I've been GTD'ing for about three months, and using the GTD addin for about two. I'm very happy with both . I've also been an avid reader of these boards over the last couple of months and really appreciate the information that people have contributed here. It's helped a lot.
From other postings it's clear that it's possible to produce a GTD system without using the addin, but the addin got me up and running much quicker and was certainly worth the money in saved time.
After using the GTD addin for a few weeks, here are some things that I did wrong, and areas I'm trying to improve:
- naming projects
When looking at my task list grouped by projects, I found that a simple alphabetical list of all projects (both professional and personal) was limiting. I didn't get a good overview of the different areas of my life where I was spending my time (a little of the Covey influence there). So I've started naming projects as:
"Social and Family - [project name1]";
"Professional Responsibilities - [project name2]";
"Professional Responsibilities - [project name3]" etc.
I have the following meta-categories of projects
Social and Family
- Covey's 7 Habits
I like the Covey big picture approach, but when I first read 7 Habits a couple of years ago it didn't "click" with me in a way that I could make it operational. The difference when I read GTD was marked - it was purely and immediately operational. On the other hand, Covey's approach to life planning resonates more with me than the GTD altitude metaphor.
So now I'm trying to combine the two in a way that works for me, but I'm not happy with the result yet.
Grouping projects by life areas as indicated above is a start. When I first did this, it was striking that almost everything I'd committed to do was a professional project, and not a personal one. I'm now trying to rebalance that.
I'm added a new user defined field in the task list to indicate Next Actions that are important, but not urgent (Covey Quadrant II). I'm not sure this is the best place to be thinking about Q2 activities though. (Maybe it should come earlier in the planning process, rather than at the Next Action stage?)
- naming Next Action categories
I'm still working on the best way to do this, with the main problem being office related things, given their different contexts. At the moment, I have
@OfficeEmail (stuff that needs fairly short emails from the office)
@OfficeMemo (stuff that needs some more substantial drafting)
@OfficeMeeting (stuff to discuss with colleagues)
@OfficeCall (phone calls)
@OfficeBoss (stuff to discuss with my boss)
@OfficeBigBoss (stuff to discuss with my big boss)
@Office (a catchall)
I've also got others like @Anywhere and @Errands etc.
The various Office Next Actions means I can create a tasklist view / filter where [Action] [contains] [@Office] that shows only @Office* commitments. This helps when I'm trying to focus on office work: I'm not distracted by all of the personal NAs on the list.
The two "Boss" Next Action categories mean that I can quickly see the things I need to discuss with my bosses. I can go see them every couple of days with a list of things to deal with. (And very handy if they drop in unexpectedly.)
- naming the Next Actions themselves
When I first started using the addin, I was creating Next Actions from incoming emails just using the default which is the subject line of the email. This often made the Next Action list fairly incomprehensible when I came to review it, particularly when viewing by "Next Action" rather than by "Project", so I went to the GTD addin options and ticked the box to open Tasks and Calendar items by default. This reminds me to make sure the task / appointment has a meaningful subject line.
- creating additional views of the task list
As I mentioned, I've created some additional views to help me visualise the work I have to do.
[Action] [contains] [@Office] - all office-specific work
[Q2] [equals] [Yes] - all Quadrant 2 Next Actions
- project planning
I've always been a big fan of mind maps, so I'm trying out MindManager and its Outlook integration. I also had a try of ResultManager but didn't take to it, I think because an Outlook task list, properly organised, can convey much more data in a more compact way - I imagine Edward Tufte would approve
Brainstorming in MindManager and having properly GTD'd tasks show up in Outlook works well. When you create a "Task" using the Outlook Link in MindManager it brings up the GTD addin's New Task form, so it's possible to fill in the project and next action fields.
The space and flexibility of a mindmap suits me for planning projects, but the structure of Outlook's task list (now it's been GTD'd) is more what I need to see my commitments and decide what needs to be done next. Also most of my incoming work arrives through the Outlook inbox anyway. I suspect that's how I'll end up working - planning using MindManager and its Outlook links, additional Next Actions added in Outlook as they arrive in my inbox, and then use Outlook for the complete list of Next Actions.
Anyway, that's where I am with GTD and the Outlook addin. Any thoughts, comments or suggestions would be much appreciated.