GTD using online applications – Part 1

I’ve read quite a few articles in the past about implementing GTD with online applications such as Google Calendar while I was attempting to use Microsoft Outlook 2007 myself when hopping on the GTD bandwagon. I wanted everything in one place, both work and personal, and given that I had attended one of David Allen’s GTD seminars and purchased the PDF of using Outlook with GTD I wanted to try Outlook.

Note: on the linked web page there is a note that the current document is not compatible with Outlook 2007. I wouldn’t go that far because most of the instructions are exactly the same with only minor differences in where some things might be located. Here is my write-up of that document and its use with Outlook 2007.

On the wagon

GTD really excited me when I first heard about it. It still excites me today. Well, the idea of it excites me but even something such as GTD, which on the face appears so damn simple, can be really complicated. After attending the seminar I was ready to hit the road running with this stuff. I was going to get my life, both personal and work, humming like a finely-tuned engine. Then reality set in.

Off the wagon

In my opinion the weekly review really is bogus. Not bogus in that the idea is worthless but in the frequency. I needed to do a daily review it seemed when just starting out. I’m pretty sure that David Allen says you need to do your review as often as is necessary to make yourself trust your system and for me that review needed to happen daily.

Even with that I found it extremely difficult corralling all of the thoughts and ideas flitting through my mind. I tried to get everything down, on paper if necessary, transferring into Outlook and into my lists there. Many times I could not get things down because I didn’t have the pen and small notebook I bought to carry everywhere or I was not near a computer. In the instances when I did get those things recorded in some form I then found it really difficult to know whether a given item really should be a project.

David Allen talks about what a project is in the book. It is anything that needs two or more actions done to complete it. And those actions have to be concrete, actionable steps. It isn’t enough to say “talk to Fred about purchase”. It has to be “call Fred on phone about purchase”. I have been finding it extremely difficult to break things down that way. I’m not sure why at this point but there is some mental block that keeps me from creating projects properly and that, along with the need for me to have a daily review to go over all of this stuff, really killed my use of GTD. It was just too hard.

Back on the wagon

All that being said I decided to give it a shot again. One reason being because I wanted to see if it worked. Worked for me that is. I know it works for others. The other reason was that I decided to split out my work/life calendars and lists and wanted to give the whole GTD thing a shot with online applications like Google Calendar. It also seemed to be a good reason to test out Remember The Milk and Toodledo simultaneously to see how both operated as list managers with the same information.

So with that part 2 will talk about how I have integrated Google’s calendar into my workflow. Then I will follow-up with the comparison of RTM and Toodledo as list managers.

Note: I know that David Allen says that everything should be kept in one spot to make things easier. At work we use Outlook and I did try doing that. I really want to keep my work/life stuff separate for various reasons. Also I just didn’t like the fit of Outlook to the GTD workflow. It just didn’t work right for me.

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