Interview with David Allen on productivity

We’re excited to bring you an exclusive interview with David Allen on productivity. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will know who he is. Best known as the creator of “Getting Things Done“, David Allen is a productivity consultant  - or, if you ask us, a productivity guru.

Check out the video interview below, or continue to read what David Allen shared.

David Allen on productivity

David Allen (Source)

Hello, David! What did you write about productivity that was missing from the other books?

Most of all the other books I’ve read have very good things in them. They have a different perspective – and from different perspectives you get different ideas.

I think my perspectives are unique in some sense, because what I did was uncover one of the basic foundational principles at play when things really work – what are you doing that causes things to work.

We’ve all had better days than others, right? What makes the difference between one and the other? And I just uncovered what those were and made those principles explicit. So, once a principle goes from implicit to explicit, you can do it better and more elegantly.

For instance, a good example – most everybody has at some point felt overwhelmed or confused, then sat down, made a list and felt better. More in control and more focused. Well if you reverse engineered how that happened – nothing changed in your world, except how you engaged in your world changed.

If you figure out that “Oh, the way I’ve now engaged with my world changed by simply writing things down – it gave me more sense of control, more focus, more space in my head,” you’ll never keep anything in your head for the rest of your life. And I don’t! Your head’s a terrible office. So, I just uncovered that, and a lot of people have now copied it…

It took me 25 years to realize nobody else seemed to have come up with that the same way that I did. And that’s when I decided to write the first edition of “Getting Things Done”.

So yes – those kind of principles: that you do not have to go change who you are as a human being to be a lot more effective. But oftentimes there’s decisions you have to make and ways to think about things that produce a more effective result. That reduce the barrier of entry for you to get engaged in your world to get things done – and frankly, to be able to just relax.

getting things doneI just discovered them what those were because I needed them for myself, and it turned out that all those principles work for everybody else… So that just became part of the methodology.

I think another difference is that the Getting Things Done (GTD) system starts with where you are and not where you should be. Most people’s attention is on is not fulfilling their purpose on the planet, it’s the cat food they need and the babysitter that they need to change, and the holiday they are about to go on, the tyres on the car that they need to get… And that’s where people’s attention is. If that’s not under control, then don’t try to think about bigger stuff.

So, where most people are, actually, is down in the mundane aspects of their life. And GTD gives you a very effective methodology to deal with that. Not because that’s the most important stuff – it’s almost because those are not the most important things.

But if you don’t handle the unimportant things that you still have to do well, they’ll take up much more space than they ought to. The GTD methodology makes it easier to do that. I don’t think anybody else approached it from that way, because in a way, it’s sort of counter-intuitive.

People who work at startups often need to execute a lot of different tasks, so there’s a big context switch that can feel so unproductive… So is the solution to write down what you were just doing before the context switch?

the gtd methodology

Yeah! Well, you need a placeholder for it. If you don’t put a placeholder for that thing that’s not complete yet, and turn around to do something else, there’s a part of your pshyce still wrapped around that. And so, you’re not giving your full attention to the new thing.

Your psyche will try to multitask, but it can’t do it. That’s why it feels so frustrating and burns you out. If I write a note about that and drop it in a place that I know I’m going to get back to, my brain frees up and I can rapidly context switch.

Look at a martial artist who fights four people – they don’t fight four people at once, it’s one at a time. And each one is left nice and clean. There’s no residue from one to the next.

And indeed, there are times when you really do need to give yourself a longer timeframe to think more effectively about something, not switching those contexts. But it makes a huge difference when you have a really trusted personal system, to be able to keep placeholders for all those things that are not complete.

So, it’s about giving a pen and paper to our development team, and just let them write down the tasks like this?

Yeah, pen and paper and a tray that they throw the stuff into. And the process of emptying out that tray sooner or later, so that they’re appropriately engaged with that commitment still.

Sometimes, productivity is hindered by noise from the environment – so it is not under our control. How does your system help increase productivity between the person and the team?

First of all, there are no interruptions – there are only mismanaged inputs. You either shouldn’t get the input, so stop it – or if you should because it’s some commitment that you have, then you need to manage it well.

See, what GTD does is it actually improves every one of your intersections. The more out of control they are – the more in control you should be. So you don’t catch their virus.

Productivity simply means producing desired results or experiences. If you go to a party to have fun and you don’t have fun – it’s an unproductive party!

Most people think productivity has to do with business or busy-ness…  but no – productivity just means producing what you say you’re going to produce or want to produce.


