GTD@Work: My Quest Ends


Perhaps you visited my forum post inquiring about online and offline GTD aids. A paper-based system will not suffice for my menagerie of information at work. I set out with a few criteria in mind. I need something quick and easy but capable of keeping the depth of information that I require to stay productive. The easier it is to utilize, the better. Multiple steps to try and alleviate more work fails to make sense. I like the idea of keeping things small and lightweight in terms of file sizes. Lastly, the GTD aid needs to be the right price, free. After much reading and experimentation in the past days, I believe I have found the best solution for me. However, I thought I would share a snippet of information on some different possibilities in case someone else is searching.

Let's start with the plentitude of online tools. I explored several of the hundreds available today. If I were to pick one online GTD helper, it would be Simple GTD . The usage is simple and the setup is self-explanatory. The interface is clean looking and overall it was effective. The pages loaded and updated quickly. The only aspect that I can complain about is the lack of project depth, which is a necessity.

Now on to the offline alternatives for GTD. Offline applications are the best bet just in case the Internet goes down. I would hate to lose track of what is going on in all my current projects at work. I am the "Color Graphic Specialist" at the office and spend a good chunk of time here tweaking settings so jobs come out looking their best. Keeping clear and concise records of what settings and materials I use saves time in the future. I also want to keep track of all the work I do for specific clients. Streamlining this information is my best line of offense in keeping organized at work.

I had been using the “Getting Things Done Outlook Add-In” free trial this past week. It was relatively difficult to navigate at first. The add-in incorporates a new toolbar and folders into the mix, which to me seemed foreign. I reviewed the online tours and those helped with understanding the process. If you choose to explore this possibility, I recommend viewing the tutorials before trying to tackle it. With my new knowledge, I did adjust quickly. I found myself feeling more organized and calm about projects within the first days. The full version is not free, which for me was a requirement. I feared the day the trial was going to end. I was worried about relying heavily on it and the inevitable sense of loss that would result when I had to uninstall it. I did uninstall before I became too dependent instead of purchasing the license for $69.95 USD.

Spreadsheets also make great basic offline tools. I used Microsoft Excel to modify a free template I downloaded from the Microsoft website. My version varied slightly. I created drop lists for my current projects and my common contexts. The best aspect of utilizing a program like Microsoft Excel is you can get as far in depth as you would like or are capable of, based entirely on your individual needs and requirements.

Another offline option I discovered was Xanadu Tools' "Easy To-Do". I highly recommend this option for anyone. The setup for this was quick, easy, and painless. It could be adapted to your personal methods of implementing GTD without much effort. Potential is just oozing from this application. Explore the possibilities at their website or download it and give it a quick test run like I did. In the end, I opted for another alternative. This application does have the capabilities to handle a large amount of project related information. If I ever need a computer based system at home, this will be the one.

My final choice was another Outlook add-in. Since my work is dependent upon incoming requests via email, it became evident that a GTD method also centered there would be best. Jello Dashboard is a great option for those of us who use Outlook for our email. The 'homepage' became my home base for GTD@Work. It allows me to create my own contexts and projects. It is lightweight and easy to use. Already I feel at home and back in control of my job. I'm confident that this is my best option. My projects are linked to next actions (tasks) and everything is viewable from the dashboard that resides on Outlook’s start page. Before the “Outlook Today” page was pretty much useless, now it is the command station for my daily work.

If you do not feel like installing anything to change your Outlook or you use another program for email, don’t give up hope just yet. This site outlines how to change your email around to comply with the GTD method. This would have been my next choice for an Outlook/Email centered GTD system. The author describes the use of 'contacts' for tracking related tasks, appointments, and emails. This is pretty much an email-based catchall for implementing GTD. There is something appealing about keeping things simple and streamlined. Working within your existing email is just that. The tips and tricks are pretty obvious once you read through them. Incorporating these into your current email would be a relatively quick and painless process.

