October 04, 2007

Slam job

350px smash
Anyone reading this blog knows I'm a strong advocate of David Allen's Getting Things Done methodology, so this morning when my iGoogle home page turned up a new piece in Wired about Allen and GTD, I was eager to read it.

And read it I did. First came the shock - Allen had been a herion addict and a psychiatric patient?!? - Then with growing anger: seething, boiling anger, rage and outrage.

Wired had done a slam job on Allen.

Here's how to write a slam job boys and girls, but if you really want to see a master at work, read the profile by Gary Wolf.

First, hook in the readers who are interested in who you are profiling targetting with a run down of the person's success: 600,000 copies in print, many software apps, web sites, blogs and communities that share what the person advocates.

Now carefully start working in little slings and darts, like: "Some of them come to seminars like this. Allen himself is unsure if it helps."

Next, Be sure under the guise of describing what the victim advocates you trash what they advocate by distorting it, for example, by saying GTD is about 3 rules and this axiom:

Humans have a problem with stuff. Allen defines stuff as anything we want or need to do. A tax form has the same status as a marriage proposal; a book to write is no different than a grocery list. It's all stuff.

Keep tossing in those little snide darts;

  • "Allen has almost nothing to say on these topics..."
  • "Where earlier gurus tried to help their followers make their deep personal commitments explicit and easily accessible to memory, Allen is selling a kind of technology-enabled forgetting...."
  • "His techniques allow him the pleasure of having, much of the time, nothing on his mind."

Now that you've loosened up your audience, it's time to get down to the hard work of demolishing the man's reputation:

The only thing Allen was allowed to have in his possession at Napa State Hospital was a spoon. "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was pretty accurate," he says of the time he spent as a mental patient, "and Napa was one of the good hospitals."

That ought to grab their attention! Let's see, what else should we say about a man who makes a large part of his living advising corporate clients? I know!

Bookbinder and Allen became close. Bookbinder taught him karate, and soon Allen was using heroin, too. He left his marriage, abandoned his academic training, and eventually found himself out on the street, practically penniless, "crucified psychically," as he would later put it, "absolutely at the bottom physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually." Worried about the radical change in his behavior, some of Allen's friends had him committed in 1971. At the mental hospital, Allen received stark lessons in simulated obedience. He learned to hide his psychiatric medication under his tongue instead of refusing it or spitting it out, and he studied what the medical staff seemed to want of him, so that they would pronounce him cured.

And if that doesn't do the job, Wolf next gleefully spelling out Allen's connection to one Sri John-Roger, New Age cult figure, concluding, "Allen was, and still is, a minister in the church."

And on and on in a similar vein.

This is a despicable slam job, Wolf, too well done to be anything but intentional. You've done a great job of taking the facts and quotes Allen freely gave you and creating clever links between them and various cons and cult leaders, of taking what Allen believes in private and using it to hang him in public - a co-mingling that to my knowledge Allen has never, ever done.

Anyone interested in GTD reading this piece and this piece alone would conclude Allen's a new age con artist/addict/nut case and run miles to avoid him.

Yet the truth is quite a bit different, isn't it? How many Fortune 500's are ongoing clients of David Allen? Why did his book sell 600,000? Why are there so many people from CEOs to stock clerks and everything in between who say GTD has been a practical, useful way to be more effective and has not one bit of the cultness you try to rub off on it?

This is a slam job, nothing more. Wolf should be fired.

March 03, 2007

David Allen is working on a new book

There was a broad hint of this in last week’s GTD Connect conference call, but it’s confirmed now by no less a source than Time magazine: David Allen is working on a new book:

To spread his productivity gospel, David Allen is writing a third book on how to get things in order.

There’s nothing yet showing on Amazon – knowing what I know having written two books, I will bet sometime in time for Christmas 2007, but not much before.

I’ve noticed that David’s thinking about GTD and how it gets done has been evolving as of late: Recently, David posted on GTD Connect that there’s nothing at all wrong with having a daily To Do list - as long as you’re prepared to update it during the course of the day as things change.

That’s a change from his assessment of to do lists in the past – and welcome news to me since I sell MasterList Professional that makes managing your Current list of to do’s dirt easy.

This Time article also has five tips from David on implementing GTD that you probabably know already if you practice GTD, but it never hurts to review!

February 23, 2007

All GTD, all the time, in one place

There's a great new meta resource for people interested in GTD: The Ultimate GTD Index. It's an automatically generated index of GTD bloggers posts, news and software. If you want (or need) a quick shot of productivity, browse this page. Here's a few of the gems I found there today:

The person doing The Ultimate GTD Index (He/she won't reveal their name, I asked) also has another cool index: The Ultimate Personal Development Index worth bookmarking.

January 29, 2007

More GTD videos

While I’m in a video mood, here’s my top pick from YouTube of GTD-related videos:

The Carsons – like in Carson Workshops, Think Vitamin and several Web 2.0 projects – have a channel on YouTube with lots of good stuff.


I’m adding it to my ongoing MyGTD project in MasterList Professional to watch all of them, but the one I watched (below) was excellent.


A GTD flowchart

If you want to get the whole GTD thing in one look, have a look at the flowchart that Dr. Joshua Schwimmer, MD has posted at his site. While Joshua calls it a MindMap since he created it with MindManager, it really is a flowchart of how all the parts of GTD connect.

January 26, 2007

What works when trying to change your life?

