GyroQ: Top 20 Uses Revisited

The most popular post on the ActivityOwner.com site is an early review of the pre-release version of GyroQ. The “Top Twenty Uses for GyroQ?” blog entry speculates on how users might ultimately choose to populate the 20 tag slots the software provides. Since that time, the Activityowner.com tag library has accumulated over 30 tags and Gyronix has distributed several sets of “bonus” tags. Combined with the default set of three tags that come with the software, the universe of useful tags is now nearly triple what the software can currently handle.

For me this leads to a process of "GyroQ Idol" in which I must vote off one of my existing tags to make room for a new one. Given this situation, and the six months of experience with the software, now seems like a good time to review the inventory of tags that have emerged over the past six months and put them in context.

Note that you can toggle to a GyroQ tag quickly if it is named with a short name followed by 3 spaces. These short names are used to refer to tags in the remainder of this post and can be used to find them in the tag library. Note that these tags are often updated based on user feedback, so check the revision dates of any you have found useful for an updated version.

The sections that follow catalog the ActivityOwner.com tags by the phase of the GTD methodology they contribute to:

  1. Collect — corralling your stuff
  2. Process — getting "in" to empty
  3. Organize — settting up the right buckets
  4. Review — keeping your system functional
  5. Do — Making the best choices

Collect

GyroQ is pitched primarily as a capture tool – the default set of three tags provide ways to quickly log ideas, information, and "amorphous blob" action items into a default “Daily Capture Map” without needing to launch or get bogged down in MindManager. Unfortunately this can result in the accumulation of a daunting swarm of unrelated tasks to “process” into home maps. The “map” tag tries to address this problem by prompting for a specific destination map and allowing the optional addition of a context, hyperlink, and/or note. Since this aspect bleeds into the “process” phase, it is described below.

The "GyroTrigger" (gyt) tag captures your “open loops” by running you through David Allen's incompletion trigger list".

Tangent: The Swamp and the Stream

Many years ago (in the days of the HP95LX) I used a custom to-do list program to manage my action items. I found the "average" age of my action items (both complete and incomplete) typically ran steady at about 35 days, but few actually fell in that age range. My inventory of action items segregated into two populations. The first set consisted of short lived items that flowed by like a stream — completed almost as fast as they were identified. The second set consisted of items that had drifted into the “swamp” adjacent to this stream, and hung around much longer than 35 days. In the Post-GTD era, I now recognize the first set were likely well-defined “physical next actions” (widgets that could be cranked), while the second population consisted of "amorphous blob" projects or items that belonged on a someday/maybe list. Even with good GTD practices, my to-do lists (and I suspect many others) still tend to fall into this paradigm.

While canonical GTD might suggest hard edged between "capture" and "process", I think it often makes sense to give those "swift stream" items an immediate boost in the "capture" phase by adding obvious "process" attributes such as context, deadline, priority, “contact about”, etc. At a minimum, having them fall in with related items on a project or “area of focus” in-tray can make the subsequent “process” step less daunting than having to crunch through a long “daily capture map” list. This risk is letting a “blob” destined for the swamp slip through without due consideration. Having everything go to in-trays can help guard against that risk.

Process

While some items that come up in a typical workday are pure capture (“buy milk”) from the soup, much of what is needed in practice is "transfer" — from paper inboxes, from Outlook, from pockets notes, etc — into your "trusted system". Should you fully "process" items during this transfer? I think it is situation dependent — when time is short, it may be better to consolidate into ResultsManager in-trays than leave your email and paper inboxes half full.

A popular tag on the site is "map", which provides a way to direct an action item to the in-tray of a particular map (rather than the "Daily Capture Map") while prompting to optionally adding context, notes, and/or hyperlinks. This tag could be customized this tag to direct to a predetermined map (e.g. "blog"). Using this approach allows subsequent processing of smaller in-trays that already contain related items for a particular project or area of focus. "q" and "c" provide a generic way of doing this (more later). GyroQ can also be used to aid in processing using ResultsManager (e.g. the "ea" tag to edit an activity).

Mike W. has shared a method for turning a outlook email into a ResultsManager activity that provides a streamlined method for the outlook to ResultsManager trip

Organize

The “organize” phase is largely handled by ResultsManager Dashboards that summarize information captured and processed by GyroQ. This site has a library of customized dashboards as well as instructions on how to create your own.

Review

Two tags emerged that can aid in the review process. The "Put it in front of the door" script ventures out of GyroQ to provide a GyroActivator script that can be scheduled nightly and provide up to date dashboards each morning, lowering the activation energy to keep your daily action lists up to date or doing a Sunday morning review. This can also be done manually from within GyroQ using the "rgd" tag, but the external approach is better as it leaves GyroQ free for "capture" during the sometimes lengthy dashboard generation process.

