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  • Another "which software is best" Post...

    Greetings All,

    I'm a return GTDer, from 2-3 years ago. Honestly, I never put a system in place that had any legs, so I really never got off the ground...I'd call myself a newbie. I'm looking for technology that will assist in making GTD work, for me. I'd like to start off with as close to the standard GTD approach as possible, however, I see myself as more of a software guy, than pen/paper.

    My (professional) use for GTD: Commercial Insurance Sales, including: Existing customers (mid-term review, pre-renewal, renewal), and New prospects/customers (emails and phone calls).

    My (personal) use for GTD: Husband/Father and, to a lesser extent, Musician/band member. My professional life is definitely the focus at the moment.

    *I probably receive about 30 emails/day, and my email inbox is generally hovering at about 100 emails, because I use the inbox as a holding area. I feel like all I'm doing at work is processing emails, in order to keep them below 100, until something else comes along that I'm forced to do instead...I do not have organizational control over my professional life.


    After reading many posts and online articles, it's VERY clear that there is no one product that works for everybody. With that said, I'd appreciate any guidance you might be able to offer, as I want to get this right.

    I'm leaning towards a few products: Outlook, EverNote, and Toodledo

    Outlook: I use Outlook at work (email, calendar, tasks), but not with any efficiency or GTD style
    EverNote: I love that this product "looks" nice, is cutting edge, and appears to have a wide array of options, including the ability to set it up for GTD
    Toodledo: Even though it doesn't look as beautiful as EverNote, my understanding is that it works better for creating GTD lists, as well as automates the process better, if the user effectively sets up the software correctly (more difficult?)

    Assuming EverNote or Toodledo, my question is regarding emails: My understanding is that I need to forward emails to the software, in order to collect and organize them. At that point, after the task(s) has been created, do I respond to the email (task) from the software, or do I need to go back to the source (Outlook) to respond? If the latter is the case, it seems cumbersome and time consuming, with all the back and forth (having to send ~30 emails/day to another program, and put time/dates on each of them (turn them into actions)). Am I missing something?

    If the above actually IS more time consuming, and Outlook indeed has to be used to ultimately carry out the task, am I better off simply using Outlook for my GTD process? As I alluded to above, I'm not as excited about this option, because I like the idea of using a new(er) style software, such as EverNote, with all it's beauty and grace

    Even with the utilization of a chosen software, is pen/paper, physical inbox, filing cabinet still necessary for ultimate GTD clarity, or have you found that you can be completely paperless, with the right system?I really appreciate the discussion on these forums, which has already helped me immensely. I'm really excited to get started with GTD, but I feel like I can't GO without first choosing a platform to use.

    Thank you,

    Brandon
    Last edited by Hossinn; 01-22-2014, 11:11 AM.

  • #2
    Originally posted by Hossinn View Post
    My understanding is that I need to send emails to myself, in order to collect and organize them in the software.
    Not so at all. I have never come across an app that does not let you enter tasks straight into it via the keyboard.

    As for choosing a suitable app, I think you'd better sign up for some free trail accounts and try them out for yourself. Taste varies dramatically. There are many who use the tools you mentioned. Other popular tools are Omnifocus, Things, Nirvana, Zendone, Doit, Remember the Milk, Asana, Todoist, My Life Organized. I now use Doit, and I was a happy user of Nirvana prior to that. And Toodledo and RTM before that. And Outlook a long time ago.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Folke View Post
      Not so at all. I have never come across an app that does not let you enter tasks straight into it via the keyboard.

      As for choosing a suitable app, I think you'd better sign up for some free trail accounts and try them out for yourself. Taste varies dramatically. There are many who use the tools you mentioned. Other popular tools are Omnifocus, Things, Nirvana, Zendone, Doit, Remember the Milk, Asana, Todoist, My Life Organized. I now use Doit, and I was a happy user of Nirvana prior to that. And Toodledo and RTM before that. And Outlook a long time ago.
      Thank you for your reply.

      Yes, I understand that you can enter tasks straight into the app, however, isn't the idea to get the emails out of the (Outlook) Inbox, and into a GTD process (inbox of the external GTD software)?

      Another reason I was/am thinking EverNote, is that I can purchase a set-up guide via the DAC website. With my limited operational understanding of GTD, I don't trust myself setting up my system with another platform (Doit), without some hand holding. Does Doit (for example) have a GTD walkthrough?

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Hossinn View Post
        Thank you for your reply.

        Yes, I understand that you can enter tasks straight into the app, however, isn't the idea to get the emails out of the (Outlook) Inbox, and into a GTD process (inbox of the external GTD software)?