Want to know how to load the dice in your favor when you attempt to change your life?  DayTimers had Opinion Research Corporation do a fairly large study in December. The study covered in part what techniques did the people who had kept their previously made New Year's Resolutions use. The results were surprising:

When asked what helped them to be successful in keeping their New Year's resolutions, most respondents used a number of internal motivators, external support, and external aids to help them succeed. These included:

Internal Motivators

  • 86% noted determination to make it, even when it got hard
  • 76% made a commitment for the long haul
  • 76% accepted setbacks and got back on track
  • 71% found that visualization was an aid to success
  • 59% rewarded themselves for success

External Support

  • 57% told other people
  • 39% asked for help and didn't do it alone
  • 27% were accountable to others, i.e. friend, coach, dietician, therapist, support group

External Aides

  • 44% set up reminders
  • 40% created a step-by-step plan
  • 38% wrote it down

What these numbers tell me is:

  • Internal motivational techniques pay off better than external motivational techniques,
  • You need to be both stubbornly determined (or if you prefer determinedly stubborn) and prepared to forgive yourself for failure,
  • Being accountable to others doesn't work if you are not accountable to yourself.

January 17, 2007

A trusted system for small projects

We all have them - those small, nagging projects that linger a slow death in your Inbox or on your desk. The email you printed so you can order a new hinge for a cabinet drawer; the manual for your new cellphone; those evil software rebate forms. Small bits of paper unworthy of their own reference folder, but necessary to perform some small task or small project.

Instead of regurgitating them endless in your GTD system try this:

  1. Create a set (I now use 15) Small Project Folders. Regular hanging folders are fine - but I like these heavy-duty plastic interlocking folders that replace traditional paper folder/files.
  2. Process your small project paper into these folders, one folder per.
  3. Note in whatever trusted GTD system you use the temporary contents of each folder. Naturally enough, I do this in MasterList Professional but the idea is the same in whatever you use for GTD: an easily found pointer to the "materials" needed for each task.
  4. Keep in mind your small projects folders are not temporary reference folders; they are the temporary home for tiny bites of dead trees required to perform next actions on tasks.
  5. As you complete these small projects in the natural course of your GTD process, reuse them as needed. It's a great feeling to have all of your Small Project folders cleared by the end of the week.


January 04, 2007

The beginner's GTD Guide

If you've decided to make 2007 better than 2006 by learning the Getting Things Done methodology, good for you! And if you head over to Lisa Peake's 10 Beginner Behaviors, you'll be doing even better!

GTD can take some getting used to, but Lisa, who manages GTD Connect at David Allen's company, has distilled 10 really good starter points in her post. Definitely worth reading.

Leashing Email, part 3

This morning at when I checked email for the first time today at 9am, I was eagerly looking forward to seeing less. Less spam, because I using Cloudmark, Less vendor-spam because I fired a dozen or so yesterday, less news-spam because I fired the lot yesterday.

Poor fool me!

Instead, of 84 emails, 4 were actual communications from people I know. Eighty emails were:

  • 26 please confirm you emailed us responses from all over the world to spam emails that are spoofing my email address as the sender. (See email is broken.)
  • 29 spam Cloudmark filtered - and 4 I got to be the first guinea pig for. That's not bad and I can live with the idea that by "paying" with my judgment Cloudmark should block those 4 spam (the nasty image + contemporary text spam) I get 29 sent to spam automatically.
  • 13 self inflicted productivity wounds. These are "email newsletters" (an oxymoron) and ads from people I've done business with online. Fired the lot of them.
  • 8 news spam. Wait a minute! Didn't I fire all those yesterday? Should I call the FTC and get them to enforce the CAN-SPAMM federal statutes? Nope - it's just mainstream media trickery - While I fired the daily emails yesterday, I have to go back in and fire all of the "email alerts" (Congress is now in session with the Dems in charge - wow, hot news!).

Amazing how easy it was to subscribe to this email pap and how hard it is to unsubscribe! So, a half hour later after un-inflicting my email wounds and unsubscribing to email new alerts about things I don't care about, and adding a few more items to my News folder in my RSS Reader, I can only hope that tomorrow will be a better email day.


January 01, 2007

New Year, New Plan: Put Email on a leash

For the past few days I've been mulling what is the single most important New Year's Resolution I could make to improve my productivity and the hands down winner is putting email on a leash and keeping it there. Email is totally fracked up and totally indispensable. It's a cute puppy one minute, a dawn of the dead productively eating monster the next.

I'm sick and tired of dancing to email's psychotic tune - or the tune of all the spammers, vendor spammers, political spammers and news spammers that have corrupted what used to be a great tool. No more.

So here's my line-in-the-sand, not one step further plan for putting email on a leash and keeping it there:

I will not check email before 9am. Ever. Period. I'm reclaiming my right to decide what I am going to spend my day on from email's manic grasp, and taking back the most valuable part of my day, the part where I get the hardest thing done, set the tone for the day, and get things done that will actually matter to me in the future. Email will have to sit outside my life before 9 am and look in, kind of like Squeaky does.Tore0025

I will check email four times a day and that's it. 9am, noon, 3pm, end of day. That's enough. Anyone who has a urgent need to get ahold of me sooner than at those times can pick up the phone and call me.

I will aggressively push vendor-spammers to start RSS feeds and stop emailing me. If a tiny good company like castingwords.com can do it, there's absolutely no excuse for me to see another email from the likes of Microsoft, Adobe, or any of the rest.

I will ruthlessly chop all news spammers. I'm unsubscribing to the lot: CNN, Wash Post, NYT, etc. No more. I'll subscribe to their feeds, but they've abused my Inbox's hospitality for the last time.

So that's my plan for getting email on a leash for 2007. What's yours?


  • Who?
    Bob Walsh, (Author, managing partner of Safari Software, Inc. a micro-ISV)
    Exploring the intersection between Getting Things Done and building a micro-ISV.
    Live from Sonoma, California USA.
    Once or so a workday.
    Because there's a way to get everything done, I just know there is!
    Micro Internet Software Vendor, a self-funded startup company: See mymicroisv.com for information and resources.
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