GTD with Gmail

(Part of our Organize Gmail Into An Effortless Task Manager guide)

ActiveInbox was originally known as 'GTDGmail' (and later, GTDInbox), so the heritage with David Allen's GTD® (Getting Things Done) is about as strong as you can get!

Our 'Gmail Best Practices' help anyone to set up a good GTD® process set up inside Gmail - whether you already know how GTD works or you are simply looking for a better way to get organised.

We were designed from the ground up with GTD in mind and have been slowly perfecting Gmail for GTD over the last 8 years.

Why so long? Well, I'm a chronic perfectionist. But it's also because GTD has been evolving over the last few years and so ActiveInbox has evolved with it.

We've tried to keep it as simple as possible with two statuses for a task - 'To-Do' (something you need to action yourself) and 'Waiting On' (when you want to keep track of what other people are doing for you so you can follow up and keep track of work that's out of your hands).

The ActiveInbox action bar at the top of your emails.

Over the years many in the GTD community have moved away from things like using contexts and some of the more complex approaches to segmenting and organizing tasks that came out of the original GTD book. ActiveInbox has also evolved with the times and gradually returned to the fundamental principles of GTD - getting tasks out of your head and into a system that will do the remembering for you!

A Flexible GTD system

We've kept ActiveInbox simple but very flexible so that anyone can create their ideal GTD system inside Gmail.

Want to use Contexts and References alongside your Project folders? Just enable it in our preferences and get going.

Want to create a 'Someday' status (low priority tasks) and 'Next' status (urgent tasks) to compliment our default To-Do and Waiting On? Just make a new Gmail label starting with ! like !Someday and it will appear immediately as a new status button for you to add in one click to an email.

Creating a Context Label Type

If you wish to use the GTD® idea of Contexts (the place where you do something), you can go into ActiveInbox's Preferences, click 'Configure Label Types', and then 'Add New Label Type', where the name is "Contexts" and the prefix is "C/". You can then create context labels that begin with C/, such as C/Office, C/Mobile, C/Home. Or perhaps even major clients, such as C/BigCompanyX.

You can then do clever things, like see projects with active emails in a Context, by opening the Active Results for that context and grouping them by project.

NB You can create any label type you like! For instance Reference (for admin and other things you want to just store), or Users (if several people share the same account and you want to have separate task sections for each person).

You can also group and sort emails in many different ways within any task list to focus on what you need and prioritise your work.

Group emails by Project name so that you can focus

Let ActiveInbox prioritise your email for you with due dates

Once you add a due date to an email in Gmail you can be certain that you won't forget it because when the day comes it will appear above your inbox in the 'Today' list to remind you.

When you check your email in the morning, the first thing you will see are all the tasks that have deadlines for today and that you need to deal with.

You can also keep track of upcoming tasks in the Upcoming section of the 'Tasks' tab in your sidebar, or sync your tasks with Google Calenmdar to get a birds eye view of your work for the next week or month.

The key things to take care of are:

  1. Today - all the things that you must do today
  2. Next - the top priority emails but with no particular deadline
  3. Current Project - for whatever project you are focused on, do Action emails

Keep track of Waiting On tasks and remember to follow up

Items you mark as Waiting On are usually blocked tasks or things you need to follow up on if you don't get what you need by a certain day.

Adding a due date to these emails makes sure you'll remember to follow up on everything and make sure you never let things fall through your fingers.

You can search for old blocked tasks which you may not have marked up using ActiveInbox so that you can quickly catch up on delegated work.