GTD with Gmail (Part I)

I’ve previously mentioned that I use Gmail to manage GTD. I thought it would be appropriate to explain my implementation for others to utilize, comment on and improve upon the process. David Allen’s famous first step is collection. He tells us to use as many inboxes as we need, but as few as we can get away with. I use two: my Hipster PDA and my Gmail inbox. The Hipster is for collection when electronic means aren’t feasible, i.e., away from the computer or when a collection-necessary idea presents itself while I’m too busy to open my email. At collection-time each Hipster index card is converted into an email. Otherwise, the thought goes straight into an email to ‘Me’ for processing as soon as possible. Important Note: ‘Me’ is the contact that points directly to my Gmail account. If you use forwarding addresses to your Gmail, sending yourself an email using the fowarding address will only place the email in ‘Sent’ which is a pain for processing. My point in this first step is identical to David Allen’s: clear your mind of anything that needs your attention and put it somewhere you trust. Tomorrow: processing from Gmail’s inbox.

Shaving… the Old Way

Even if infrequently, the occasion arises where technology has actually caused quality in a particular facet of life to deteriorate. This is indeed the case with shaving. After enduring years of irritation, razor bumps, burning skin and dryness, not to mention the inability to shave daily as a result of these problems, I researched and have found a solution: shave like my great grandfather did. I did some reading, some research, and headed to for some supplies. I purchased a Merkur Futur razor, a Vulfix super-badger Brush and some Proraso Italian shaving soap then waited for it to come (please exhibit some pride towards me for being patient).

Yesterday was reward day. My parcel came (simple joy arrives in small packages for me), I set up the new environment and I gave it a shot. Absolutely incredible. Besides being a much better shave for my face, it’s a wonderfully relaxing experience – almost spa-like. I definitely recommend the “bargain” Proraso shaving soap (it came highly recommended to me, and I can see why – the Eucalyptus oil and Menthol provide awesome tactile and aromatic sensations). The act of shaving is, in fact, completely different with a safety razor because rather than jamming a cartridge razor (I’m a Mach 3 convert) against my face and dragging, the razor is weighted and meant to glide (much on its own) over the skin, taking your beard with it. I had no irritation, bumps, burning, or dryness and much fewer nicks than even I had imagined.

Give it a try if you haven’t already.

Travel Belt, Sleep anyone?

Travel Belt: Trent is the closest thing to a brother I’ve ever had. Over the weekend he married Jamie and, as far as I’m concerned, she’s now a part of my family too. They were married in a small town about 2 hours from here that is quite a ways off of the beaten path, and it gave my small but growing family a chance to do some light travelling. It was good practice eo cum liber as well. With the veritable supply train of baby goods that had to be loaded into the Accord, it was easy to overlook one small thing: a belt. Since I left in my travel clothes, I was casual enough not to need one on departure and when dressing for rehearsal I realized I didn’t have one.

Now, I have a hack. My wife ended up buying a reversible belt. Yes, not the ultimate in fashion but when you’re in a bind, it’s a great thing to have. I definitely won’t wear it on a normal day, but it’s going in my computer bag – something I’m likely to have with me while travelling. Then, if I happen to forget my good belts, I can avoid looking sloppy because I have a black and a brown belt on standby.

Sleep habits? I’m struggling a bit lately with sleep efficiency. If anyone has any hacks or tips on getting the most out of sleep, then I’d love to hear them. Thanks!


I often tell people that I do not easily relocate. Immediately after finishing my degree I moved an exiguous four hours away from here and only lasted fifteen months. There were several details that influenced the decision (Cindy and I made this joint decision) but the overpowering one was “we aren’t happy here, and we were much happier back home.” That was probably a compelling enough reason to return on its own.

So what does make it so great here? I’m still not even sure – but I know there are a few things that I’m a fan of:

  • Cost of Living. Our quality-of-life to cost-of-living ratio is relatively high here. Nice property can be had for seventy-five to one-hundred dollars per square foot.
  • Weather. Our summers can be intensely warm and humid, but our winters are generally mild; autumn and spring are beautiful.
  • Friendly People. People talk to you on the street, we wave at neighbors we don’t even know and if you’re a good conversationalist you can strike up a witty dialogue with someone in the grocery line without getting odd stares.

