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Lifehack.org Readers’ Favorite GTD Apps

Lifehack.org Readers’ Favorite GTD Apps
Your favorite gtd apps

Last week, we asked:

What online productivity/organization application do you find essential, and why? What would you replace it with if it disappeared tomorrow?

I was surprised at how many people chose Google’s suite of productivity applications — Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar, iGoogle, and so on. I hadn’t really thought of these as “GTD apps”, per se, but thinking about it, it not only makes sense, but I realized that for a long time I’ve use these as my primary GTD applications as well.

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After some playing around with various GTD-based services on the web, I retreated to my trusty Moleskine and a Treo synced with Outlook. To be honest, though, I don’t use the Treo’s productivity apps very much — I find the thumb keyboard horribly uncomfortable and awkward to use, and the loss of integrated handwriting support (after I’d spent years mastering Graffiti) makes the built-in keyboard the only way of using the Treo on the go. Yes, I’ve used the third-party Graffiti replacements, and yes, I have an external keyboard, but neither works particularly well.

Which leaves me with the problem of how to get stuff done when I’m away from home — and I’m away from home a lot. Like a large number of lifehack.org readers, I too have built up a system on Google’s applications that is the backbone of my productive existence. I use:

  • Google Docs for writing (lately replaced with Buzzword, though)
  • iGoogle widgets for todo lists, file access (with, for example, Box.net’s widget), phone messages (using Callwave‘s widget), and of course accessing and creating documents using Google’s own Google Docs widget.
  • Gmail for email, naturally
  • Google Notebook for note-taking, but also for creating classroom presentations. I often have 5 or 6 videos, webpages, and other online materials I want to show my classes, so I use Notebook to capture and organize the links into the order I want to show them.
  • I don’t use Google Calendar, but I should — until fairly recently there was no good way to sync Outlook and Google Calendar, and there’s still issues when you add in the Treo (and while I don’t use the Treo much for lists and documents, I use the calendar function extensively — though I do most of my editing on Outlook, not the Treo itself).

Lately, I’ve committed to using Toodledo, which doesn’t sync with my Treo but offers a good mobile interface — and allows entry of tasks via Jott‘s Links service. Which means I can enter new tasks via Jott’s incredibly accurate speech recognition/transcription, overcoming the limitations of the text entry on the Treo.

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Another thing I like about Toodledo is that I can set up custom folders, which allows me to categorize my todo list by projects (a lot of GTD systems are built around the idea of contexts, which isn’t as useful for me). And it also allows me to ignore my categories — I can organize by date and just see the tasks I have to do today, regardless of what project they belong to. I like that flexibility.

If Toodledo disappeared, it would be pretty easy to move to another online todo list manager. They all have strengths and weaknesses, but rarely anything that would prevent me being able to use just about any of them. Right now, Remember the Milk is looking pretty good. And I’ve also been looking at Sandy a lot — that could be a good replacement, though I’m not sure I want my email to become my todo list.

Lifehack.org’s readers described a bunch of interesting systems they’ve put together around the various Google apps, along with their tips for using them:

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  • Mark uses Gmail’s “starred item” feature to highlight items that need action.
  • Miche describes Google as “my complete GTD system”:

    I use Gmail to receive my daily agenda, which I fill out every night before going to bed in Calendar, and GTDInbox to manage my tasks. iGoogle keeps my daily to-do and research tools. Notebook keeps my lists and snippets for stories. Reader helps me find stories, in conjunction with RSS feeds from Google saved searches.

  • miss_mary says she appreciates that she can access her Google apps easily, from anywhere — useful for a university student.

    I really appreciate Google calendar. Google calendar is very user friendly and you can also print things out quite easily. The reminder as well as the weather options of Google calendar are great also. It is very nice to use Google calendar to organise all of your obligations. And, you can also print out a daily guide to your day very easily.

  • And James Marwood offers a warning to Google users: put a backup system in place. Google accounts can be hacked, corrupted, or accidentally deleted:

    [R]emember that this is all dependant on that Google account and if you lose that, you lose everything else. This is VERY painful and there is nothing that really can be done other than starting again. By all means use Google but keep everything backed-up

Other apps that people recommended included:

  • Diigo: Social bookmark/clipping system
  • DropBoks: Online file storage
  • iGTD: Mac-based GTD system
  • Joe’s Goals: Goal management
  • Jott: Transcribes your voice messages into text and forwards them to email, SMS, and various web services.
  • Kalendra: PC-based calendar and contact manager
  • Netvibes: customizable homepage
  • Nozbe: GTD system
  • OmniFocus: Mac-based task manager
  • Plaxo: contact manager and synchronizer
  • Remember the Milk: Todo list manager
  • Sandy: Automated reminder service
  • Tiinker: RSS feed reader and recommendation engine
  • Todoist: Todo list manager
  • Toodledo: Todo list manager
  • Vitalist: Todo list manager
  • Wrike: Task and project manager
  • Zotero: Bibliographic reference manager

Many of these were named both as people’s every use apps and as replacements, which suggests that the field of online productivity apps has developed to the point where nearly every task is covered by several good, effective, and almost always free or affordable applications. There’s a wide variety of good substitutes for nearly every app.

That’s good news for people who, like me, dream of the day when their work is accessible from anywhere, on any computer. Maybe it’s time to start thinking about GTD 3.0

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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