What I Want To See From Evernote in 2017

I have almost all of my strategic thinking, articles I’ve found useful and reference material in Evernote. Their browser extension works great as does their Mac, iPad and iPhone apps. I even have the WSJ integration enabled so I see relevant news with my Notes.

It’s time for Evernote to not only store my information, but really help me be smarter and better at everything I do.

I would happily opt-in to this feature giving them access to learn from my personal data as long as I had a mechanism to “mark Notes private” which would exclude them from Evernote’s Machine Learning activity.

Given a seed list of Notes or a Notebook, I want Evernote to help me:

  • Monitor important news and activity from Companies and People I’m interested in
  • Show me correlations and visualizations in my Note data so I can better connect the dots and broaden my context
  • Suggest actions I should take based on my Note data

Evernote knows the Companies, People and Topics I’m interested in. Their browser extension could contrast my browsing behavior and work style with what I save into Evernote to learn more about me. They know my travel habits based on where I save Notes and all of the travel data I store in Evernote. They know about my kid’s activities because of the receipts I save, they know the gift idea list I’m keep for my upcoming 15th wedding anniversary.

Example:
I want to build a list of Venture firms funding healthcare companies. I know that Mattermark and CB Insights have these by segment, but I want my own list and to apply my own logic. I want to understand all the people that work there and what they are talking about. I want to know about their investments. I want to know when people leave the companies. I want to dig deeper and see trends using visualizations, etc.

I have been to the Evernote conferences, think Phil Libin was a visionary leader (#selfie) there and continue to be a paid user of the product. I’m hoping 2017 is the year that the Evernote team blows my doors off.

Using Trigger Lists in Product Management

I’m a big fan of “trigger lists”. The exercise of building them and the value they bring to a Mind Mapping or Design process have proved beneficial to me over the years. One of my favorites is David Allen’s GTD Incompletion Trigger List.

Recently, I transitioned from obsessing over providing Developers with APIs that would help them build amazing things with AI to obsessing about Healthcare and how AI can provide better care while lowering costs.

I pounded a Doppio and spent an hour brainstorming this trigger list to help me empathize with Users and better understand Actors in the crazy ecosystem that is today’s Healthcare tech.

I am a…

Healthy person
Cancer survivor
Farmer
Factory Floor Worker
CRO Administrator
CIO
CFO
CEO
Developer
Product Manager
Auditor
Patient
Physician
Nurse
RN
PA
Administrator
Researcher
Daughter
Son
Parent
Community Oncology Clinic
Hospital CEO
CMS Employee
FDA Committee Member

And I have…

Outcome data
Clinical trials
Drug databases
Medical journals
App Store Reviews
Medical Devices
Demographics
Avatars
Full Contact API data
Clinical Trial Participants
Patient data
Lab results
Population data
Reimbursement data
Patent filings
Hunches
Students
Research and Health kit data
Hospital trends
Emails
Tweets
Blog posts
Survey results
Internet searches
Essays
Product reviews
X-rays
Photos
Instagram searches
A list of questions

And I want to…

Find Patterns
Organize my data
Filter my data
Search my data
Understand social media
Build an Android app
Surface correlations
Have access to information

So I can…

Comply with regulations
Stay up-to-date
Collaborate with a Physician
Track my progress
Get credit for a course
Be reminded of an appointment
Find cost savings
Sell an app
Make people healthier
Prove a point
Get reimbursed
Understand health trends
Track my Clinical Trial
Find a Hospital
Research and buy my medication
Predict outcomes
Make more money
Connect data together
Build a treatment plan
Find a Clinical Trial
Predict the Future
Support Meaningful Use
Make evidence-based clinical decisions
Analyze adverse events
Provide better treatment “in the field”

For those familiar with Agile, you’ll recognize the “As a User I want” format of this trigger list.

We all have so much stuck in our heads, try creating one of these trigger lists for something in your world and you’ll be surprised at how it can help.

How GTD Areas of Focus relate to Product Management

One of my favorite GTD concepts is Areas of Focus. Using Areas of Focus in your personal productivity system helps group work into context. No need to look at todos like “Get House Painted” when you’re at work. It’s better to look at only work related stuff that you want to be focused on.

