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Forced to use an utterly un-GTD tool at work.

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  • Forced to use an utterly un-GTD tool at work.

    I'm a systems administrator and our company uses Autotask to manage just about everything. The problem is, it's structured to be the antithesis of GTD. But I must use this for my job. There's no way to track and document the work I do otherwise. I feel trapped!

    I have a great tool (ActiveInbox) for managing my GTD workflow, but I'd have to duplicate everything there in Autotask, which is horribly inefficient. I've tried what I can to mold Autotask to GTD, but it is fundamentally un-GTD, takes 19 clicks to get to anything, and expects minute non-task related details just to add a simple task.

    What would any of you recommend for someone in my situation?

  • #2
    Originally posted by Metalgeek View Post
    I'm a systems administrator and our company uses Autotask to manage just about everything. The problem is, it's structured to be the antithesis of GTD. But I must use this for my job. There's no way to track and document the work I do otherwise. I feel trapped!
    What would any of you recommend for someone in my situation?
    Different jobs have different requirements. If your work consists mostly of taking jobs from a queue and doing them sequentially, then you just use the system you've been told to use. If you have more discretion, then you can use gtd principles to steer your work, but use the system for documentation, billing, et cetera. I looked at the autotask website, and it is pretty clear in its aims: it's not there to help you get your work done, it's there for the business owner. If the system repels you sufficiently, look for a new job. At your exit interview, tell them why you are leaving. If they don't do exit interviews, then that's another reason why you're leaving.


    • #3
      I feel your frustration. Here are some ideas.

      You can schedule a meeting with those in charge and give them a convincing
      presentation about why some other solution would be better than Autotask.
      You could, for example, time how long it takes you to carry out a simple
      operation within Autotask, or how much time you spend per day
      just entering information into Autotask.

      You might be able to write your own software that interacts with Autotask
      for you, in batch mode, so you just have to type in the information in
      a simple format (or transfer a bunch of emails into it) and have it
      automatically loaded into Autotask; or ask to have such software
      supplied for you. Tell the managers how much time it would save.

      Hmm, I remember a story about some organization that had everyone
      fill out forms documenting how they spent all their time. The one item
      at the top of the list, that everyone spent the most time on, was ...
      filling out the forms! So they got rid of the forms.

      You can start your own company and maybe sell software that does
      what Autotask does only much better.

      You can change your own attitude. (Only if you want to, of course.)
      You can find a different way of thinking about it. For example, when
      waiting for my computer to boot up at home, instead of feeling impatient,
      I sometimes use the time for a little bit of meditation. This turns a
      negative into a positive. You can think up your own ideas.
      Things like doing 19 mouse clicks with 10 different fingers (for fun
      or to exercise the fingers); doing stretching exercises while doing
      the mouse clicks; exercising your memory and making it a game to
      predict what the program will say next; doing it faster, or slower;
      feeling appreciation for what the program actually does; or using
      the time while you're doing the mouse clicks to do some valuable thinking --
      one possibility would be thinking about how you'll design
      software to do it better.

      You can use Autotask to build up your willpower by practicing
      remaining calm in spite of arduous circumstances.

      You can try to find keyboard shortcuts and other ways to
      use Autotask more easily.

      You can open up your ideas of what is possible. You can start
      telling yourself that it's possible to track and document your work
      without using Autotask.

      You can start thinking that there are probably some ways that
      Autotask is compatible with GTD, and look for them.

      You might be able to tell your managers something like
      "I just did a week's worth of work in 3 days. Here it is, and
      here's a list of what I did. It would probably take me 2 days
      to enter all that into Autotask. Do you want me to do that?"

      You can explain to the managers that you're thinking of leaving
      because of Autotask, and exactly why (though there can be downsides
      to doing this).

      You can ask them to hire an
      assistant for you who just does the Autotask entry for you and
      explain to them how much time it would save you.
      (Even if they don't get you an assistant, it might get them
      reconsidering Autotask.)

      These are just ideas. I haven't thought through the
      situation, and you know more about it than I do.
      I hope you'll be able to ignore any of the ideas that you don't like.


      • #4
        Sorry, but "quit your job" is about as un-helpful an idea as it gets. That would eliminate the need for GTD entirely, since I'd be living on the streets.

        Also, "Visualize your leg in the woodchipper as an opportunity to spread your productivity further, spraying it all over the grass..." is cute, but wholly impractical.

        There is no GTD'ing Autotask. And it's a feat of sheer Zen-mastery that I don't punch-out my monitors when using Autotask. What more do you want from me!!!??? lol

        I agree, it is designed for the business manager, not the person who has to do the work. They're only diving deeper into it, so there's no other options.

        I guess I should of been more specific in my question.

        When faced with having to use a tool for work that completely breaks the GTD workflow, what's the best way to minimize the damage it does?

        I will always continue working on improving my situation, and thank you for the responses, however goofy some of them sound when read on the screen.


        • #5
          I googled "Autotask API" and it looks like there is one. Maybe a little scripting could help ease the pain.


          • #6
            Without knowing what Autotask is (and it does sound painful)...

            I would suggest keeping your own GTD system completely separate from Autotask. Keep actions and projects that you are responsible for and that aren't tracked elsewhere (no duplication please!). You may have an Area of Focus of Autotask Entry/Upkeep or something. Or perhaps you'd have separate tasks or schedule a specific time for entry...

            I'm not sure what Autotask is but I would tend to block it as a separate "thing" within your GTD system and only tasks/projects that fall outside of its use would end up on your lists. e.g., A project: "I've successfully convinced my company to stop using Autotask." Or more usefully, your continuous development/educational activities (Send in conference registration) or administration (Prepare expence claim) or personnel stuff (Request tax form from HR) or whatever else you do that is not tracked by the other system.


            • #7
              Originally posted by Metalgeek View Post
              ... thank you for the responses, however goofy some of them sound when read on the screen.
              Thanks. Seriously, when I read the word "goofy" I breathed a sigh of relief. I'm not
              sure if I can explain why. Maybe it's that if you think my ideas are "goofy" then it
              doesn't sound as if you're angry at me for suggesting them. Or maybe it's that if some of
              the ideas are "goofy" then I've succeeded in doing some open-minded brainstorming.

              Here's another one: Take breaks at work, and analyse the types of breaks to
              see which ones provide you with plenty of recovery and recharging. This is
              not necessarily the same as what you feel like doing right then.
              For me, exercise, meditation, naps and food recharge me. Reading (on the
              computer or a book) can be more appealing but less effective. I haven't quite
              decided where solving cryptic crosswords fits in -- it may be somewhat
              more effective as a break than reading, for me, though probably not as
              good as the other things.
              Switching tasks can also be a type of break -- e.g. if you need to talk to
              coworkers or something, scheduling that so it breaks up the rest of the workday.

              Not sure if having a punching-bag installed in your workplace's gym would
              increase or decrease the chances of punching out the monitor.

              Only if you want, you could give more detail about how Autotask interferes
              with the GTD workflow. It might help people give better answers. What kinds
              of solutions are you looking for? What would success look like for the goal
              of finding a way to minimize the damage?


              • #8
                Have a project "find another job"

                I can see that simply quitting your job might not be a good idea, but there is some truth in what was said. If you really are not able to change or influence that system in any way that works for you, and you can not live with it, then you might want to consider a change of environment.

                So, in your own system you might want to define a project "find a more GTD friendly enivronment to work in", with steps involving for example your own education and development (styduing) and the exploration of the job market.

                Good luck