I've started to read Getting Things Done by David Allen some time ago. You can read about the concept of GTD at 43 Folders or Lunch & Learn if all you want is a short summary.

I think it's an interesting idea and it sounds very pragmatic and feasable. I'm a very unorganized person. I usually try to keep everything I need to do in my head and I rely on friends to remind me of birthdays, exams and other events because I don't have or use a calendar. I guess I'm a tough test candidate for GTD ... and I'm planning to give it a shot.

Now the only problem I see is the question which tools I should use. I'm not that much into paperwork, so I'd like to use my laptop for organizing my tasks. Of course you can use simple text files or other generic tools to do that (just like you can use paper) but that's really far from optimal.

About a week ago, a program called Getting Things Gnome! popped up on Planet GNOME and of course there is a number of online or offline tools designed after GTD available for Linux. Most of them allow you to define tasks, add notes, group them into projects and stuff like that. However, what they are missing is proper integration with other programs, online services and file formats. Notes are limited, they usually only consist of text, though sometimes they also support markup. In a lot of scenarios this is not enough (at least it is a very complicated way) to attach useful information to a task.

Just imagine the following situation: I receive an email from someone with a link and a few pictures and asks me to do something with them, e.g. upload these pictures to the website with the given link. If I want to make that a task, I'd like to be able to attach the pictures and the link to the task. So that afterwards I can trash the mail and thereby empty my inbox again. I don't necessarily want to keep it somewhere in my email program unless it has a really good search function.

Imagine another situation: Someone sends me an email describing a problem in my software together with a link to a bugzilla entry and a backtrace file. Let's say I'm working on a new release, there's a deadline for this release and the bug is critical. I'd like to create a task for that, attach the mail content and the backtrace file. Due to the deadline I also want to set the date this task is due and have my favorite calendar application being synchronized of course.

Basically, for a GTD application to be really useful in a computer environment, it

  • has to allow arbitrary task attachments likes files, emails, links or even calendar events (possibly implemented as plugins),
  • has to support calendar synchronization (off- and online),
  • needs to provide extensions for programs that are part of the workflow so that the user can create tasks from anywhere,
  • should use a storage format that can easily be converted into other formats (to make it easier for people to switch tools without losing all their tasks).

Of course there's more involved in getting it right. But most of todays GTD applications for Linux lack the above features and thus keep me from trying GTD out on my machine.

What are your experiences with GTD software? What features do you think are essential?