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As you will see once you get to know me, I am quite the productivity and organization junkie. This doesn’t necessarily mean I’m productive and organized, but I know how I could do it.
Today I have decided to show you some free online (and one offline) GTD apps (Getting Things Done) so you can organize yourselves like true productivity ninja’s. While I am not saying GTD is the best method for everyone (despite its popularity), I think the groundwork is solid and the apps that have been developed are great for non GTD followers as well. I believe that only you can develop a truly good method that works for yourself. I hope you will find some of these tools useful.
The name pretty much says it all. The bare-bones of GTD. A very clean, uncluttered interface, coupled with intuitive functions make this tool the best for you puritans out there. For my taste it’s a bit too simple, but I’ve heard around the net that this is exactly why people like it.
You can add projects, assign contexts to them and then view them in the next actions view. That’s about it, and for many people this is enough, no bells and whistles, but then no complications either. What I love about Simple GTD is that you can run the whole thing through the next actions view. You can add an action to any context, assign any project to it (or create a new one), and best of all, you can drag and drop between contexts.
Summing up,is a no frills but very solid and very usable platform to manage your tasks. If you don’t mind the simple looks I think you will love it!
Task Toy is an application that is much like Simple GTD in looks. To me it looks like one of those sites I wouldn’t trust, but I think that’s just the looks, underneath it’s nice and GTD.
The great thing about Task Toy is that it has a customizable link pane. Yes, this has absolutely zilch to do with getting things done, but I would definitely use it a lot. I go back and forth between my WordPress Dashboard, my project management app, and Google Analytics sometimes and it would be handy to have the links there, since I do actually close the browser occasionally.
It also has a projects pane and current tasks pane on the same window. I always value the ability to overview data, since that is sort of the point. If you would have a reference to all the data in the universe, but no way to actually find what you want, then you have no information.
In Task Toy you can add tasks in multiple places as well. The current tasks pane and the projects pane and best of all, you can also add tasks in bulk, or with much more detail. While this adds some extra over Simple GTD for example, I like it less for some reason. The three pane idea is good, but I think it could have been done in a much more streamlined way, for example why does the links pane take up 50% of the space, when it would need about 10%?
All in all, Task Toy has some added functionality, but feels more cluttered and navigation seems much slower. The effort to add extra info seems too much in this app to be worth it, even though you may need it.
Australian-based Thinking Rock is possibly one of the best of the bunch from the functionality viewpoint. It looks, feels and acts good, and I really like the logo (the absolutely most important thing when organizing).
Thinking Rock appeals to me a lot because right from the start it feels as though you’re not managing your tasks and projects, but your whole life. This is probably due to the way you can enter tasks, the closest any app so far has come to the essence of GTD.
That essence is that you should get everything out of your head. Where most people go wrong (or where I don’t agree) is that this doesn’t mean that you should get everything out of your head, organize it, file it at once. Thinking Rock lets you collect your thoughts. Just type in a thought, type in the next, go off and drink a coffee, work a little, and type in others as they come to you. Processing these thoughts is a separate step altogether.
When you click on process thoughts, the first one you entered pops up and you can edit the details as you see fit. It is very true to the book, you can assign it to be done ASAP, or defer it, delegate it, store it as information, etc. You can view your info in any way you wish, export it, create reports (by project, by context, by date…) in pdf files. This piece of software works so well, is so elaborate, I’m very surprised it’s totally free.
I would recommend this to people like me who can’t stand if their system has a fault. If I can file and store 99% of my info I’m better off not storing anything, it just bugs me. With Thinking Rock, you will not be disappointed, if simple task management is not enough, I heartily recommend this.
Vitalist is an online application that is again, very close to the essence of GTD. It is an improved version of Simple GTD and Task Toy, with a much improved interface (in my opinion), faster navigation and much more options.
My favorite feature in Vitalist is the Inbox (it seems adding tasks is a cardinal question for me). You can add tasks quickly and easily assigning context, project and due date. What I don’t like about it is that you can’t add projects here on the fly, you need to create them separately in the projects tab.
It features Actions, Waiting, Someday, Ticklers, Reference and Search, plenty of options to categorize and sort by importance. I find it useful to be able to view these separately, since my important actions should not be cluttered with stuff that I may or may not want to do, or things that are in that project, but will be done in October 2040.
Sadly, Vitalist is not totally free for unlimited use. You get a lot for free, 10 projects, contexts and contacts (each) and functionality like exporting to ical, emailing tasks an so on. Without upgrading you miss out on uploading files, sharing, support and SSL security. Check out the full features and pricing, but I assure you the basic free account is still very much usable.
This unique online app (my favorite web 2.0 app of all time) is not a GTD tool as such, but it can be used to manage yourself in that manner in an instant.
Remember The Milk has some great features like geo-tagging tasks, easy sharing of whole lists or just tasks, email reminders every day, and so on. The best feature is the Smart List option. If you search for all tasks tagged with “Work” for example, you will be shown all these tasks. You can save this generated list as a smart list and you will always be able to view them. It will be dynamic, so all tasks deleted and created with the tag “Work” will be shown accordingly here as well. You can also create tasks in a smart list, these tasks are then automatically tagged with “Work”.
If you need to have the GTD feel, you can treat your lists as projects, your tags as contexts and importance as a way of sorting by date. This way your tasks will be color coded, as well as being ordered by importance, how cool!
Remember The Milk is for those people who like the idea of GTD and want to follow it, but don’t necessary need @ symbols, ticklers, delegation, information and so on.
So what should I pick?
If you want me to answer that question you better have a gun in your hand. I think you should try them all and see which works best. The simple ones are not really fit to handle large amounts of tasks and a large variety of task types, but elaborate management systems like Thinking Rock and Remember The Milk manage simple tasks and projects fine.
These are all fine pieces of software and picking on will depend largely on personal preference. If you don’t feel comfortable, just switch, and share with us your thoughts and experiences!