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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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More by this author

Leo Babauta

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

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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