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How to Make Gmail/Gcal Rock Your Tasks

How to Make Gmail/Gcal Rock Your Tasks
Gmail

There are a million tools out there to keep track of your tasks, your appointments, your emails and reminders. But let’s face it — each of them have their drawbacks, and finding the right combination can be an ongoing quest.

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Many people also love Gmail and Gcal as two of their online tools of choice – they’re simple tools that get the job done fast, wherever and whenever you need them. If you count yourself among this group, here’s a guide for using the Gmail/Gcal combination as your online information center.

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gcal
  • Gmailing Things Done (GTD). If you’re a fan of GTD, Gmail can be a simple way of implementing your to-do system. Treat each email as a task, and simply label them with a context (C:Home, C:Work, C:Calls, C:Read, C: Errands, etc.), and archive them. Then, when you are at work, click on the C:Work tag and see what needs to be done. When you’ve completed a task, removed the C:Work tag. Firefox extension GTDInbox adds some extras to this system, but it can be done simply by using context tags.
  • Leave Your Inbox Empty. As new email comes in, process them out of your inbox quickly — delete them, archive them, forward them (and then delete or archive), or tax them with a context tag and archive. Make decisions on each email quickly, or the emails will begin to pile up. Leave your inbox clear to get things off your mind, allowing you to focus better.
  • Use Gcal for Your Hard Landscape. For things that have to be done at a definite time, such as meetings or appointments, Gcal is a great choice of online calendars. It’s simple and quick. Add things quickly to your Gcal, and check it at least once in the morning to see what you have on tap for the day.
  • Gcal Quick Add Extension. If you’re busy doing something, and remember an appointment, or someone tells you about a meeting, you don’t want to forget it. But you also may not want to spend time opening your Gcal, finding the date, clicking to add a new appointment, and then typing the appointment. Instead, install the Gcal Quick Add Firefox extension, and you can pull up a quick entry box with Command-; and enter your appointment quickly: Meet Jerry 1 p.m. tomorrow at Conference RmA.
  • Compose Gmail Quickly. Want to send yourself a task in Gmail but don’t have much time? Set up a bookmarklet for a quick compose: 1) Click on “compose” in Gmail, and then click on the pop-out button in the compose area to bring it to a new window; 2) right-click on some blue space and select “Bookmark This Page” and save it in your Bookmarks Toolbar folder; 3) Right-click on the new bookmarklet you’ve created, select Properties and check “Load this bookmark in the sidebar”. Now just click on this bookmarklet at any time when you want to send yourself a new task, or send someone else a quick email.
  • To-do List for Gcal. Wish that Gcal had a simple to-do list? Install the To-do script for Gcal (you’ll need to have the Greasemonkey extension installed first).
  • Add Agenda to Gmail. Want your Gcal agenda for today to show up in Gmail? No problem. Install the Add Calendar Feed script (again, you’ll need Greasemonkey) to add a small agenda to your Gmail interface.
  • RTM for Gcal. If you would rather use Remember the Milk for your tasks, you can add your RTM agenda to each day in Gcal. Similarly, if you use Vitalist for your to-dos, you can sync your to-dos with your Gcal.
  • Gmail as a business diary. Blogger Steve Rubel details his system for using Gmail as a business diary, along with many more uses.

Leo Babauta blogs regularly about achieving goals through daily habits on Zen Habits, and covers such topics as productivity, GTD, simplifying, frugality, parenting, happiness, motivation, exercise, eating healthy and more. Read his articles on doubling your productivity, keeping your inbox empty, clearing your desk, becoming an early riser, and the Top 20 Motivation Hacks.

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Leo Babauta

Founder of Zen Habits and expert in habits building and goals achieving.

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Last Updated on March 31, 2020

Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

Procrastination is very literally the opposite of productivity. To produce something is to pull it forward, while to procrastinate is to push it forward — to tomorrow, to next week, or ultimately to never.

Procrastination fills us with shame — we curse ourselves for our laziness, our inability to focus on the task at hand, our tendency to be easily led into easier and more immediate gratifications. And with good reason: for the most part, time spent procrastinating is time spent not doing things that are, in some way or other, important to us.

There is a positive side to procrastination, but it’s important not to confuse procrastination at its best with everyday garden-variety procrastination.

Sometimes — sometimes! — procrastination gives us the time we need to sort through a thorny issue or to generate ideas. In those rare instances, we should embrace procrastination — even as we push it away the rest of the time.

