View Full Version : Can I get by without Outlook?
This is my first post, and I am new to GTD. I have been so impressed and positively effected by the simple genius of this system that I am really keen to find the best way to implement it in my life and work.
Until a few months back, I used Outlook on my PCs (home and work laptops), and synched both (quite easily) to my Pocket PC. A while back I came across The Bat!, and this works far better as my email client. The main thing that it can do that Outlook can't is that it enables me to personalise the formats in which I export and save messages. I work as secretary to a busy man, and I give him regular themed digests of his incoming email, which I save in batches and then format with macros in MS Word - I have found it easier to work with this in The Bat! than it ever was in Outlook. Also, I like that The Bat! is significantly lighter on resources.
But of course Outlook covers so many areas so well... So choosing not to use it for email meant needing to find another calendar (I settled on Calendarscope), and another addressbook (I use A-book). And that's only one side of the dilemma, because I've also got the Pocket PC to think of. So I have been experimenting with different pieces of software - MyLifeOrganized, ListPro, PhatNotesLite, OneNote, PocketInformant (which I have used for a few years, but never previously realised the power of)... But I keep landing up feeling they're only doing the job partially - and so I'm only doing my job partially.
(I feel a bit now like just writing this down is helping me clarify my thoughts, and perhaps answering my own question - but I do have a specific question to ask: ) In the experience of others using this forum, does it eventually come down to Outlook being the best way to implement GTD in working with a PC? Am I wasting time in trying to find alternatives, or should I just accept that - because The Bat! meets my email needs better than Outlook - I will use that for email and Outlook for the rest? Or is there another option for calendar/tasks/notes that I have missed? Or another way of working with the programs I do know about?
11-24-2005, 04:25 AM
I'm a big GMail fan myself - my primary email addresses all forward to my gmail account. However, I use Outlook as my primary GTD tool (as well as EverNote for project support material). I have my blogging email brought into Outlook, but to be honest, I don't like Outlook's email. However, I can't find anything I like better for my Calendar, Address Book, and NA/Task list. One of the deciding factors in actually putting outlook on my machine was that I also use a Palm and wanted to have a solution that can sync (painlessly) with my Palm. The Palm desktop software just didn't cut it.
I don't think there's any reason why you can't keep using theBat for your email needs and let Outlook handle the rest of your hard landscape and NA lists. I would think it would be a lot easier than having a bunch of separate programs running!
11-24-2005, 05:02 AM
People implement GTD in a lot of different ways, and if you have a tool that works well for you (the Bat), why change it? However, here are some things I have found out (the hard way):
1) Integration of email and address book is huge. Without it, I can't keep a decent address book.
2) Next actions and projects are transient, and you can move from one program to another with relative ease. One or two weekly reviews, and almost all information that did not make the initial transfer will regenerate.
3) In moving from one system to another, calendar data must be carefully maintained. Crucial events can be lost, and they do not spontaneously reappear the way next actions and projects do.
4) Some fraction of your notes has lasting value (e.g. software registration codes). Don't put it into programs/formats where it is difficult to get it back out.
11-24-2005, 06:29 AM
In the experience of others using this forum, does it eventually come down to Outlook being the best way to implement GTD in working with a PC?
No, not at all. In my opinion, the database structure of Outlook is far from ideal for handling projects and actions. Hence the common use of macros, custom forms, add-ins, etc. for Outlook for GTD.
But of course Outlook covers so many areas so well... So choosing not to use it for email meant needing to find another calendar (I settled on Calendarscope), and another addressbook (I use A-book).
I never use Outlook for email, but I have used the other functions. Why not? I particularly like the Outlook calendar and the customizable views.
If I had a PocketPC (which I may eventually, the way Palm is going. . .), I think I would use MyLifeOrganized for projects and actions and sync calendar events to Outlook. I would probably use Outlook for contacts as well. I've been handling all my email in Gmail and would probably stick with it. Obviously it's not important to me to have all those functions handled by only one application (though for me projects and actions have to be integrated).
In what way do you feel you're only doing your job partially? It will take some time to set up an organized GTD system for handling all your stuff no matter what you use.
I'd like to have you handling my email, by the way. Nice! :)
11-24-2005, 09:50 PM
Am I wasting time in trying to find alternatives, or should I just accept that - because The Bat! meets my email needs better than Outlook
Yes. I think that most people are wasting their precious time searching for the ideal GTD implementation. They are testing, trying, converting data back and forth instead of just doing stuff (the real stuff - not the GTD implementation stuff).
Just implement the basic GTD ideas using your favourite tools.
11-25-2005, 03:14 AM
Well, said TesTeq.
The actual tools/software you use are far less important than developing the habits required to operate GTD effectively.
