Tips for GTD…

Good advice from the Canadian Girl

“Tips for the self-employed have been done to death by every lifehack geek, GTD addict and smart living blogger, but everyone develops their own little system so I thought I’d share mine.

Over the years, I’ve tried every GTD app under the sun, only to discover that the tool/software I used to get stuff done was irrelevant, so I kept it simple this time around. It turns out that the best organisation tools are a single sheet of paper and a calm brain. Ok, I’m oversimplifying a little but here’s my system nowadays.

On the wall by my desk, I have a small index card with reminders.

It reads:
No Distractions, Take a break for lunch before 2pm, End of day review, Evening meditation time

Simple, unh?

1. Today’s Three Most Important Tasks

Self-employed or not, we all have an awful lot of responsibilities and tasks in our daily life, and it’s easy to forget which are most important and go for the most urgent one, the one backed by the pushiest client or the easiest one.

Start the day with a defined list of 3 must-do tasks and focus on them first. If you finish all 3, you can either skip off early or get on with some other bits of work feeling saintly for having done your most important work for the day.

2. Distraction-Free Time

In the same vein as the tip above, setting a few hours in the day which are sacred and during which you can focus on the most mentally demanding tasks. For me, it’ll be writing time where I can dive in without distractions.

Mid-morning 9 to 11am works well for me, because it gives me the 8-9am slot to check emails, have a coffee and schedule anything else for the day/week. However, when 9am rolls around, the phone goes onto silent (or out of the room), email, IM and Twitter get closed down and aren’t (usually) reopened til 11am, or later if I find I’m really zoned in.

Everyone’s got a different time of day where they’re most productive – a friend of mine is a night owl and gets that time after the kids are in bed and up until well after midnight!

3. Take a break for lunch before 2pm

I used to think I’d have no problem stopping around 1pm, trotting down to the kitchen and making something healthy to fuel me for the afternoon. As it turns out, I start sitting on the corner of my chair at 1pm thinking I should eat, but found that at 4pm I was still working and the sounds of my stomach were loud enough to scare the cats!

Having food suitable for lunches in the fridge and cupboard like healthy sandwich fillings, salads and soups makes it easier to break for lunch, because I know I won’t have to fiddle around or go out to find something to eat.

4. End of day review

In order to close up shop at the end of the day without that uneasy feeling that there’s more to do, I end the day by double-checking that the Most Important Tasks are done, have a look in Things and picking the next day’s tasks – which may change in the morning, but at least will be there as priority reminders.

5. Evening meditation time

I’ve not done a great job keeping up with this one, but after a long day running at full steam, I find the only way to really wind down and enjoy my evening is to have 10-15 minutes of complete relaxation. Sitting in silence with one of the cats on my lap purring away for a few minutes does wonders to chill me out.

Whatever your trick may be, it’s worth taking those few moments to get out of work mode and into home/family mode, especially if you don’t have the drive/walk home to serve as a forced downtime.”


Agile Giants

How Big Companies Are Adapting to Change

If things just stayed the same, life would be simple. But nothing ever stays the same, certainly not in today’s business environment.


Most companies get this, and they’re working hard to build more flexibility and agility into their business models, culture and processes. The need for speed, the need for adaptation, has never been more pressing. We are living Darwin’s theory–only sped up by a factor of 10.


While being a multibillion-dollar company has many inherent advantages, agility is not one of them. So how does a large organization build that into its DNA? I moderated a panel on this topic recently with three large-company IT executives who all had some well-earned battle scars from the change wars. We talked about the economic climate and why a focus on the customer is more important than ever. All three ranked customers (finding, acquiring, serving and retaining) as their company’s top priority.  


But few large organizations are currently built to have a single view of the customer or, conversely, to present a single view of the company to the outside world. There are too many unconnected systems, databases and processes; too many parochial interests and needs. And while the tools exist today to make those connections happen (this was a conference about business process management), getting people to buy into major change is really hard.  


