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!

Discussion/Comments (9):

I wish, I wish it was easy.

I wish I could use the eProductivity template at work. Unfortunately the company I work for doesn't allow us use a custom template for our mail files. Because the standard Lotus To Do form in Notes is so difficult to use, I find that it is quicker to enter my next actions on my Treo 600. I then wirelessly synchronize to Notes. I would much rather use a To Do form that makes entering next actions easier.

Posted at 04/12/2004 16:31:30 by Tanny O'Haley

Lotus Notes...managing reminders

Well, Eric,

You know my system...I use Notes for e-mail and our group calendar. I don't use the e-Productivity template, however, I do manage actions and projects using Lotus Notes.

Every now and then, I'll have several "actionable" e-mails. Instead of copying the e-mails into my Palm, only to copy them back when I do them, I've created the following work-around:

I change the SUBJECT line of the e-mail [CTRL+E] to my Next Action. Then, I save the e-mail to a folder I have called "Action Required."

I can then review this "list of actionable e-mails" whenever I'm at the computer. I only am managing an average of 50 e-mails a day, a small percentage of which are actually "actionable later;" this system works for me.

I've seen your e-Productivity template in action, and think it's great!

Posted at 04/13/2004 19:06:11 by Jason Womack

Lotus - Jason´s Great Tip

My agency is Lotus Notes based due to concerns re: security and Outlook. I have followed Eric's Lotus related efforts through the GTD network for years. Unfortunately, I have not been able to convince our IT folks to do any individual customization of Lotus. Jason's tip on changing the email subject line absolutely made my day. I was unaware that this was even possible. Our IT folks keep their secret hand shakes to themselves. This simple action will really help me as I scan down that list of emails. I'll now know what I need to do next. Thanks to both Eric and Jason for your efforts to help so many folks' productivity.

Posted at 04/23/2004 13:38:38 by Sue McIver

Stay tuned, Sue

At my recent eProductivity seminar I showed folks some changes that they could make to Notes that would have a profound affect on the way they work, yet did not require IS support or modify the template in any way. I'll be posting some of these tips on my eProductivity.Net web site.


Posted at 04/24/2004 9:28:16 by Eric Mack

Lotus Notes for Action Management

I´m interested in receiving a notification when is available your e-productivity template. Thanks in advance.

Posted at 06/16/2008 16:36:14 by Ernesto M. Aguirre

re: Lotus Notes for Action Management

Ernesto, eProductivity for Lotus Notes completd beta at the end of 2007 and has been in private enterprise pilot programs since that time. We will release to the public this month. If you would like to be notified and receive special information about this, be sure to bisit http://www.eProductivity.com and sign up for the eProductivity Tips list. - Eric

Posted at 06/16/2008 16:39:00 by Eric Mack

Lotus Notes for Action Management?

I wish to recieve full notes on management in action

Posted at 07/10/2008 6:40:53 by Patricia Mubanga

re: Lotus Notes for Action Management?

You may sign up at http://www.eProductivity.com for some further information.

Posted at 07/10/2008 9:38:16 by Eric Mack

Lotus Notes for Action Management?

I have used Lotus Notes for the past 10 years and adopted GTD in 2008.

I read David Allen's book twice and still find myself catching more nuggets. I am about to purchase his new book. "Making it all work"

Please keep me posted on eproductivity.net

Posted at 01/20/2009 9:16:27 by Damian Castillo

Discussion for this entry is now closed.