Last Friday I spent my day in Seattle at the Getting Things Done RoadMap seminar. It was excellent in many directions.
My friend Bill and I left town at 4:30am in order to be in Seattle by 8:30am. We lucked out on the way up and encountered no traffic–the drive home was another story, though. The seminar was held at the W hotel. Nice place, tasty food.
I had a few expectations going into the seminar. Since I wasn’t new to GTD, I was hoping for a bit of a pick-me-up. A little external motivation to get my schtick together. I was also hoping to glean some new tips and tricks that I might’ve missed somewhere in the dozen or so times that I’ve read the book. Last, I was hoping to meet a few new folks and talk to The David about licensing GTD to colleges and universities (my MBA cohort had to go to a Saturday seminar about business etiquette–GTD would be more useful).
I’ll spare you the blow-by-blow and just get right to the point. Though the seminar really was all that and a bag of chips, there was nothing new. If you’ve read the book a time or three, you’ve already got everything at your fingertips. When you get to your seat, you’ll find a notebook waiting for you. It contains DA’s presentation, with spaces for notes–standard stuff. David doesn’t spray the crowd with special GTD sauce–no Vulcan mind melds. I was actually half expecting something special like this, though. I always felt like, "Sure, I’ve read the book, but I keep falling off the wagon because I never made it to a seminar." In my head I knew this wasn’t true, but actually going to the seminar hammered it home. If you’ve got other reasons to go, definitely go. But if you’re just hoping for some special sauce, save your money and spend the day trolling the various GTD forums. I also didn’t get as pumped up about GTD as I’ve been in the past (since there was nothing new to get pumped up about). I think this was a Good Thing, since I was able to have a clearer vision about how I can implement it, rather than getting all excited about new tools, etc.
For a very long time I had my GTD thing down pat. PC, Palm, folders. I relied heavily on my Palm for keeping lists. Now I’ve got a Mac and a Blackberry and I’ve been treading water, GTD-wise, ever since. I’m as vulnerable as the next guy when it comes to the little productivity temptations. I can get sidetracked for days with GTDTiddlyWiki, pimping out a Moleskine, or tracking down non-existent Blackberry task managers. The seminar kicked me into two "aha" moments. Moment one popped into my head at some point while DA was talking: KISSASS. DA didn’t say this, it just occurred to me as I reflected on how I’m prone to following productivity rabbit trails. KISSASS stands for Keep It Simple, Slacker, And Stop Slacking. The other thing occurred to me over the weekend as I was further exploring Entourage (Microsoft’s Outlook replacement for Mac). Entourage is "plain vanilla" but it appears to have been designed with GTD in mind. One thing I’ve always struggled with was how to keep track of Next Actions that are associated with Projects. David Allen says that he’s never had trouble with it by just using folders and his Palm. Great, but as he tells us, there is no single "right" way. I want a method that’ll let me associate digital files with projects and action items. The "Project Center" in Entourage seems to do the trick. I can create a project, associate email, files, contacts and so on. And I can have multiple categories (read, "contexts") for things. The catch is, it’s stuck on my computer. It doesn’t sync with the Blackberry task manager. I understand there’s some software that’ll allow me to sync with a cable, but then I’m violating my newly found KISSASS mantra. For now, I’ll be sticking with Entourage and mining the depths of Project Center. I may even start printing things out and taking them with me if it gets that bad. We’ll see.
We are family
One unexpected sensation from the seminar was that it felt like you were hanging out with DA’s family. David and his wife Kathryn were there, along with Jason Womack and a few other folks. I spent the breaks trying to find Jason during a quiet moment, but that guy was more popular than David! There were always people hovering around him, so I never got the chance to say hi. David also mentioned Eric Mack, another blogger I read. (Speaking of bloggers, I did meet Ryan Holcomb, who helps develop stuff for Tinderbox. We had a nice conversation about Tinderbox and GTD (I admit, I’m getting sucked in).) There were a couple of helper guys whose names I missed. One dude was wearing a shirt with circles and pants with squares. When I write that, it sounds clownish, but he pulled it off. No, I don’t know why I noticed that. But it makes me remember my white satin parachute pants that I had in high school. Which I regularly wore with my red Nike Vandals and a red and white checkered shirt. Dork. Moving on…
One thing that was a little surprising, but not offputting, was the upsell that went on throughout the seminar. In my mind, it’s just been a book and a smart guy talking about it. Turns out that they’re ramping up the marketing machine, and good for them. They seem to be doing it mindfully and I appreciate that. There is a special members-only thing that’s available for RoadMap participants who are willing to cough up monthly cash. Sounded interesting and when David revealed his mindmap of the program, it was chock full of ideas. They also had a table full of stuff like CDs, books, laminated versions of the workflow, etc. Low key, though. They also do a bunch of levels of coaching and consulting. I spoke with David briefly about whether they’d develop a curriculum for universities and he said that someone else was asking about it too. Seems like there’d be a great market, especially in degree completion and business programs. Even "freshman seminar" type classes would benefit.