There are more, but I’m pressed for time today. What do you like about where you live? Why do you live there?

Reflection and Bonuses

First, regarding yesterday’s post: The statements made were not just out of momentary passion. Even after reflection I believe, perhaps even more strongly, that my concerns are valid and justified.

Bonuses: Annual Christmas bonuses at work, a free computer with the purchase of a car, or the child tax credit are all highly publicized “bonuses” that we’ve come to expect. I believe that a bonus should be unexpected. Give people more than you told them you would. Give them more than they expect – not less. Pay this ideal forward, and one day you’ll be blessed with getting something more than you expect.

Why? Marketing campaigns tend to hit the high points, all of the high points, and then hit them again. How many times have you paid for a movie ticket only to be less entertained than you were by the free trailer? The most effective marketing tool is your product itself because it brings people back. If a consumer discovers an interesting and useful feature they didn’t expect they will be more likely to come back next time to see what other surprises may come.

This doesn’t only apply to the business world. If your spouse asks you to vacuum the living room while they run an errand (of course the first step is to do exactly that), dust the furniture and (un)load the dishwasher too but don’t mention it. Even if they don’t mention that they notice, they notice. Your (edit – thanks, Seth) pointing it out will take away any cool points you earned from the extra work – its like adding the extra-cool feature to your marketing campaign (mistake). Keep it secret, keep it safe.


I realize I’ve skipped a few days. In short, understand that the world has changed and that I needed some time to reflect.

Now: the main topic, eloquence in writing.

To me, the ability to communicate effectively in writing is extremely underrated. There’s nothing worse than a highly educated or seemingly successful professional who has a dire inability to write in English. Is the Internet to blame for this loss of eloquence? This is a weak excuse, but I’m certain that it hasn’t helped.

My solution: keep the art alive and be vocal about it. When you see someone using quotes improperly, please tell them. When you see someone using “i.e.” improperly (it stands for id est, which translates to “that is,” and requires the trailing comma), please tell them. You know the rules but everyone around you doesn’t. How to be tactful is up to you but without the communication of these principles and ideals the modern mind of society as a whole will continue to dwindle to nothing.

Please comment with examples of wonderfully terrible sentences produced by people who should know better. We’ll have fun tearing them apart together.

Declare Yourself Victor

Everyone runs into those days and weeks (I can imagine even longer) where most things seem not to go your way and it becomes tough to carry on. This is especially true if you haven’t quite yet found something you’re passionate about doing. Try to remember what drew you to what you’re doing. Then find a part of it that you’re good at (hint: these are probably the same notion). Make a next-action that relates to this idea and do it soon. Declare a small victory on this action and your personal morale will be boosted.

How do you declare small victories?

Rally Troops for Your Cause

Wow it’s a beautiful day in the CMA today. I should take as many non-smoker-smoke-breaks as possible. But before I walk out for some fresh air, I’ve got a thought for us all.

We (presumably you’re included in this lot since you’re reading my blog) do a lot to make our living environment conducive to productivity, the hacks that we use to survive, and doing what makes us happy. One of our biggest obstacles to success in this caption has to be allowing exceptions for people who are ‘uninitiated’ or just ignorant to what we’re trying to accomplish. If your colleagues, family, and friends aren’t embracing your vision for a blissful and productive lifestyle it isn’t because they want to see you fail. You just haven’t properly evangelized.

I’m quite keen on the red-yellow-green desk notification system to let people know when you’re really too busy for a non-critical interruption, only busy enough to handle semi-important inquiries, or ready for anything. As cool as this system can be – it isn’t going to work if I’m the only person in the office that understands what I’m trying to accomplish. Start small, and find a like-minded colleague to start a collaborative effort to become more productive. You already know who can most appreciate this scheme at work. When people see a small bit of cooperation that works, they’ll want to take part.

