Blog, Misc, Technology

Using Gmail to capture Tasks

For as long as I can remember, I have been looking for a simple way to capture tasks for later review. I’ve looked at many different time management systems (Franklin Covey, David Allen’s Getting Things Done, etc) and have tried to implement them in my everyday life but none of these systems provide me with enough flexibility. It seems that there is too much structure involved in them to be useful to me (or perhaps I just get lazy!).

I’ve run across a few blog posts about using email to capture Tasks/To-do’s and after a little thought I realized that this might be something that would work better for me since I almost always have access to email (via computer and BlackBerry). I looked into using Firefox Extensions or Greasemonkey Scripts but those required that I be sitting at a computer with a firefox browser and I wanted something that was mobile and accessible anywhere.

So….after reading a few blogs about using Gmail to capture tasks, I started looking into…and found that this is the perfect solution for me. Gmail provides a function whereby a user can add a “+” sign and additional words (e.g., [email protected]) to their email address to differentiate the incoming email from regular email. In addition, Gmail provides filtering capabilities (Gmail’s Filters How To) to review incoming email and perform a function on it (i.e., add labels, archive it, etc).

Using the above Gmail features, I have setup a few filters to check incoming email for keywords such as ‘@Work’, “P:” (for personal tasks) and “@Blog” that are sent to my ‘special’ gmail email ([email protected]). Gmail filters these emails and archives them with the appropriate labels. I then review these Tasks on a regular basis to review what I need to do.

Reviewing these tasks are easy…within Gmail, I just select the label I am interested in reviewing (@Work for example) and can easily see what tasks need to be accomplished. In addition, the use of Gmail Mobile and my BlackBerry allows me to get a great view of what I need to do while away from my computer.

To send a task to my gmail, I can use any email platform (computer, blackberry, internet, etc)…but being the geek that I am, I wrote a little program in Visual Basic that I run on my computer to quickly email tasks to myself….this little tool is a time saver as it keeps me from having to open an email program and compose an email. With this little program (which I call SendTask), which I leave running all the time in the system tray, I can just enter the subject and message and hit “Send” and my tasks are sent to my new “To Do” list. A Screenshot of the SendTask program is provided below…mainly just to show it off a bit :)

SendTask Screenshot

I also use Jott to send tasks to myself if I’m on the road and not able to send myself an email. I had been using a notepad to write down a note and then hopefully remember the note as a To-Do but now with Jott, I just call and leave a voice mail that gets transcribed and emailed to my Gmail account. Using the filters within Gmail, I can then filter the task into the appropriate Label and view it later when I am reviewing my tasks.

I’ve found that this system works well for me but would like to hear from others what they use (if anything).

For further reading, check out these blog posts:

[tags] Task Management, Jott, Gmail, To-Do [/tags]

About Eric D. Brown, D.Sc.

Eric D. Brown, D.Sc. is a data scientist, technology consultant and entrepreneur with an interest in using data and technology to solve problems. When not building cool things, Eric can be found outside with his camera(s) taking photographs of landscapes, nature and wildlife.
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