This is a guest post by Bill French, Sr Editor of iPhoneCTO and founder of iPadCTO, and MyST Technology Partners. Bill provides training and strategic industry briefings to c-level executives who are planning and deploying iPad and iOS devices in their enterprises. He also provides innovative services to help companies with unique technology challenges and is heavily involved with providing XML web services for content management and syndication. You can reach Bill at email@example.com.
This article was originally published on the iPadCTO blog but Bill kindly allowed us to reproduce it in full here.
In the true spirit of Little Bets I tried an experiment this month. I like to make little bets – they’re fun and they sometimes pay big dividends. I also like the Getting Things Done (GTD) model for personal productivity; it’s the reason I’ve been at inbox zero for a number of years now. GTD pays big dividends as well.
The Jello Dashboard is about the closest application I’ve found where GTD principles and dashboards appear in the same breath. But Jello (I wonder how they get away with that, trademark issues and such) is more focused on everything that traverses your inbox. In my view, this is an incomplete reality of stuff you need to get done.
Toodledo + Geckoboard
For this little bet, I wired up a custom Geckoboard widget to my Toodledo account. The widget is simple – it fans through a display of all of my high priority tasks and also uses color to call out specific task details and levels of importance. It even integrates Toodledo’s context feature which helps to identify where the planned task will be best performed.
Within the first few days of using iPad [one], I discovered context is a key issue in getting things done. Context is simply the idea that certain tasks can be best performed in a locale such as your office, on a plane, or at home. My [non-scientific] study concerning the use of iPad for business purposes led to some clear distinctions about work context and when it is best to use iPhone, iPad, laptop, and desktop.
Because this study showed clear improvements in my own productivity with iPad, I decided to embracecontext in my little GTD dashboard bet. I crafted a series of dashboards to experiment with. When viewing my dashboard on iPad, the tasks displayed are filtered for things I can accomplish while away from the office. As I mentioned above, context is a feature in Toodledo, but you can likely create this filtering ability in other GTD applications. In fact, this article is a good example. I tend to write best on iPad when I have a little time away from the desk.
I think context plays a key role in GDT and utilizing it in my dashboard experiment seems to provide some useful benefits. Of course, with Geckoboard, you can easily switch dashboards to see the other contexts regardless of your current context.
For personal productivity guidance, I like the idea of an always-on, always-reminding helper. Having a personal dashboard in my office seemed like a good idea and this sentiment goes way back to the 90’s. Remember PointCast? I loved PointCast because it was the first instance of a news feed that was totally designed for me. I’m probably a bit narcissistic; after all, I’m not only the nicest person I know, but everything should [ideally] be about me. ;-)
As my experiment marrying GTD principles with Geckoboard data expanded, I started to formulate an overall personal productivity dashboard model that I call GeckoMe. The idea was simple – attempt to embody only the most crucial data to help me skate effortless through each day. I can’t say that I’m skating effortlessly [yet] as a result of my GTD dashboard, but I do feel like I’m ahead of my clients and customers. I’m certainly not forgetting to get stuff done. Often times, it’s better to contact a client (or boss) before they ask you about the status of a project. I may still be missing deadlines, but my clients know it before I’ve missed – this is important.
GeckoMe has indeed helped and over the weeks I’ve used this approach to greater awareness, I’ve added a number of additional widgets to compliment my Toodledo integration. GTD-related widgets have served me well and include the following:
- RSS feeds of industry trends
- Google Calendar
GeckoMe is starting to take shape as an integral aspect of my work model. I don’t know if the types of widgets and data I’ve integrated are GTD-approved, but I’m certainly getting the sense of complete awareness of all the important things that are in my universe of things to focus on. This is the basic starting point for new GTD adopters; capture everything, then filter like a madman.
The widget I created for Toodledo integration with Geckoboard uses the standard text component. One of the features of this component is it’s ability to naturally fan through the items in the widget. This provides a graceful fade-out-fade-in between items. Perhaps this is a distraction to GTD purists, but I’ve noticed myself occasionally glimpsing the monitor to see what just transitioned. This seems to be setting subliminal queues that may cause me to do a task sooner rather than later. It’s almost as if the transitions are acting as the pulse of my GTD auto-pilot. Just sayin’ …
I had an old Dell laptop sitting around the office and a 23” monitor; it’s sister monitor failed a few months ago and I decided to upgrade to 27” Samsungs from Sam’s Club. So I decided to expand the bet by mounting the orphaned flat panel to the wall adjacent to my desk, just outside my peripheral vision, but easily seen and reviewed from time-to-time. I set up the Geckoboard dashboard usingGoogle Chrome and made sure auto-updates and screen savers were off.
While bringing the office dashboard online I noticed a very cool feature in Chrome that allows you to shape your dashboard displays for optimal viewing. Did you know that Chrome has a zoom and full-screen feature? If ever asked, I would have guessed it did have these features, but I never had a reason to experiment with them until now.
Click the Tools icon and you’ll see the option to zoom and toggle to full screen. This makes it possible to set the zoom level for viewing your dashboard. You might want to squeeze more content into the monitor or expand the size for distant viewing.
So, what if we looked at Geckoboard as a solution to providing a set of well-lit guardrails for personal productivity?
I have no idea if GTD experts would applaud this innovation, or dismiss it as yet another geeky distraction or bastardization of the GTD philosophy. But, I did it anyway, and I like it. I’ve only used it for a few months, and I wonder [now] how I might work without it, a test I’m fearful of actually taking.
And for those of you who have an iPad (or any tablet for that matter), this is an ideal second screen when you’re at your deak. Plug it in, prop it up, and launch a browser to your Geckoboard dashboard to experience this idea.
If you’re a GeckoGeek, you already know that my dashboard is always accessible from my iPhone, iPad, and even web-enabled enabled televisions in my house. As you might expect, iPad displays Geckoboard dashboards exceptionally well. Geckoboard plus ipad is an ideal platform for reviewing tasks, commitments, and data related to you, the only person who is [seemingly] getting things done.