If you’re trying to make third-party information requests and action items link into your GTD implementation more smoothly, suggest to a colleague that they hand you an index card, or send you an email with a formatted subject to ease into your email-based GTD (we all should have promises, requests, and information in writing anyway). It’s not like you’re asking them to go find you a closer parking space.

These methodologies we practice aren’t witchcraft – we’ve gotten this far because the ideas are excellent, and if other people are educated on them, they’ll embrace them. Let people know that it’s not a selfish request. You’d like for them to increase their ability to succeed as well and by helping your cause, they’re increasing their own productivity.

Go take a walk, and think about how you can create a productivity network (and of course share your ideas – we’ll all be part of the same productivity network).

Make Days Off Grand

Disclaimer: (I often like to start with disclaimers because this medium lends itself to easy misunderstanding and misinterpretation. Here, emotion and spirit are not easily conveyed.) The following does not mean to complain about yesterday, the day before, or any other day in history. I simply mean to reflect and look forward to opportunities that may be eventually come again.

It is my belief that the socially accepted pattern of 5 days of work and 2 days of ‘weekend’ bears down on humans more than we’re meant to withstand. Many of us, too tired to complete household chores after work, end up turning weekends into work days just to attempt to catch up with the rest of our lives (it’ll never happen at this rate).

Yesterday was a company holiday. Alas! A perfect way to round out Easter weekend and recover from the last eleven or so weeks (since the last vacation day). An opportune time to catch up on the things that have been piling up since the Big Move. Not my best idea. I really needed a Sabbatical. The (obvious) goal of GTD is to actually do stuff, but at the core of human mental and physical health is the fact that we really need to take a break from time to time.

Ideas for making this happen:

  • Every ten weeks or so, take a day off from everything. Schedule this in a clever way. It could even be a weekend day. Make sure the affected people know and are willing to help you make the day work out (by leaving you alone).
  • On these days (5 a year certainly doesn’t sound like an awful lot but it will serve you well if done effectively) don’t glance at your lists, email, calendars, and only answer the phone if it isn’t going to make work or seem like you’re working. Friendly, pleasant conversations only.
  • Make sure you hit the ground running afterwards. This mini-retreat should refresh and invigorate you to be insanely productive for at least the next week and should keep you going without dread and heartache until the next one.

If you’re anything like me, you could use one of these days immediately. Id est, go flip through your calendar and find the day now. It could be your next company holiday, your birthday, or this coming saturday. Remember the rules and stick to them. It’ll be grand.

Television Anarchy

Previously on SAW, I mentioned our big move. Before the move I made sure that our home was equipped with a cable modem because so much of what I do depends on having reliable Internet access. Paritally as an experiment, I purposefully neglected to set up cable television at the new house. This experiment has proven itself useful. This machine that centers nearly every American home wastes an inordinate amount of time and brain cells weekly in my home. I’m going to experiment with the following guidelines to increase my nightly productivity – it might be refreshing. How many hours did you waste in front of the television last evening alone?

  • Limit time to an hour per night, but consider leaving it off completely 1-4 nights a week (every night if it pleases you, but I just can’t do without LOST). Spend an hour of your normal TV time doing something productive but not taxing, you don’t want to turn downtime into hard work. By now we all know that productivity != hard work.
  • If you’re reading this, chances are you get your news on the Internet, so don’t tell me you HAVE to watch the nightly news. It’s just depressing anyway. A lot of families watch the news or some other TV over dinner. Talk to your family. “People who watch television while eating also tend to be unaware of how much they eat, which encourages overeating.” (citation).
  • Relaxing is excellent, and TV is one way to do that – but it shouldn’t be the only way to relax. Play cards with your family, roommates, neighbors (it’s a very good idea to meet and befriend them if you haven’t already), or pets. Game night rocks, and rather than relaxing by vegetating in front of the television, you can exercise your mind.

If you’ve got any experience with these sorts of exercises, please let me know. Have a wonderfully productive, relaxing, and fulfilling weekend.