Priacta, herding cats and action management

I wear a number of hats at the 451 Group which, by the way, makes it quite difficult to deal with a windy day. Hats are blown all over the place.
Written by Dan Kusnetzky, Contributor on

I wear a number of hats at the 451 Group which, by the way, makes it quite difficult to deal with a windy day. Hats are blown all over the place. I have found that putting the motorcycle helmet on top of all of the others weighed them down well enough that a chance wind doesn't blow everything away, but I digress.

This means that I need to analyze what's going on, determine what's needed, define plans to address organizational needs, and then develop and deploy plans to address those needs.

While I was part of Digital Equipment Corporation, I took part in numerous time management courses. While I was part of IDC, I had the opportunity to attend several more. Each offered a slightly different structure to keep track of and optimize my utilization of my most precious resource, time.

In each case, I felt that the structure was a bit to inflexible and expected me to spend way too much time each day messing with long lists and many paper files. More recent courses partially substituted electronic files, but all-in-all, they were complex systems that took time to master and utilize.

Furthermore, it was far to easy for me to go on an extended series of trips and "fall off of the wagon." I'd not only fall off the wagon; the darned thing would run over me as it went on down the road.  I still have shoes showing the tread marks.

So, I constructed my own system using a combination of a shared electronic calendar, a series of "to do" mind maps and still found important things languishing on "waiting for" lists that had turned into action mortuaries rather than useful tools. I just hadn't remembered to visit the maps containing my lists. My system wasn't automated enough to call my attention to important things left on back burners long enough to over cook.

Several colleagues and friends mentioned David Allen's Getting Things Done (GTD) (see David Allen's website for more information.) Videos of David speaking, which can be easily found on the Internet, were both entertaining and informative. I really enjoyed his presentation to an audience at Google. I was persuaded to purchase a couple of his books.

After his books arrived at my office, I found myself unable to wade through either of them! I found that the ideas that were so interesting, easy to understand and compelling in David's presentations had somehow been turned into rather pedantic and difficult-to-read books. Since I couldn't afford to hire either one of his staff or David himself to sit down with me and present the ideas in a way that worked for me, I just did my best to implement the parts of his system that appeared relevant to me.

I found that I just couldn't keep it up. There simply was too much process that led to long, unstructured lists that were a pain to review and manage. The blame, of course, lies with my random approach to thinking not with the system.

Recently, I came across a system offered by Priacta that claimed to offer the benefits of GTD using a more relaxed approach, an approach they call Total Relaxed Organization (TRO.)  I became intrigued, signed up for an inexpensive online course and have been working with Kevin Crenshaw, Executive Coach and one of the company's founders.

My discussions with the good Mr. Crenshaw have been useful and quite entertaining. He's got a world of actual experience and a delightful sense of humor, well, at least his sense of humor is similar enough to mine that we get along pretty well. One of the first things I've learned is that my choice of mind mapping tools while good for other things, isn't really suitable for TRO because its ability to automate finding the appropriate next task is too primitive.

I'll let you know how things progress and whether Mr. Crenshaw threatens to hit me with something after being subjected to a long string of puns during a coaching session.

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