Google Calendar Tip: SMS Meeting Notices

September 9, 2008

While I was out last week, someone without a laptop wanted to check where the next panel she wanted to attend would be, and we got into a quick discussion of my calendar set up. I hate keeping track of my calendar, so I’ve set it up to notify me by SMS every time I have an upcoming appointment I need to worry about so I can be there on time.

If you’re using Google calendar or another similar online calendar system, this may work for you too. It’s quick and easy to set up, and will make it even easier to store your calendar somewhere other than your head.

To set up your phone, log in to your Google calendar account and click on settings in the upper right corner.

Select the “Mobile Setup” tab, select your country, enter your phone number, select a carrier, and hit “Send Verification Code”. You should receive a text message with a short code you can enter and hit “Finish setup”.

To set up default appointment notifications by text message for everything on your calendar, switch to the Calendars tab and click “Notifications” by your calendar name.

Now just set how early before your appointments you’d like a and you’re good to go. I also like to schedule a daily agenda email, so I’m reminded to look through my schedule and plan out tasks for the day that will fit in with the time I have that day.

To adjust the settings for a specific calendar event, the “Options” panel when you’re looking at an appointment detail will let you switch when your reminder message comes in.


Prioritization and Getting Things Done

September 7, 2008

After my panel at Office 2.0, and sharing our GTD-based web app with some of the crowd there, the question of prioritization kept coming up.

The discussion usually goes something like “it’s an interesting methodology, but I really need to be able to prioritize all my work, and there’s no way to do that”. In my experience, that’s not true, you’re just framing the idea of prioritization differently than most systems; you’re making priority an explicit decision about what deserves your attention. That judgement happens as part of your daily and weekly reviews.

You start by prioritizing along hard deadlines and framing out your time. Appointments that must happen at a certain time and date go in the calendar, and become commitments that you’ve said are more important than anything else you could work on that week at that time. By making them scheduled items, you’re implicitly saying that you’ll not take any new, incoming work or think about the rest of your to-dos to work on those scheduled items.

Then you pick out what I think of as soft landscape pieces: tasks that need to happen at any time on a given day. By building them into your workload on a given day, you’re saying they also have a high priority and that you value them enough to give them a specific, time-determined commitment, but that they aren’t important enough to promise to block out conversations and calls and emails to get them done.

As a final filter, you review your open projects. You look at the topics and themes that matter to you (Horizons of Focus in Allen’s terminology) and then look at your project list. Move most of that project list to “on hold” status, and leave active the projects that are the most valuable toward achieving your long term goals. Use the landscape pieces in your calendar to figure out how many projects you’ll realistically have time to fit into your schedule. These are your medium priority tasks- you’re making a judgement that they matter enough to commit to working on them, but not enough to make hard and fast promises in your calendar about when you’ll do them. If they were higher priority, you would commit to a given time.

Low priority tasks, in my interpretation, are everything on hold. If I finish everything active, I can move on to them. If I have a small window of time that doesn’t fit my active work, I’ll skim a context list and grab one of those as filler.

Once you’ve made these judgments, you’ll have a pretty short short list of things to do, compared to your overall project list. And when the inevitable flurry of incoming messages and calls and requests starts to arrive, you compare those to your active projects. Is anything coming in higher priority than what you’ve committed to in you hard landscape and thought are medium priority projects? If so, you’ll bump the tasks that don’t have dates and times associated with them and take on the incoming work.

Priorities in this model aren’t about assigning a flag to something to remind yourself that it matters. Instead it’s about making a commitment of your time and focus to a subset of your possible work and letting the rest be stored in your trusted system until you review again and reevaluate those commitments. And leave time for friends and family and real human interaction. If your work-related tasks and household administrative stuff will fill your schedule from the time you wake up to the time you go to sleep, you can skim that active projects list and find the point at which you need to set that aside and go enjoy a relaxed evening with your loved ones.

GTD is a trademark of the David Allen Company. It’s use on this blog has not been reviewed by their company, I’m just another GTD-er sharing my experiences.

Office 2.0 Getting Things Done panel with David Allen

September 4, 2008

The Getting Things Done panel discussion at Office 2.0 is now online. Watch David Allen, Neil Mendelson of MindJet, Kevin Merrit of blist and our very own Doreen Hartzell discuss how Office 2.0 tools can support Getting Things Done.

Video here:

How GTD saved the wedding. (well, at least the flowers)

June 18, 2008

Groom's Boutonniere with Mini callas and lily of the valley

A few months ago I’d offered to help some friends with their wedding and put together their flowers. In GTD style, I put everything in my system: requests for the list of corsages needed, requests for photos of bouquets the couple had found online and liked, information about when the flowers needed to be available for photos at the ceremony, etc. And most importantly, the RFQ I sent my supplier.

I’d used this vendor before for flowers, because it was quick and easy to email in a list of what I was looking for a checking prices. So off it went, with the waiting task in place, and out of my head.

Having the system in place saved me on this one, because my weekly review came around and that request had been sitting too long. Turns out my supplier was no longer in business, even though their email didn’t bounce and their website and price list were still up and running. Running across that outstanding item on my list was an excellent prompt at a time I wasn’t thinking about the project all the time, with the focus on picking up hardware and getting my schedule at work in order.

With that prompt in mind, I had enough time to call on my request, find out what was happening, and deal with the crisis of locating a new supplier who still had time to get my order placed with the growers.

Bridesmaid Bouquet with Gerbera daisies

For any other aspiring wedding couples out there, we’ll be putting together a set of wedding checklist templates. You’ll be able to sign up for an account and do all your wedding planning online, a great way to coordinate with family and loved ones dispersed across the country to get your wedding plans done.

It’ll take us a few more weeks before those checklists come out of beta to play, but if you’ve got samples of your checklist you’d like to contribute, or would be interested in getting into the beta early to help us finetune it, drop us a line at

Using Enleiten with your Franklin-Covey Planner

April 15, 2008

The classic Franklin-Covey Planner system, as practiced by Stephen Covey, is one of the most popular organizational systems today. If you’re one of its many fans, here are some ideas for how you can best take advantage of Enleiten’s features to help you use the system you know and love.

Always assign Due Dates

Since your Next actions screen displays every task due that day (and, should such a situation arise, everything overdue), you can make sure you can stay on top of each day’s responsibilities by setting a due date on each item as you process it in your Inbox. Additionally, your Datebook will show you all the tasks you have coming up in the next several days.

Use projects and contexts to set priority

Enleiten is designed to encourage a variety of flexible approaches to prioritizing. By dragging and dropping tasks within a project, you can rearrange them to reflect their priority. To use the Franklin planning method in all its rigor, you can combine the project-based approach with contextual tagging: simply create contexts of “A,” “B,” and “C,” and set the priority level on each task using these contexts. You can now review all your Priority-A tasks (in any project or due date) in a single spot.

Do you use the Franklin-Covey system with Enleiten? Share your tips and tricks in the comments! Do you want to get started with Enleiten? Sign up for a free account!

“Time Management” by Randy Pausch, November 2007

April 11, 2008

“Time Management” by Randy Pausch, November 2007

Apparently also now available as a book, The Last Lecture, Randy Pausch talks about the importance of time and how to make more of it for the things that really matter. I really like his emphasis of the idea that productivity isn’t about just getting more done, it’s about efficiently taking care of the things you really need to do so you have time to get to the things you want to do.

Towards the end there are some nice practical tips, for example how to renegotiate your deadlines while keeping your promises and how to establish what is important enough to warrant an interruption.

(Via GTD Times.)