BitDepth 603 - November 20

McGhee Productivity Solutions wants to help you use Outlook to improve your productivity. But some of this sounds really familiar.
Benchpressing productivity over cocktails

Gregory Stewart of McGhee Productivity Solutions waxes evangelical about getting more done during the working day. Photo by Mark Lyndersay.

It takes a very special kind of company to invite busy executives out to a posh Rookery Nook restaurant at six in the evening for something unpromisingly titled an “Executive Productivity Event.”
But Microsoft proved that it was just that kind of company, mustering a strong turnout of business managers to hear two presentations on ways to make the software maker’s new Office 2007 suite more useful in the working environment.

First up at the wicket was Derrick Ramlalack, who followed the introductory preamble by Microsoft’s new Country Manager, Terrence Phillip and regional sponsor, Vice President Sales, Marketing and Services for Microsoft Latin America Andy Zupsic.
Ramlalack wrestled manfully with his subject, a demonstration of collaboration functions in the new Office Suite, but demonstrating Sharepoint, which is useful at keeping track of documents in a group environment was hardly fair on the guy.

Showing people how to check documents in and out of Sharepoint’s tracking and sharing environment would be tough to spice up even if Machel Montano had composed a theme song for it.
Next up was Gregory Stewart, an Executive Consultant for McGhee Productivity Solutions with a rather hopefully titled presentation, “Creating true productivity.”
Stewart, an engaging speaker who clearly hails from the region, asked and answered the leading question for the evening, “Are we going to get it all done? No.”
Stewart was not beyond stoking a bit of evangelical fervour in his presentation, as he demonstrated his personal management techniques for Outlook, a distillation of coaching that McGhee offers to top executives for handling their work processes.
With a client roster that includes Pepsico and Microsoft as well as local firms such as RBTT and TYE, the company clearly has something to offer and this was an evening of enthusiastic salesmanship.

Stewart skipped quickly from his excitement at the value of productivity gains to the individual (More free time for the gym, yay!) to the bottomline returns for companies, which his system suggests may be up to 11 hours worth of work per week or 14 weeks per year worth of increased worker and executive productivity.
McGhee offers an Add-In for Outlook that makes setting up Microsoft’s mail and appointment management software for productivity much easier, but it’s possible to do this configuring on your own with a little patience and a copy of the company’s book, “Take back your life!”

Stewart is an entertaining and engaging speaker and it’s easy to see how being coached by him might justify the McGhee executive level fees for a day’s worth of one on one coaching.
But, and there’s always a but with this stuff, I’m a known zoosher of productivity crack, particularly David Allen’s blue magic potion of the stuff, Getting Things Done or GTD as it’s called by its converts.
Much of Stewart’s talk touched on concepts I first became familiar with through GTD, such as “big rocks” (doing important stuff first and then sifting in the sand of lesser tasks) and the importance of focusing on “next actions,” the positioning of every to do in the context of the next thing that needs to be done to complete it.

Common to both methods of work management is the elusive goal of “in-box zero,” the dreamstate of an e-mail in-box which is kept serenely empty.
The similarity between both systems isn’t a bad thing at all. McGhee is clearly focused on making the most of its focus on Outlook, and David Allen’s Outlook Add-In is generally treated almost as an aside to his primary business of evangelising his “mind like water” theory of productivity.
Take back your life, the McGhee manual for productivity, is a very different beast from Allen’s Getting Things Done and Ready for Anything.

The McGhee book is structured like a business manual, with lots of screenshots explaining how to prepare Outlook and meshing larger issues of personal productivity focus with the nuts and bolts of putting the principles into practice with a copy of Microsoft Outlook.
If you’re an Outlook user drowning in information, the book is a good place to start, if you’re an executive with deep pockets and no time to read a 350 page book, give Gregory Stewart a call, he’d be happy to hear from you.
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