For the longest time I’ve had Areas of Focus like House, Family, Marriage, Gear and Travel. I had one Area of Focus for work called PivotDesk. Inspired by a recent webinar on GTD Connect given by David Allen, I decided to refine my work-related Areas of Focus.

Old: PivotDesk

New: Product Management, Feature Development, Product Performance, Product Marketing

As I went through this exercise, I had a chance to think through the different types of work a Product Manager interacts with to get the job done.

Product Management
Idea management, sprint planning, processes, team, budgets, timelines, product roadmaps, internal communication and demos.

Feature Development
Scoping, customer interviews, idea validation, wireframes, designs, details and QA.

Product Performance
Instrumentation, A/B testing, analytics and KPIs.

Product Marketing
Product tour, blog posts, inbound channels, segmenting visitors and drip email campaigns.

I’ve found each of these areas requires a different headspace, pace and communication style. When focused on Product Management, my head is very much in business and planning mode. I’m emaliing, looking at the calendar and updating people. When focused on Feature Development, I am putting myself in our customer’s shoes, feeling empathic and brainstorming ideas. I’m staring at personas and drawings taped to the wall and getting whiteboard marker stains all of my arms and clothes. I’m far, far away from my email and calendar.

What do your Areas of Focus look like?

What I Want To See From The David Allen Company In 2015

I am such a damn fanboy. The #selfie I took with Phil Libin from Evernote at Collision Conf was something I talked about for weeks and the time I ran into Joe Gebbie outside Om Malik’s Design Conf and updated him on PivotDesk was a highlight for me, not sure why. Actually, I do know, these guys have executed on big things that impact my daily life and I admire that.

So of course, because I’ve embraced GTD and experienced the benefits over the years, I’ve become a fanboy of the whole crew, David Allen, Kelly Forrester, Mike Williams and the David Allen Co coaches I’ve interacted with.

But what happens when a fanboy feels let down?

GTD and it’s principals are rock solid in my view. I’ve lived, taught colleagues and survived by some of the concepts in GTD and can never look back. However, the community around GTD is weakening.

Given a system for GTD, or in general just doing a better job at executing on your day-to-day tasks, why care about a “community”? When I started going deeper and deeper into GTD I found myself leaning on gtdconnect and podcasts for inspiration. I realize this sounds lame but I did it and it yielded results.

Ex: During the past 2 yrs…. 1) I had two little kids 2) got my MBA and 3) co-founded a tech startup. I sought comfort in listening to the same podcasts over and over. Something about the iteration, background noise and community felt like a massive advantage I had in my corner.  Do More Faster, Get Things Done, Inbox Zero were things I enjoyed and made me happy….along with producing good results at work and home.

As GTD Connect has faded, Kelly Forrester has moved on and the whole thing seems weak, I still occasionally listen to old podcasts but am now rethinking my approach. I don’t want to move on but maybe I need to.

Ideas

Here are some things to do.

1. Lots of interviews with people in different domains – the interviews with GTD’ers doing amazing things throughout the world are fascinating and keep me paying my monthly fee.

2. More presence. My company PivotDesk is based in Boulder, CO, one of the most vibrant business and tech scenes in the world. If you asked 100 people on the street about GTD maybe 1 would know, this sucks. Why aren’t there more ways to scale the GTD philosophy in a way driven by the David Allen Co? I would help.

3. Better Software. I use Things. My buddy that has no clue about GTD but crushes it uses Wunderlist. My other buddy I’m educating about GTD uses Asana. The smartest engineers on our team at PivotDesk use only PivotalTracker and nothing else to manage their own personal life. I totally get the “tool agnostic” thing but I’m bummed that David Allen Co hasn’t done more with thought leadership around software to support GTD. I’ve reached out a few times to Intentional Software to beta test some of their rumored projects and have gotten zero response. That’s incrediblely lame and a good signal whatever they’re working on will probably suck. I have no financial gain or career gain, I just want to help and got a goose egg…boo!

