Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Getting things done with the Getting Things Done Outlook add-in

PRODUCT REVIEW

By Bill Mann

Admit it. You have more to do than you can possibly get done. More stuff to track than attention to track it with. We're all this way these days. The flood of work and activities and responsibilities seems to grow by the day. How do you deal with this reality?

In the end, you need to keep track of everything, do the things that are most important first, and accept that you can only do so much. I can't help you with the acceptance part (we're techies, not philosophers or spiritual advisors) but if you're an Outlook user, I know of a tool that can help you keep your head above the flood waters.

David Allen's Getting Things Done (GTD) system is an effective approach to dealing with the "too much to do, too much to keep track of" problem. The idea is to get everything out of your head into a trusted system, figure out the next action for each thing, then make decisions on what you should do next based on this complete picture of your work.

As an Outlook user, a LOT of the stuff you need to deal with in your life probably flows in and out through Outlook. The Getting Things Done Outlook add-in (GTD add-in) enhances Outlook by adding buttons and views that make it easy to use the GTD approach with Outlook. Although the GTD add-in has been around for a couple of years, the product is still actively supported, and a recent hotfix release corrected a number of known problems, making this an even more useful tool.

Installing the Getting Things Done Outlook add-in

Installation of the GTD add-in is straightforward. However, for the best results, you should do two things before you start the installation. First, you should purge any existing tasks that are not next actions. For anyone not familiar with the GTD system, a "next action" is the next physical action you need to take to move something forward. Your best bet is to either complete all your outstanding tasks before installing, or print copies of the tasks to reenter later, then delete them from Outlook. This keeps the system from getting muddled by having old tasks mixed in with GTD-style tasks.

Second, it is important that you shut down Outlook completely before you begin. If you don't, it's possible that the custom views that are part of the product will not be installed properly. That will force you to install them manually later. Other than that, installation is quick and easy.