GTD by using Lotus Notes and eProductivity to manage my personal and professional life – from the same inbox!


posted by on Momelettes


I used to have reoccurring nightmares about attics.


They were always different attics, and there was always stairs leading up to them, but they were always scary, scary places. Dark, full of cobwebs and junk, and in my dream, I was always going to live up there and was terrified about it.


I did some research, and apparently there is no argument over the fact that dreams of architectural buildings represent the physical body. Attics, and the staircases leading up to them represent the mind. A dark and cluttered attic with bad energy was the current state of my mind. It was in a very dark place, and it was certainly cluttered. Truth be told, I was terrified of it!


My dreams were telling me something. I had to get organized.


Many of my problems stemmed from my inbox, aka the hub of my life. I run a server at home, and all of my four email addresses filter into the same inbox. One major problem that us home office dwellers have is when we use the same computer for our personal lives, and our professional lives. This is why I was a train wreck and master of mental clutter. In the same inbox, at any given time, I would get emails about the following:


  1. A lady who saw my ad and wanted home computer coaching.
  2. An invitation from a marketing company wanting to advertise on this blog.
  3. A lengthy email conversation thread with multiple people from the non-profit I volunteer for about the bowling fund raiser we were putting on later in the month.
  4. A corporate client who was having emergency trouble with their servers.
  5. A reminder from the vet that my dog was due for her annual rabies shot.
  6. An email from a dear old friend from high school that found me on Facebook.
  7. My weekly newsletter about Zoe’s development this week (she’ll be twenty before I get to that).
  8. Gazillions of replies to a Craigslist posting about a coffee table I was selling for my mom.


My inbox was my metaphorical attic. Something had to be done. Replies weren’t being made in a timely manner. I was lucky if I even read the mail in a timely manner. As for my dear friend that found me on Facebook, it was months before I was able to reply. And in order not to forget about it, I kept the email in my inbox.


Take it from me, as the queen of “inbox angst”, there is nothing more psychologically damaging than having constant daily reminders of what you’re not getting around to doing every time you visit your inbox.


As an attendee of Lotusphere2009 in Orlando, I was fortunate to be able to see David Allen speak about the GTD methodology and how it can be applied to the application I use for email, Lotus Notes. (David Allen is the creator of the “Getting Things Done” time management method.)


In a pivotal moment in the presentation, David showed a picture of a cluttered kitchen. Spices were pouring out of cabinets, the island was filled with junk, and it was a horrible mess. This was immediately followed by a slide of a gleaming white kitchen. The island was empty. There was nothing on the counters. “Now”, David said with a gleam in his eye. “Which kitchen would YOU prefer to work in?” He then went on to say what I was slowly realizing. The clean kitchen WANTED you to spread out and get your hands dirty. Its very emptiness is what will spark creativity to create new recipes and lay out all your ingredients on the waiting island.


So how do we empty our islands? David then said that the biggest problem with a new system is that in order for it to work fully, you have to trust it 100% in order to let go.


I decided to give it a shot, and was able to get my hands on an evaluation version of “eProductivity for Notes”, GTD software for Lotus Notes to provide beta feedback to the company.


eProductivity for Notes is an actual product, not just an idea. It’s a customized mail template containing a series of folders named as actions in the GTD methodology. When I drag an email to a folder, a new ‘action’ is created. If I’ve put a due date on the action, it shows up in my calendar and will remind me about it on my Today screen in my email. The email then gets automatically deleted from my inbox once I’ve created the action, as it copies all the contents from the email anyway.


The sidebar is categorized into every possible action I could perform on an email. And if the stock ones aren’t good enough, you can add more. For example, when someone emails me an invoice, I have a “Quickbooks” action I can drag the email into (a calendar item is created, the email is deleted). When I’m doing my bookkeeping, I then pop over to “Quickbooks” to see what’s in there that needs processing. I’ll see the invoice email, and will pay it. There’s even a “Waiting for” category for things like shipment notifications that clutter up your inbox. When the shipment arrives, mark it complete.




(me dragging the invoice email over to the left columns…)


It’s possible to create a project. A project is when a series of emails are linked to the same action. In the help documentation, they give the example of an employee being told to order a new printer. The project subject would be “Order a new printer.” If a colleague sent them an email containing several printer models to look into, that email would get filed under “Read/Review”, and would get linked to the “Order a new printer” action.


Here’s my current projects. I created a “SHO Bowling Event” project for the non-profit I mentioned earlier. I created an action to send Charlene a sponsor letter (filed under “At Computer”) and popped Deb off an email asking her to send me the sponsor letter so I could have it for future sponsors. I then got an email back from Deb containing the letter and linked it to the project. Now, when I need the sponsor letter, I know where to find it. You can see it here in the structure. Once the bowling event is over, I can mark my project complete.





All these items have long been removed from my inbox, yet they are in the system so they will get reviewed regularly. I can now let them go from my mind.

There are a few things I’ve learned to truly make it work:


  1. You must trust it. Now, I can actually remember things on my own without even needing a calendar reminder! I can tell I am allowing myself to let them go in my head once it’s in eProductivity.
  2. You must review your actions regularly. I was pleasantly surprised to find many of them were taken care of through the daily course of action anyway. There is no greater feel-good lift than to be able to use that “Mark complete” button.
  3. This is key: use Jott while on the road to easily make sure those to-do’s that clutter your brain get handled. Jott will transcribe your voice message to yourself, and send it to your… drumroll… inbox! To which you can then just process it like a task.
  4. Home projects can be handled just like professional projects. Getting your chimney swept is a project in itself when multiple people are emailing you the name of “their guy” like you asked them to at the neighborhood party.
  5. My Craigslist post? Yeah, that’s a project all right. Each reply that comes into my Inbox gets linked to the original Craiglist post project.


Here’s my category list. Most of them came with the software, I added a few others, such as “To Sell”. These are reminders of things I need to sell on Craigslist or eBay.




Here’s a sampling of my action list by category. You can see the mesh of personal and professional lives, as I need to review an article on toilet training one day, drop off a monitor to a client the next, and oh yeah, send Charlene that sponsor letter!




I had a dream about an attic last night. It was bright, had beautiful woven walls, and I was looking up the staircase to choose which empty, clean room I wanted to live in. It was a tough decision. They were both great.


eProductivity for Notes –


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