What are the main obstacles for people becoming productive?

I think mostly it’s people’s addiction to stress. People are willing to tolerate having 3,000 unprocessed emails in their inbox. Why don’t you taste what it’s like to have nothing on your mind? That stuff just feels so uncomfortable.

But if you’re so used to it, you’re not motivated to do anything differently. You’re not motivated to do the things that actually produce a higher state of productivity.

“Life is OK.” – that’s the biggest problem, most people are not in big enough pain to change. And that’s why the first people to adopt my methodology graduated rapidly professionally and now they’re having to deal with whole new levels of accountability and detail. Their systems just crapped out, and it’s like “Oh my god, I need to get back to the control and focus that I experienced earlier on. Help!”

So it’s that sense of being out of control and not having the focus that they’re used to usually makes people the most interested in getting involved with this work.

But we’re also teaching kids this stuff – because they get it right away! It’s like “Oh, sure, that’s what you do!” That’s our big vision – let’s get it to the kids and into the educational system, so we don’t have to change a bunch of cranky adults.

Fleep is a messenger for your teams and projects.

Introducing Fleep Teams!

Fleep Teams

We have taken another step to simplifying your communication with your teams and project contributors – today, we’re introducing Fleep Teams to the public!

What are Teams in Fleep? 

Fleep Teams are groups of Fleep and/or email users. Fleep teams make it easier for you to manage and organize the conversations you have with your teams – be it your internal team, your project team that includes external partners and clients, your book club, or all of them!

Fleep Teams

What happens when you create a Fleep team?

Fireworks! Once you have created a Fleep team, you can add it to conversations – and all team members will then be able to see and access those conversations. These conversations become the team’s conversations – but don’t fret, you can also add individual people from outside the team into the conversation one by one, if you wish.

The best part? If someone new joins your organization, all you need to do is add them to the Fleep team, and they will automatically be added to all of the team’s conversations. Should someone leave your organization, removing them from the Fleep team will also remove them from all team conversations.

By default, all team conversations are organized under the team’s label in your list of conversations, and they are not shown under your Recent conversations. You can change and customize all of this in the Manage labels view, if you wish.

Fleep TeamsWhat if I already have a system in place with my team’s conversations in Fleep?

That’s cool too! We’re not trying to mess up your system. But there’s probably someone in your team who’s been responsible for adding new team members to team conversations or removing the ones who have left. They will probably appreciate having a Fleep team set up…

Creating a Fleep team and adding existing conversations to the team will help ensure that all team members indeed are in all the chats they need to be a part of. And while you’re at it, you can also clean up all team conversations with conversation bulk actions – by removing people from conversations they do not need to be a part of. 

Nice! Anything else I should know?
  • If you’re a member of a Fleep team, you will be automatically added to all of the team’s conversations.
  • You cannot leave a team’s conversation without leaving the team. If the conversation is not too relevant for you, muting the conversation may be a good idea.
  • All team members can add and remove team members, as well as add and remove team conversations. Because Fleep is democratic like that. And most teams have found that the self-organizing nature works well, lowering administrative overhead. (For the teams that need admin functionalities: these are coming soon.)
  • You can create and belong to as many teams as you wish. So, you can have your internal team, your Project X team, your Project Y team… You get the point.
  • The maximum number of members in a team is 200.

How do Fleep Teams work?
Can I belong to several Fleep teams?
Can I add external people to my team conversations?
How can I leave a team conversation?
Can Fleep teams have administrators?
Can I leave a team conversation without leaving the team?

Have any questions or feedback for us? Contact us at Let’s also stay in touch through our social media channels - TwitterFacebookLinkedInInstagram.

Fleep: Q2 review and plans for Q3

The first half of 2016 is over – which means it’s time for our quarterly review blog post. Let’s take a look at what got done in Q2, and what we have planned for Q3.

Fleep q2

We had a furry friend visit us at our Q3 planning meeting :)

First, a review of what got done in Q2:

  • Fleep TeamsFleep Teams - Fleep Teams was our biggest project for Q2. This feature makes Fleep even easier to use for team conversations, allowing you to create and belong to several teams. Read all about it in this blog post.
  • Conversations bulk actions - this is a powerful feature that lets you quickly apply conversation actions to multiple conversations at a time: delete, archive, mark read, add and remove members.
  • Invite people – we added a button that you can use to invite your friend or colleagues to try out Fleep. Find it on the left pane – or if you’ve disabled it, you can always find it in the Account menu popup.
  • Sign in with Microsoft - we’ve supported sign in with Google for a long while already, and now you can also sign in to Fleep with your Microsoft account.
  • Several improvements to UX – new conversation flow rehaul, ability to create tasks and pins from taskboard/pinboard respectively.