The "1o1" tag enables the generation of “1:1 meeting dashboard templates" that allow the action items in a set of maps to be framed and organized to set the agenda for an effective 1 on 1 meeting. The manager or employee can rapidly update a diverse map entries in real time via the dashboard. This provides a way of building commitment to the approach and releasing potential uses of the software.

Do

Unless you are one of the lucky early beta-testers of "GyroDo", you still have to get your actually work done yourself. Using GyroQ in concert with ResultsManager can help keep your tasks "in front of the door". The “ldb” tag (customized for your system) can quickly load the dashboards that the “rgb” macro has refreshed overnight.

The “Next Actions to Go” (cna) tag automatically copies the “next actions by context” list from your Daily Action dashboard to the clipboard as a plain text outline for compact printing or pasting into a mobile format (e.g. gmail, outlook, palm). The "clp" will do the same for the currently selected map branch.

The “Logging things done” tags ("dit", "diw", "dim", and “mtc”) tags provide a way to quickly reset repeating tasks on a daily, weekly, and monthly horizon as while logging the current item complete in a "completed map". The "mtc" tag logs a set of selected tasks as complete (note: the original only logged a single task).

GyroTimer (gts,gtf) can help you maintain your focus and priority by measuring the amount of time spent on a project or area-of-focus.

Utilities

Navigating between linked maps and dashboards you can easily find yourself with a dozen open maps. The Close unmodified maps (clo) tag allows you to quickly close all previously saved maps. The MindReader “OpenMap ("o") tag lets you quickly open maps based on keywords you have defined. It also enables applications, documents, or web pages to be opened quickly based on a keyword. "fn" puts the absolute name of the current map on the clipboard for use in hyperlinking or emailing to colleagues in a network-server environment. Frequently used tags can also be set up as GyroActivator scripts to be run as batch files or placed on the Windows Toolbar.

What's made my list?

My current tag list in roughly order of use frequency is rgd, q, o, c, ldb, clo, cna, dit, mtc, dit, diw, dim, 1o1, gts, gtf, gyt, fn, clo, and cnt, with one spare slot for testing new tags.

The ”Put it in front of the door” is probably the most valuable and impactful “tag” in the collection; helping keep the system current and complete.

GyroTrigger (gyt) should get more use, but I usually have my hands full with obvious action items without searching my subconscious for more trouble!

Gyrotimer (gts, gtf) needs a bit more polish, but it’s a tag I wish I used more as it encourages deliberate focused time rather than multi-tasking and surfing.

The “map” tag was my most frequently used tag. It was followed closely by several variations with hard-coded destination maps (e.g. one for each one of my direct reports at work). Unfortunately this led me to quickly exhaust the 20 available tags and required a solution as described below.

The Task Mark up Challenge

ResultsManager activities have more than 20 different attributes that a user might want to set including the items listed below:

  • destination map
  • icons: task, project, sub-project, someday, committed, deadline
  • priority
  • start date, due date
  • resources: delegated to, owed to, contact about
  • contexts, areas, categories
  • notes
  • hyperlink

While you can program a tag to prompt the user for all of these items, that results in a tedious process when you just want to capture a simple action item. On the other hand, if you want to customize tags to prompt for or hard-code a subset of these attributes, you quickly find there are an astronomical number of possible combinations and permutations that rapidly consume all your spare GyroQ slots.

A Solution

One solution to this problem is the MindReader “q” tag. MindReader allows you to optionally choose the destination map set all of the above attributes using user-defined keywords and no prompting. This eliminates the need for “map” and custom variations on it. The "q" tag is now my only "capture" tag. The “c” tag skips the destination map selection phase and instead acts on one or more selected topics.

The installation procedure has been simplified over time and the customization options enhanced, so check the MindReader page for instructions if you are interested. "ActivityDaughter" took a shot a drafting a French version, which is available at the bottom of the project page.

Wrap Up

So what has proven useful to you? What gaps need to be filled? The existing tags have benefited from user feedback and user contributed tags have started to trickle in (see the bottom of the library for a tag from a fellow reader). If you have one you want to share let me know.

6 Comments »

  1. Curtis Bingham said,

    March 2, 2007 @ 11:01 am

    Wonderful post! I've used many of the tags you've described herein and have ended up with a few that I constantly use.

