This morning I woke up to find that Gmail had enabled Tasks on my account. A task list has probably been one the biggest hole in the suite of Google apps and tools, and this new Gmail add-on looks like a pretty good start on remedying that
This is still a very lightweight app, and it doesn’t have half the features of some of the more mature task management apps out there, such as Remember the Milk and Todoist. While not specificallly designed for David Allen’s Getting Things Done time management methodology, with a few simple tricks it looks like it can be turned into a serviceable tool for GTD. Here are three tips to help.
1. Create a Next Actions list as well as Someday/Maybe lists and any other lists you might need.
Gmail allows you to create a series of lists. So I’ve created a series of lists to serve my purposes – Next Actions for actual task management, Someday/maybe for those things I might want to do someday, To read for books I’d like to read, etc. You can create and edit these lists using Tasks’ pop-up lists menu, in the lower right hand side of the Tasks box.
2. Use indentation to create GTD contexts within your Next Actions list.
Within my Next Actions, I’ve created a series of Tasks called @calls, @work, @home, @errands and so forth for the contexts that I typically use. When I want to add a next action within a particular context, I just put my cursor at the end of that @context line, hit return to get a new task and then tab to indent it. This creates sub-tasks for each context.
Since I’m using ‘@waiting for’ as a context, I can easily drag and drop next actions from one context to another by using the mouse to grab the ‘handle’ on the left side of the screen for each task. I can also re-order my contexts by dragging and dropping those context lists; the actions underneath each go with them.
3. Use the notes line to classify individual tasks by project.
Finally, I like to be able to see my tasks as part of the various projects they belong in. That’s easy. I just add a project title, in all caps, to the notes field for an individual Task. That shows up on the Tasks list, giving me a quick overview of what individual project a particular task belongs to.
I admit these ideas are, at best, work-arounds. It would be great if Google would add features such as tags and the ability to move tasks between lists. But until that happens, these ideas help.
Have some more thoughts about how to make better use of Gmail Tasks? Please share them in the comments.