4. Meetups. A women in Denver has planned a GTD event in which 3 people show up each month. She is trying so hard to make this work and it’s nice/lame. Where is the support from David Allen Co? These people are your evangalists and they have no support/training/kuddos. They are passionate about what you are selling and you are absent. Embrace this crew of people.

I will continue to be a fanboy in 2014. What David has done is amazing and the dude is great. I evangalize GTD, teach people about it, and use the approach every single day. It’s been a life changer.

However, as I look to 2015 I bet I evolve. Continue to pay $48/month for GTD Connect, no. Buy David’s revision, of course. Tell others about GTD, of course. Be a fanboy, probably not.

Mike – keep GTD Connect an exclusive, amazing resource that’s worth paying for and give the GTD amplifiers a voice. Let me know how I can help.

The Mailbox App is a Great Tool for GTD

I strive for Inbox Zero but am usually not there. I totally buy into David Allen’s GTD philosophy of “Mind Like Water”.  An empty, processed inbox in which all next actions have been delegated, deferred to my projects list or simply done immediately (if < 2 min) is where I prefer to keep my head.  In that state, I make better decisions about what to work on and can focus on “doing”.

The new Mailbox app enhances the processing phase of the GTD workflow.  As you wake up to an inbox with 50 or so new emails as I do each day, Mailbox makes it very easy to archive, delay until later or reply.

20070206-gtd-workflow

The interesting part for me is the delay feature.  You have to make a decision on every email you read and delay empowers you to control the context in which you want to deal with that email.  Yesterday I received an email from a Vendor that had several contracts attached and was a page long.  This type of email nags at me on some level if it sits in my inbox so I touched “delay until later” which will hide the email and show it again in 3 hours.  In 3 hours I knew I’d be at work, most likely in front of my big monitor with headphones on ready to tackle an email like that which needs to be broken down into multiple actions, docs may need to be printed out, etc.  This clarity enabled me to plow through other emails whereas with Apple Mail or other email clients these emails tended to pile up until I was a bit overwhelmed and put off by my inbox.

snoozes-shot

I hope you find some GTD power in Mailbox as I have. There’s a waiting list and it took me two weeks to actually get access to the app from initial download.

 

Using GTD Agendas and Life Dinners to improve your relationship

My Wife Sarah and I try to have Life Dinners every month.  It’s a great time to organize, talk about upcoming trips or things we want to accomplish together.  Recently we have found ourselves with little to talk about related to life tasks and schedules as we leverage basecamp and email for passive communication about life stuff.  However, passive communication can get overwhelming at times.  I have found myself barraging Sarah with emails about various life tasks which stresses her out and creates the same problems we were trying to solve with the Life Dinners.

A few weeks ago I attended the “Mastering Workflow” GTD seminar.  This was mostly review for me but the tactic of using “Agendas” really stuck.   In Things, there’s a “People” list that I have never leveraged before.  As life tasks crop up that I need to discuss with Sarah, I associate them with her in the Things and wait until our Life Dinner to discuss.  I also do this with my boss as we have a weekly video chat standing meeting to review anything outstanding.

Using Agendas is a great way to cut down on daily email and task switching while still feeling organized.

 

Review of Do More Faster by David Cohen and Brad Feld

Looking at my book shelf organized with business books, seeing my iPad filled with iBook samples and seeing the New York Times Sunday edition laying around would make you think I’m a big reader.  In fact, I’m a fraud.  I’m the person that likes to start lots of books, read for a few minutes at a time and hardly ever finishes a book.  I pre-ordered Do More Faster by David Cohen and Brad Feld and read it from start to finish the day it arrived.

Do More Faster is divided into 7 Themes: Idea and Vision, People, Execution, Product, Fundraising, Legal and Structure and Work-Life Balance.  Within each Theme are several 1-3 page stories written by Entrepreneurs, VCs and other interesting people in the software, internet, product development, startup realm.  It’s a great format for the hyper caffeinated, ADHD, check twitter while your reading type of personality.

This book was fun for me to read because many contributors are familiar faces I either work with in some capacity or have seen around the flourishing Boulder/Denver tech community.

