As I’ve mentioned a couple of times on this blog, I’m a big fan of David Allen’s personal productivity book Getting Things Done (GTD). It’s a complete system for capturing and keeping track of all the “to dos” in your life that are competing for your attention. For those of us who are somewhat less disciplined than we would like to be, staying on top of the system can be a chore in and of itself, but just making an effort to follow the GTD rules can lead to dramatic results.
The foundation of the Getting Things Done system is to collect, sort, and review all of the things that you need (or want) to get done, so that you can make good decisions about what to do next, without worrying about what you might be forgetting. Needless to say, this requires several lists, and a good method for quickly moving a task from one list to another. For the most part, I find this process is most easily accomplished with pencil and paper, which I keep with me at all times. But since I spend the majority of my day sitting behind a computer, I often wish for a simple, seamless software software solution. It looks like one is finally here.
There are a number of software products already on the market geared toward the GTD user. David Allen specifically recommends a couple on his website. Unfortunately for us Mac users, the products he recommends are Windows-only solutions. Although there are a few platform-independent GTD organizers including GTDGmail, a Firefox plugin for Gmail, and iCommit, a web-based implementation of the system, as well as some popular Mac applications like kGTD for OmniOutliner Pro, I find them to be more cumbersome than my pencil and paper method.
Developer Jon Crosby of Kaboomerang.com has been working on an application that just may be what I’ve been waitng for… Actiontastic. Featuring a clean interface and intuitive workflow, Aciontastic makes keeping track of tasks, projects, contexts, and lists as easy as one could hope. New items are collected in the inbox, and from there can be processed into projects or single action items, and sorted into contexts. Projects and next action lists can be resorted using drag-and-drop. Completed items are stored for later review, if necessary. The current pre-release beta is already feels very stable and trustworthy, which is important for a system that may contain every bit of work you plan to do for the next year or more.
But the couple of ‘bells and whistles’ that really have me excited about Actiontastic are Quicksilver integration and iPod syncing. Quicksilver is the brilliant Mac OS X utility that lets users control the operating system and many applications directly from the keyboard – without having to switch out of what they are currently working on. With the Quicksilver plugin I can send new items to directly the Actiontastic inbox with just a few simple key commands. Being able to interact with Actiontastic, without interrupting my current workflow, is a huge plus.
Syncing to my iPod is obviously another big feature for me. At the click of a button, all of your Projects and Context Lists are sent to your Notes folder, making it easy to review them anywhere you happen to be. Obviously, you can’t add or edit items directly with your iPod, but that’s why I always carry my Hipster POD with me. It’s easy enough to input any new items when I get back to my computer.
There are a couple of important features still missing from this Actiontastic beta release. One is the ability to sync between installations on two different computers. And the other is being able to print your lists onto paper or index cards. The developer is planning to add both features prior to the final 1.0 release.
It’s an exciting time for Mac-using GTDers. Not only is Actiontastic coming along very nicely, but the Omni Group, makers of such excellent Mac apps as OmniOutliner, OmniGraffle, and OmniWeb, have announced that they’re also developing a stand-alone GTD application for Mac OS X. It’s sure to be a very professional and polished piece of work.
One last link for people who have read this far, Merlin Mann of 43Folders fame, has compiled a podcast of his eight recent audio interviews with Getting Things Done author David Allen. It’s well worth a listen for anyone with even a passing interest in the system, though if you’re completely new to it, you may want to read Merlin’s Getting Started With GTD before diving in. [iTunes Link] [Odeo Link]