So, what’s next? Here’s what we have planned for Q3:

  • fleep email integrationEmail list behavior - we’re putting the finishing touches on this one. It’s the option to have Fleep conversations acting as email lists for email participants, using the conversation email address as the sender. This will significantly improve the experience of big group conversations that include email participants.
  • Custom conversation email address – this feature will let you edit the conversation email address (that currently looks something like, making it easier to remember and share. Also, it’ll go really well with the email list behavior described above.
  • Server infrastructure reorg - we’re continuing work on scaling our server infrastructure to better serve increasing server load.
  • Managed teams and managed conversations – while all of Fleep is pretty democratic, some companies need admin controls over teams and conversations. So, we are developing what we call managed teams and managed conversations that will allow for administrative control.

Hopefully you like the direction we’re going in! Should you have any feedback or questions for us – don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Let’s also stay in touch via social media: TwitterFacebookLinkedInInstagram.

Fleep User Story: Shipitwise

Fleep User Stories is a series of blogposts that highlights the cool people, teams and companies that use Fleep in their daily business.

This time, we’re featuring team that believes in taking care of the first mile for any customer – meet Shipitwise! More specifically, they take care of the first mile in international shipping. With their service, the customer can relax and doesn’t have to worry about a thing. At this point, Shipitwise is an easy and affordable international shipping service for individuals.


The Shipitwise team: [first row] Sander, Helen Kokk, [middle row] Anna, Aleksander, Ako, [and in the back row] Olari, Ragmar and Priit.

The company is very new – it was founded in June 2015 by Aleksander Gansen (CEO), Olari Miiter (COO) and Ragmar Saksing (CTO). Other members on the team are Helen Kokk – UI&UX fairy of Baltics, Priit Kallas – Marketing guru of Estonia, Sander Gansen – startup hustler with Silicon Valley experience, Anna Medjanskaja – genius logistic with life-long experience in transport and logistics, and Ako Tulu – development ninja, iOS pro with Skype background.

aleksander gansen

Shipitwise started taking orders in December 2015 and launched their web order form in January 2016 (try them out now!). They’re currently also participating in the Startup Wise Guys BusinessTech Accelerator.

We spoke to Aleksander, the CEO himself, about how and why they use Fleep. Without further ado, here’s the Shipitwise Fleep user story:

How did you find out about Fleep? 

Two of our founders were already familiar with Fleep from their previous (successful) startup Fututec. It was a simple decision to start using Fleep as our team communication tool. Fleep is a convenient tool and its interface is really user-friendly.

What do you like about Fleep?

I like that the interface is extremely clear and user-friendly, the application is stable and the search engine is fast. We also enjoy the personal service from Fleep team.

What are your Fleep tips?

star conversatons

It’s smart to create clear group conversations and topics in order to save time on searching for a particular subject or fact across all conversations.

Also, I would recommend making use of the possibility to star conversations – this will pin the most important chats or topics to the top of the conversation list, where they are always in sight.

How do you use Fleep?

Our team uses Fleep for private chats, as well as group conversations. The groups involve different people depending on the topic. For example, the Design and UI conversations do not involve people from Marketing and Sales etc.

Fleep user story shipitwiseWe also make use of the conversation email address. We forward emails to the conversation email and they show up in that specific conversation. This is great for when the content is informative and/or needs the attention of the team members in that conversation.

Also, we have found Fleep to be an ideal tool for collecting social media articles that are relevant to the team. We a have a separate conversation for gathering those - SIW_Social media articles.

Who would you recommend Fleep to?

I would recommend Fleep to anyone who is still using email on a daily basis, needs to follow email conversations and operate inside them.

It is a great tool for any international team as well, much more convenient than Slack. When Fleep is installed, all other platforms seem sooo unfinished. We are using Slack at Startup Wise Guys, but every time I ask myself “Why?!”

ShipitwiseEven the members of a family can make use of it! Basically any person with a computer or mobile device would enjoy Fleep.


Thank you for sharing the Shipitwise Fleep User Story, Aleksander! You can find all featured user stories under the Fleep User Stories category. Make sure you also follow Fleep on Twitter (and #fleepstories) and Facebook to keep an eye on our news and updates!

Chat for teams