    By far the most important to me is the "Put it in front of the door" automatic dashboard generation script. I've customized my dashboards somewhat and I like to have notes in the dashboards–requiring approximately 30-40 minutes to regenerate the 5 dashboards I use every day. By scheduling it, I don't have to waste time getting started in the morning and can hit the ground running.

    The next best one is clearly the MindReader "q" tag. I find that having the script automatically select the right map, add in proper contexts, set dates and deadlines for the task is an incredible timesaver. When I'm doing my weekly planning I need to quickly enter tasks directly into the maps and don't want to be interrupted so I use the same syntax and then at the end of my planning I select all the new, uncategorized topics and use the "c" tag to process them in place.

    ActivityOwner just created the new, extremely fast "mtc" tag that marks a task complete and saves it into an archive map. With the incredible speed, this has become a staple for me. I've made it the default macro for Alt-c,v.

    I wonder when Gyronix will expand the number of tag slots so we don't have to continuously vote tags "off the island"?

    Curtis

  2. Jim McGowan said,

    March 18, 2007 @ 12:57 pm

    Thank you for this blog — it appears to be about the only way I can find out about Gyro X.

    I saw a link to the Gyronix site in Pocket PC Magazine and it looked interesting. However nothing on the site really describes much about what the program does. Very few screenshots, no product tour, and very little about what the applications specifically does or how to use it. I have used Mind Manager for about three years now at home for my personal productivity. While Gyro X piques my interest, detailed information about the application does not appear to be available on the Gyronix website. I really need to see more regarding what an application does and what it looks like, etc.

    Yes, I see that there is a demo but I do not like to install demos for every application that catches my eye — my registry would become cluttered with the remnants of many applications that just did not work for me.

    Where can I find more detailed information about Gyro X?

    Thank you.

  3. ActivityOwner said,

    March 18, 2007 @ 1:09 pm

    Hi Jim — I think you'll probably find this site and its comment-discussions provide the most in-depth information on GyroQ applications and extensions at the moment.

    You can view several demos if you read through the Gyronix Newsletters:
    http://www.gyronix.com/newsletters/index.php

    There was a in-depth Mindjet webinar last week:
    http://www.mindjet.com/us/company/events/webinars_recorded.php?s=3

    I'd encourage you to watch that once the replay is available.

    Eric Mack also wrote about the application recently:
    http://www.ericmackonline.com/ICA/blogs/emonline.nsf/dx/gyroq-brings-gtd-and-mindmanager-closer-together

    and will likely cover it a bit in his upcoming webinar:

    http://www.ericmackonline.com/ICA/blogs/emonline.nsf/dx/sign-up-for-my-how-i-use-mindmanager-webinar

  4. Jim McGowan said,

    March 18, 2007 @ 1:53 pm

    Thank you ActivityOwner.

    By the way, are you "Gyronix"? I just noticed that you do not sign with a real name, which is extremely unusual for a blogger – part of blogging is having your name known in the community. It is relatively uncommon not to use a name here.

    Also, if you are not actually Gyronix, do you agree that the Gyronix website is pretty bare as to the whats, whys, and hows of their software? I would prefer to see the developer pump a bit more into presentation – at least upfront for potential customers – than they presently are. Lack of information and documentation on their site makes me wonder if that sparsity of information follows through to their product documentation; user manuals, Help files, etc. I'd hate to find that out after making a purchase.

    Thanks again.

  5. ActivityOwner said,

    March 18, 2007 @ 2:42 pm

    Hi Jim –Good question. — See http://www.activityowner.com/about/ .

    The Gyronix site had detailed information on their flagship product (ResultsManager) including the full 217 page manual
    http://www.gyronix.com/grm/

    and useful discussion forum archives and mailing lists:
    http://www.websitetoolbox.com/tool/mb/gyronix01?forum=8891

    They run a lean operation and invest most of their time into 1:1 support over email and through discussion groups and boards as well as professional training. In terms of user support, I don't think you'll find many companies that match Nick Duffill.

    GyroQ just launched last fall. The site has good documentation of its basic functionality but things are still evolving. I agree there are some gaps in terms of worked examples and customizations — hence the need for this site to become my Sunday morning hobby alternative to Sudoku or the New York Times crossword puzzle :-).

    The comments are moderated so there is a delay between posting and visibility on the site.

  6. Log Events into MindManager Maps using GyroQ » ActivityOwner.Com said,

    May 16, 2007 @ 9:28 pm

    […] I mentioned in Top 20 Uses of GyroQ Revisited, the GyroTimer gys and gyt tags remain in my configuration, but I don't use them much. Perhaps […]

RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URI

Leave a Comment

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 License.