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How to Make Gmail/Gcal Rock Your Tasks

How to Make Gmail/Gcal Rock Your Tasks
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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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  • 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 November 18, 2020

15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It)

15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It)
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It’s okay, you can finally admit it. It’s been two months since you’ve seen the inside of the gym. Getting sick, family crisis, overtime at work and school papers that needed to get finished all kept you for exercising. Now, the question is: how do you start again?
Once you have an exercise habit, it becomes automatic. You just go to the gym, there is no force involved. But after a month, two months or possibly a year off, it can be hard to get started again. Here are some tips to climb back on that treadmill after you’ve fallen off.

  1. Don’t Break the Habit – The easiest way to keep things going is simply not to stop. Avoid long breaks in exercising or rebuilding the habit will take some effort. This may be advice a little too late for some people. But if you have an exercise habit going, don’t drop it at the first sign of trouble.
  2. Reward Showing Up – Woody Allen once said that, “Half of life is showing up.” I’d argue that 90% of making a habit is just making the effort to get there. You can worry about your weight, amount of laps you run or the amount you can bench press later.
  3. Commit for Thirty Days – Make a commitment to go every day (even just for 20 minutes) for one month. This will solidify the exercise habit. By making a commitment you also take pressure off yourself in the first weeks back of deciding whether to go.
  4. Make it Fun – If you don’t enjoy yourself at the gym, it is going to be hard to keep it a habit. There are thousands of ways you can move your body and exercise, so don’t give up if you’ve decided lifting weights or doing crunches isn’t for you. Many large fitness centers will offer a range of programs that can suit your tastes.
  5. Schedule During Quiet Hours – Don’t put exercise time in a place where it will easily be pushed aside by something more important. Right after work or first thing in the morning are often good places to put it. Lunch-hour workouts might be too easy to skip if work demands start mounting.
  6. Get a Buddy – Grab a friend to join you. Having a social aspect to exercising can boost your commitment to the exercise habit.
  7. X Your Calendar – One person I know has the habit of drawing a red “X” through any day on the calendar he goes to the gym. The benefit of this is it quickly shows how long it has been since you’ve gone to the gym. Keeping a steady amount of X’s on your calendar is an easy way to motivate yourself.
  8. Enjoyment Before Effort – After you finish any work out, ask yourself what parts you enjoyed and what parts you did not. As a rule, the enjoyable aspects of your workout will get done and the rest will be avoided. By focusing on how you can make workouts more enjoyable, you can make sure you want to keep going to the gym.
  9. Create a Ritual – Your workout routine should become so ingrained that it becomes a ritual. This means that the time of day, place or cue automatically starts you towards grabbing your bag and heading out. If your workout times are completely random, it will be harder to benefit from the momentum of a ritual.
  10. Stress Relief – What do you do when your stressed? Chances are it isn’t running. But exercise can be a great way to relieve stress, releasing endorphin which will improve your mood. The next time you feel stressed or tired, try doing an exercise you enjoy. When stress relief is linked to exercise, it is easy to regain the habit even after a leave of absence.
  11. Measure Fitness – Weight isn’t always the best number to track. Increase in muscle can offset decreases in fat so the scale doesn’t change even if your body is. But fitness improvements are a great way to stay motivated. Recording simple numbers such as the number of push-ups, sit-ups or speed you can run can help you see that the exercise is making you stronger and faster.
  12. Habits First, Equipment Later – Fancy equipment doesn’t create a habit for exercise. Despite this, some people still believe that buying a thousand dollar machine will make up for their inactivity. It won’t. Start building the exercise habit first, only afterwards should you worry about having a personal gym.
  13. Isolate Your Weakness – If falling off the exercise wagon is a common occurrence for you, find out why. Do you not enjoy exercising? Is it a lack of time? Is it feeling self-conscious at the gym? Is it a lack of fitness know-how? As soon as you can isolate your weakness, you can make steps to improve the situation.
  14. Start Small – Trying to run fifteen miles your first workout isn’t a good way to build a habit. Work below your capacity for the first few weeks to build the habit. Otherwise you might scare yourself off after a brutal workout.
  15. Go for Yourself, Not to Impress – Going to the gym with the only goal of looking great is like starting a business with only the goal to make money. The effort can’t justify the results. But if you go to the gym to push yourself, gain energy and have a good time, then you can keep going even when results are slow.

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