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Getting Things Done with Google Apps: 6 months later

In November I wrote about my system for getting things done. Now, 6 months later it’s time to review successes & failures of the system I talked about. Some of the things I was doing worked very well, and have become a permanent part of my organization system. Other parts haven’t worked as well as I’d hoped. Let me review both.

Author: Jeremy Harrison

May 15, 2009

Getting Things Done - chart by ToodledoIn November I wrote about my system for getting things done.

My system is all based on the “Getting Things Done” process of dealing with all the “stuff” in your life — based on the best-selling book.  Here’s a chart to see how it works, compliments of Toodledo – a nice tool that many folks use for managing their lists.

Now, six months later it’s time to review successes & failures of the system I talked about.  Some of the things I use have worked very well, becoming a permanent part of my organization system.  Other parts haven’t worked as well as I’d hoped. 

Let me review both.

Things that are Working Well…

  1. Google Apps Mail.  I’ve used Google Apps for over a year now and it has worked great with the GTD organizational system.  Any non-actionable material that arrives in my inbox that has information I might need is immediately archived.  This takes it out of my inbox and files it away.  I tag some of these items with labels, but it really isn’t that necessary.  Due to Google’s powerful search, I can instantly pull up any reference item by typing a few words in the email search.  If I search for a topic I need, every message sent or received with those words are instantly at my fingertips.  This has been the most succesfuly part of my GTD system.

  2. Google Apps Calendar.  While it isn’t quite as robust as their mail program, Google Apps’ Calendar tool has been very reliable.  Any actionable item or piece of reference information that I need at a specific time in the future goes on the calendar – either in a specific time slot or on a day without a time.  My team is able to easily share calendars helping to put everyone on the same page, and it — like mail — syncs easily with my PDA.
  3. Remember the Milk.  I’ve been relatively satisfied with Remember the Milk for my task management.  As I mentioned in my previous post, they have a Firefox plug in that integrates seamlessly with Google Mail and Google Calendar.  I can take an incoming message and turn it into a task without leaving my email screen.  I also like how you can choose to put dates on your tasks, which allows me to hide the future to-dos from view until I’m able to do something about them.  There are a few weaknesses in this tool however, which I will describe below.

Things For Which I Need to Find a Better System…

  1. Delegating Action.   I’d like to be able to read an email in Gmail, see that it needs delegated, hit a button that says “Delegate” which promptly opens a new mail window.  I send that message to the recipient, and the system should automatically add it to a “Waiting for” list with a link back to the mail message.  This is a gap in my system.  Currently I send the message, then label it “Waiting For” — but then I have to remember to view the messages with this label to make sure things are happening.  The GTD Outlook plug-in had this feature, but I am grateful for many other reasons to be away from Outlook.  (See Success #1 above).
  2. Project Planning.  Remember the Milk doesn’t have a good way to tie tasks together by project.  They do have tags, but it’s cumbersome to use from the Google Apps interface.
  3. PDA Integration.  This is my own fault.   I still have a crappy old Palm Treo 700wx, which is on its last leg. I am DYING to get rid of it, but I’m holding out until June.  By then, Sprint’s new Palm Pre will be released, which looks VERY COOL.  I can choose between an iPhone, a new Palm Pre, or whatever else might come out to compete with these.  So I’m waiting.  But for now, I can view mail and calendar items and sync them with my phone, but haven’t found a good way to deal with lists from my phone.
  4. Sales Prospects.  In my post 6 months ago, I mentioned how I was about to try SalesForce.com.  What a disappointment!  That was clunky and terrible.  If you’re thinking of trying SalesForce.com, save yourself the pain.  Maybe it’s good for mega companies, but way to inefficient for small business people.   We have actually developed our own CRM system which is working great for me, but we have a bit more work to do before it’s seamlessly integrated with the rest of my system.
  5. Voice Entry into my Inbox.  Another disappointment of late has been Jott.  I still love how it works, but not quite as much as I loved it when I wrote my post 6 months ago.  They have since changed their policies and made it a for-a-fee service.  I went ahead and paid up, but then I later cancelled, because they stopped integrating with Google Apps version of Google Calendar. I’m hoping they get that fixed.  When they do, I will be back to using it again.

Once I buy a new phone/PDA, I will then be able to address some of these gaps, and I will update you again. In the meantime, I’d love feedback from others who have maybe found better ways to Get Things Done!

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