Performance Issues 3/28/07

March 28, 2008

We’re currently experiencing extremely slow application performance, resulting in many actions in the application taking 15 seconds or more to complete.
We have opened a ticket with our hosting provider, and hopefully will return to normal sooner rather than later.

Update: The issue has been resolved, and everything seems to be back to normal.

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User mail: Enleiten and GTD?

March 28, 2008

I’ve always been meaning to try GTD. Maybe it’s finally the time. Do you have any learning gtd resources with the site, or is it just a tool for those who know?

The short answer, is that it doesn’t really matter if you’re a Getting Things Done fan or not, although we’ve built the system to be very friendly to people who use that method of organization. We let you create tasks and organize them by projects and tags. You can delegate tasks or just record things you’ve delegated in one place. And there’s a lot more coming to help you integrate with email systems and work away from your computer, store your files, and coordinate group projects that we’ll keep you up to date on as we get them ready.

When this question came in, I realized it was great opportunity to share some of my favorite resources, give my own take on using the system, and talk about different ways to use Enleiten. Over the next few weeks I’ll talk more about how our tool can be used in different ways to suit different workflow models. We’ve started adding some of our favorite links to the blog sidebar as well, to provide some more resources.

If you’re interested in the bones of the GTD system, though, first and foremost, I recommend picking up the original book, Getting Things Done. That will cover it what you need to know in more detail than I can offer.

If you’re not at all familiar with Getting Things Done, and have some time to watch a little video, here’s a great video of David Allen speaking at Google and covering the background of his method.

Getting started with Enleiten for GTD’ers

We’ve built in a bit of a quick start as well, any new user account comes with a built in project to get to started and guide you through setting up your project lists and trying out the current features. More detailed descriptions of each feature exist in the help files.

1. Enter tasks, clear your mind.

Use the quick add box in the upper left. Just jot down a few words for everything on your mind as it occurs to you. Don’t worry about sorting them, prioritizing, or anything else right now.

When you start to feel overwhelmed, do you like to make a list, clear your head, and start to feel more in control? That’s the idea here too. But instead of doing it only when you’re anxious, get in the habit of jotting things down as you think of them, in a trusted place you know you can’t lose them. You can go back to whatever you want to accomplish, without your brain jumping around to other topics.

2. Clear out your inbox

Create projects as you need them to organize your list of tasks. We recommend breaking down tasks to the smallest, easiest to complete actions you can. Set due dates if you need them, type in contexts if you want to view your lists by what you need to do them, separated by commas. Add any details you’ll need to complete them. Drag a task to a project and drop it to move it out of your inbox.

Also known as processing. Breaking down what’s in your inbox in this step can help you when it’s time to work. You won’t need to stare at an entry and try to figure out how to handle it or what your next step is, you’ve already done that mental work and can just dive right into to the tasks portion.

For a good related essay on the value of processing, and how to move your inbox to zero, Merlin Mann’s talk on managing your email is one I really like. You can find the video at the bottom of his Inbox Zero page.

If you’re like me, there are going to be things in your inbox you just don’t know enough about, or haven’t had time to brainstorm about yet. And breaking those down to tasks to get them out of your inbox isn’t going to work. Making “Brainstorm about this idea” an upcoming task, for example, can help you keep track of your good ideas and give you a specific actual activity you can do with a vague thought.

3. Prioritize

Click on a project name to view all its tasks. Drag them to put them in the order you want to complete them.

Contexts (tags) are useful here to. You can label your tasks by the resources you need to complete them. Common tags may include phone, online, errands – so if you’re looking for things you can do in your current location, you can click on the context you want, and see all your activities that it includes.

Prioritizing has become a valuable tool for me, not just because it defines the order of projects. In a broader sense, there is always more stuff to do than I can physically accomplish. And when I’m working through this step, I try to prioritize not just what will get me through a project, but how that project fits into my bigger goals for my job and my personal life. Keeping everything in one system, instead of dividing up my home and work activities in two places makes it possible to weigh your alternatives, whether moving on to one more work task is more important than walking away for the evening and spending time with people you love.

4. Get it done!

If you work from your Next Actions page, you can finish a task, check it off, and it will be replaced with the next item in that project. If you’re by your phone and have some time for calls, just click the “phone” context, and you’ll see all the tasks you can complete right now.