GTD is a way of life. In the end, the only way to really get things done is to feel comfortable in your system. When I am away from work, I love my paper based GTD implementation. It does wonders for my daily schedule. However, GTD at work was a bit lacking. Now with the tools I’ve discovered I’m able to sit back and be comfortable at work too. Currently, Jello Dashboard is just what I need to bring a sense of harmony to my workday. As with everything, I expect some evolution in my requirements over time, but currently you will find me working happily out of Outlook. I hope this information helps someone out there feel more at ease in their GTD zone.

Got a tip on a new and fresh productivity tip that you'd love to share with the rest of us? Remember to tag it over at del.icio.us with the tag, "diyplanner". Your suggestion, along with the others, will show up at: De.licio.us/tags/diyplanner. Help make our link pool grow and keep me in link heaven! Thank you!

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...but what about me ? :(

...and my Mac ?

Google is our friend

Can I get some of the other Mac folks to help check some of these out ?

Here are a few that caught my eye:

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"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson)

inserted disclaimer here

I have nothing against Macs... my IMac died shortly after finishing college and I've been on a PC ever since. :( Sorry I couldn't dive into the Mac side of this issue for yall...
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Trimpath's Nextaction

I really like Trimpath's nextaction. It is a standalone in that you save the web page to your computer (or usb drive) and run it from there, using the "save as..." command to save your changes. The page you save to get started has some demo items set up so you can see how it works.

The page opens with a "dashboard" view that prints nicely, listing actions by context. You can also opt for viewing actions, contexts, or projects, and can edit in any of the views. You can color-code projects, which I find helpful in the dashboard view - which remember is sorted by context - so having color-codes for various projects can be helpful in prioritizing what to do within a particular context.

You can also view your completed actions (this view is clearable), which get dated upon completion. Useful for remembering how you got to where you are!

It's a streamlined system - portable, cross-platform (I use it with Firefox on a mac at home and on a pc at work), and printable.

frano

So Many Choices...

...so little time. Wow! What a great collection, Sara. Thanks!! I plan on trying them all, starting with the simple gtd on-line tool. I like the idea of checking it from any computer. I get tired of carrying my laptop home to manage projects. Voila!

--Bob

Security

Again, my issue with these online systems is security. How secure is the info we put into these programs? Does anyone have this concern or do you feel it is just another online system like your banking??

Curious,
nay nay

P.S. So far my favorite online GTD tool is Vitalist!

No Worries

The types of actions I would put in my GTD online system are not of a particularly personal nature, so I'm not concerned about security.

Tell me about "Vitalist".

--Bob

Vitalist

Free, easy to set up, use, sort by different things like context or project or due date, easy to print by whatever you sort by, sends you a morning email of your items due today or reminders for the day, etc. The easiest online GTD program I have found so far... vitalist dot com...

nay nay :)

Another vote for Vitalist

Vitalist is great. It's not perfect, but it's the closest I've found.

question for vitalist users...

Have you ever tried the SimpleGTD.com?

I'm curious what makes Vitalist more appealing than SImpleGTD... since I didn't care for it... (I'm guessing its personal taste, and method of usage, but I thought I would ask :) )
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Security ? OK, how about...

GTD Tiddly Wiki

Features Include:

  • Free and Open Source.
  • Easy to update.
  • Prints directly to 3x5.
  • Searchable.
  • Exists as a single, portable, cross platform file.
  • It runs on your computer, so you can make changes when you're not online. It's not a ServerSide thing.

I'm going to play with this one first.
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"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson)

And MonkeyGTD

I used GTD TiddlyWiki for a while, when I was struggling to find something electronic. I really like the TiddlyWiki concept, and that's a very nice implementation. I ended up settling on MonkeyGTD solely for its Dashboard. Really slick.

The Tiddlies are great, but I found that, the more you put into them, the slower they got. And mine sure did get large, too. In the end, I went back to LifeBalance, and then back to paper. I have to try very hard to resist the new tools coming out, but, DevonThink as a place for my web pages, text files, and PDFs, my website for bookmarks, and paper for everything else works for me.

Still, TiddlyWikis are an awesome idea, and nifty technology.

Just what I was looking for!

