total, relaxed organisation with donedesk

Why would someone produce an excellent browser-based productivity app like donedesk and make it available, free of charge, to individuals and teams alike? The key to answering this question can be found in the history and objectives of a company called Priacta.

Priacta focuses on time management training, coaching and software. They have developed an approach called total, relaxed organisation (TRO), which they see as building on the work of Stephen Covey (The seven habits of highly effective people) and David Allen (How to get things done. The art of stress-free productivity). Priacta presents its TRO model as an innovative workflow and time management system that can free up almost 600 hours per year. Their website outlines the differences between the GTD® and TRO approaches.

The folk at Priacta have certainly done their homework: one of the features of their website is an interactive software comparison table that describes the key features of more than 160 productivity apps and lets you compare them from the perspective of their compatibility with the Getting Things Done® (GTD®) and Total, Relaxed Organisation methods. The Priacta team did not stop there, instead developing a productivity app of their own. Enter donedesk (drumroll). Donedesk is free because Priacta expects to derive its income from training. There is also a more pragmatic reason: collaborating with others requires a shared software platform and requiring payment for an app would limit its uptake.

It is worth noting that TRO does not require the use of donedesk; Priacta delivers TRO training built around any compatible app that the client is already using. I am not connected in any way to Priacta but I like the integrity of a company that rates its own app, donedesk, a modest 5.5 on a (gruelling) 10–point scale. Asana, a very similar app, receives the same score. Priacta rates Omnifocus a low 3.5, citing the app’s lack of support for teams and collaboration, while the older but feature-rich ToodleDo scores an impressive 7.

Let us now look at what donedesk has under the bonnet.

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ozengo’s productivity principles

Zen is not commonly associated with productivity. However, as a western buddhist working in a large organisation I was able to draw on the clarity, simplicity and integrity that  characterise zen in refining my work habits. Other sources of inspiration over the years were stephen covey’s seven habits of highly effective people (1989) and david allen’s how to get things done – the art of stress-free productivity (2001).

The list below shows what works for me – some steps, strategies and workarounds I have developed for tackling complex projects.

articulate your vision

  • think big, describe what your dream looks like, where you want to be in five, ten years’ time
  • do not let your thinking be constrained by current practices, resource constraints or technical difficulies at this point
  • once you are satisfied with the vision you have articulated, embrace it and and start living accordingly

translate your vision into a broad plan

  • identify what needs to happen for your vision to become a reality
  • start grouping these change areas into domains (for example, research, skills or product development, strategic alliances)
  • identify opportunities for learning and collaboration for each of these domains (for example, online research, formal study, finding a mentor, informal networking)
  • do a ‘skills audit’: can you do this by yourself or within your current team configuration?
  • identify your personal supports: who is already on your side; with whom can you share your progress and frustrations?
  • talk to people – they may come up with great suggestions or point out a ‘blind spot’ in your thinking
  • develop an indicative timeline and costing
  • remember the saying: ‘a vision without action is a daydream; action without a vision a nightmare’

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