Friday, October 9, 2015

Introducing Natural Workflow for GTD®

I have released a book on KDP:

Natural Workflow: Notes on David Allen's Methodology.  

Below are three non-contiguous sections from Chapter 1.  

The Kindle edition is available on Amazon. 

Buy David Allen's classic book first.

Thanks for reading,   

Robert Vieira


UPDATE 2016:  After weathering some legal questions from the David Allen Company, all is well.  Sales lately have been  slow, but I know this book is essential reading for anyone desiring to take their GTD system to a higher level.  I will begin posting on GTD forums without making any direct marketing pitches.


GTD® and Getting Things Done® are registered trademarks of the David Allen Company (, which has not been involved in the production of this work.

Introductory Note

This Kindle Edition of Natural Workflow: Notes on David Allen's Methodology offers you two things.  Part I is an analysis of the larger background to GTD's foundations to help deepen your GTD® thinking.  Part II is a clarification and slight refinement of the GTD® methodology to help super-charge your current GTD® system. 

The Preface tells you why I wrote what you're reading.  Chapter 2 presents a wide-ranging discussion of GTD's place in larger streams of thought.  Subsequent chapters cover the steps of the Natural Workflow [NW] refinement of the Getting Things Done® methodology.

Before you do anything else, make sure you have read David Allen’s classic, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.  Nothing in my book will make sense otherwise.  I'll refer to Allen's book as the italicized "TASP" to distinguish it from the multi-book methodology of "GTD."

Natural Workflow is a "companion volume" to TASP.  Keep your copy of Allen's book close at hand since I'll often reference page numbers.  Those page numbers will be from the original 2001 edition, not the March 2015 edition.  If you only have the audio version or eBook version, then you're on your own.  If you have the 2015 edition, then you should add 5-15 pages to find your place.

Natural Workflow tries to make GTD consistent, clear, logical and linear.  In presenting this reconfiguration of GTD, I’ve tried to provide sufficient detail on what's new, within a concentrated, modified version of all of GTD. 

Allen's sequel, Making It All Work [MIAW] is optional preparation.  That book uses impressively different words to present the same system.  My Appendix 1 is a detailed comparison of TASP and MIAW.  Throughout this book, I make reference to what I consider to be the best elements of both books.

If you want to start using NW immediately, turn to Chapter 3.  The pithy summaries of GTD and "GTD Lite" in that Chapter don't get you off the hook for purchasing and reading TASP, but the Executive Summary of NW will show you the whole system.

Now let's get started!

Chapter 1    Preface: Why Re-Visit GTD?

You and Me and GTD

 The Cliff

It felt like life or death.  I was about to step off the cliff of midlife.  Last chance to get my act together, get organized, and finish some of my life’s work.

But I needed a hang glider before I jumped.

GTD came into my life as the best option for flying to the highest realms of personal organization and effectiveness.  Was it sturdy enough?  I wasn’t sure, but I had no time to waste on a time-saving system.

After studying David Allen's words, and with faith in my heart, I jumped… 

I collected all my stuff, I processed it, organized it, reviewed it, and made context-ordered lists of next actions.  I even started to get things done.

That felt great… for a while.

All too quickly, I found my commitment to GTD wavering.  My altitude dropped and my anxiety rose.  I clung to the metal bar of my metaphorical hang glider and tried to understand why I was faltering.  Was I actually confused by Allen’s methodology?  It wasn’t that complicated—was it? 

Eventually, I stopped even trying.  My inbox piled up and my lists gathered dust.  Fortunately, my hang glider landed with a survivable thud.  I had to re-think my personal productivity system. 

Sound familiar?

My response to that disheartening experience was to re-read Allen’s books and write one of my own.  I hope these pages help you.  Nobody should have to work hard to get GTD to work for them.

Come along, and I’ll show you how I built a better hang glider by digging deep into GTD's foundational ideas.  I call what I built Natural Workflow [NW] and it’s a gentle reconfiguration of GTD.  "Original Recipe" GTD is nearly perfect, but I’ve made it a little better—and a lot clearer. 

Grab on to my glider's metal bar, and we'll go on a journey through the development and details of NW. 

You’ll eventually build your own glider and fly away with a personalized GTD system you can stick with. 

That will be a happy day!

An AOM (Acronym Observation Moment)

I began my work by assessing GTD as a cultural phenomenon.  I started with the name itself.  It turns out the official acronym of David Allen’s methodology was not settled on or registered with the U.S. Government until after TASP was published.  Popular acclaim gave us "GTD."

But why not "ASP" or "TASP"?  After all, "GTD" currently means a bunch of other things:  Genotype Diet, Good Till Day (stock market), Gran Turismo Diesel (Volkswagen auto model), Garantie de Taux de Disponibilit√© (French: Guaranteed Rate Availability), Global Trade Directory (a database)… OK, I'll stopjust trying to keep you awake.

The official GTD acronym makes sense for a few reasons.  It’s the first part of Allen’s title, and it avoids jokes about task management being "TASP management," or project planning failures being described as "getting things ASP-backward."

But there’s more involved in the creation of these acronyms.  There are consequences.  It’s a cultural thing.

Despite the logic of its birth, the acronym "GTD" means that The Art of Stress-Free Productivity is never front and center, when people discuss the Getting Things Done® methodology.

I doubt David Allen wanted to make productivity more important than stress reduction, but that's what happened.  Allen's own spiritual journey toward TASP (the idea, not the book) probably had to be completed before he could come up with the details of GTD.  In Covey-speak this journey would be an example of a productivity / productive capacity (P/PC) balance.  Allen had to develop his productive capacity via a rich life before he could show us the way toward productivity.

