Category Archives: GTD



After a valiant attempt to keep up a regular posting schedule starting in January and lasting until about March, this blog has been on an unofficial hiatus for a while. I’m making it official today.

I am a new (as in recent) homeowner, I’m trying to graduate, I moved across the country, and I have a baby arriving in two months. This morning I had an epiphany — even though I try to keep anything that’s not immediately important in my Someday/Maybe category (in GTD), all kinds of things had crept in to my active system that were not pressing. A number of those things were blog post topics for VirtuallyShocking. After doing an aggressive move of many items to the Someday category, my active, actionable items dropped from about 80 to 35, and I can see now looking at the list that it will be much easier to retain my focus.

I’ve never been a terribly prolific blogger — this is mostly a diary blog, despite my best intentions to the contrary. In that vein, it will continue. I’ll probably keep up with the hearty Friday posts and occasional updates. Part of the reason for this is that most of the cardiac electrophysiology stuff that I’ve really wanted to blog about, I can’t, because the stuff I’m excited about is stuff I’m working on. That stuff generally needs to remain private until the related papers are published, at which point I’m generally already more excited about the next thing, and not interested in talking about the older stuff.

Hopefully once I graduate that will start to change, and I can build this blog the way I’ve really wanted to.

GTD Tip: Finder’s Column View

For the Mac users among you, here’s something I’ve been doing the last few months that you might find useful.

When you get to the following part of your weekly review (which you are doing, aren’t you?):

Review “Pending” and Support Files
Browse through all work-in-progress support material to trigger new actions, completions, and waiting-fors.

try using the column view in Finder to go through your digital files. This assumes that you have some or most of your project support materials in digital form. Here’s my project view (click thumbnails for full size):


As you click through the list, it’s easy to delve into the sub-directories but keep track of where you are:


Do you have any weekly review tricks?

Project Management, Priorities, and Office Hours

Recently, a friend emailed me to ask about GTD. He was tasked with a presentation on project management, and had heard of GTD from my writings and from others. I had good and bad news for him.

The good news is that GTD is an excellent system for keeping your tasks organized. The bad news is that it doesn’t do much else. Sure, the GTD books talks about these different altitudes, about taking different views of your goals, projects, hopes, and dreams, but it doesn’t really offer much insight into what you’re supposed to do at those ‘altitudes’.

On top of this, I’ve had some problems recently with becoming sidetracked. I’ve been getting a lot of questions from people in lab lately, I have some exciting side-projects that I’ve been coaxing along, and I’ve not been hacking away at my most important projects with the necessary zeal to really move them forward. Serendipitously, Readeroo recently sent me to an old bookmark on Slashdot — an excerpted chapter from the acclaimed The Art of Project Management. I can see why they sent the chapter excerpt out — it’s Project Management gold in and of itself.

Here are the points that really grabbed me:

  • Prioritized lists at the goal, ‘feature’ (software-oriented, yes), and task level are the ultimate arbiters of what to do next
  • There are really only two priority levels — necessary (or 1) and everything else (2 through infinity or whatever). Priority 1 must be done. The rest is fluff after priority 1 items are accomplished.
  • Rigorous separation of the prioritized lists into priority 1 and everything else, both at the outset of a project and during any reviews and revamping, is essential.

Between managing the cluster, helping lab members with things, and getting caught up in my own little side-projects, I have not been doing these things. Priority 1 items have been submerged below a sea of other things. Yesterday, inspired by that excerpt, I re-focused. I refined my project lists and drew the all-important dividing line between priority 1 and everything else.

In order to help stick to these priorities, I’m enacting “office hours”. I’ve found myself doing this lately anyway, and it’s been working well. I’m declaring before-lunch time my time. If someone comes to me with an issue (other than “there’s a fire in the server room”) before lunch, my reply is now, “I’ll talk to you about it after lunch.” Since I’m a morning person, and most people in my lab are not, this works pretty smoothly. Most people aren’t here in the morning anyway. This gives me a good 4-5 hours of priority-1 time, without neglecting my “team” duties. Perhaps if I do this long enough, people will naturally come to me after noon all of the time.

As a last side note on The Art of Project Management, it unfortunately does not seem to be offered on Amazon directly from them anymore. I have no idea why. Luckily the Hopkins library has it, so I’ll be checking it out soon.

Label Your Power Bricks

Once upon a time, AC/DC adapters were special — they were made for expensive devices and were clearly labeled as belonging to those devices. No more. Now, every device comes with an adapter, most of them are nothing special, and the adapters are hardly labeled at all. Furthermore, they have mysterious round plugs that (unless you have calipers handy), you probably can’t tell apart. You could go around trying to match voltages and currents, or you could just label the damn things when you get them.

If you’re part of the GTD cult, you should already have a labeler. Just print out short, simple labels and stick them on!