Tony wins DEMOgod award!

Sunday, February 27th, 2005
My friend, Tony Fascenda, was named as one of the top 10 demonstrators at this year's DEMO@15 conference, where he successfully demonstrated four products in six minutes! Tony's an exciting person to be around, a true visionary. The walls of his office are covered with patents for various technologies that he's invented.  Most recently, Tony invented a technology, now embedded in his SecurEdge TrustChips, that can provide an end-to-end secure connection between IP devices and applications. The beauty and simplicity of this technology is that it is device and application independent -  meaning that you can secure just about any internet technology (Laptops, VPN, VOIP, PDA, etc.) without touching the existing applications or devices!

The folks at DEMO think it is an innovative approach to network security. I think so, too!  
Check it out.

Congratulations, Tony, I wish you and your team the best!

I first met Tony back in 1992 at Newspager Corporation of America (NCA). I had approached Tony, and his colleague, Dan, with the idea of using their wireless database receiver as a platform for mobile messaging and wireless databases. (Their current products were primarily focused on financial news and stock information.) Tony and Dan were particularly interested in my activities in the messaging field, particularly the ICA Information gateway -- a tool which I had developed to extend corporate messaging to the mobile workforce. At he time, I was the guy, walking around with not one, but three large pagers on his belt. I know, I looked like a geek. That's OK, it led to some interesting meetings; the most memorable of which was with Hubert Lipinski, founder and architect of cc:Mail. That meeting launched my formal entry into the wireless messaging space and my involvement with Peloria Technology Corp.

A few years later, Tony hired me as a consultant to NCA, to serve as their Director of Advanced Messaging Applications; my mission was to develop and promote wireless messaging technology. We were a little early for the marketplace. The biggest challenge at the time was convincing the carriers that wireless messaging really was a good thing - something people would pay for - and that these huge messages (in those days, 80 characters was a long message) would not kill their networks. I designed and promoted the Flash! wireless database publishing tool for cc:Mail and Lotus Notes, which allowed data to be published to the wireless device. That was 10 years ago. The closest thing I've seen since is the Pylon iAnywhere application. One product, which I helped promote for Tony was a small handheld database receiver, called Compass. It was much like a Tungsten C of today but developed long before color PDAs and 802.11 anything. The Compass was huge compared to the Palm but it did have an 8 color screen and really was the ultimate geek accessory. Here's a photo of [a much younger] me with the Compass unit. (You can read more of the story here.)

I had a blast working with Tony and his team, and it was an honor to help his company and to see Tony in action.

I have no doubt that Koolspan has a bright future ahead.

Everyone needs a blog critic (or two)

Thursday, February 24th, 2005
Everyone should be so fortunate as to have their own personal blog critic - someone who will point out things done well along with opportunities for improvement. I'm very fortunate, I have several in my virtual camp.

I received several emails this week  in response to my recent  Podcast on delegated tasks. One of the interesting messages was from  Adrian Trenholm, a web development consultant in the UK.  (Be sure to check out Adrian's work here.) Adrian's comments and suggestions could be applied to most  any of us who blog or podcast on technical subjects. With Adrian's permission, I've posted the email here: [URLs added]


Just finished listening to your Podcast (over the speakers on my PC - I don't own an iPod - in case you are collecting user data). Congratulations.  You asked for feedback, so:

1.  I enjoyed the clarity and precision of your presentation - I am in Toastmasters so that kind of thing matters to me.

2.  You used the "tell 'em what you going to tell 'em; tell 'em; tell em what you have told 'em" technique, but I think you could have been even more explicit in the way that you divided up the parts of your presentation, in fact I wonder if there is a way of saying: "in the first two minutes I will deal with x, at two minutes I will deal with y and at four minutes I will tackle z."  This would enable users to shuffle through your presentation to relevant material.

3. Content-wise, "people first, then processes, then technology" is always the right message and bears repeating at every possible opportunity, so well done on that.

4. The four point plan for implementing delegated tasks seemed a bit generic at first listen, but on reflection, I think you pitched it right, because you want the team to discuss between themselves the mechanics of how they are going to use the technology and that discussion becomes an important part of setting up the right process. A prescriptive "press button a, then button b" approach will likely discourage that discussion of process and protocols.

5. Didn't like the jingle - it's a personal thing.

For future material on this subject, you might consider reading To Do, Doing, Done by Snead and Wycoff.  They offer some excellent thoughts on delegation: their model is ARC - authority, responsibility and commitment. The book is from Franklin Covey, but the best bits works within GTD, which I am using at the moment (or rather getting back on the wagon with).

