Saturday, April 06, 2013

Converting to MyLifeOrganized for GTD Part 1

MLO Inbox


If you happened to read my entry about my new Samsung Galaxy Note II at the beginning of the year, you know one of my goals was to become even more paperless than I was before. That was not the only thing I was working on though. In general I wanted to become more productive overall and start to take advantage of some new tools and technologies. For instance, I started to implement some of the concepts in Death By Meeting in managing my team at work. Combined with my paperless efforts, preparing for and recording the results of the meetings pushed me over into Evernote more than I had ever used it in the past.

In the meantime, I also started an effort to use Google+ more for social networking. One of the nice things (though frustrating at times) about Google+ are the communities. I found a couple communities that focus on helping people be more productive - the Productivity community and the GTD community. As I started to read about what other people were doing with GTD and productivity in general, I started to think a reset of my own GTD system was in order.

What I was reading really just confirmed a couple things I had suspected anyway. First, in making various mods and hacks for the tools I was using, I had started to wander away from the GTD methodology. Allen would probably say that is ok, as long as the system I was using ended up with my mind clear and I wasn't stressing out about what I might be forgetting. Nevertheless, GTD may be considered a best practice and I suspect I was headed down a path away from that.

The second issue had to do with whether all my hacks were really working. I was starting to sense some cracks as items didn't really trickle up to grab my attention when they should. Over the years, I feel like I have become pretty good with the capture part of GTD. I keep some Post-Its or a small notebook handy to record items as they come in. I also think I do a decent job on processing the inbox whether it is handling something immediately, delegating, or recording it to be a next action. Weekly reviews was an area where I felt weak as I didn't think my reviews were effective due to the sheer size of the portfolio of projects and next actions. As mentioned, I was starting to experience some instances where something didn't really trickle up to my attention when it needed to, which made me think the system was helping me record, but then forget. The size of the list also got me to thinking the system was not helping me be productive. There were just too many things that were just lingering around.

So, time for a little GTD reset. I broke out Allen's book and skimmed back through it just to refresh my memory on some of the concepts. The next step was to make a decision as to whether I would stick with my current setup or try something new. For about the last 3 or 4 years, my main tool was ToodleDo. To that I used some different Android apps. Lately, I've been using Ultimate To Do List. However, I had started to have some sync problems and while the ToodleDo web interface worked well for inputting tasks, I struggled to use it to get a view of what I needed to focus on.

If I were going to move off of the ToodleDo/Android app system, I needed to identify some alternatives. The ultimate solution would be one that could run natively on multiple platforms and everything stay in sync between my different devices. I have a Mac at home, Windows at work, and two Android mobile devices (smartphone and tablet). Needless to say, it needed to be able to support the GTD methodology whether explicitly or through the use of various configuration options. Alas, the "ultimate" solution does not exist, which meant I would have to make some compromises and settle for something less.

After looking at all the tools others are using, I decided to take a crack at MyLifeOrganized. It does fail to meet some of my requirements in a couple respects. First, there is no OSX support, which means no app that I can use on my home computer. Second, there is no web interface either. To access MLO from my home computer, the only option is to VPN in to my work desktop. I figure I can live with that since I can rely on my Android devices when at home.

At the beginning of March I went ahead and downloaded the MLO application for Windows and the app for my Android devices. I went ahead and sprung for the MLO Cloud service as well so I could keep things sync'ed between devices. One of the things I've figured out at this point is the developers of MLO like to really nickel and dime things. Seems like there is a charge for everything. I'm still in the trial period for everything, but soon I'll have to make a decision as to whether I want to spring for all the licenses needed.

In the meantime, once the software was installed, it was time to get started on setting things up. That will be the focus of my next post on the subject.

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