Implementing Getting Things Done (GTD) in Gmail

One thing that you will notice with GTD (Getting Things Done) is that it is a strategy to follow, but it can be implemented in numerous different ways.  One struggle I see many people have is finding an implementation that works for them, whether it be physical, electronic or a hybrid.

Here is one way that GTD that be implemented using Gmail and Calendar.  This is the method that I currently use for managing.


As I discussed in a previous blog, Why You Should Use Multiple Monitors, I use triple monitors for my home office setup.  With this setup, I can use one monitor with my task list (personal and businesses) and the other two for working through the tasks.  I use Google Chrome as my browser of choice.  In the screenshots below, I will walk you through my setup and process.


Main Screen

-Common links in the bookmarks menu
Active Inbox ($25/year – plugin for Chrome & Firefox) puts each context list at the top of the Gmail window
Inbox Pause (Free) adds a pause button to prevent me from getting distracted from new email.  This allows me to process email in batches on my time.
-I have zero items in my inbox (they are all in my context lists)
-Along the left side, I have my context lists (@xxx) and reference lists (Accountant, Bank, etc).
-I then also have my Google Calendar with upcoming events




Context Screen

-By clicking a context at the top, I see all items within that context.
-By using Gmail labels, I can not only see context, but also any reference tags applied to the item
-Using the sub-context list, I can quickly move an item from one list to another (ex. from @Office to @WaitingFor)
-Can also set due dates on each item


Creating a Task

-Create a task by using same method as creating an email.  “Compose Self” tab allows this to be done quickly
-I have all of my email addresses within Gmail, so I can receive and send email from a single place.
-My signature is customized for each address.
-I can quickly tag the context of the task.
-I can also set a due date.



Export to Calendar

-Easily export tasks to calender
-Add notes to tasks




-Quick access to day, week, month, year view
-Multiple calendars (personal + businesses)
-Each calendar is color coded



-Relatively inexpensive ($25/year for ActiveInbox, otherwise free)
-Since many tasks come from email, it allows me to use my email as my inbox
-Since Gmail is a service (not software), I can access it from any Internet connected device (Office computer, smartphone, laptop, etc.)
-Easily connect to Calendar
-I can add a new task from anywhere just by sending an email
-Labels  not only allow putting items into context lists, but also allow an easy way of applying reference tags to tasks
-Items can show up in multiple lists, which is great for reference
-I can quickly see how many items are on each list
-No need to delete items since Gmail has so much space
-Can use multiple email addresses/calendars which is very important with multiple businesses


-ActiveInbox is not available on my smartphone, so I lose some features
-Cannot reconfigure Gmail (at least I have not spent enough time yet) to show various lists at once (multiple inbox would probably work).  I don’t like having to click into each list.





Tom Sylvester is an Entrepreneur, Real Estate Investor and Lean/Agile Coach.  He has started multiple businesses and is passionate about helping others achieve their goals, both personally and professionally.  He lives in Rochester, NY with his wife and daughter.  Follow him on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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One comment on “Implementing Getting Things Done (GTD) in Gmail
  1. Dan says:

    For implementing GTD you can use this application:

    Gtdagenda. com

    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, and a calendar.
    Syncs with Evernote and Google Calendar, and also comes with mobile version, and Android and iPhone apps.

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