The other thing that you didn't mention (outside the scope, I guess) is that increasingly teams include freelancers, and people from different companies, so not everyone is on the same technology anyway, eg I use LifeBalance to track projects, next actions and calendar, I still use Outlook for email, with a system of dated flags and a filtered in-box, to tickle appropriate mails to future dates.  I regularly work with people who use Gmail, Thunderbird and Barca, and who use Mac and PC. It would be interesting to hear your thoughts on that and also on Web based project management applications like Basecamp from 37 signals.

You have certainly got me thinking that a discussion between team members and the establishment of protocols for delegation is an essential action at the start of any project, regardless of the technology used.  Yes, the people and the process are the most important things.  The technology is secondary.

Well done, looking forward to hearing more.

Best regards

Adrian Trenholm

Thanks, Adrian, for the helpful feedback! Suggestions noted and added to my checklist for future Podcasts.

I will look for your comments (and suggestions) on future posts.

Glad to know I've got at least one fan outside of the family.  :-)

PS. Was the intro music really that bad?  I tried for something short and energetic.
When I moved to Pine Mountain Club, 11 years ago, I knew that there would be no wireless coverage in the mountain communities and that I would probably not see any cellular providers offering coverage in the decade to come.  That suited me just fine; I live with technology all day, so the absence of it allowed my mountain retreat to remain a place of quiet reflection, far away from the hustle of the city life I had left behind.

Lately, there has been talk of a new wireless tower being built in Pine Mountain Club. While many people are excited at the prospect of mobile phone service in the mountains, I am less enthusiastic. I'm not against technology or mobile phones and I would certainly enjoy the peace of mind of having reliable phone coverage to deal with roadside emergency issues. What concerns me, is how mobile phone service will change our way of life in the mountain communities.

As I think about my most recent local restaurant experience, Not one patron was talking on their cell phone. No, they were conversing with ... one another. They were even conversing with people at the tables next to them. Imagine that!  Whenever I go to the town post office I know I will find a bunch of people, talking with one another as they wait in line to be served by our cheerful postmistress. I hope that this won't change.

Without the escape of a mobile phone with which to call someone, far away, people resort to ... conversation with their neighbors.

I do look forward to having local cell phone coverage in our community, (I even hope that SprintPCS will be the provider so that I can use my Treo 650). I just hope that residents of our community will not adopt cell phones in the way residents of big cities have; where it seems like many people have become self absorbed in their compulsive cell phone conversations at the expense of politeness, courtesy, and even public safety; where it is nearly impossible to attend a meeting or movie or eat diner without a someone's cell phone going off to some annoying musical madness.

While many will cite the public safety benefits of having a cell phone to call for roadside assistance, I wonder about something else: what will travel be like on the mountain roads and S-curves once drivers find out that they can talk on their cell phones while passing in a no-passing lane at the same time?

I don't want to escape to the mountains only to have to listen to other people's private conversations as they sit at the table next to me or stand in line in front of me. I would prefer not to have another reason to be fearful of distracted drivers on the mountain roads.

Again, the issue is not about technology; it is about courtesy.

Please, friends, as you enjoy the mobile phone service that will eventually come to our community, let's not forget the tranquility of mountain living; a way of life that we are truly blessed to enjoy.

Eric Mack

Firefox now supported

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2005
My colleague, Tanny, just called and told me that he had a fix for the Firefox compatibility issue on my blog.

For over 20 years, Tanny has been a terrific friend and resource to me as I push the eneveope on technology.

For those of you who have written to me, thank you; I hope that this fix will allow you to enjoy my blog.

Thanks, Tanny!
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

Sage & Cinnamon

Saturday, February 19th, 2005
Last night, I took Amy & Wendy out on a date to a new local restaurant, Sage & Cinnamon, located in Pine Mountain Club. The restaurant opened this past year and it is already well known in our community.

Image:Sage & Cinnamon

I now understand why reservations are highly recommended, if not required. The restaurant is quite popular. By early evening, almost all of the tables had patrons at them, and everyone seemed to be enjoying their meals. It was obvious that great attention had been paid to every detail, from the carpet to the walls, to the decorations and accessories - even the extension cords had sewn covers so that they would blend in with the decor. Relaxing lighting and music contributed to a relaxing atmosphere in which to enjoy our repast. (I was not quite sure what to expect since the prior restaurant was a deli, however the new owners have completely remodeled the restaurant for an intimate dining experience.) The service was excellent, too; available when needed and out of the way when not. Pat, our hostess, welcomed us to the restaurant and seated us, while Leaf, our waiter and his attentive assistant made sure that we were lacking in nothing throughout our two and a half hour dinner.