I've been looking at offline ToDo lists on and off for weeks without finding one that 'fit' my needs.

After reading the help files, it looks like that Xanadu Easy To-Do list is PERFECT.

Thanks ever so!

Evernote

A few days ago I've downloaded the new Evernote 2.0 beta. I've given a try to Evernote before, but the lack of a "contents" or "results" list of snippets of information was too much of change for my way of organizing and using information. But version 2.0 has precisely that.
So far, I can say that Evernote is fast, straightfoward, very dynamic, has a superb fast search engine, you have "tags" and "taxonomies" as well as "virtual folders" and a very accute web clipper. It also has many templates and it's an expandable system in this regard. There are even people that developed GTD ones. Virtual folders are appealing for GTD, as you can define a folder called "@home" to include any document with "@home" inside it, and/or "p:projectA", and so on...
Something that I find very useful is that you can put a "to-do" everywhere and then you can have view "all your to-do's", no matter where they are, at a glance.
There is also a paid version for the tablet PC with pen-based computing stuff.
Perhaps what it lacks is rich text editing, although you have the basics.
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Another tool, which is the one I've been using for almost one year, is Lotus Notes. I know, I know, the old-fashioned, corporate-looking mail tool... but it as a very very powerful and yet simple way of organizing information with the so-called local Databases (different from your mail template).
Years ago it had what is now called tags, you can organize docs in hierarchies (by submitting "replies" to the master docs) and also folders, good search, etc. And, what I like the most, you have an "attachments" feature that let's you insert documents inside the documents, implementing rich-text catalogs instead of having a bunch of files and folders in your HD, which sometimes is a little restrictive, at least for me. The editor is also very powerful. After all, is what David Allen uses...

So if you happen to get a Lotus notes client at work, give it a tr. Create a new Local Database with the DocLibrary template, it is well worth the try. I find breeze of simplicity in this overwhelming days of cumbersome buttons, toolbars and popups.
--
I do not work nor I am paid by neither Evernote nor Lotus. Willie.

EverNote and Journler

Willie,
I use a Mac at home and got hooked on a free program called Journler. I've tried nearly all the notetaking apps and that one just seems to work the best with my brain. I'm stuck on a Windows PC here at work and spent probably entirely too much time looking at a Windows equivalent. So far, EverNote is the best I've found and the only one that seems to be usable and less than $100.

That being said, I've been using EverNote 1.5. I'm going to have to give 2.0 beta a whirl.

-Kenny

Evernote 2.0 beta

FYI, the 2.0 beta is only a 90 day free trial, then it reverts to teh free 1.0 version. If you purchased 1.5, then the upgrade to 2.0 will be free when the final release comes out.

At least according to thier website...

Reese

2.0 versions

I think they do the same with 1.5 and 2.0. There is a free trial of the Pro version (90 days) and a free version. The only major difference I saw that might matter to me is the Pro version can sync up two databases. I'm thinking of just putting the EverNote 2.0 free portable version on a flash drive. I've read rumors they are thinking of doing Mac, Windows, and portable versions as well as offering a service to host EverNote databases as an online service for $40 a year. It would be like having an electronic Circa notebook ;-)

-Kenny

2.0 Portable

That's exactly what I did. Portable is completely free and there's no need to sync with it residing on the flash drive. I don't use it too much, but it is a handy little bugger.

If you downloaded the free 1.0 version, you should already have the IE and Outlook clipper addins on your system (or systems) and those will pull into 2.0 portable.

Reese

forgot to mention:

Xanadu Tools' "Easy To-Do" can be run off of a flashdrive ... I think it says more on their website... in case that would help anyone else with decisions etc. :)
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Simple GTD

I'm giving Simple GTD a test drive for the next few days. I set up a bunch of projects, added a few contexts, and plugged in some actions for one of my larger projects. It's pretty easy to drag and drop actions from one context to another, so this could be just the tool I've been looking for.

I'm also intrigued by the Jello Dashboard for Outlook. I have already set up an effective folder system within the email function of Outlook, but haven't diddled with the Tasks function in awhile. Maybe next week...

