For the second half of the processing phase of GTD with Gmail (make sure you read parts I and II first), we’ll discuss how the Gmail inbox is identical to David Allen’s vision of the GTD inbox and how processing and organization nearly become one seamless step.
“In to Empty” is the main idea (I’m trying not to make this too much of a general GTD lesson). When I leave the Gmail inbox by closing the browser or navigating away it must be empty. This works out well because each item has been labeled with the appropriate context, project, and/or status labels, trashed* or starred. Once I’ve applied these mechanics to each item, I archive it and my organization is nearly taken care of (recall the outer 8 categories of organization from David’s workflow diagram).
The only portion of organization that still remains is the “trash collection” that must occur with Gmail. Items in completed projects can be assigned a context label and that project’s labels can be removed to make navigation of active projects easier. One of Google’s strengths is searching and Gmail is no different. The reference material is usually a few keystrokes away, and if I use the specialized “context-based” label searches along with good language mechanics in my email items I can optimize these searches.
I’m going to take a break for the weekend and come back with Part IV of GTD with Gmail: Review and Do, which we’ll blast through quickly. After these short theory based articles I’m going to put the whole thing into practice with some real examples in a how-to article. I appreciate all of the comments, tracebacks and linking. Traffic to this site has increased by an order of magnitude in the past few days and the more brains that get wrapped around processes, the more good ideas come about. Be sure to read the comments as well. I’m certainly not the first person to do this and there are lots of excellent variations on ideas. Have a great weekend.
*We haven’t really talked much about trash but it doesn’t make sense to trash anything that isn’t absolute garbage. If the information may be useful sometime in the future, keep it. With Gmail old items won’t get in the way like they can in paper-based systems and can always be found with a simple keyword search. Embrace the power that google is giving us (for free, in fact).