5. Add colleagues, delegate

Enter your contacts’ names and email addresses (we won’t spam them at all – the only email they will receive will be things you choose to send them).

If one of your tasks can be done by someone else, drag the task to their name on the left to assign it to them. They’ll be able to see the task request and its details. The task will no longer appear in your next actions list, but it will show up in “waiting”, so you can see what projects you have outstanding with other people. If you’ve already asked them to work on it some other way, you can also set the task status to “waiting”, so it shows up in the list of projects you are waiting for.

6. Review

Doing a weekly review is a critical piece in organizing your life under the GTD model. It’s a time to run though all your lists and see what needs to be redefined, resorted, cancelled, or moved up in priority. I do this a little bit throughout the week, as things come up, but that doesn’t really give me the sense of calmness about my work that a weekly full review does.

This review is also a chance to step back and put your tasks in perspective. If there’s nothing on your list that helps you move toward the kind of life you want, you can change that. If the firestorm of disruptions and emergencies all week has caused your lists to get a bit out of sorts, you can step outside of the urgent interruptions for an hour or so and prioritize which projects need to be brought back into focus.

One of the things about these steps I like is that they are adaptable. If you’re not a computer person, you can implement these pieces on paper, on a whiteboard, whatever level of technology you choose. My personal preference is electronic, because I work online, am rarely far from a computer, and I like the ability to remix and sort and link my tasks and projects and reference materials on the fly.

There are certainly lots of other pieces to talk about, but this should be a good beginning for anyone who is curious. And as I collect other good online resources, I’ll keep adding the links so you can take a look.


Productivity Pin-up Shots

March 27, 2008

Despite my love of nice paper and the tiny thrill I get from finding a good fountain pen, I’ve removed as much paper from my life as possible. Instead I’ve been vicariously living the paper life through the Getting Things Done Flickr pool and ogling the moleskines and their kind.The set-ups that include lovely custom illustrations, meticulously modified moleskines, or tidy blue writing bring back fond memories of the orderly engineer notes my grandfather used to fill while tossing the kids leftover paper for art projects. (via 43f)


Beta updates for 3/26/2008

March 26, 2008

Another day, another batch of updates. Today we added an example project called “Get started with Enleiten” for all new users (and well, everybody’s new to this). This is simply a quick start to get you over the hump of using the system. If you don’t want to see it, just mark the project “Cancelled” and it will go away. Of course, if we missed you, just send a task to support and we’ll get right on it.

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The rest of the day has been spent chasing a serious of increasingly complex performance issues, but with the net result that we’ve been measuring a speedup of between 40-60 percent. Hopefully it won’t just be faster for us (though that certainly wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened). As always, we welcome feedback from all of our beta testers, and we’ll try to get your issues resolved as quickly as possible.


Beta Updates for 3/24/2008

March 24, 2008

The last week, since we pushed the last beta (codename “Chaser”), has been a busy one, and today we’ve pushed out a relatively significant new release. In addition to the context support (which wasn’t quite ready when we shipped Chaser but which went out the door last week), there is now a bit of a help system (which will walk you pretty much every last feature in the app), along with a ton of bug fixes and minor UI tweaks.

One thing we take very seriously here is that our software just isn’t going to be good enough if we’re not using it day in and day out. Believe me, we tried — the Mercurial directory is littered with projects that haven’t seen the light of day, simply because we couldn’t get them far enough along to show anybody and didn’t really need them ourselves. I can’t speak for the rest of the team, but I’ve been through an awful lot of organizational systems over the years and I haven’t been has happy with any of them as I am with this. And, to a very real extent, the degree to which all of us have been using it has started a substantial feedback loop into the quality of the product itself. If the way a feature works is annoying to me, it’s probably infuriating to our users (assuming they didn’t just give up) — so that moves it way up on my fix list.


Welcome!

March 23, 2008

The Enleiten team is happy to have released the fourth version of our beta. We are grateful to all of our beta testers, who have been offering their suggestions to help us improve and prioritize the features that matter most. By way of introduction, I’m Doreen, one of the cofounders of our Minneapolis-based company. Our personal and group organizers offer collaborative task and project management, whether your colleagues use our system or their own. We offer case management for the financial services industry, priced by user so you can get just the amount of support you need.