--Bob

Don't give up on Outlook integration -- try Jello

Bob: Read your frustration with Simple GTD -- not a product I've tried, but it seems a bit complicated. Sorry to hear that. Too bad that it wasn't working for you.
If you feel like venturing into software again, consider Jello Dashboard. You many find it to be a better experience. It doesn't require changes to your system, and it is pretty friendly. It is simply a web page and some javascript which links together parts of Outlook in a better GTD way. Plus, the user community is helpful and growing larger, and Dr Uqbar, the program architect, is very open to ideas and collaboration, and IMO has produced a great product.
And of course, you know, there's always room for jello... ;-)

Outlook Integration

Thanks for your encouragement, but Simple GTD was not the program giving me fits. Simple GTD is actually pretty simple. I quickly discovered, though, that since it operates outside of Outlook I was having to toggle back and forth between it and Outlook. Extra steps = bad.

That's when I tried the "managing GTD projects in Outlook" link. It was frustrating for a long time, but then I finally took a deep breath and tried again. This morning I finished inputting one of my major projects, and now we'll see how it works. I learned not to input everything on all projects until I give it a test drive first. We'll see...

--Bob

Perseverence

I guess if you keep plugging away, you can figure it out eventually, right? I had stumbled upon that site some time ago and it all seemed like too much trouble for me to deal with at the time. My opinion hasn't changed, either.

Did you look at the Jello dashboard, Bob? That installed quick and easy and the projects, contexts, etc are all right there. Pretty self-explanatory. I'm just tinkering in it right now, but it seems easy enough to use.

Thanks Sara!

Reese

Hidden Inside

One aspect of using technology is that my work can be easily hidden inside of my computer, whereas my giant white board is always staring down at me. Using Outlook for managing my tasks / projects is going to require a lot of discipline. I like the "reminder" feature, though. We'll see...

--Bob

jell - o

I don't remember how life was here at work without Jell-O... I only know the number of pieces of paper floating around my desk has been significantly reduced! ((I love being able to see my desk top! and the best thing is not falling behind on a project because the Post-It note decided to attach itself to meh bumm... true story. ))
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my artwork

Lost on Step #1

Sara, I visited the site that uses "contacts" as a way of managing projects in Outlook. Step #1 makes reference to "PST". Something about right clicking on your PST folder. Sorry, I don't know the lingo. What does PST mean? And how do I find it?

--Bob

.pst

Bob,
Your .pst file is the data file that Outlook pulls all your email, contacts, calendar, etc from. If you go to File--> Open--> Outlook Data File - it should show you the directory where your default file, outlook.pst, is stored. Or search your system for "outlook.pst".

Reese

Thanks Reese

I found it, but now I'm scared to continue. When techies make certain assumptions about baseline knowledge, and that base is over my head...

--Bob

Actually-

I just looked at those directions and while technically correct, my instructions aren't pointing you where those directions tell you. I just typed a nice long correction to my post and then it went poof - DOH!

Down the left side of the outlook window, click on "Folder List", then way up top of that left border is "Personal Folders" - right-click there and pick New Folder to add the Projects folder as instructed. Those directions and pics are from Outlook 2000 so things are a bit different now, but you should be able to follow along using the pics as a guide.

No glory for the meek!

Go for it, Bob - just back-up your .pst first (use File--> Export).

Good Luck,
Reese

HELP!!

I created the "Project" folder, but I don't see it in folders list. I must be doing something wrong because I don't see any of the other folders either, i.e. tasks, contacts, etc. There must be a way to "view" all of my personal folders. I just don't know how to do that.

HELP! I had a feeling I shouldn't have taken this on...

--Bob

Is there a lil box with a

Is there a lil box with a '+' sign? That or their is a list option along the left side for folders... or at least that is how mine is setup. :) dont worry... the diyplanner crew is on the case!
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My View

I have Outlook 2003. I have Outlook Today on my screen. Under "Messages" I have the "Projects" folder, so I know I created it. However, on the left side of my screen it says in big white letters MAIL. Below that is a gray box that says "Favorite Folders" which include "Inbox", "Unread mail", "For Follow Up", and "Sent Items".

