eProductivity Seminar in Chicago

Thursday, April 22nd, 2004
I've just returned from Chicago, where I delivered a private Lotus Notes eProductivity seminar for an enterprise client with over 100,000 Notes users. Illinois is very green and quite beautiful this time of year; the campus and facilities at Northern Illinois University, where I gave my presentation, were equally beautiful. The audience was great and became quickly engaged when I told them that I would show them things that they could do right away with Lotus Notes to increase their productivity and save 10-15 minutes (or more) each day.

Image:eProductivity Seminar in Chicago

For three hours, I demonstrated how the power of Lotus Notes can be harnessed to transform the way that an organization works.  I provided specific examples of some of the ways that effective organizations are using Lotus Notes today to stay connected and to even to pull ahead in this changing economy.  I was able to show some simple steps that anyone can take to use Notes for maximum effectiveness: categories as contexts, the secrets to processing e-mail efficiently, and how to quickly customize their Notes desktop Welcome Page to get away from the tyranny of e-mail and to focus on their defined actions.  

Of course, talking about this only fueled my enthusiasm and passion for sharing what I do, as you can see below.

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Everyone left with a new way to look at how they can use Lotus Notes to more effectively organize and manage their information, communications, and actions.

One of the people in the audience was Ed Brill, IBM's Senior Manager of Messaging and Collaboration. It was fun for me to know that Ed was able to see not only what I do for my clients to help them benefit from Lotus Notes, but also how a large, forward-thinking enterprise  is working to equip its people for action and to get the most benefit from its  Lotus Notes investment .   I'm not sure whether this was a good thing or not but it seems that while I was speaking, Ed was busy taking notes on his laptop and updating his blog in real-time:
"Eric's methodology on how to increase productivity is compelling.  I don't want to give away his trade secrets here, but it seems like he's got a great way of applying David Allen's Getting Things Done methods, plus of course his own insights, within the capabilities of Notes."
- Ed Brill, April 20, 2004, www.edbrill.com
I was surprised to leave the presentation to a message from a friend "did you see what Ed just wrote about you?" Thanks Ed, for your kind words. It was nice to meet you. I'm a little embarrassed that it took me two days to update my own blog.

Speaking of weblogs, many people approached me after the seminar to ask if I was planning to share more of my best-practices of how to set up Lotus Notes for maximum efficiency. Good question. That's exactly the focus of the eProductivity.NET site, which I hope make live in the next few months.

While the presentation was exhilarating, and I had the opportunity to meet many wonderful people, nothing can surpass the joy I felt as I exited my American Airlines flight at Burbank airport to find my sweetheart of a wife and four beautiful daughters, waiting for me with open arms and a "welcome home daddy" sign.  These special ladies are the reason that I do everything that I do.

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Lotus Notes for Action Management?

Monday, April 12th, 2004
Have you ever tried to use Lotus Notes to manage your projects and actions? If so, then you know how frustrating using the To Do form can be. Out of the box, I find it entirely unsuitable for serious action management.  Even the Notes 6.x To Do form, which makes some needed and helpful improvements, is still lacking as an action support tool. Lotus Notes is not alone here; the Microsoft Outlook Task form also looks like developers attempted to include many task management features without giving consideration to which ones are essential for action management. The result is that these product's To Do and Task forms are overly complex and counterintuitive. What is needed, is a simpler To Do or Task form -- one that captures the essential information yet presents it in a context that galvanizes the way that we think about what we have to do. For me, it must also be fast; I have found that if I can't create an entry in a few seconds, I won't consistently use it.

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Fortunately, Notes forms can be easily modified using the Notes Designer tool. In my opinion, two capabilities that make Lotus Notes the most powerful application for local and distributed collaboration are that 1) almost all aspects of Notes applications can be extended or enhanced, and 2) these changes and the data that they affect can be quickly and easily replicated throughout an organization. (That may sound like a biased comment, but after consulting for more than two decades, including working with Notes for the past 12 years, I still have yet to find a software product that comes close to having the power of Lotus Notes. Until I do, Notes will remain my preferred tool of choice.)

One of the first things that I do in my eProductivity seminars or coaching sessions is to show my clients how to tune the Notes To Do form to turn it into a powerful action support tool. The book, Getting Things Done, by David Allen, describes an approach for action management that is powerful and easy to use; the principles can be easily applied to Lotus Notes by moving a few fields around and changing the way that categories are used. Perhaps the most profound change is to change the text labels for categories and subject to context and action. (See below)

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These may appear to be minute changes; do not underestimate the power in their simplicity.  For me, these changes have completely transformed the way that I use Lotus Notes for action management.  

If you want to get even more from Lotus Notes as a personal information management (PIM) tool, be sure take a look at my eProductivity template, which leverages the principles of the GTD methodology along with other best-practices for productivity -- all within a Lotus Notes context.

If you have thoughts about today's blog entry on the use of Notes as a productivity support tool, I'd like to hear from you!

Happy Easter!

Sunday, April 11th, 2004
At the conclusion of Mel Gibson's film, The Passion of the Christ, just before the credits, we see the empty tomb.  While the film ends at this point, the story does not.  Easter is my favorite day of the year because we celebrate the events that follow. For me, while that celebration continues year-round, Easter is an extra special time. I always look forward to belting out A Mighty Fortress is our God and other hymns with the organ at full volume accompanied by the choir and orchestra and with such amplitude that the foundations shake. To me, to call this a glorious day would be an understatement.
From our family to yours, Grace and Peace to you!
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I also enjoy the traditions of the day, including excited children, gift baskets, good food, and of course, fellowship with family and friends.
Image:Happy Easter!

eProductivity.NET is coming!

Thursday, April 8th, 2004
I've not been making too many posts to this blog lately, as my attention has been focused on an upcoming client presentation and populating my new eProductivity.NET web site. This new site will become the place where I plan to make regular posts about gear, tips, tools, and software that can be used to improve personal and group productivity. For those of you waiting for the launch of my eProductivity with Lotus Notes discussion forum, this is probably where it will start. In due time, I hope to bring my Notes on Productivity newsletter into this site.

The plan all along has been that this site, Eric Mack On-line will remain my personal blog site and the new eProductivity site will maintain more of a business focus. Of course, things always take longer than they do.  

Stay tuned.

Palm Sunday?

Sunday, April 4th, 2004
Today is Palm Sunday.  Do you know why they call it that? Kelly, age 4, does. Today in Sunday school, the children read about Palm Sunday and how the people in Jerusalem waived their palms before Jesus as He entered the city. Kelly's teacher asked if anyone knew what a palm was. Kelly raised her hand and announced that she knew all about palms because her daddy used one for work. I'm not sure the teacher was ready for that answer. Out of the mouth of babes...

This evening, we attended a mini-conference on The Passion of The Christ. Gibson's film, and its success at the box-office, has certainly stimulated discussion on the topic of Christ's Passion. For those of you who may have seen the film by Mel Gibson, you got to see the painful and graphically shocking "how" of Christ's Passion. Fortunately, the story does not stop there. Tonight, we considered the Biblical account of this life-changing event in an effort to better understand the "why" of Christ's Passion.

C.S. Lewis, Oxford and Cambridge Professor, and cohort of J. R. R. Tolkien, had this to say:
"A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic--on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg--or else he would be the devil of hell. You must make your choice. Either he was and is the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."
Next week, I'll pick up on the "Is the chicken cooked" discussion and explain the lessons I have learned about productivity from training chickens. (Yes, I actually did train a chicken)

Grace to you,

-Eric