Why We Procrastinate After All?

We procrastinate for a number of reasons, some better than others. One reason we procrastinate is that, while we know what we want to do, we need time to let the ideas “ferment” before we are ready to sit down and put them into action.

Some might call this “creative faffing”; I call it, following copywriter Ray Del Savio’s lead, “concepting”.[1]

Whatever you choose to call it, it’s the time spent dreaming up what you want to say or do, weighing ideas in your mind, following false leads and tearing off on mental wild goose chases, and generally thinking things through.

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To the outside observer, concepting looks like… well, like nothing much at all. Maybe you’re leaning back in your chair, feet up, staring at the wall or ceiling, or laying in bed apparently dozing, or looking out over the skyline or feeding pigeons in the park or fiddling with the Japanese vinyl toys that stand watch over your desk.

If ideas are the lifeblood of your work, you have to make time for concepting, and you have to overcome the sensation— often overpowering in our work-obsessed culture — that faffing, however creative, is not work.

Is Procrastination Bad?

Yes it is.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re “concepting” when in fact you’re just not sure what you’re supposed to be doing.

Spending an hour staring at the wall while thinking up the perfect tagline for a marketing campaign is creative faffing; staring at the wall for an hour because you don’t know how to come up with a tagline, or don’t know the product you’re marketing well enough to come up with one, is just wasting time.

Lack of definition is perhaps the biggest friend of your procrastination demons. When we’re not sure what to do — whether because we haven’t planned thoroughly enough, we haven’t specified the scope of what we hope to accomplish in the immediate present, or we lack important information, skills, or resources to get the job done.

It’s easy to get distracted or to trick ourselves into spinning our wheels doing nothing. It takes our mind off the uncomfortable sensation of failing to make progress on something important.

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The answer to this is in planning and scheduling. Rather than giving yourself an unspecified length of time to perform an unspecified task (“Let’s see, I guess I’ll work on that spreadsheet for a while”) give yourself a limited amount of time to work on a clearly defined task (“Now I’ll enter the figures from last months sales report into the spreadsheet for an hour”).

Giving yourself a deadline, even an artificial one, helps build a sense of urgency and also offers the promise of time to “screw around” later, once more important things are done.

For larger projects, planning plays a huge role in whether or not you’ll spend too much time procrastinating to reach the end reasonably quickly.

A good plan not only lists the steps you have to take to reach the end, but takes into account the resources, knowledge and inputs from other people you’re going to need to perform those steps.

Instead of futzing around doing nothing because you don’t have last month’s sales report, getting the report should be a step in the project.

Otherwise, you’ll spend time cooling your heels, justifying your lack of action as necessary: you aren’t wasting time because you want to, but because you have to.

How Bad Procrastination Can Be

Our mind can often trick us into procrastinating, often to the point that we don’t realize we’re procrastinating at all.

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After all, we have lots and lots of things to do; if we’re working on something, aren’t we being productive – even if the one big thing we need to work on doesn’t get done?

One way this plays out is that we scan our to-do list, skipping over the big challenging projects in favor of the short, easy projects. At the end of the day, we feel very productive: we’ve crossed twelve things off our list!

That big project we didn’t work on gets put onto the next day’s list, and when the same thing happens, it gets moved forward again. And again.

Big tasks often present us with the problem above – we aren’t sure what to do exactly, so we look for other ways to occupy ourselves.

In many cases too, big tasks aren’t really tasks at all; they’re aggregates of many smaller tasks. If something’s sitting on your list for a long time, each day getting skipped over in favor of more immediately doable tasks, it’s probably not very well thought out.

You’re actively resisting it because you don’t really know what it is. Try to break it down into a set of small tasks, something more like the tasks you are doing in place of the one big task you aren’t doing.

More consequences of procrastination can be found in this article: 8 Dreadful Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life

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Procrastination, a Technical Failure

Procrastination is, more often than not, a sign of a technical failure, not a moral failure.

It’s not because we’re bad people that we procrastinate. Most times, procrastination serves as a symptom of something more fundamentally wrong with the tasks we’ve set ourselves.

It’s important to keep an eye on our procrastinating tendencies, to ask ourselves whenever we notice ourselves pushing things forward what it is about the task we’ve set ourselves that simply isn’t working for us.

Learn more about how to fix your procrastination problem here: What Is Procrastination and How to Stop It (The Complete Guide)

Featured photo credit: chuttersnap via unsplash.com

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