        Another reason I was/am thinking EverNote, is that I can purchase a set-up guide via the DAC website. With my limited operational understanding of GTD, I don't trust myself setting up my system with another platform (Doit), without some hand holding. Does Doit (for example) have a GTD walkthrough?
        No set-up guide for Doit, but the Outlook one (the original set-up guide) is still good, and the Evernote guide is clear too.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Hossinn View Post
          However, isn't the idea to get the emails out of the (Outlook) Inbox, and into a GTD process (inbox of the external GTD software)?
          No, the idea is to "analyze" and "transform" the contents of the inbox into actionable tasks. Email is just one of all your "collection" points. You probably have voicemail, paper mail, live conversations, scribbled notes etc etc too. The idea is to not let this pile up, but to get it processed and organized.

          Originally posted by Hossinn View Post
          Does Doit (for example) have a GTD walkthrough?
          The best one I know of in that particular respect is Zendone. Or I guess you could use Evernote or Toodledo and follow somebody's instructions. Or if you decide on an app that advertizes itself as a GTD app (like Zendone, Doit, Nirvana, Getitdoneapp, Omnifocus and countless others) you can perhaps benefit from their out-of-the-box features for GTD and from asking questions in their user forums.

          Comment


          • #6
            I don't know if Priacta is a respected source, within the GTD community or not, however, they had to say about EverNote: "We strongly endorse Evernote as a file system, not a task manager." Is that a common consensus within these forums?

            Comment


            • #7
              I personally would not consider Evernote, but quite a few people do use it and are very happy with it. And many use paper or very simple list apps like Google Tasks, iOS Reminders etc. You can do GTD with just about anything.

              One of the things that I personally like with the specific "GTD" apps is that they typically (to a larger extent than GTD itself) cross-references tasks both by project and by GTD context and by GTD "category" (Next, Waiting, Someday etc). I find that very useful.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Hossinn View Post
                Yes, I understand that you can enter tasks straight into the app, however, isn't the idea to get the emails out of the (Outlook) Inbox, and into a GTD process (inbox of the external GTD software)?
                Yes, but not necessarily *as* emails. For me, an email is not a satisfactory task representation--a single email may represent multiple tasks, one task may be represented by multiple emails, I may need to read through the email to extract the kernel that is the task, and so on.

                So I prefer to read the email, figure out what the task is, and then enter the task into my system. If it seems likely that I'll need the email again, I may refer to it in the task title or a note attached to the task ("from email JSmith 140122 'Weekend Issue') Whether or not I do that, I dump the email in my archive for the year. I do no sorting of emails whatsoever, beyond creating a new archive every year, because I can easily search for any email that I've noted by date and sender.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Hossinn View Post
                  My (professional) use for GTD: Commercial Insurance Sales, including: Existing customers (mid-term review, pre-renewal, renewal), and New prospects/customers (emails and phone calls).
                  I sell software and services to municipalities, but sounds like you and I have something in common with respect to the mix of farming and hunting involved in our respective jobs.

                  Originally posted by Hossinn View Post
                  I'm leaning towards a few products: Outlook, EverNote, and Toodledo
                  I currently use Evernote. I've used Outlook alone and in tandem with Toodledo. All three are solid. Any one or a combination of them can work great.

                  Originally posted by Hossinn View Post
                  Assuming EverNote or Toodledo, my question is regarding emails: My understanding is that I need to forward emails to the software, in order to collect and organize them.
                  You can forward them. I do. But you don't "need" to. You just need to clarify the next action(s) or (in the case of sent emails) whether there's something you need to track, and then find a way to track it.

                  The simplest way is to create two subfolders under the inbox: Actions and Waiting For. If you use the emails as the reminders you can edit the subject line (not everyone knows you can do that in Outlook) to clarify the next action(s) and then sock the emails away in the Actions folder. You can create a rule that automatically moves emails you've bcc'd yourself on to the Waiting For folder.

                  You can take it one step further and record the next action or what you're waiting for in your list manager. I like that better.

                  The third way is to forward the email to Evernote where it is convered to a note, or to Toodledo where it is converted to a task item. That's my preference.

                  But no matter what you do, the key is the thinking. Your brain is your true "GTD app" because it's within the grey matter between your ears that amorphous stuff becomes defined. The technology is just the bucket that holds the results of that thinking.

                  Originally posted by Hossinn View Post
                  At that point, after the task(s) has been created, do I respond to the email (task) from the software, or do I need to go back to the source (Outlook) to respond? If the latter is the case, it seems cumbersome and time consuming, with all the back and forth (having to send ~30 emails/day to another program, and put time/dates on each of them (turn them into actions)). Am I missing something?
                  You can't respond from Evernote or Toodledo. They're not email programs. If you do need to respond you'll have to go back to Outlook.

                  Is that too cumbersome? Only you can decide. Sometimes my actionable emails require responses that will take longer than two minutes. Often not. I find the benefits of having the next actions in a single set of lists far outweighs the negligible amount of time taken up by toggling between programs.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Hossinn View Post
                    I don't know if Priacta is a respected source, within the GTD community or not, however, they had to say about EverNote: "We strongly endorse Evernote as a file system, not a task manager." Is that a common consensus within these forums?
                    From what I've observed there is no consensus in these forums, period. Nor should there be. There are as many ways to "do GTD" as there are people on the planet. In other words, y'know, a lot.

