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Organizational smarts


I want Sandy.

That's not a statement. It's a website. And I already have Sandy. What exactly I have, though, I'm not sure.

"Hello, Lowe! Good to see you! How are you settling in? Please do drop my helpers a line if there's anything you've been wishing I could take care of for you." is a web-based email reminder service. You send Sandy—a pert little tits-ahoy cartoon—an email, and she'll mail you back exactly in time for you to do what you need to do or be where you need to be. "I'll remind you to feed the meter, take your vitamins or put your wet laundry in the dryer," Sandy promises. All users need do is write the words "remember" or "remind" in an email to her, along with a date or time. Sandy takes care of the rest.

"Howdy, Lowe! You asked me to remind you about something—relax and leave it to me! You said: "Remind me to pick up Georgia.'"

My new online secretary's manner is gaspingly chirpy (as you can see in abundance) and she's a picture of perfect organization for all of us dullards down here in dumb-dumb-land, with our thoughts and plans and appointments and forgotten emails and lost phone messages crawling hither and yon, like the squiggly shapes bursting out of the head of the guy on the cover of Scattergories.

Sandy, simply, makes you feel organized from the get-go.

"Activate your account. Perfect!

Your account is activated." See? Right off the bat I had already accomplished something! Good work, Sandy. Er, I mean, Lezlie. Er, whoever. Good work.What did I do again? Oh yes. Logged on to a website.

The real question here is this: do I really need another productivity system? And when am I going to find time to learn it? I'm a zealot, I admit. A productivity system disciple. I'm working on blogger Merlin Mann's "Inbox Zero" system; I've got a self-devised moleskin diary organization technique; of course, I'm GTD, too.

Not up on the lingo of productivity cultists the world over? GTD is a state of being brought about by following the organization system propounded by productivity guru David Allen in his 2001 book Getting Things Done (hence the acronym).

Productivity for me—largely credited to the canon of GTD—is defined by getting fewer things done, not more. It's about quickly and easily accomplishing what needs doing and knowing that nothing is falling through my sad, little sieve-brain. I don't want to conquer the world. I just want to know that I haven't forgotten to pay the phone bill. And I want to make sure I don't pay it twice because I've forgotten that I already did it the first time. But now I've got Sandy to deal with. I'm sending emails to her so I can later receive the same emails back, only re-worded. Isn't this exchange with my new digital organization dominatrix-with-a-smile needless repetition? Couldn't I write my reminders in my Daytimer? Like, with a pen? Instead of spamming Sandy? And save a digital step?

Back in September, Montreal-based journalist Craig Silverman wrote a story in the Globe and Mail on the ever-growing productivity system industry. GTD featured prominently (I clipped the article, in-boxed it and when it came time to do my weekly review I filed it under "productivity"—there's another clipped story in there too, but, Allen says, never be afraid to file one piece of paper). Silverman, who writes The Office, a workplace culture column and blog for the Globe, wrote in his story that the glut of productivity systems on the market (yes, market—GTD alone will take in $6 million US this year), "can actually cause people to become less productive while trying to master a constant barrage of new methods." Hmphf.

Apparently Silverman's never heard the phrase "the destination is the journey." But Sandy has. "Onward to organization," she wrote in an early email. I'm with you, Sandy. Just please for the love of god tell me when my phone bill's due.

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