If you use Lotus Notes and the GTD methodology, you'll be pleased to know that the long awaited GTD and Lotus Notes implementation guide is now available. My colleague, Kelly Forrister, and her team worked hard to assemble a valuable collection of tips and tricks for using the Lotus Notes Calendar, Email, Personal Journal, and To Do's more effectively.


David Allen and I began using Lotus Notes long before The David Allen Company first opened its doors. Over the years, I've not only learned for myself what works and what does not, I've had the privilege to watch other highly productive people use Lotus Notes effectively. I think Kelly's done a great job of collecting some this wisdom in one place.

In the 1990's, I started to collect the things that I learned about using Lotus Notes and the GTD methodology and built them into the eProductivity Template for Lotus Notes. The trouble is that I've used this template for so long that I often forget that it can be quite a challenge to implement GTD within a vanilla Notes framework. (BTW, the same holds true for Outlook. These products seem to be designed more for features than results, often including many features that are simply unnecessary and confusing and omitting others altogether. As much as I like Lotus Notes, some aspects are not well suited for GTD, at least not without tweaking.) That's why I'm excited to see this document become available.

In my eProductivity consulting and seminars, one of the first things I do is show Notes users how to change several of the standard Notes settings and change the way they think about Lotus Notes. The GTD and Lotus Notes implementation guide will help you through that process and more - it will explain the essential elements of the GTD methodology in the context of Lotus Notes.

If you've followed my blog for any length of time, you know that I think that Lotus Notes is a powerful tool and a key part of the productivity equation. This guide covers both parts. At $10, I think it is an excellent value, particularly for the person that wants to implement GTD in Lotus Notes but, for IT reasons, is unable or not allowed to install a custom template.

I plan to recommend the GTD and Lotus Notes implementation guide to my eProductivity clients - even those that use the eProductivity Template to make their weekly review easier. I think that a single concept from this guide, properly implemented, will more than justify the small purchase price.

You can download the GTD and Lotus Notes implementation guide here.

[UPDATE: If you're enrolled in the GTD Connect program, the GTD and Lotus Notes document is available as a free download on the GTD Connect web site. What a deal. For my $.02 on GTD Connect, click here.]

Discussion/Comments (16):

Notes and GTD: Why not use the Lotus Notes Follow Up Function?

Thanks Eric, I paid the $10 and am about halfway though reading the GTD & Lotus guide. I got hooked on GTD about a month ago through some of your articles and bought the audio version of Allen's GTD book at Amazon which I listened to while commuting...afterward I even took a week off to begin organizing and implementing GTD at home. I've modified GTD to fit Lotus Notes and Blackberry and as a developer have been thinking about tweaks to the mail template to better fit GTD (going slow on this one since customizing standard templates can bite you if not thought through completely).

One thing not mentioned in the guide is using the Notes Follow Up function to flag a E-mail for further actions. This allows you to empty your Inbox (Follow Ups show up in their own view) and even enter a Next Action for each e-mail that requires further attention. I discovered that I had to resize the columns in the Follow Up view to see the next action (and I was very close to changing the view to add it).

Instead of using Follow Up, the guide suggests to create a new ToDo for actionable e-mails (using the Copy into New function) that you need to defer. I'll have to give that some thought as the Follow Up action seems to be working pretty well for me so far.

Keep up the blogging.

Posted at 11/23/2006 12:43:52 by Roland Reddekop

The GTD and Lotus Notes Implementation Guide is here!

Eric, Any reason the guide does not make use of the "Follow up" features in Notes? Latest version even asks, and displays a {next} Action box in the list view. Additionally, you can put dates, alarms on any email in the "Follow up" folder and they can be put in the "miniview" pane as a preview of date driven events.

With minimal programming you can create an agent to move "followup" alarms to calendar or To Do elements.

Posted at 11/24/2006 16:15:55 by Dave Fletcher

Customizing Notes for GTD

That's an interesting idea Dave...creating an agent to move "followup" alarms to calendar or To Do elements. In a way, there is already built-in functionality to do that. Open an email and click on "Copy into New" and the key fields can be copied into a calendar or ToDo easily. This is what the guide recommends actually.

As for custom solutions, writing code to make Notes more GTD-compliant, I think its fairly clear after reading the guide that the audience isn't necessarily programmers or administrators (though I think everyone can get some good points from it), but the end user who wants to implement GTD in a Notes environment without customizing beyond user preferences that are built-in.

Though I am using the "Followup" function in a limited way in Notes, on further thought, I can think of a few disadvantages for the GTD purist which might explain why the guide ignores this function. One disadvantage is that it creates yet another list to review beside the To Dos and calendar. Another is that "followup" lists don't really translate well to most PDA's (without customizing)...so that's not going to work well on the road (maybe some PDA programs do have a place for the Followup function...Common Times's mNotes maybe?...don't know, I have a Blackberry).

Just an aside, it would be nice for GTD affecionados to speak up a bit to Lotus, (particularly on Mary Beth Raven's blog) while Notes is being redesigned for the Hannover release to make Notes more out of the box GTD-compliant. One new feature that I am trying to get my head around is how the "Activity Explorer" fits into a GTD framework. I don't completely "get it" yet, but my perception is that its a way of organizing all your "stuff" (like emails, Tasks, Calendar Items, chats, documents that are in databases, etc) that are related to projects into cetegories, and to publish these document collections as a resource to others in your org that need to get up to speed on a project. Sounds like it fits the Project resources folder in GTD, but for groups.