Chapters that blew me away and taught me something brand new:

  • To 83(b) or not to 83(b), There is No Question – Matt Galligan
  • Usage is like Oxygen for Ideas – Matt Mullenweg
  • Karma Matters – Warren Katz
  • Don’t Plan, Prototype – Greg Reinacker

Chapters that reinforced some of my favorite work related topics:

  • Don’t Suck at E-mail – David Cohen
  • Get Out from behind Your Computer – Seth Levine
  • Be Specific – Brad Feld
  • Get Feedback Early – Nate Abbott and Natty Zola

If you want motivation for anything you are doing I highly recommend Do More Faster.

Why GTD Projects and Agile User Stories are so similar

David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) approach reiterates the challenges of breaking a Project down into Tasks.  He focuses on the psychologic barriers people have with the work in front of them.  A common example (I’m paraphrasing here) is a person adding “Mom” to their ToDo list.  When digging further, David discovers that “Mom” really means “Mom’s birthday is coming up” and there are no Tasks or “Next Actions” defined to move the Project closer to completion.  This avoidance is very stressful on the person and a very inefficient way to life a busy life.

We use Rally’s ALM product and the Kanban custom tab to manage our User Story development.  I have worked with 2 teams over the past few years and both I consider quite amazing and talented.  Ongoing debates about naming conventions for User Stories, the importance of Tasks, and who should be the Story Owner have never been resolved.  Our teams crank out great software, but always within a stressful environment.

As I was enjoying a nice bike commute into work last week I was listening to the GTD | Podcasts episode titled “The Do Lectures”.  Around minute 10:30 David Allen says that to clarify anything, you have to decide “What outcome are you committed to finish about this?”  I realized how similar GTD Projects and Agile User Stories really are.

  • A GTD Project clarifies the outcome you want.
  • An Agile User Story describes what the User wants to achieve.

Both GTD Projects and Agile User Stories use Tasks as a method of describing the work required for completion.  In both, Tasks probably need to come in some sort of order, will vary in their scope and may require different people’s resource.  Also in both, if Tasks can be defined it signals a complete understanding of the work to be done.  Granted, you may have missed something, gotten something wrong or encounter changes along the way, but at least you’re on the right track.

My experience in working with fellow Developers is that being asked to Task out a User Story is sometimes treated as some kind of insult or waste of time.  We joke a lot about a common Task name we use in Rally simply titled “do it”.  Again, the GTD project similarities are strong here.  The initial reaction is to keep things in your head and resist verbalizing the steps required to complete the work.  Instead, insist on breaking every User Story down into Tasks and agree that the first Task to be worked on or “Next Action” is the most important one.

By leveraging the GTD Projects similarities in your Agile team, hopefully everyone will be more efficient and less stressed!

Morning Think Time

I set my iPhone Alarm for 5:10am, currently to the ringtone Viva la Vida by ColdPlay.  Most days during the work week I am able to wake up, sometimes I need to sleep in and I do, no pressure.  On some advice from Brad Feld, I have created a routine for my wake up: turn off alarm, coffee already brewing, standup and stretch, grab robe, walk downstairs.  I have found having a routine for getting yourself out of bed is a key part of being able to wake up early.

I have set no rules for myself for this early morning time, it’s my time.  As I sit down at my computer I check email, twitter, sometimes read through my RSS feeds…it’s my time to think, surf and read.

A result of this no pressure approach is that I get to see where the morning takes me.  Sometimes the first tweet I read takes me down a path of learning something completely new.  For example, a few days ago I watched a 30 minute interview of Mike Wallace and Frank Lloyd Wright at 5:30am!  I’ve also had mornings in which I sit down and start chipping away at my Inbox.  If I had this scheduled or planned I am sure I would not be able to drag myself out of bed.  I’ve had great IM sessions with friends on the other side of the globe, written blog posts, worked on startup ideas, fixed bugs, watched videos, caught up on Facebook and more during my morning think sessions.

As much as I practice GTD and follow concepts advocated by people like David Allen, I feel that having total free time to think, read and learn is key to work happiness.  By the way, I am writing this at 6:04am as I pour my second cup of coffee.  I wonder what today has in store for me.