For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been test-driving the latest version of Netcentrics’ Getting Things Done (GTD) Add-in for Microsoft Outlook. This one is version 3.0 and, though I owned versions 1 & 2, I haven’t looked at this add-in in a couple of years.
A lot has changed in version 3 – for the better. Here are a few highlights from the NetCentrics site:
provides a powerful Project Central window to consolidate Project Manager and Open Project functions easily Someday/Unsomeday projects provides the ability to Hide/Unhide and Complete/Uncomplete projects and individual subprojects create printable summary reports for projects create Reference Folder and File To Folder defaults for each project implements Outlook 2007 ribbons provides a 2 minute timer
In addition, this new version seems more stable than I recall from previous versions (I had occasional Outlook ‘hangs’ with the previous version).
What does the add-in do?
The GTD Add-in is designed to make it easier to implement David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology – specifically, David’s guidance for managing email, next actions, and projects. It integrates with Outlook, and you can access most functions via the add-in’s toolbar (above) or with hotkeys.
The add-in will allow you to quickly act on email by filing it, delegating it, converting to a task or calendar item, etc. and will handle the back-end “plumbing” for putting things in the right place within Outlook. For example, project reference material can be automatically filed in a folder named after the project. The Add-in also does a decent job of remembering your recent choices for projects, folders, etc. so you can select them from a drop-down list of active or recent projects.
For me, the most exciting of these new changes was what I saw in the area of Project management. For me, one of the challenges of implementing the GTD methodology in Outlook has been Projects. This Add-in makes Project management much easier and more intuitive by creating a “Project Central” project dashboard where you can view, manage, and edit projects and their associated sub-projects and actions.
In the past, the actions and subprojects were all tracked in my Outlook Tasks, but this was a pain because the project items all sort of jumbled together. Maybe I was doing something wrong, but it wasn’t working for me.
With the GTD Add-in, the top-level view looks like my always-familar, structured, hierarchical list and it’s easy for me to create a new action, add notes / thoughts for future steps, etc.
The Bottom Line
If you’re a GTD follower using the GTD methodology for email and you’re currently and you’re currently using a “naked” Outlook implementation, this add-in will help you. Likewise, if you’re big into projects and want an easy way to manage your projects from within Outlook, this add-in will help you.
Be warned that organization always has a cost. in this case, you’ll have to change your “workflow” for filing and managing email; essentially, you’ll need to invest a couple of clicks or keystrokes on actionable email to tell the Add-in how to handle your messages.
As many of you know (since I’ve written about it here before), I’m also a user of ClearContext and use a variant of the original GTD workflow. The good news: the ClearContext and GTD Add-ins coexist peacefully. The bad news: I’m still using them both since there are certain features I like in each of them (for example, I am using the GTD Add-in for Project Management and using ClearContext for managing long email discussions and filing entire topics in a single keystroke).
I’d love to hear from you how you are managing your inbox within Outlook – are you using one of these tools, or another? If you’re a Mac user, what tools are available for you? Feel free to chime in with comments, questions, alternate points of view, etc.
And may your inbox frequently get to zero.