Back in the Saddle

So many false starts. My journey as a knowledge worker has been a roller-coaster of periods where I've felt like I was managing my projects and caseload with an acceptable level of operational competence, combined with periods of feeling like I was reacting to the nearest deadlines or the loudest email or voicemail in my inbox. Through it all, since I graduated from law school and was hit in the face with the reality of being a professional, I've had two regular companions on my quest to achieve a level of focus and tranquility in my work: David Allen and Merlin Mann.

Being in Northern California, where Allen and Mann both live, and having an opporutnity for a complete change of scenery professionaly as I work out of our San Francisco office for a month has triggered a impulse to get back in the saddle and try to regain a sense of equilibrium with my work. I started, on the recommendation of a friend, to listen to Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin's podcast Back to Work, which has been a welcome distraction from the perplexingly long commute from Berkeley to the Presidio.

I've also decided to repurpose an abandoned MacBook Pro as my primary machine for getting things done. It's not my "work" machine - we're a solidly Microsoft shop - but I'm molding it into the machine I'll use to do work. For the first year of working at Pro Bono Net I (usually) dutifully avoided bringing in my own tech, but one day I finally decided I'd had enough of the friction I experience trying to do work only on my work-issued Windows machine, and as long as I'm not violating any kind of corporate policies, it can only be a good thing if I can eliminate cognitive friction and be better at my work.

Work documents stay on on the organizational file server or in Google Apps. The part of my workflow that I've moved over to Mac is emailing (with all correspondence saved to the company server) and, most importantly, project and task management. I've spent the better part of 8 years obsessing over the best tech and tools to manage my GTD system, and in the end, I always find myself gravitating back to the Mac, for reasons that I'll delve into in future posts. The important realization that made me feel like I could give myself permission to make this workflow change is that, at the end of the day - and to be totally morbid about it - if I get mauled by a psychotic clown in the street, as long as my office will not be worse off for my having moved what is essentially my personal organizer to a Mac, then there's absolutely no reason not to use the tools that I like to use.

I liken my decision to cops who, instead of using a department-issue six-shooter, decide to bring their own (and often better) guns to work. At least, that's what I think I've seen them do in the movies.  You know the movies I mean - the ones where there's an old cop who's one day from retirement who has a department-issue revolver, and he gets paired up with a young hotshot detective who has a Glock or a SIG Sauer or somesuch.  And there's a shootout with bank robbers with machne guns and the old cop gets shot and then... well, you know where I'm going with this.  

In case you couldn't tell, I don't actually know any cops.

It remains to be seen how long this latest iteration of my GTD system lasts - but something feels different this time. I think knowing that I'm geographically near two people who have been a big part of my development as a knowledge worker, and whose thinking on knowledge work and creativity has been an inspiration may be just enough of a shove to keep this push-cart moving this time around.

Apologies to all for book-ending this post with horribly mixed metaphors.