                    May I make a suggestion? Take some pressure off yourself. This is GTD. It's not brain surgery.

                    And it's OK if you fail the first time out. Or three. Or... like, more than three. I'm only now truly getting off the ground with GTD after several attempts dating back to 2007. I couldn't have experienced the success I am now without those prior failures. Failure is a necessary ingredient for success.

                    Trust yourself. GTD is in large part about trusting your own intuition, as DA has made clear myriad times.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by bcmyers2112 View Post
                      May I make a suggestion? Take some pressure off yourself. This is GTD. It's not brain surgery.
                      Haha, it kinda feels a little bit like brain surgery! My desk has such control over me, I'm overwhelmed with how to get started. I know I need to simply follow the steps, begin the process, show consistency, and it will just come, but it's a lot to take in at first (as I'm sure you all know).

                      Thanks very much to all of you for the helpful comments...much appreciated.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Hossinn View Post
                        Haha, it kinda feels a little bit like brain surgery!
                        Like all simple things, it really is brain surgery

                        Analogy: Virtually all humans share the view that murder, rape, theft etc are bad, and we should all show tolerance and empathy/compassion. Etc etc. These principles are almost universal, regardless of religion or belief system. Simple theory.

                        At the same time we all know that heinous crimes against these principles are committed all the time. We do not need to look at extremes such as crusades, inquisitions, and jihads to find examples. Or organized mass murder, plunder, rape and destruction such as war.

                        Even the most pious ordinary person in his ordinary life has a limit where he will lose his patience towards people who do him wrong. Even the most pious people has a limit where temptations get difficult to combat.

                        So, although the principles are very easy to agree to at first sight, at a very abstract general level, where do you draw the line in practice? What deviations or exceptions do you allow from the simplistic general theory. When is war OK? When is death penalty OK. When is lethal self defense OK? (And don't say never, because then you are not referring to the real world.)

                        Back to GTD: For example, GTD advocates strong caution against arbitrary date planning, as this tends to limit your flexibility for no good reason. And all GTD adherents probably understand and agree with this at some level. But how do GTD adherents do that in practice? Where and when do they make exceptions? I myself am a very "pious" man in this regard, because I have had that view (avoid scheduling) all my life, nothing to do with GTD, just second nature. But those who are used to the "put it on the calendar" type philosophy can have a hard time (temptation to schedule on the calendar) and even "GTD" app makers often have a hard time. For example, most "GTD" apps do not have a GTD "tickler"; they have a "scheduled" instead, which behaves more like a GTD calendar than as a tickler.

                        So I think realistically that you will come across a great deal of "brain surgery" no matter what fundamental, simplistic principles you take as a starting point - GTD or some other philosophy. You will ultimately have to form your own.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Hossinn View Post
                          Haha, it kinda feels a little bit like brain surgery! My desk has such control over me, I'm overwhelmed with how to get started. I know I need to simply follow the steps, begin the process, show consistency, and it will just come, but it's a lot to take in at first (as I'm sure you all know).
                          It can seem like that (i.e. brain surgery) but it's very logical and straightforward, and it works if you follow the recommendations from end-to-end.

                          If you haven't read David Allen's book in a while, re-read it. If you don't have lots of time then Part 2 - Setting up the Time, Space & Tools will help you get control of your environment.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Folke View Post
                            For example, most "GTD" apps do not have a GTD "tickler"; they have a "scheduled" instead, which behaves more like a GTD calendar than as a tickler.
                            I've seen "start date", which I consider to be a tickler, in a number of apps. The first ones that come to me are OmniFocus, Outlook's To Do list, and the tasks in Sharepoint, but I think I've seen more. Do you not consider a start date to be a tickler?

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Gardener View Post
                              Do you not consider a start date to be a tickler?
                              Yes, whatever they call it I will always use it as a tickler (and keep calendar events in the calendar). Start date is a very common name for the "parameter" itself, and "Scheduled" seems to be the typical name for the "list" in which they keep the items that have such start dates.

                              What I meant by "behaves more like a calendar" is this: If the app has a built-in calendar view or calendar integration with, for example, GCal, then the app typically shows these tickler dates on the calendar. If the task also has a due date (deadline) apps will typically mark the whole stretch of dates as if it were one long conference or vacation. Or if it has only a deadline it will show that date on the calendar.

                              Since neither the tickler date nor the deadline date represents something you are "booked" to do on either of those two particular days (it will just be a next action in that interval), it is "wrong" to mix them with true calendar events (appointments etc) in the same calendar/color. This is why I never use such integration features to enter appointments etc via the todo app, even if those appointments are part of a project etc - because they drown among all the "visualization markers" for ticklers and deadlines.

                              Apparently the visualization of these dates on a calendar has some value to some people (many seem to like it, even though I see no big value in it), but I have yet to see an app that maintains a clear difference between such dates and true appointments.

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