Such Happiness In Thought Happens

January 16, 2008

Recent readings

I have been doing some reading amongst all the other stuff going on at the moment and I wanted to draw attention to some of the reading that I have been doing, as it is outside the realms of my normal genre of fantasy reading. Since reading a number of productivity/workload management blogs I have wanted to read David Allen’s Book and see what the fuss is about. My immediate boss at work also picked up a couple of books about productivity and the use of Outlook – Michael Linenberger’s Book and Sally McGhee’s Book. So I thought I would give my impressions of the books so I could get it out of my head and clarified (which is one of the things they all mention to do – get it out of your head and written down).

One of the immediate things that jumped out to me is how similar Sally McGhee’s and David Allen’s systems are. The Workflow Model is virtually identical, the list of items they use to empty your head, and other things like this. The difference in the books is that David Allen’s system can be used for anything, whereas Sally McGhee’s book is focussed on how to achieve workload parity by using Outlook. Other similarities in the books is that people need to have a trusted system of remembering things they need to do and the system will more than like be different for everybody. Paper or electronic, as long as you are able to get it down and trust that it will remind you when it is needed, the system should work for you. Each of the sources talk about collection points to store information/stuff/tasks depending upon where it comes from and people should have only a small number of these collection points. To me that makes sense – I should have only a few places to look in for what I need to do for work or home.

I found it confusing that neither Linenberger or McGhee look at using Outlook’s inbuilt TaskPad View of Active Tasks for Selected Days. Or the fact that Tasks do not need specific Start or Due Dates. How do you plan on getting tasks done if you don’t decide when you have time to do it? Of course I understand that most people are not realistic in their time frames of accomplishing work, as they are always interrupted or more urgent factors come up. The big advantage of using Start and Due Dates with Active Tasks for Selected Days is that you can click on any day in the mini month calendar above the TaskPad and it will say what you have on that day Task-wise.

The other confusing aspect of all the books was the Review. Why review weekly? Why not review towards the end of the day to be ready for what you have on the books tomorrow. At no time do I remember any of the books mentioning seeing what you have as meetings/appointments and a “To-Do List” for the next day and rescheduling items as you think of them. This is the time to see what you accomplished today, what you couldn’t get to, think of when you can realistically do them and change the dates if required.

Would I recommend the books? I would recommend David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” to those who do not have an idea about how to get organised, but I do not think I would recommend all aspects of Linenberger’s or McGhee’s book for people who want to use Outlook as their productivity/workload management tool. They do a good job, but dont cover all aspects that I think are important. Michael Linenberger’s book on Outlook is more technical than Sally McGhee’s.

To be honest I am happy with the system I use as it has proven effective for everything I do and informs me of what I need to do when. I have an empty Inbox both at home and at work. My Calendar is full with what I am doing when and as I live more in my Calendar than my Inbox I am reminded of what is happening. If I can’t do an action on the current day, I mark it for a day that is more suitable and I am aware of it when I am planning in the afternoon for the following day.
But it was interesting to finally read what other people are using and see where they are similar, but different.

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