Part II of this feature details the first half of processing items in GTD with Gmail. If you haven’t read how the collection process works, skip down to yesterday’s post – it is crucial.
Once emails (things) have been collected in my Gmail inbox they are processed. Gmail’s labels and stars are the keys to my implementation.
I have a label for the statuses of ‘Deferred’, ‘WaitingOn’ and ‘Someday,’ two labels for each open project (Next and Reference) and a label for each context. Statuses have no label prefix, contexts have the bang (!) prefix so they show up first in the list of labels, and projects have an asterisk (*) prefix to distinguish from the statuses. I use projects less frequently than traditional GTD implementations because many Projects can be managed quite effectively with the thread capability of Gmail without having to assign a label (using only contexts).
I use the stars to denote the Next action. Since many of my projects wind up with just a context associated with them, the title essentially becomes the “project folder name” and each action associated with the project is a different email in the thread. A star can be associated with any email in the thread and lets me know what the next action is.
Today’s GTD with Gmail advantage is this: I use the same Gmail account for all of my email, so all email coming in follows the same standard GTD process. No open loops: How happy it makes me. Tomorrow, we’ll finish the processing phase and talk about some new tricks.
I’ve previously mentioned that I use Gmail to manage GTD. I thought it would be appropriate to explain my implementation for others to utilize, comment on and improve upon the process. David Allen’s famous first step is collection. He tells us to use as many inboxes as we need, but as few as we can get away with. I use two: my Hipster PDA and my Gmail inbox. The Hipster is for collection when electronic means aren’t feasible, i.e., away from the computer or when a collection-necessary idea presents itself while I’m too busy to open my email. At collection-time each Hipster index card is converted into an email. Otherwise, the thought goes straight into an email to ‘Me’ for processing as soon as possible. Important Note: ‘Me’ is the contact that points directly to my Gmail account. If you use forwarding addresses to your Gmail, sending yourself an email using the fowarding address will only place the email in ‘Sent’ which is a pain for processing. My point in this first step is identical to David Allen’s: clear your mind of anything that needs your attention and put it somewhere you trust. Tomorrow: processing from Gmail’s inbox.
Yesterday, another parcel arrived from amazon.com – yes, of course, my new bluetooth adapter. I will say that until recently, I was neither a fan of bluetooth nor camera phones, but now I am an advocate of both. I use gmail’s label & star system for GTD and the camera phone has added a new level of effectiveness to the system.
Frequently at a meeting, in the car, or even at lunch I’ll jot some visual notes down on my Hipster PDA that might include flow diagrams, purposefully arranged text, or drawings of mice. Rather than taking the time to somehow represent these non-linear, non-text thoughts in plaintext, I can take a picture with my trusty Nokia 6230, send it to my iBook via bluetooth, and attach it to the action or reference note in gmail.
In theory (I have not tried this yet, but probably will), I can record a memo on my phone, and follow the same procedure. This would be an excellent way to get song ideas into digital GTD action/reference format.