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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Doing GTD in a standard Lotus Notes evironment

Lots of people have to live in both worlds, like PC at work and Mac at home. The even poorer of them have to accept an environment without admin rights on their work PC.

So the only solution to get around with a decent GTD system is to deal with the stuff one's got and this may be Lotus Notes (or Outlook).

If you're not sure how GTD works, please check it out before you continue this blogpost on http://www.davidco.com/ or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Getting_Things_Done

What I've learned is, that with only a bit of work you can install a well working GTD system even in the standard, built-in Lotus Notes task management system, although it doesn't provide the fancy features a full-blown GTD application like Omnifocus, Things or Remember-the-Milk has.

But that isn't a must if you only want to run your system, provided you just set up your system up in a slightly geeky way:

For myself it worked out like this:

A must for all GTDers is the ability of linking context to tasks. This can be done by using the "Category" field in the task applications GUI.
The only thing you need to do is to write the context(s) in the category field and Lotus Notes, after hitting ENTER will remember the category for re-use.

But first things first:

Going that way, you need to think about a structure that works best for you.

I've chosen this one, so I can distinguish between contexts being places, persons or projects:

"@" at the beginning of a category/tag signifies a place context like @work, @phone, @computer, @work, @home, @errands ect.
"-" signifies a person to interact with or to talk to, like -John Miller, -Spouse, -Boss, -Erica etc.
"." signifies a project the task is allocated to, like .christmas, .vacation, .garage_sale, .younameit

Since Lotus Notes allows multi-tagging, one can add all context needed to each single task to be completed.

So if I have to call the butcher for the christmas roast, the task would be:

Call butcher for christmas roast +498912345678
duedate: 2011-12-20
Tags: @phone, .christmas, -Spouse

I think you got the idea.

If you now want to view the tasks with the same assigned context, that is nothing but a tag, you simply have to click on this view in the left column of the task page within Lotus Notes.

In order to not being forced to type in the same context over and over again, I use a very smart application called "Breevy", that could also be called "Textexpander for PC". this software expands abbreviations to full text on a systemwide basis i.o. to avoid typing it over and over again.

The good thing about Breevy is: There's a portable edition for breevy as well! This can also be installed locally on your PC without admin-rights enabled.

Therefore I've choosen abbreviations for the text snippets to expand in every application on the PC when typed in, like:

@p for "@phone" or @w for "@work", or "-jjm" for "-John Miller" and so on.

Apart from the ease of writing at the first place, it is also essential for not ending up with a bunch of almost similar categories/tags due to typos or different writings like @computer/@Computer or -John Miller/-John miller and so on.

After doing this all, you can easily review your tasks by going to the "view by category" section of the task application within Lotus Notes, pick the phone-list by expanding @phone and if you've been smart enough to copy and paste the phone number of the butcher into the task, you can end up having the phone list for you way from/to work handy by either transferring it to your mobile device or printing it out before leaving the office.
If you are using a Blackberry handheld, synced with your work PC you can also find the task-list in your applications folder. Within the task list, you can set a filter to the @phone category tag i.o. to see all @phonehone related actions due. Then start phoning the people listed by clicking on the highlighted phone number entered in a readable format, so it is recognized by your Blackberry, being a phone number.

This works for all categories/tasks like @errands or so, enabling you to walk away with a well prepared list of action items doing your groceries or to seing a co-worker you need to interact with.

After setting up your Lotus Notes like this you should be done with meeting someone, not knowing what you wanted to talk about, or handwriting lists beside your computer.

Listen to my audio podcast contribution to the Nosillacast Podcast:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/7941538/20110506_Running%20a%20GTD%20System%20in%20a%20Standard%20Lotus-Notes%20Installation.mp3