I liked your response, too, TesTeq. I know I have wasted a great deal of time looking for more information on GTD - reading blogs, feeds, and forums, and, recently, listening to Podcasts. I guess there is something in this time-wasting, though, a kind of becoming-accustomed, which I hope will help the techniques to sink in.
Thanks to all who responded to my question... Your tips and points of view all are helpful to me.
11-25-2005, 04:37 AM
I know I have wasted a great deal of time looking for more information on GTD - reading blogs, feeds, and forums, and, recently, listening to Podcasts. I guess there is something in this time-wasting, though, a kind of becoming-accustomed, which I hope will help the techniques to sink in.
It wasn't a waste of time - it was an investment to be more productive and have more free time in future. But the investment shouldn't consume all the profits - so it's time to Get Things Done using GTD and your favourite tools.
11-25-2005, 08:27 AM
I think that most people are wasting their precious time searching for the ideal GTD implementation. They are testing, trying, converting data back and forth instead of just doing stuff (the real stuff - not the GTD implementation stuff).
I agree that it's possible to waste time playing with data in place of actually doing work. But I'm not sure that the people who chronically play with data would otherwise be doing real stuff.
And I also see a lot of people wasting their time implementing GTD with tools that are ill-suited to their data and therefore require a lot of time to maintain. It's critical to choose a tool that is suited to what you need to do. If you need to install 2000' of baseboard, don't use your favorite hammer; go get yourself the right kind of nailgun.
For me, I was spending 5-6 hours per week keeping my GTD system up to date (the collect, process, organize, and review phases). I identified what was taking so much time, searched for and switched to a better-suited tool, and cut that maintenance time down to 30-45 minutes per week.
12-22-2005, 10:24 PM
I am researching the question you ask as I type!
Ever since my old Thinkpad went RIP and chose to buy a mac mini to replace it in September, I've said no to Outlook in the spirit of living on the web (easing the transition was secondary). This is also after investing and owning a license of NetCentrics' GTD Add-in which I have come to appreciate. Call this an experiment of sorts.
GoogleMail has been a god send in making my GTD implementation work. I've been playing around with tags for all my lists from contexts to projects to all my other lists (eg. people to keep in touch with).
Mind you what's been missing is an online calendar and there is a lot of speculation as to what Google is going to do in this dept (if anything!) I'm excited to discover what's possible. My workaround is falling back to the trusty paper flip calendar and this has been refreshing in many ways esp since I'm less mobile these days!
Well..this is all a work-in-progress and popped back in these forums to connect with others who are experimenting with GTD for GMailers too.
It's been on my backburner to play with the GoogleMail API and begin to bridge a lot of other neat low-profile implementations I'm seeing out there!
Really nice to see your note and best of luck - hope this share is helpful for what it's worth!
I'm very interested in the Gmail options for implementing GTD, but I've not found a thorough explanation of how to do this. Anyway, because of my specific needs, I find The Bat! to be the easiest email program for me to use. I was very happy using Calendarscope as my calendar, but the reason I originally asked my question here was because Outlook is pretty much the Windows standard, which means it interacts with so many other things - my Sony mobile phone, for instance, or Yahoo's calendar, which would allow me and my boss to share our calendar via the 'net (he recently moved to another city for much of the year, and anyway spend several months each year on the road without me). So I am coming aroud the using Outlook for calendar, The Bat! for email, and either GTD Tiddlywiki or Listpro for my lists - haven't decided yet which of these it will be...
And, actually, alongside all this, I have been moving much more onto paper! I find it to be much more stable, reliable, faster, and lighter to lug. I went out on Christmas eve and bought myself a beautiful Moleskin 2006 calendar, which goes well with the pocket notebook I've been using for a few weeks for my personal lists. Yes, I have separated work and personal stuff - this might prove unmanageable, but for the moment, it's working quite well.
(Happy Christmas and New Year to all!)
01-05-2006, 01:15 PM
I use the Outlook email & calendar (not their tasks, which I dislike). There's nothing special about Outlook that makes it particularly suited to GTD, in my opinion. And I think it's just fine to use different tools for different things. You don't get mad at your stapler because it doesn't hold pens and pencils.
I would suggest that you not underestimate the usefulness and flexibility of plain old paper and pen. I keep my projects, NAs and waiting lists in a 3-ring binder. And I keep a few 3x5 cards, held together with binder clips, as a portable "in box" for ideas. (This is called a "hipster PDA" in some circles.) The system works extremely well for me, as it's highly portable, easy to read, and has a flexibility that no software can match. A simple spiral-bound notebook could serve this function very well, and I'm thinking about converting from the three-ring to that. When it fills up, it becomes an archive, and I transfer my projects and NAs to a new notebook, forcing a "deep clean" kind of review of any dusty or tired projects.
01-05-2006, 01:18 PM
m_s slipped in with similar thoughts!