GTD with Gmail (Part IV)

After a busy weekend I’m back for the next installment of GTD with Gmail: Review and Do. These steps should be close to self-explanatory by now, but I’ll brush through “my way” on them real quick so we can get to the step-by-step howto with screen shots (good idea, Martin). Just give me a few days after this post to get that put together (it’s going to be a busy week).

GTD is obviously less about the process and more about actually doing things. My basic review happens everytime I’m done with a task or am motivated to get something. Since all of my next actions are labeled with a star, Gmail’s “Starred” view gives me a quick glance at things to cherry pick. I swing through the list of starred next actions and pick something. My philosophy is that it’s perfectly fine to take the low hanging fruit first as long as there isn’t any pressing issue on the list. The other useful thing about using contexts is that if I’m home, I probably can’t do work actions and vice versa. Gmail allows me to search “is: starred label:!Home” which grabs my starred messages from home – a great view of things that need to be done (probably right this second, haha). I was glad to see Mike’s comment about persistent Gmail searches because it means that I don’t have to type those in every time. Major time saver.

Similarly, the ability to review my projects list quickly (remember that they’re all together because of my * prefix) and review each project for next action is available through the quick label shortcuts to the left. Like my search example above, “is:starred label:*BecomeBillionaire:Next” will bring up the next action for me becoming a billionaire because each active project has exactly one starred item in it (yes, Gmail does handle the colon in the label name – try it out).

To repeat myself, I’ve got many more onesie twosie unassociated actions associated with contexts rather than lots of projects with actions built in, so my favorite method for review-and-do is to hit the Gmail “Starred” link and start picking off actions real quick. I like to sprint over these tasks – there’s something very satisfying about clearing the star and watching the starred count decrease. Try the timer.

One small hack that I’d recommend even if you aren’t using Gmail for GTD is to stay away from frequent interruptive new email notifications. If someone emailed you, they don’t need a response right away. I have Gmail check every 60 minutes for new mail. Unless I’m checking my gmail to update the status of an item or to enter one in, I won’t get unnecessarily interrupted every 5 minutes because of some trivial request (or worse, spam). Even if you say you can ignore the notification and keep working, you’re thinking about it (don’t be anti-mind-like-water) and you’ll be very tempted to go open that email and break your concentration.

Thanks for the continued comments, links and trackbacks. I’ve learned a lot from this experience. Check back for the practical review.

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