David Allen’s 2001 book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity remains a transformative book for people and workplaces everywhere. It’s sold millions of copies worldwide, is available in 28 languages, and in 2007 it was named the self-help business book of its time by Time Magazine.
Since publication, Getting Things Done (GTD) has been cited by business leaders, productivity experts, and even psychologists as a new way to think about work, attention, time management, and multitasking.
Subsequent personal productivity methods like 43 Folders and Inbox Zero were largely influenced by Allen’s Getting Things Done. It’s been adopted, discussed, and analyzed by adherents at Forbes, Lifehacker, Wired, and hundreds of bloggers.
The core of GTD is that Allen advises freeing your mind from remembering tasks. He says, “Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.”
The process of thinking of dozens of tasks, ideas, goals, and responsibilities, then constantly remembering them, prioritizing them, scheduling them, and following up on them, means that you spend too much time recalling and managing tasks, rather than actually completing them.
What Does The GTD System Involve?
The GTD Gmail system involves filtering incoming information to rapidly determine whether it’s a task or not, capturing tasks using a method that frees you from having to remember them, completing quick tasks immediately rather than writing them down to do later, and giving yourself uninterrupted time to work on specific tasks.
If it sounds simple, that’s because it is. GTD doesn’t require any particular software, tools, or skills. It’s applicable to work, personal projects, school, family life… anywhere that you have to manage your time and be productive.
All it really requires is a level of mental discipline to maintain control of your own time and attention, and not let yourself be distracted or derailed.
This discipline in regard to avoiding distraction is particularly challenging in regard to email. Many workplaces are email-driven work emails often contain:
- Requests, tasks, and assignments
- Information necessary to complete tasks and assignments
- General information that isn’t relevant right now, but might be in the future
- Updates on changed information, revised priorities, or shifted timelines
- Requests for scheduled events like meetings and calls
- As well as a bunch of stuff you don’t really need at all, like newsletters
In that kind of workplace, the idea of logging out of email for an hour in order to concentrate on a task may seem like a luxury you can’t afford.
In fact, most modern workplaces, with the flurry of chat messages, emails, texts, and notifications, in which every employee is a node in a network of rapid-fire exchanges of information all day long, is the opposite end of the spectrum from David Allen’s “clear mind” in which high-quality, productive work gets done.
Focus on One Goal With GTD Gmail
Interestingly, these small tasks, requests, and communications are why GTD is “bottom up,” unlike most self-help and productivity guides. Most earlier productivity systems are “top-down”: you define your biggest life goals and aspirations, break them into small steps, and do the steps one at a time.
David Allen believes that it’s impossible to focus on big goals while you are constantly distracted by hundreds of small tasks. GTD tackles and eliminates the small tasks first, to free your mind for bigger things.
It’s doubtful that in 2001, when the GTD system was devised, Allen knew quite how many notifications, devices, messages, and distractions the average worker would be contending within the coming years.
GTD didn’t originally have a built-in system specifically for addressing email inbox management or volume, although there have been GTD guides added in recent years that address email management.
But these days, the millions of people adopting some or all of the GTD principles and applying them to their email inboxes, have largely had to devise their own systems. The internet is full of different tips, hacks, and tutorials on how to create your own email system and make email work with GTD methods.
These GTD Gmail hacks and tutorials are often complex and involve digging deep into Gmail tools, settings, and preferences to Get Things Done more efficiently. Also, you can learn how to organize Gmail easily.
And Google modifies and adds onto Gmail frequently enough that these user-created systems need to be continually adapted and modified as Google changes their apps, tools, or interfaces.
In short, Gmail online and Gmail apps aren’t very GTD friendly, and trying to make them so can be difficult and time-consuming.
Instead, many people are discovering that using a tool like Flow-e to integrate with Gmail makes GTD Gmail easy and natural. Flow-e streamlines email processes and improves them by making it:
1) Simple and intuitive
Rather than creating and tweaking custom inboxes, labels, filters, and settings, Flow-e is fast and easy to set up and maintain.
With Flow-e, you are free to focus on your tasks rather than managing your settings and filters. You don’t have to do the multi-step processes described in (probably out of date) online tutorials – you just install and go.
2) Flow-e is fully integrated
Email is just one part of managing tasks and projects, and Gmail doesn’t make it easy to transition seamlessly between email, task lists, and calendars.
Gmail users have to use different apps or different screens to manage all their productivity, while Flow-e keeps it all in front of you all the time. Flow-e is the perfect GTD app for your Gmail.
3) Flow-e is visual
The visual interface of Flow-e conveys everything you need to know at a glance: your email, your tasks, your priorities, and your calendar are all laid out visually for a fast assessment of where everything is.
The visual organization is great for keeping you on track, but also helps rapidly communicate with partners, team members, and leaders. And because Flow-e never stores your email, simply visualizes it, it’s private and secure for any user and any inbox.
You never have to worry about your data being breached or lost. Flow-e brings GTD to your Gmail inbox simply, transforming your work and your time management system, and unlocking your productivity.
Pictures credit: Freepik