To get stakeholders to move beyond self-interest and to buy into change for the good of the enterprise, the panelists offered the following recommendations:  

1.  Base your case on the customer, not internal needs. If you can convince people that the change you’re proposing will serve customers better, you’re halfway there.

2.  Make sure the CEO not only supports the change but pushes it.

3.  There has to be a change agent driving the project, but make sure this person is tightly affiliated with the business affected, not a separate “change manager.”

4.  Train all affected employees in common values, beliefs and behaviors around the new way of doing things, and link results to rewards and recognition.

5.  Use tools to model the new processes. The days of trying to capture requirements in a formal document, up front, are over. RIP.

6.  Deliver results along the way.

7.  Finally, make sure this is positioned as a business change so IT doesn’t get blamed for the inevitable pain!

Abbie Lundberg, Editor in Chief

HT: CIO (Nov 15, 2008), p.6

Can’t Recall Your Password? Try This.

Our brains are littered with passwords from bank accounts, PINs, work e-mail, network log-ons, e-commerce and social networking sites.

How bad is the alphanumeric clutter in our heads? The average person now must remember five passwords, five PIN numbers, two number plates, three security ID numbers and three bank account numbers, according to research from Ian Robertson, professor of psychology at the Institute of Neuroscience and School of Psychology at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. His research found that nearly 60 percent of those studied felt they couldn’t remember all these numbers and letters. As a result, most users create weak passwords or rely on technology to create or store alphanumeric data.

Robertson says that people can remember more information if they practice visualizing it. “We could happily remember two dozen passwords using some fairly standard memory methods,” he says

He points to one long-standing way to recall numerical-based passwords: visual imagery. First, create an easy-to-recall rhyming word for each number of your password, one through 10. “One is bun, two is shoe, three is tree, four is door, five is hive, six is sticks, seven is heaven, eight is gate, nine is wine and 10 is hen,” Robertson suggests. So if, say, your code is 6329, you would first visualize a pile of sticks (for six), spread all around a tree (three), where a shoe (two) is hanging on the tree, and a glass of wine (nine) is pouring over the tree. The same approach works for alphanumeric passwords.

“The first few times will be time consuming,” says Robertson. “But if you get into the habit, you could remember two or three dozen visual images.”

-Tom Wailgum

HT: CIO (Oct 15, 2008), p.11

Not an Excuse, but Remember this when Testing


“…However, experience has shown that no amount of purely functional testing can assure that there are no defects in the system.  In functional testing we see only the result of implementation against the limited test criteria we can establish, and in system complexity there are nearly infinite number of possible input sets, system conditions, environmental conditions, and so on.  We cannot possibly test them all” (Dean Leffingwell, Don Widrig, Managing Software Requirements: A Use Case Approach, 317; Emphasis the authors).

Is a Use Case also a Test Case?


“Leaping to conclusions, you might assume that the use case is itself a test case and that the team can go right to work testing use cases immediately without much further thought to the process.  Well, not exactly.  In the following sections we show that a fair amount of test design work is still ahead of us and that, while the use cases do indeed drive this process, some serious analytical work has to be done to convert these assets into the proper stage for system testing” (Dean Leffingwell, Don Widrig, Managing Software Requirements: A Use Case Approach, 307).

The APM Advantage?


“Project management, at least that sector of project management dealing with new product development, needs to be transformed, but to what? It needs to be transformed to move faster, be more flexible, and be aggressively customer responsive. Agile Project Management (APM) and agile product development answer this transformational need. APM brings together a set of principles and practices that enables project managers to catch up with the realities of modern product development” (Jim Highsmith, Agile Project Management, preface xx; emphasis added).

Best Project Methodology?


“There are many different systems for how to plan and manage the development of software. These systems are often called methodologies, which means a body of practices aimed at achieving a certain kind of result. Common software methods include the waterfall method, spiral mode, Rapid Application development, Extreme Programming, and Feature-driven development. All of these methods attempt to solve similar organization and project management problems. They each have strengths and weaknesses, and it takes knowledge and experience to decide which one is right for what kind of project” (Scott Berkun, The Art of Project Management, p 24; emphasis added).