What happens when you raise intentionally productive children?

They grow up and do extraordinary things.

I encourage everyone I coach and mentor to teach productive practices (whether mine or others’) to their colleagues, friends, and family. Some of you were surprised to learn I started teaching these to my children when they were three!

Last June, David Allen (my mentor) invited my daughter and me to speak at the global GTD Summit in Amsterdam.

Eric Mack and Wendy Haddad speak at the 2019 GTD Summit in Amsterdam on a panel titled "What's It Like to Have a GTD Family?"

This event featured dozens of notable speakers, experts, and innovators from around the world, including productivity experts David Covey and Marshall Goldsmith, former NASA astronaut Cady Coleman, and bestselling author Dan Pink.

While there, Wendy and I spoke on a panel with David on the topic of raising children with productive principles ⁠— not to turn them into box-checking machines, but to give them freedom to accomplish whatever they want.

You might find Wendy’s perspective on all this inspiring, as she shared what it was like growing up learning how to get the right things done in a freeing way.

David Allen, Mike Williams, Eric Mack, and Wendy Haddad speak at the 2019 GTD Summit in Amsterdam on a panel titled "What's It Like to Have a GTD Family?"

I’d love to hear from you in the comments: What productive, time-saving, value-creating skills have you learned from (or taught to) your family?

David Allen and I talk about the ultimate productivity app

In late July, John Forrister interviewed David Allen and me for a few hours about the ultimate app for Getting Things Done (click here for my previous blog post about this). That interview was published this month as a two-part podcast.

The three of us discussed what would make for an ideal app, why it hasn’t happened yet, how close I got with eProductivity (which David designated as GTD Enabled), and what’s next.

What is the ultimate GTD app?

After 25 years of working with David, we still agree that the ultimate GTD solution is not the perfect app: it’s the solution you can make work for you. No matter how good a tool is, you can’t outsource your thinking to it.

Of course, a good tool can drastically lower the resistance you feel to your work and encourage an intentionally productive mindset. I’m still convinced that those things, much more than gee-whiz features, are what make a tool extraordinary. It remains true, however, that the best tool can only support your thinking, not replace it.

"The significant problems we face today cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them."

I took this photo at the GTD Summit. Einstein was right (no surprise).

Links to the podcast

To listen to our conversation, click these links:

You can also find these episodes on Soundcloud and most podcast apps.

Feel free to contact me re: app design and system implementation

Since the release of this podcast, several people have asked me to consult with them on designing or implementing their own productivity systems. If I can be of service you, by all means contact me. I’ll be happy to talk about how I can help you.

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What do you think about what we discussed in the podcast? Do you agree that no tool can do your thinking for you? Let me know in the comments!

Coming soon: answers and podcast on the ultimate GTD app

At the GTD Summit last month, David Allen announced that he would give away his plans for the ultimate “Getting Things Done” app.

An excerpt from David Allen's hand-drawn 1994 plans for the ultimate GTD app

David followed up in a newsletter with a link to his plans and a recommendation that people reach out to me for more information about building the ultimate GTD app. The response has been significant: many people have written to me with suggestions and questions, as well as requests for coaching for their own GTD systems or consulting to design the ultimate GTD app.

While I can’t personally respond to every inquiry, I will be blogging responses to popular questions here (make sure to subscribe).

In addition, David Allen and I plan to record a podcast in a few weeks (which I’ll post about here), in which we’ll talk about:

  • The subtle and powerful features and design that make an app “GTD enabled
  • The rigorous thought that goes into providing a truly seamless experience for the user
  • Our experience designing and developing the ultimate GTD app (how close we came, and why it hasn’t quite happened yet)
  • Answers to some of the many questions we’ve received since David’s announcement

If there’s a question you would like David and me to address, please post it in the comments below. We’ll review these as we plan the podcast.

David Allen gives away the ultimate GTD app

David Allen, world-renowned creator the Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology, is giving away the ultimate GTD app (some assembly required).

Twenty-five years ago, David created a set of plans for the ultimate GTD app. Despite committed efforts by many talented people, it has yet to be built. Now, David is putting his plans in the public domain.

David Allen’s announcement from the 2019 GTD Summit (in Amsterdam) about “the ultimate GTD app”

I designed eProductivity, the GTD app that David has used and recommended for the last decade. He talked about it at the GTD Summit in Amsterdam two weeks ago. Though we were constrained at the time by the existing Lotus Notes platform, this app is, in David’s words, “the closest anyone has ever gotten” to his vision of the ultimate GTD software implementation.

Over the six-year process of designing eProductivity (2002 – 2008), David and I looked at hundreds of apps supposedly designed for GTD. I’m sure many had smart people behind them. Some were elegantly designed, but none hit the mark. For many, it was clear that their creators simply did not understand the more subtle aspects of what makes GTD so powerful.

As David showed parts of his plans at the GTD Summit, he recommended developers talk to me. A few confidently claimed that they could crank out a dream app in a few weeks. Looking back on my 25 years of experience with David and GTD, I had to warn them not to be deceived. Though what the user sees may appear simple, behind it lies great complexity.

The ultimate GTD app will require an impressive array of features, but that’s not the hard part. The hard part—the part that I spent six years thinking about—is making the entire GTD experience as seamless and simple as possible for the user. That requires not only deep understanding of GTD, but also great complexity and intricate design, all hidden behind the scenes.

Consider this illustration: the perfect system is like an automatic transmission. As anyone who’s driven a manual transmission knows, an automatic turns a complicated operation into a simple one—and as any mechanic knows, the automatic transmission can do so only because it is complex.

Twelve years of running eProductivity has given me a unique perspective on what works and what doesn’t for personal productivity tools. This has led me apply the knowledge I gained in the software space to help people do their best work where they are, with whatever tools they have (Notes, Office 365, etc.).

David Allen and Eric Mack together at the GTD Summit 2019 in Amsterdam

That said, I, along with David, would love to see the ultimate GTD app come to life. If you have a productivity application that you want to GTD enable, or you’re thinking about designing one, I can help. 


What features would you love to see in the ultimate GTD app? Leave a comment below!

To read more about the GTD Summit and get productivity tips, be sure to subscribe.

The value of clear space for creative freedom: a refreshing reminder from the GTD Summit

I’ve just returned from the GTD Summit, an international productivity conference in Amsterdam. While there, I shared the stage with Getting Things Done (GTD) creator David Allen, bestselling authors Daniel Pink and David Covey, former astronaut Cady Coleman, and my own highly-accomplished daughter, Wendy Haddad (to name just a few).

A client asked me what my biggest takeaways from the Summit were. While I’m still wrapping my head around it all, I can identify perhaps the most valuable reminder: the value of clear space. It’s wonderfully refreshing to hear fellow experts and enthusiasts talk about such a crucial concept (even if it’s one you’ve applied for years). Clear space is so important because it’s a huge enabler of productivity, creativity, and personal freedom.

Welcome to the Intentionally Productive Blog! There’s not much to see here yet but I have big plans to share the principles and practices I’ve been working on over the past many years. My goal is to have a discussion about these topics. I’m interested to know what you think, and I hope you will find these topics interesting.

P.S. If you haven’t already done so, please take a moment to subscribe to updates so that you’ll be notified of my coming posts. I promise to keep your information private, and you can unsubscribe at any time with just a click.