Below that list is another gray box that says "All Mail Folders". Listed in these folders are: "personal folders" and "archive folders". When I expand the personal folders (by clicking on the little + sign) I get the following sub-folders: Deleted Items, Drafts, Inbox, Junk Email, outbox, sent items, and search folders.

I've expanded all of the folders, but cannot find the "project" folder, but I cannot find the other folders either, i.e. tasks, contacts, etc. Gotta be a "view" thing.

--Bob

Next...

Down below the "All Mail Folders" box are a series of larger buttons - Mail, Calender... One of those should be "Folder List" Try to click on that and see ALL your folders and subfolders, not just mail folders.

Signing off until tomorrow... Sorry!
Reese

Got It

But now I'm having other problems. This isn't worth the hassle. I'm going to stick with paper.

--Bob

Jello dashboard plus figertips. great combination

Hi, I been using Jello Dashboard, and is a great software.
Also use fingertips, is a fast launch for web pages, windows commands, and outlook commands. With fingertips you can add a task or appointment to a defined category with just a keystroke (not even need to open outlook) Is very powerful.
I use outlook with fingertips and jello dashboard, and onenote as reference. for my GTD system.

Also I´m following the development of thinking Rock. An impressive free software based entirely in GTD. a beta of ver.2 is coming in a week or two.

fingertips
thinking Rock

Jello -

Sara,
I had come across Jello a few weeks back however I have a few questions
1. Since this sits on your Outlook but from your local hard drive, whathappend when you access your outlook from another location ( i access my office outlook via vpn from my laptop when I travel ) ....I think since the jellp dashboard sits on my office PC C drive, i will not be able to get the view on my laptop ...scared to try ...what do you think?

2. Do you know of any blog / site where I can find some decent examples of Jello usage so I can be sure of what I am about to do with it ...again because I am petrified of doing something to my mailbox and then being doomed if something blows ( I use outlook 2003)
It seems to me that the only way I can bring order into my life is by using jello since, like you, I too pretty much lead my life on outlook ( receive 200+ emails a day ) and am literally drowning !!

Jello vs another method

Hi.

I tried out Jello yesterday briefly. Not sure what I expected, but I didn't really get it.

Jello was a list-keeper that sits in outlook, but other than moving stuff to folders when you flag it, it didn't seem to integrate a whole lot *with* outlook. I guess I thought there would be more interaction, like some ability to deal with messages etc. in bulk, or rearrange what you already have...

I read once about someone's outlook setup that was primarily made of folders and categories and flags. It seems to me you could put something together that would take advantage of those native features so you'd have them wherever you were.

But just to address Tarun's first question, I think you'd install your jello software to a USB drive (thumbdrive, etc.) so you could take it to any machine. The tricky bit then would be making sure all the machines use the same drive letter to access the drive so you wouldn't have to reset outlook. Jello uses outlook's 'homepage' setting to appear within outlook, which is not a big deal to tweak.

I dunno, for some reason jello felt much more constraining than my laminated paper sheets. :) Maybe when I have more messages, projects, and tasks I'll be more willing to use a tool other than paper. All of the tools I looked at seem to cover the bases, but not in the way I wanted to see them. Or something.

shris

jell O

You can use the jello dashboard for everything... incoming messages, sending messages, etc... its optional if you want to associate folders with different aspects like contexts, projects, etc. You can access your inbox right from the dashboard view... and then link the email to a project, etc.

I guess it comes down to personal preference :).

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Slow ??

Hi all:

I'm trying to use Jello, but am finding navigation within its page to be very slow. Is it just me?
Thanks
Tom

http://tomrowsell.com

hmmm

Do you utilize the "master list" ? I find myself using that as my main go-to spot for seeing my daily stuff.

I'm also starting to use the one-key shortcuts... like "n" for new task when viewing a project or context... very nice feature imo :)

my artwork