(In which the author serves up a light-hearted summer offering for his tactile-depraved fellow person.)
As a practitioner of David Allen's Getting Things Done methodology for personal productivity , I've found it useful to regularly remind myself of work transitions during the day in order to stay focused. I wrote about a number of them in Transitions: A secret ingredient to Getting Things Done?, including Leaving the house, Leaving the driveway, etc. Since then I've been giving some thought to being aware of which workflow stage I'm in, since each one requires different tools and thinking. From chapter two, Allen says:
THE CORE PROCESS I teach for mastering the art of relaxed and controlled knowledge work is a five-stage method for managing workflow. ... We (1) collect things that command our attention; (2) process what they mean and what to do about them; and (3) organize the results, which we (4) review as options for what we choose to (5) do.
To help keep the stages in mind during the day, I've been playing with an idea I got after building some of Ned Batchelder's business card cubes . The breakthrough? (Prepare yourself.) I labelled each side with a stage, and turn the cube according to which one I'm doing. If I find I'm wandering (e.g., doing some email processing because the dinger distracted me), I use the cube to remind me of what I was doing.
(In case the idea isn't blindingly clear, you can see a freakishly well-composed picture on Flicker.) Like any paradigm-shattering idea, it may take a while to sink in. So don't worry if you feel confused for a few days.
Lest you think that's all there is to it, there's a deeper question:
What goes on the mysterious sixth side?
So far I've heard a few quite polarized opinions, which seem to fall into two camps: a) keep it blank, or b) put something on it. The blank contingent considers the lack of label significant, possibly representing "I'm done," "I'm getting nothing done" (and aware of/happy with it), or maybe "it's time for a break."
The second camp (the "depth via expression, rather than interpretation" crowd) has suggestions ranging from writing "Smile" on the blank side to placing cute stickers (preferably kittens) on it.
- Q: Your text is vague - what are the steps to do this? A: 1) Make the cube. 2) Put labels on it. 3) Enjoy!
- Q: Can I color my cube? How? A: Beware - like any GTD-related tool, customization is a real rabbit hole. Avoid endless tweaking! That said, you can use a marker, or work with beautiful cards.
- Q: But how do I *use* the thing? A: There are two approaches: "Push" and "pull." In the "push," you push the cube around until you realize you're not doing anything. Then you stop. This differs from the "pull" method, in which you pull the cube towards you, reading the facing side. Alternatively, you can use it like a The Magic 8-Ball by tossing it in the air (warning: don't hit anyone), reading the side that's up (variation: down), and doing that stage.
- Q: Can I use the GTD business cube without knowing GTD? A: Yes, though it's recommended you read the book to get the full benefit. However, you may get benefit from simply constructing the cube - many do.
- Q: What else can I use the cube for? A: The cube is the ultimate in flexibility. Singly they make great gift boxes  (not for live pets, though); make more than one for endless hours of stacking fun.
- Q: How much does it cost? Can I pay you directly? A: The cost depends on a number of factors, including how much you have. Contact me for special group pricing. NB: I'm still waiting to hear from David Allen re: licensing.