Back to the topic, I'd love to learn more idea about using GTD and Notes together. There is so much potential. In the end I'd like to be able to offering seminars, lunch n' learns, etc in my company to try to facilitate better practices to our Notes users (any recos for speakers in T.O, Canada?). So many companies provide little direction to their employees in this area. They provide the tools and everyone implements them personally with varying degrees of success. One eye opener for me was when I wrote and ran an agent to determine how many documents are stored in Inboxes throughout the organization. Let's just say that "getting In to Empty" is not the practice of very many.

Posted at 11/25/2006 9:30:46 by Roland Reddekop

The GTD and Lotus Notes Implementation Guide is here!

Hello there...Kelly Forrister here,

I can speak to the issue of Follow-Up Flags. We looked at including that, but decided for simplicity sake and to keep the suggestions simple and consistent with our other guides we went with the "-Action" and "-Waiting For" folders instead.

Of all of the programs out there that provide the Follow-Up Flag function, I think Lotus Notes does it best in actually giving the user a chance to also capture the next action. For those who want to use that feature, I don't think it goes against the GTD methods. In my opinion, if the system is clear, intuitive and organized then you've nailed it.

Eric-thanks for letting your users know about the Guide. Much appreciated!


Posted at 11/27/2006 15:03:18 by Kelly Forrister

re: The GTD and Lotus Notes Implementation Guide is here!

Kelly reads my blog! Kelly reads my blog!

Thanks for the comment, Kelly.

Best regards,


Posted at 11/28/2006 12:44:04 by Eric Mack

re: Notes and GTD: Why not use the Lotus Notes Follow Up Function?

Thanks Roland, Glad that you found the referral useful. I see that Kelly's responded to the flag and other comments. Thanks for your comment and encouragement.

Posted at 11/28/2006 13:13:41 by Eric Mack

re: The GTD and Lotus Notes Implementation Guide is here!

I agree, Dave. the follow-up flags can be useful in some cases. They can also become a way to avoid working from your lists. (I have experience in this area.)

Ultimately, it's important that you experiment with the tools to find out what supports you best in getting things done with Lotus Notes.

Posted at 11/30/2006 13:30:10 by Eric Mack

re: Customizing Notes for GTD


You are correct that the GTD implementation guide, as I understand it, was written for the broadest possible audience across several versions of Notes clients. Ultimately, what matters in implementing GTD and Lotus Notes is that you understand the methodology (GTD) and how to use the technology (In this case, Lotus Notes). [See http://www.ericmackonline.com/ica/blogs/emonline.nsf/dx/methodology-technology-productivity] I agree that it seems that fewer companies provide direction to their employees in this area. Sometimes, they even sabotage their Notes investment. [See http://www.ericmackonline.com/ica/blogs/emonline.nsf/dx/how-some-companies-sabotage-their-investment-in-lotus-notes.htm]

For the methodology part of the equation, I recommend the GTD RoadMap seminar (public or in-house) from The David Allen Company. I've attended several times over the years and each time I walk away with something new. Next year, I'll resume my eProductivity seminars, which focus on the technology side of the equation. [http://www.ericmackonline.com/ica/blogs/emonline.nsf/dx/eproductivityseminarinchicago] If you are looking to do your own, you may want to search this blog as I occasionally summarize tips from my seminars here on this blog.

Posted at 11/30/2006 13:37:46 by Eric Mack

The GTD and Lotus Notes Implementation Guide is here!

Looking at your Lotus Notes posts inspired me to pull together in one place the various notes I've made of how I've used LN in a very lo-fi fashion for my past few jobs:

{ Link }

Regards - Mike

Posted at 12/08/2006 21:22:37 by Mike Brown

The GTD and Lotus Notes Implementation Guide is here!

Keeping the same thoughts in place, please review my customised lotus notes template.

{ Link }

Posted at 12/12/2006 4:14:34 by KoolPal

The GTD and Lotus Notes Implementation Guide is here!

Before paying the fee I would like to know whether template modifications are needed to use GTD with Notes. My company uses Notes heavily, but we do not control template modifications as employees.

Posted at 01/20/2007 20:33:32 by Tamas

The GTD and Lotus Notes Implementation Guide is here!

Tamas, the "GTD and Lotus Notes Implementation Guide" does not require any modifications to the Notes template. It focuses on what you can do with vanilla Notes.

If you want to go beyond that, the next step if the eProductivity template for Lotus Notes, which integrates GTD principles into the core functionality of Lotus Notes. ({ Link })

Posted at 01/20/2007 20:39:39 by Eric Mack

The GTD and Lotus Notes Implementation Guide is here!

I finished reading the Lotus Notes GTD book and really enjoyed it. Notes can be confusing to use in some ways and the GTD manual was very helpful.

Posted at 02/05/2007 11:19:05 by Isaac Bowman

re: The GTD and Lotus Notes Implementation Guide is here!

I'm glad that you found the guide to be helpful, Isaac. Be sure to sign up for the eProductivity alert list to learn more about using Notes & GTD. http://www.eproductivity.com

Posted at 02/05/2007 19:52:25 by Eric Mack

The GTD and Lotus Notes Implementation Guide is here!

What about creating a OneNote template based on GTD (Getting Things Done)?. There are a lot of people interested on it, some are trying it their own way... just search "GTD Onenote".

I´m sure that an "official" template will boost the sales of OneNote since it will automatically gather that whole target market.

Posted at 10/13/2009 5:08:16 by Project Management

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