Transform Microsoft Outlook Into a GTD Organizer With Jello Dashboard
I am always in search of a better email client. Don’t get me wrong, Gmail is great and everything, but there’s just something about a desktop email client that feels so much more powerful and functional. We keep trying to come up with new and innovative ways to make Gmail itself act as a desktop email client , but the truth is that there is nothing more powerful and full of features than true desktop email clients like Thunderbird and Outlook .
The problem I have with Thunderbird is that while it’s probably the king of all desktop email clients, it doesn’t really do much for me when it comes to productivity and task management. And it still has the nasty habit of getting a bit resource-intensive, which I really don’t need from an email client. So, then there’s the fact that I’ve just installed Office 2013 and have a full-blown version of Outlook at my disposal. There’s a whole world of email opportunities there – whether it’s coming up with innovative new email rules , or coming up with cool VBA scripts to automate email tasks.
As cool as Outlook is in those ways, there is actually one thing that it is lacking. I see this at my day job as well, because I’m forced to use Outlook as my time management tool. While it is certainly capable of acting as a personal organizer, it doesn’t really have those nifty little GTD tools that so many of us like to use to boost our productivity into the stratosphere.
So, what’s a GTD addict to do at home? Well, that’s wherecomes in.
The Perfect GTD Outlook Tool
Jello Dashboard is a really unique tool that sort of acts like an email client, but it isn’t. It’s actually a layer that runs on top of Microsoft Outlook, and converts Outlook into a powerful and very effective tool to get things done. It’s like taking a regular compact car, switching out the stock wheels for performance wheels, converting the engine to fine-tuned turbo, and painting a few lightning streaks onto the hood.
Jello takes syncs with all of the data in Outlook, and then presents it for you to manipulate and work with in a whole different environment. It’s one of the coolest applications I’ve reviewed in a long time. When you first install and launch it, it isn’t much to look at. Don’t be deceived. Just click “Run Standalone” and watch what happens.
What you’ll discover is a sort of email/calendar/web dashboard for your PC that you’ve always dreamed of. This is particularly cool if you have a second screen to use, as it lets you sort of customize what this dashboard is going to look like on a large desktop area – unencumbered by other windows.
What you’ll see is a window with a central pane filled with “widgets”, and a right pane for your navigation area – folders, email, tasks, everything. You may be accustomed to this stuff showing up in the left pane in Outlook, but on the right it just feels more intuitive, and it gives you the left area to play with for your customizable widgets.
The widget area is my favorite part of this application. You can literally drag and drop the widgets – which are data areas to display email, projects, tasks, notes, and even customized HTML snippets or web pages . Just think about the power that adds to the application. If you a site can be displayed inside frames, you can embed it into your desktop dashboard.
There are a number of widgets that you can add to this area, including Postit notes, which are always useful. Of course you can add multiple instances of things like the Ticklers (reminders), Project views and more.
If you want to, you can use the HTML fragment widget to embed your own custom HTML displays into the application. This can be pretty powerful if you know what you’re doing and want to pull in data from the web (or from a web server on your network).
If you click on the email icon in the upper right corner, you’ll see that Jello Dashboard doubles as a fully functional email client, pulling in all of your emails and folder data straight from your Outlook folders.
What Jello brings to the table that Outlook doesn’t are the added GTD tools embedded throughout the email client area. For example, click on the person icon and you’ll see that you can instantly delegate an email-based task to one of your contacts, or you can mark the email for review at a later time (and get a tickler for it later), or “incubate” the email, meaning it gets added to the “someday/maybe” GTD list in your main Jello navigation menu.
The actions available for emails are similar to Outlook, except that they are more easily converted directly into their own projects with one click in Jello Dashboard.
Once you have your workspace set up the way you like, you’re going to love how it feels. Here’s my dashboard screen set up with an available PostIt note-taking area, a tickler area for all of my reminders so I’ll never forget a task or appointment again, and even an area where I’ve embedded the WordPress Editor tool for my blog so that I can blog directly from within this workspace.
Of course, while the dashboard is cool, what makes this application truly valuable are the embedded GTD tools and methodology. You’ll see this at the very top of the navigational menu, because Jello gives GTD the top priority – it is how everything is organized, sorted and managed. If this is your lifestyle and your mindset, you’re going to love how Jello Dashboard tranforms Outlook into something that is much more useful and productive for you.
Creating new Projects is very fast and easy. You just right-click on the “Projects” folder and add “Insert”. Once a new project is added, you can click on that and “Insert” tasks and give them deadlines and priorities.
When you click those projects, they show up in their own project navigation window, showing all tasks, priorities and of course the unique tags that this software lets you assign to tasks – which is a nice way to organize like-tasks across projects.
Right click on tasks, and you’ll see more GTD Outlook tools show up to help you manage things. You can even immediately issue an email status report on that particular task by clicking on the “Send Status Report” option.
What you’re looking at here is an application that helps you integrate the sort of tools and methodologies that you know are extremely effective, into an application – Outlook – that has become one of the most popular and powerful mainstream email clients today. If you have to use it, at the very least, you can fine-tune it and give it a bit of a turbo boost by installing the Jello Dashboard.
Are you part of the GTD lifestyle? Can you see the power of integrating this GTD Outlook tool into your life? Share your own experiences with this software, or with Outlook in general, in the comments section below.
Image Credit: cartoon animal via Shutterstock
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