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For the past year or so I have use Gmail as my email client for work and personal email (in fact I’ve moved away from Outlook completely, and only use Office when I have to share documents with colleagues who don’t use Gdocs).  I like to think that had my setup pretty well configured, so much so that when i saw this tweet from @problogger

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I thought that there was pretty much nothing I could be taught: The rest of this post is about how wrong i was!

Getting Things Done is (according to the Wikipedia page) ‘action management method created by David Allen’, but more inportantly for me, it’s firefox/gmail plugin written by  Andy Mitchel. So, What does it do?

Well, the idea is that you forget about your email inbox as being a mass of information relating to everything you’re working on and separate it out  so that it becomes a project management tool.  You do this by setting up special gmail labels.  Everything you prefix P/ (e.g. P/Platform) is designated as a project (you set up as many P/ labels as you have projects).  Labels beginning S/ are stauses (Next action, Actions, Waiting For, Finished etc) which you attach to emails and which allow you to create custom to-do lists based on projects.  C/ labels are context (e.g. work, personal etc) and R/ labels I use as resources (meeting minutes, contracts, agendas etc).

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The time consuming bit is going through you existing emails and assigning each one to a project (if it is related to one), labelling it a resource (if it is), and giving it a status.  I only went back to Dec 08 on this cos I just don’t have time to do it all.  Now when you receive emails into you inbox you action them immediately (if they’re 2 minute jobs), or you label them up (perhaps they are something you want to add to a particular project’s to-do list so the label is S/Action P/my project – all available via a handy drop-down) and archive them.

Similarly GTD GMail makes it easy to send emails to yourself or others that are prelabelled so that when you get replies they are preconfigured to be neatly filed away.

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One of the real powers of GTD is the custom searches that it allows you to create (which again are available via drop-down).  So, I have custom searches that show me the to-do lists I have on each project and I can easily create a search that shows me all the minutes for a particular project – nice!  Thanks to the stupid amount of GB gmail gives me I never have to print these off and file them away – they’re just easily findable via my email client.

There’s loads of other good stuff (custom filters, to-do list print options etc) I could get into but I only started using GTD on Wed so I’m still getting to grips with its more arcane aspects.  Anyway, if you have any questions or tips gime a shout!

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