The worldwide embrace of GTD gave us that acronym because people preferred doing more than reflecting.  We live in an active and restless era.

This imbalance undoubtedly impelled David Allen to write his 2008 sequel, Making It All Work.  That book’s central recommendation is to balance control (doing) with perspective.  The 2x2 Self-Management Matrix in MIAW is intended to help everyone achieve that stress-free balance.

My view is that the Getting Things Done part of GTD is about control, while The Art of Stress-Free Productivity part is about perspective.  We must have both to succeed with GTD and to succeed in life.

NW embodies equally both aspects of David Allen’s work:  Action Management and Stress Reduction.

Because I believe only a stress-free mind facilitates great dreaming, creating, reflecting, and getting things done, you'll be bombarded with this oft-repeated belief: 

The mental aspects of The Art of Stress-Free Productivity always and necessarily precede the physical actions of Getting Things Done. 

In acronym-speak…  TASP comes before GTD

I know that’s the reverse order of TASP’s full title, but I suspect it’s the order in which David Allen actually lived his life.  Allen’s diverse past—"35 jobs by the time I was 35"—suggests he wandered before he got productive.  He was never a middle manager at a big company.  Yet all who wander are not lost…

The arts of meditation, attention management, outcome envisioning, purpose-finding, and horizon-scanning are employed before we can do our best job at plowing through task lists.  The only thing this book really seeks to prove is that TASP comes before GTD.  I clarify the GTD steps and reposition hybrid elements to prove it.  I collect the foundations of GTD and analyze them to prove it.  And when you come to the "roller coaster" metaphor below, you’ll be at an important point in that proof.

Natural Workflow for GTD clarifies the mental processes of The Art of Stress-Free Productivity in order to help you succeed at the physical actions of Getting Things Done. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Preparing a Book for Kindle

After a good deal of trial and error, I learned many things about preparing a manuscript for Kindle Direct Publishing:

  • Get the 2012 free eBook from Amazon, "Building Your Book for Kindle."  It helps prepping your mss, but it does NOT have the latest, best information.

  • Write in MS-Word, save as HTML using "Web page, filtered"

  • Use Kindle Previewer to get warnings—just click on the double-down arrow icon after your file is converted to read any warnings.  You need to know at little HTML but the warnings are fairly clear.  Use the warnings to help guide clean-up in MS-Word.

  • Kindle Previewer also has link to location of final file—but they are much larger than your final file will be.  In my case, 5.5MB vs. 1.17MB.

  • Good to do non-photographic pictures like tables and graphs as  .GIFs that are less than 127kb.  About 750x750 pixels max.  You can also put an HTML command near the anchor point to make it 100% wide, but I find it's better just to rely on readers to click the images to blow them up for viewing on the higher resolution Kindle models.

  • For later versions of your book, after you get no warnings from the stand-alone Previewer, do NOT convert to HTML.  You can put a .doc into the KDP uploader and it will do your NCX for you.  Great info here. 

  • Although some claim the downloadable stand-alone previewer is more accurate, I have not found that to be the case in late 2015.  The KDP online post-upload previewer is better and the upload files are much smaller and more accurate vs. the standalone Previewer, which uses Kindlegen to make their files.  The standalone Previewer is a bit quicker, but it produces both KF8 and KF9 mobi files which are HUGE.

  • You don't have to zip HTML and Images together when you upload a .doc file.

  • Bullets work, you just want to be consistent and not use one of the other formats—there are too many alternatives in MS-Word.  I customized my bullet format and used that consistently throughout to minimize the over-done or under-done indentation on bullets on different Kindle devices—they should be consistent, but they aren’t.  Check your book on all devices.

  • Unless you were super careful about getting rid of any alternative bullet formatting, one or two bullet "pictures" (the things used at the start of a bullet point) may appear after conversion to HTML in the separate images folder.  I still have one I just delete before uploading my book.  I even looked in the HTML code for a reference to the image file but it is not there.

  • There are 5 main Kindle models (Voyager, DX [aka PaperWhite or whatever it's called], Fire HD, Fire HDX, Fire HDX 8.9) plus Android phone, iOS devices, and one Kid Kindle model.

  • No need for getting an ISBN for your book; Amazon will assign their own number.

  • No need to copyright registration, but do include symbol.

  • Paragraph marks may sneak to the left of the left margin, if you ever un-indented a bulleted text selection.  If you get that warning after converting to HTML, then make all characters visible (Tools / Options / View / Formatting Marks, check box next to "All") and look for them.

  • Don't use free 3rd party templates.  Just use Heading 1 for chapters, and an internal book mark at TOC called "toc".  I have been building TOCs in MS-Word for years so it's second nature to me, but you might want to review how to do that.  Make sure you right-click the TOC and select "update field" before uploading to KDP.

  • Make sure you do not have any "smallcaps" fonts.  KDP does not like those.  Some free templates have those.  Kindle templates are often wrong.

  • Don't pay anybody to format a book, unless you're rich and have no time--just expect over 100 uploads / previews / edit cycles as you proof your book.

  • Calibre and Sigil are not needed to prepare your book, if you're only going to sell through KDP.  KDP does not use the EPUB file format which those 2 free editors produce.

  • HTML filtered files accept boxes around paragraphs, but not around characters/words.  You might have to select all of your text and de-box, using "apply to text" not "apply to paragraph" to get rid of lingering boxes around just spaces.  HTML might see some single spaces as boxed, but MS-Word will not show it.

  • Next Post: Royalty Rates and how to upload new drafts to KDP.