The most difficult part of the meal was choosing between the various dishes. Fortunately, I was able to sneak a taste from my daughters' dishes as well. The French Onion soup was outstanding and the pumpkin bisque light, sweet, and creamy. The house salad had a raspberry vinaigrette dressing that was surprisingly refreshing. We all enjoyed the Ribeye steak with broccoli and garlic potatoes. Did I mention the bread? Good stuff.

After the meal, I introduced myself to the chef and owner, Kim Busio, to thank her for a wonderful experience.  Kim and her family (Pat's her mom) recently move to Pine Mountain Club from Santa Barbara, where she worked at a B&B. No wonder we were treated to such fine hospitality!

I'm delighted to know that we now have a fine-dining opportunity in our local community. I'll be sure to return again with family, friends, and clients.

In the 11 years that we have lived in Pine Mountain Club, we've enjoyed many of the restaurants in the mountain communities. This one was worth blogging about.  I asked Kim if they had a web site, she said not yet; she's been very busy serving customers and growing the restaurant. The phone number is: 661-242-1978

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?

ICA Think Station - Mobile Office #2

Monday, February 14th, 2005
I've received some fun feedback on my ICA Think Station and the gear that I use. It looks like there is considerable interest out there, so I guess I'll add this to my "potential topics to blog about" list.  I'll try to blog about this from time to time.

One reader wrote me this week to ask who made the desk. That's a long story in and of itself, but it's a good place for me to begin. The short answer is that I designed it and my brother-in-law built it.

The long answer is that this desk is the most recent iteration of 8 different personal think stations -- 2 mobile offices and 6 fixed -- that I have designed over the years. I'm not into the furniture design business, I just have this habit of thinking out loud "wouldn't it be cool if ..." and before long, I have a prototype -- usually out of refrigerator boxes and gaffer's tape -- which eventually leads to a new workspace.  My current think station is the result of over 20 years of experimentation, mostly to learn what does not work for me.

Each think station that I have designed has been unique in purpose and functionality. One of my most challenging designs was my second mobile office, which I built in 1990. I designed a complete mobile office that was hidden inside of a Ford Aerostar. I designed it to be easily concealed. I was consulting at the Air Force Fight Test Center at the time, and I was tired of being "randomly selected" to have my vehicle searched each time I drove on base. (I knew the real reason for my random selection was the MPs just wanted to see the latest gadgets. I did not mind having my vehicle searched and I loved the chance to show off but it made me late for work ...)

Image:ICA Think Station - Mobile Office #2

The mobile office featured a self-contained power system, Novell file server and workstation, cellular phones, ventilation, small copier and a fax machine. I used a WaveLan wireless link to sync data with my office whenever I was parked at the office and a 1200/2400 baud modem for "high-speed" cellular wireless on the road. I used cc:Mail and eventually migrated to Notes 2.0 to take advantage of the disconnected work mode. The neatest part of this mobile office was that the desk was designed to raise and lower electrically; in the stowed position no one could see any of the equipment in my van.

Image:ICA Think Station - Mobile Office #2

Several people assisted me with the implementation: A retired aerospace worker and dear friend, Pat Patriquin, Tig-welded the chassis for me. Another friend completed the oak cabinetry. I designed the electronics and put it all together. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of the custom stealth antenna array that was mounted on the roof of the van. Basically, with a push of a button, I could instantly stow the 6 antennas on the roof of my van inside the luggage rack. (It was very cool, or so I've been told.)

Image:ICA Think Station - Mobile Office #2

That mobile office served me well for many years as I commuted between Burbank and Edwards AFB. Sometimes I miss not having a complete office for long trips.

Of course, I now carry all of that functionality under my arm in my IBM ThinkPad.

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.

My ICA "Think Station" revealed

Tuesday, February 8th, 2005
I can usually be creative and productive most anywhere, but I'm really creative and productive when I'm at the center of my own information cockpit -- a 10' x 10' corner of my office where,over the years, I have built my dream workspace. Here, I have assembled a collection of thinking gear, tools and technologies, to support me as I work on projects.

Image:My ICA "Think Station" revealed

For the past week, I've been on the road, working with clients, feeling a little constrained without some of my favorite gear. In the evenings at the hotel, I've been thinking about how I will continue to update and enhance my mobile office kit for maximum productivity on the road. As part of this effort, I've been writing about my workspace in order to get clear on what has worked well for me and why.

