At my previous job, we used Lotus Notes for e-mail, and I had a pretty reasonable system worked out for GTD with Lotus Notes.
I’ve been at my current job for about 5 months now. It’s finally starting to get complicated enough that I think I need to get my stuff a bit more organized, so I’m starting to play around with various GTD options.
We don’t have an internal e-mail server; instead, we use GMail. I’ve been using a fairly simple tag system with GMail: just an “!Action” tag and a “!Waiting For” tag, basically. The problem, of course, has been GMail’s threading. You can attach a tag to a conversation, but not a particular e-mail. This has become a problem recently, as I’ve gotten involved in a few e-mail threads with 10 or 20 messages, where maybe the fourth message was actionable, and the rest were not. That makes it hard to get to the action item easily.
I was about ready to give up on GMail, until I saw this blog post from a few days ago, announcing that it is now possible to turn off the “conversation view”. Well, I did that today, and I think it’ll help. One thing I miss from Lotus Notes is the ability to view messages individually, by default, but also being able to switch to a threaded view when I want to. With GMail, I guess I could switch “conversation view” back on if I wanted to see a thread, but it’s probably not a good idea to turn it on and off frequently. I’m guessing it would mess up the tags. Speaking of which, it does now seem possible to apply tags to individual messages, though they don’t specifically mention that in the blog post. That’s basically my key need in terms of being about to keep track of stuff in e-mail.
I also have my GMail account set up as an IMAP account in Thunderbird. I’ve thought about switching over to using that as my primary e-mail client, rather than the GMail web interface, but there are a few things I don’t like about it. It’s actually very good as a desktop client for GMail, in general. But I don’t entirely like the way it handles GMail labels. It shows them as IMAP folders, which is perfectly reasonable, but I can’t see any obvious way of see which folders a given e-mail is in, or to copy an e-mail into multiple folders at once (i.e. apply multiple GMail labels). (Again, here’s something I miss from Lotus Notes: the ability to right-click a message and select “show folders”.) The way GMail does labels, it’s always easy to see which labels are applied to a given message, and it’s fairly easy to apply (or remove) multiple labels.
One other tool I messed around with a bit today is ActiveInbox. It’s a Firefox add-in that adds some extra GTD functionality to GMail’s web interface. It looks pretty interesting, but I have to admit that I uninstalled it. I think I may give it another try later this week or maybe next week, if I can find some time to really figure it out.
I’ve also considered using Superstars instead of labels for my GTD “!Action” and “!Waiting For” indicators. That’s something I might play with at some point.