Monday, February 1, 2010

Choosing the best task tracking system for GTD

For the past few weeks I have had an item on my ToDo list "Set up GTD folders and actions tracking system" which never seems to get done. This week I didn't get it done eaither, so I decided instead to write a blog post about the factors affecting my choice. I am hoping that this might prompt some people to offer me advice. I am also going to start a formal multi-week project plan for how I will evaluate all of the options and set up a tracking system that suits me personally.

In David Allen's GTD book, he stresses the importance of setting up a tracking system that suits both your personal circumstances and preferences. The points to note are:
  1. The system I use for storing information about what I need to do must be one that I trust totally, because otherwise my mind won't be focusing on what I am doing if I am distracted by worrying about whether or not I have accurately captured the next actions. What this means is that I can't entrust to a web based service that I think might be down at the times when I need to use it most.
  2. The system I use for tracking my work must be really easy to get information into and out of, because otherwise I will carry information in my head and resist dumping it into the storage system.
  3. Since I will be notified of work items in a variety of places I may need some form of temporary storage that is always available to be so that I can store the tasks until I get a chance to record them properly. David Allen suggests a small notebook or a collections of index cards - in my case perhaps my mobile phone would be something I would be more likely to have with me at all times.
  4. I will be doing work in different places. So I need to be able to access my task list from anywhere.
My personal circumstances are:
  • At work I will be primarily driven by my Notes email and the associated calendaring system. This is a simple fact of life in IBM. It is of course acceptable to use a program other than the Notes client to read my email and to track my personal calendar. However, I find Notes to be a great tool and I feel it makes sense for me to to be familiar with the latest innovations from Lotus, so I will not seriously consider anything other than Notes.
  • At the moment I use GMail for my personal email and I also use the Google calendar for personal appointments. In addition I have recently invested in a phone running the Android operating system - this means that I have easy access to my Google data at all times, but since IBM only has a limited trial of an Android compatible VPN I won't have easy access to my Notes data when I am not at my laptop.
  • David Allen recommends a single tracking system for both work and personal tasks, but my personal inclination is to continue maintaining a separation between them. In any case, it will be necessary that whatever task tracking system should interface well with both the Notes client and with my Android mobile phone.
  • Both Notes and Google provide task tracking systems, but these are rudimentary. I might consider some other systems that provide GTD compatible task tracking i.e.:
    • Toodleoo
    • Remember the milk (RTM)
    • The eProductivity template for Notes.
My plan for coming up with a GTD tracking system that suit me are:
  1. For the first week I will investigate each of the GTD task tracking systems.
  2. I will spend a week using each of the GTD tracking systems in turn to see how well they work out for me.
  3. I will make a decision on what GTD tracking system I am going to use and then configure the interface between my chosen system and both Notes and GMail. This may involve a small bit of programming, but I am hopeful that there will be tools available to smooth the interface (the existence of such tools may be one of the deciding factor when choosing between the various options).


  1. For GTD on Android you are welcome to check out ActionComplete. AC for Web is going to be released very soon.

  2. Hi Brian, you know of my GTD setup from my blog but I just want to add that I really like Toodledo since it offers me a web-interface that I can use on my Thinkpad - and also a native iPhone app that I can use whereever and whenever I need to collect a thought.

    Furthermore, I have added an iCal feed from Toodledo of actions with start and/or due dates to my Lotus Notes calender - thereby making Lotus Notes and Toodledo a perfect combo.

  3. Hi!
    I just stumbled upon your post - living by GTD myself, using the eProductivity template.
    I wanted to let you know that I have just publsihed a free Android app on the market called BrainDump to Notes. It's very simple. It acts as one of your GTD buckets, saving your Stuff for future handling. The interesting bit is that it can save these to your Lotus Notes ToDo provided you have HTTP access to your email.

  4. @Borys - Thanks for the pointer, however I can't find the ActionComplete application in the Android market. Perhaps you could give me a pointer to where I can find it.

    @PerHenrick - I think your set up is probably close to what I want. Do you have a link to Brett Philp's GTD template? I can't even find it on the IBM intranet.

    Stephen Flinter sent me a long list of GTD applications - many of these are Mac applications so I don't think they are relevant to me, but some of theweb applications are worth checking out.

  5. Hi Brian, his GTD template is on TAP:

  6. @PerHenrik - thanks for the link. I will definitely try it out and let you know how I get on.

    @Jens - Thanks for the pointer to BrainDump. unfortunately it looks like it won't work for me because the Domino servers in IBM don't have https enabled :-(

  7. Thanks to everyone who sent me advice and pointers to tools. As well as the comments here, a number of people sent me email and Twitter messages. It seems that lot sof people use GTD and are so enthusiastic about it that they want to share their experiences.

    I also found out that there is a community in IBM which has lots of resources that will be helpful to me because what works for other IBMers is likely to also work for me.

    I now have lot sof new tools to evaluate. I promise I will report back on my experiences.

  8. For implementing GTD you can use this web-based application:

    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, schedules and a calendar.
    A mobile version is available too.

  9. What basically we look out to be in a task tracking software Mostly the employees performance with the respective time. Today with this competitive world the various branches are opened in multiple countries which manages to be the in the same platform to be operated with.

    Basically a task tracking system should have the capability of task as well as the project tracking facilities. As with the requirement I prefer to go with the task tracking software that is cloud based. A product from Replicon - is the one that I am using as of now. The online web based tool has got lots of features to keep good track of the tasks as well as the projects.

    What is your kind of task tracking software by the way?

  10. Although I tried many different GTD tools, I normally end up using Lotus Notes. This is mainly because my employer insist we use this for email anyway so to it is convenient to use the same tool for email and tasks.