Of Gmail, GTD, and List Managers… Can Gmail Reliably be Your Trusted System?
In spite of its flaws, when I was using Microsoft Outlook as my email client/personal information manage, Netcentric’s Outlook add-on was my most successful “trusted system” (in David Allen Getting Things Done parlance). A year ago when I began a migration away from Outlook, I started looking for a web-based system that was cross platform and that would have the ability to also interact with a mobile device. I first used Nozbe, then moved to Toodledo.
Since moving to a web-based tool for task/list management, what has consistently been awkward is managing the interconnection between emails, actions and status. Yes there are ways of emailing tasks to Toodledo or Nozbe; however, in my experience it is far from an organic integrated process. While productivity zealots warn about living one’s life in an email client, I find that email is a vital component of keeping on top of my interests. As noted in this blog, I’ve moved to using Google Apps (Gmail) over the last couple of months and keep a dedicated browser open on a separate screen for Google’s Apps (in tabs) and Toodledo (always open in its own tab), and I’ve been finding that I’m using Toodledo less and less. I have no real gripes with Toodledo as it is a very powerful list manager; however, in spite of its integration points, it is a bit of an island.
I recently discovered and implemented GTD coach Kelly Forrister’s Gmail GTD method described here. This, along with Gmail’s multiple inbox feature (I have inboxes for Next Action, Waiting For, Actions and Someday) approximates something of what I once did in the Outlook add-on. Using Kelly’s system, I’m almost at a point where I’m saying to myself, should I continue to manage these two separate islands, or can I do it all in Gmail?
The weakest part of adapting Gmail for this type of task/status management is that emails are not really task objects, thus once an email is created you can’t really manage the subject properly. Also, since they are not really tasks, the “completion/status” life cycle is not properly documented. And of course, the collaboration/tracking of others is hard to do.
If you’ve ended up at this post, I suspect many of you have struggled with the same. Can Gmail alone be your “trusted” system? Do you need a separate list/task manager?