Inspired by the concept of the IBM ThinkPad in front of me, I thought it might be fun to share a little about my "ICA Think Station" - the gear, tools, and technologies that I've enjoyed using over the years.  

ICA is the name of my company, but it represents much more than that. ICA stands for Information, Communication, Action - three areas of focus that are part of the way that I approach my work. From the Grahl chair at the center of the cockpit, I can effortlessly swivel to access the various tools and technologies that support me in collecting, storing and accessing the information that I use daily to make decisions, communicate with clients and colleagues around the world, and track my projects and actions.

Sound interesting?

For a long time I've been planning to launch my eProductivity.Net blog to share this kind of information. However, each time I plan do so, new and exciting opportunities show up and I end up rescheduling the launch. I hope to finally get around to posting some of these mini-essays on the blog so I can throw the switch and go live. I'd love to know what you think.

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.


Top-down or Bottom-up?

Tuesday, February 1st, 2005
Steve Pavlina, in his recent post, entitled: "The Essential Missing Half of Getting Things Done," suggests that "what's missing from GTD is the high-level part of the system." Steve is quite articulate in his explanation of what he means. (If you've not read his post, I encourage you to read it here.) In short, the first part of Steve's post suggests that while he's found GTD to be invaluable to him, GTD does not provide the process for defining mission vision and purpose -- the compass.  I agree. But then, I don't think David Allen ever intended GTD to provide this.

Much of Steve's post resonates with me. I agree that GTD, as a methodology, does not provide the mission or vision that a person ought to have for their life. I also agree with Steve that it is important to know where you want to go so that you can make sure that your actions and activities support your vision and that you are ready for anything. In an ideal scenario, we would start at the 50,000 foot level, working on our life purpose all the way down to our runway of next actions.

In my experience, however, it is often difficult to consider focusing on the larger issues, such as life purpose and objectives, when I feel overwhelmed by the day to day; I simply cannot see the proverbial forest for the trees.  While it certainly seems logical to start with the big picture and sort out actions later, I submit that for many people it's simply too huge a task to start detailed planning at the top when then tedious distractions of the day to day -- unclarified and ambiguous thoughts and ideas -- are consuming energy that might otherwise be spent on strategic planning. I believe that this is why I read of so many people who, after attempting to implement the 7-habits, feel let down and find themselves more overwhelmed than when they began.

Let me share a little from my own personal experience: For much of the past two decades, I've designed and developed action management systems for highly productive individuals and organizations. You would think that with this effort I would have had total and complete clarity early on about my mission, vision and purpose. Well, I most certainly did not. It was not for a lack of trying either. I really wanted to have a defined mission (one that I believed in), I wanted to embrace the 7-habits, and I wanted to get my high-level strategy mapped out.  None of my productivity systems, while effective at managing actions and projects, could provide me with the direction that I needed. I knew  that I needed to have clarity at a higher level. I just found it difficult to get past the day to day to really think clearly and objectively about my higher purpose; I was continuously distracted by the low-level stuff (both physical and mental) that I kept piling on my plate. As a result, I found it difficult to devote the attention required to the big picture to develop my personal and family mission statements. High level thought in this area became frustrating and unproductive. (Some of you may know what I mean.)

It was at this basic level -- my need to focus on personal high-level thinking -- that GTD really helped me out the most -- not by allowing me to start from the top down -- but by allowing me to start from the bottom up. By allowing me to clear the decks of low-level items that were consuming mental bandwidth, I was able to achieve the clarity that I needed to sit down and think about bigger issues, such as: "Why am I here?", "What's my life purpose?", and "What will I leave behind?".  With the answers to these questions clarified and objectified, I was then able to revisit my projects and actions and evaluate whether or not they were still relevant to my big picture.  You see, even if I had put life on hold to work out my big picture plan, my focus would have been distracted by the small stuff that I had not yet resolved.

In 1998, Kathy and I wrote our family mission statement. This document, along with my personal and business mission statements have served as guide for making decisions that affect our family.  While I do not refer to these documents often, I know that they are there; they provide me with great clarity when I need to make key decisions. It has been a wonderful process to go through and I highly recommend it.

For those of you who can put everything aside and focus exclusively with the big picture stuff, I salute you; it is a powerful process and the ideal way to begin. For the rest of you, do not be discouraged if day-to-day distractions keep you from developing your big picture for a little while.  I want to encourage you and let you know that you can get your big picture goals mapped out; you may just have to do a little mental house cleaning first.