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Getting Things Zero’d

I really love task lists — especially the crossing off part — but lately they haven’t really been helping me out. Between the day job, consulting work, dating, and a more active social life than I had in Indiana, it seems like I never quite get to the crossing off part. This has become particularly clear at work where I use two simple labels for email: action and reply. I’m a little ashamed to admit that the action queue currently has 196 items in it, the oldest dating to August of last year. My CC inbox has 404 messages in it right now, of which 182 are starred. Starring is supposed to indicate something that needs my attention. Somehow this doesn’t seem productive. Mike, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry. Believe me, I’m sorry.

So I’m trying something a little different. This evening I watched the Google Tech Talk by Merlin Mann on Inbox Zero . While the second half played I managed to clear out my inbox.

Tomorrow I’m planning to create an email DMZ and begin at zero with my work inbox. Just keeping the flow of information to a reasonable level is just the first step, though.

I’ve had a Remember the Milk (RTM) account for quite a while but never got in the habit of using it. After watching an introduction to Tasque , I decided to look again. Tasque is a simple task list application for Gnome, in the same vein as Tomboy for notes. I love Tomboy. I think I’ll love Tasque, too.

I don’t know if the RTM elves have been hacking away at the site since I last looked or if I just never really dug in, but it actually seems to have the features I want in a task list. And there’s even a handy blog post on how you can use RTM to GTD (get things done).

Finally, the piece that ties both sides together: their Firefox extension . My workflow this evening looked like this:

  1. Go to the next email
  2. Decide that had some action associated with it
  3. Add the `action` label to it, which also created it as a task to RTM
  4. Later, when skimming through the `action` list I saw one I could knock out in a few minutes. And when I finished and removed the `action` label, the task in RTM was marked as complete. Sweet.