How To Use Gmail for Getting Things Done (GTD)

gmail on your phone

I am a big fan of the GTD (Getting Things Done) method – and it is a method so you can implement it successfully many different ways. I use Google for email, calendar, documents, and tasks and so I needed to figure out how to make GTD work within the Google ecosystem.

Again, GTD is a method and so this is the way it makes sense for me. You may see it differently and that’s okay, Google & GTD are pretty flexible to work the way you want. If you think I can improve the way I’m doing things please let me know!

 

 

Multiple Devices

It’s not uncommon these days to have more than one device. You probably have a least two, I have three:

  • Windows 7 Laptop, using Chrome as the default browser
  • Acer tablet running Android
  • Samsung Galaxy phone running Android

Certain tools run better on certain devices (see What a tablet can do and what a tablet can’t do) so when I’m at my office I usually have my laptop and my tablet open at the same time. When I’m on the road I mostly just take my tablet, and for quick things there’s always my phone.

GTD Using Gmail

gmail-tabsGmail now has multiple tabs, and I do use them. I find that Google is pretty savvy in deciding where to put email most of the time and that little bit of separation helps me with my incoming mail flow. I get over 100 emails a day, many are notifications from computer systems and can be quickly deleted, while customer requests and replies are generally on a different tab.

The Getting Things Done methodology is, of course, to keep your email inbox to zero – and this is more difficult when you have four tabs to review. If you click a Gmail tab and there is new email, and then you click to another tab, the notification within the tab for new email goes away. This means there is potentially unread emails under that tab that need reviewing and you must stay aware of this.

Turn a message into a Tasks.
When you are in a Gmail message you can, if you want, directly turn that email into a task by clicking the More button and selecting Add to Tasks. I don’t use this feature personally, I will file the email in a folder if it is a customer and add a line item to the customers Task list.

Gmail, by the way, has a shortcuts you can use. See the list here.

GTD Using Google Tasks

GoogleTasksTasks are much easier to review on a tablet than on a laptop within Chrome. I use GTasks and sort by date so that tasks are prioritized. If you need to view your tasks on your computer, try using https://mail.google.com/tasks/canvas.
Tasks headings are customer names, and the task content may have multiple items, but they are constantly sorted so that the next items are at the top. This is part of my daily review process. When I review tasks I see them by date, by customer.

For example today might have ten tasks,
Customer1
Customer2
Customer3
etc

The top item within each customer is the task item that needs to get done.

Within the task, other items may be shown below the top one and are annotated with a Waiting, or Next Action. I tend to write the task, then underneath it I start the next line with a dash and annotate a detail or action.
Eg:
Install new printer
– download driver
– Go onsite for setup Thursday

Here’s another example:
Purchase Printer
– Waiting for customer to decide model (emailed Oct 15)
– Purchase
– Install onsite

GTD Using Google Calendar

You probably know this but I’m going to say it anyway: Calendar is for appointments and things to do at a specific time. It is not a place to store tasks.
If I have a task that requires me to be at a customer site at 11am then I create a calendar item for that time with the customer name and the task. For the example shown above I would create a calendar item for Thursday at a specific to go onsite for that particular customer.

So There You Go..

I think Google and Gmail are pretty flexible and can work with GTD just fine, however this is just my way of doing it. Have you got a better way?

About the Author

technicalguy
Guy is an experienced technician and technical writer, owner of Foreverwarm.com, and wine aficionado. He writes for multiple blogs while managing IT support, web hosting, and cloud backup companies.

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