Torsten Curdt’s weblog

GTD – not just mail

Lately I finished reading David Allen’s book on “getting things done”. I cannot say I am big fan of the style of the book – but he is getting the message across. If you have no clue about GTD probably well worth a read. At least it got me thinking a bit more about how I get things done currently.

Email inbox != GTD inbox

Getting at least 300 emails a day (spam already excluded) almost makes it straight forward to see your email inbox as some sort of “todo” list. Emails become actions in the sense of GTD to be dealt with. The past few years I have been approaching it like this. Basically living “inside my inbox” as Merlin likes to call it. I’ve been using a combination of MailActOn rules, coloring and a big “Archive” mailbox to wade through my daily pile of work.

While this worked reasonable well I found more and more the need to organize and keep track of things that don’t arrive in my inbox. (Somewhat encouraging that there is more in my life than just email, isn’t it?) …so I finally came to the point where I do agree with Merlin. Just using your email is just not good enough for “proper” GTD. There are tasks that live outside of email and you need another place to organize them as well to free your mind.

Another tool, another inbox

In a perfect GTD world all information would arrive at a single inbox. This is of course not realistic. But at least you should try to minimize the number of places you need to watch as much a possible. Adding another tool to the mix did never really sound very appealing to me. Creating actions for lots of the my mails in a 1:1 fashion seemed more work that it would help. So while hoping for the better tool I just used a plain text file to organize my non-email tasks into paragraphs of ‘actions’, ‘later’, ‘waiting’ and ‘done’. While this freeform editing had some beauty of simplicity you can imagine such a file can easily get out of hand. It just doesn’t scale very well. A proper application surely can help with that. A proper searchable archive and integration with iCal would be just one of the many possible benefits of a dedicated tool. So maybe we have to accept the second inbox until Apple decides to make the new TODOs in Apple Mail be more useful in the GTD sense. I still think that it would be great to just have one tool on my computer for this.

For now I will have to reside to what’s available right now. Stay tuned for a review of the currently available tools.

  • thanks
  • Works better on a Mac?
  • Hey, David ...eh ..Steve :) Works better on a Mac? Oh, boy. I can't say I am a fan. But more on that on the GTD shoot-out.
  • Thanks for reading my book...eh...well it wasn't me who wrote it, it was another far distant relative David Allen :)
    I use thinkingrock.com.au for life planning.
    It works much better on Mac than it does on PC.
  • Some other people also suggested other online solutions. But frankly speaking GTD is something really offline for me. I need to be able to work on it where ever I am - when ever I want. Relying on network access would just not work for me. So unfortunately that rules out all the online services for me.
  • Dan
    For implementing GTD you might try out this web-based application:


    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, schedules and a calendar.
    A mobile version is available too.

    As with the last update, now you can add or invite Contacts, and share your Projects and Contexts with them.

    Hope you like it.
  • Great post. I did ponder myself of using gmail as my to do list; but getting so much mail it seems too easy for it to cloud your real task list. I've used various things over the years (gmail, ical, omnioutliner, text files, various tools I forget their names and kinda settled until recently on VoodooPad).

    I guess everyone has a different kinda GTD system. I kinda wanted something to brain dump stuff into; keep notes on stuff but then tag them by context/job/role/type, arrange them in priority order and mark 'em done etc.

    I ended up - partly as a bit of fun and partly to get something that worked how I wanted it to - hacking up an appengine solution...


    Its still kinda early days and there's loads of features I'd like to add - but so far its good enough for me and I use it all the time now. The idea is each task can be one line of text - but usually its a page of rich text with links, lists, images or whatever.
  • TheGuru
    When does GTD become GTD for someone else? There are lots of things we want to do and are asked to do but our available time remains constant. Solution: 1) Only do what is meaningful and of value. 2) Always set aside time to follow your passions 3) Ignore the rest, if its important it will announce itself so, otherwise it will become someone else's GTD.
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