steno

*Technology Could Make It Lonely at the Water Cooler

The phrase "virtual assistant" may suggest a digitized sci-fi entity living in your computer that never needs a coffee break. But meet Jenny Riley of Orange County, a very real "VA" who uses email, video conferencing and other online tools to handle administrative responsibilities for Kern County-based boss Eric Mack. Rather than replace his client services manager of five years when she moved to Minnesota in 1997 and then to Orange County a year ago, Mack set her up with a home office. "It would've been really hard to replace the rapport we'd developed," he says. "Buying the equipment just made more sense."

Mack installed an arsenal of techie gadgets at his productivity enhancement company to keep the virtual workplace buzzing. A "digital whiteboard" on his wall instantly beams scribbled notes to Riley's computer screen. And paper filing is so last century. Mack prefers a "digital sender," which scans documents for Riley to organize electronically. But the core of their relationship is Lotus Notes, a software information program that gives the duo, who meet about once a year, access to each other's work.

With kids to care for, both appreciate the flexibility of running on their own schedule. Riley can fold laundry while on hold and Mack can take the tykes to Disneyland on a weekday. "In the beginning we talked about how we missed wasting 20 minutes at the front counter chatting with the receptionist," Riley says. "But we've found that if we leave our [video conference] cameras on, it's truly like being in the office together."

Virtual assistants are a flourishing cottage industry complete with trade associations, training programs and professional certificates from organizations such as AssistU ( and the nonprofit International Virtual Assistants Assn. IVAA membership has grown an average of more than 200% in each of the last three years, says vice president Angela Allen. "As businesses become more secure with working remotely and technology advances, we only expect that number to grow."

Though she and Mack are now in the same state again, Riley continues to telecommute. "I'd have to drive two hours in traffic to get to Eric's place," she says. "Who needs that hassle?" The setup has proven cost effective in savings on gas money and office rent, and both parties say working from home has increased their efficiency. Just call it a virtual windfall.

Illustration by Nathalie Dion

Working from Home

Sunday, January 30th, 2000
I was recently interviewed as a guest expert on the subject of Collaborative Technologies.  The radio program is called Working From Home, with hosts, Paul and Sarah Edwards.  It was a lot of fun to do the interview and to share a little about how I use the power of technology to work from home.

Image:Working from HomeImage:Working from Home
Eric Mack, with Paul & Sarah Edwards
Listen Now: RealAudio streaming media
In-Studio Guest: Eric Mack, Consultant in Collaborative Technologies
Subject: Discusses the impact of distance collaboration
Call In Guest: Dr. Mark Goulston - Psychiatrist.
Hosts Paul and Sarah Edwards, Working From Home
Duration:   40 Min

Note: This is the live studio track, so you will hear the production manager in the background.