Back in October I got an email from Dan Baluta from Gtdagenda.com asking if I’d take a look his web application.
Of course, I was delighted to … but then a few things got in the way (I came down with a bug, and then Reuben and Joshua arrived, and then I got shingles, and then I didn’t sleep for a few months!).
Finally, this week, I’ve managed to have a good poke around the application and get to grips with much of what it does. Here are my initial impressions.
Getting Things Done
As the name might suggest Gtdagenda.com is based on David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) method of productivity.
In the words of David Allen himself:
… the subtle effectiveness of GTD lies in its radically common sense notion that with a complete and current inventory of all your commitments, organized and reviewed in a systematic way, you can focus clearly, view your world from optimal angles and make trusted choices about what to do (and not do) at any moment.
GTD embodies an easy, step-by-step and highly efficient method for achieving this relaxed, productive state.
- Capturing anything and everything that has your attention
- Defining actionable things discretely into outcomes and concrete next steps
- Organizing reminders and information in the most streamlined way, in appropriate categories, based on how and when you need to access them
- Keeping current and “on your game” with appropriately frequent reviews of the six horizons of your commitments (purpose, vision, goals, areas of focus, projects, and actions)
As such, Gtdagenda.com has four main tabs which are at the heart of the application:
Record your primary areas of responsibility, assign them to categories (e.g. work or personal)
Define your projects, assign them to related goals and give them a priority (1-5).
List the tasks required to carry our your projects, tell the application which project they belong to, and what its Context is (these are defined elsewhere).
- Next Actions
Lists the tasks that you’ve assigned as Next Actions — ideally you’ll have one task per project classed as a next action, as projects move forward one task at a time. Next Actions can be emailed to you on a daily basis, which is quite neat.
Besides the core four tabs that are at the heart of GTD Agenda there are three further sections:
I love this utility: define things that you need to do often (e.g. exercise or update your blog) and then check them off when you do them. (See screenshot below.)
Schedule daily or weekly activities; these can be linked to projects.
It’s a calendar!
Screenshot from the checklist screen
I was about to write that there were four further sections, because above the Checklists, Schedules and Calendar options there’s a button for “Contacts”. I expected that this would have allowed me to record key contacts related to projects or tasks but it appears instead to allow you to send invitations to friends. But it doesn’t explain exactly what the invitation is for.
The official tour
For more details, including more screenshots, check out the Some of the things Gtdagenda can help you with page.
As an aside, it’s a shame that this page isn’t linked to once you’re logged into GTD Agenda. It might be more useful than the existing Help page, which would be better labelled “Support”.
There are three price plans for GTD Agenda: Free, Basic and Premium. As you’d expect the more you pay the more features you receive.
|$39.45 / year
|$69.95 / year
These were correct at the time of review, check the GTD Agenda website for up-to-date details.
Ease of use
On the whole I found GTD Agenda pretty easy to use, but that’s because I’m already pretty familiar with the GTD methodology. I wonder how easy someone less familiar would find it, particularly as the Help option is more than sparce. I had to log out and check out the guided tour pages to find out more about some of the features.
As a test I took a few of my actual Goals, Projects and Tasks and entered them into GTD Agenda. It only took me a few minutes and the results were pretty decent. Clicking on “Move domain hosting” project gave me a good overview of the project (start date, related goal, number of tasks, progress and notes).
While I found it easy to add new goals I couldn’t work out why GTD Agenda had immediately categorised two of my goals as “Completed”. Sure enough they had no projects assigned to them, but neither did two other goals and they were classed as Active. I wasn’t sure if I was simply misunderstanding the model that it was using, other if this was a bug.
What does annoy me though is the compacted list of “My Goals” that appears at the top of every page. I don’t think it helps and it takes up too much valuable screen space.
Tasks vs Next Actions
I find the two tabs for Tasks and Next Actions to be a little cumbersome, I would have preferred one but with more options.
The Tasks tab shows a list of all defined tasks; the Next Actions tab is essentially a filter to display only those tasks that have been defined as the next action to take a particular project forward. I can see why this has been done, but I think that it would have been more efficient to have done this on the Tasks tab.
At the moment within Tasks you can group your list by either priority or project. I would have liked two further options: as I said, show Next Actions, and Group by Context. That’s how I work: within a particular context, e.g. sitting at my desk, I like to see a list of all the tasks that I could do here.
I remember WordPress before version 1.0. It was nowhere near as slick as the current version (in fact, here’s a screenshot of WordPress 0.7.1, which is the first version that I ever used):
So I have hope for GTD Agenda, because I think that its design is the weakest aspect of the application.
Having been using ZenDesk and BaseCamp for a few months GTD Agenda by comparison feels somewhat clunky and a bit retro. The application, in my opinion, could do with the loving attention of a Web designer and information architect.
Even a brief liaison with a CSS Framework would make the world of difference.
I find the heading “Gtdagenda.com” difficult to read and am disappointed that you can’t click it to take you back to your GTD Agenda Home page. Not least because I instinctively do it time and again.
How some of the screens are presented too could do with some strategic tweaking, for example, how categories and priorities are displayed. As an example rather than the priorities being listed at the end of each line (see below):
I’d have preferred the use of headings to clearly group Priority 1, Priority 2, etc. I don’t find the “Priority 1 line” useful, not least because the text is 6 pixels high and I’ve got bad eyesight.
Integration with existing systems
I already use a number of tools, desktop, mobile and online, to carry out my GTD-style organisation. I use Microsoft Outlook synchronized with my mobile phone, and also occasionally with a Psion and a Google Calendar (depending on my requirements).
But there was no way for me to import any of that information into GTD Agenda. Everything I wanted to enter into GTD Agenda had to be done manually. And once it was in there, I couldn’t get it out again — there is no obvious way for me to export my data other the calendar as an iCal feed into Outlook 2007.
As such, if you start using GTD Agenda it looks like you’re locked into using it exclusively. And if you don’t have Web access where you are you can’t easily add new tasks, although if you have mobile Web access there is a mobile version: www.gtdagenda.mobi/.
On the whole I like Gtdagenda.com. It has some useful functionality, it’s quick and easy to setup (assuming that you know your way around the GTD method) and has some nice features (email notifications of tasks, iCal feed, checklists), and I like the sidebar featuring a calendar, and lists of contexts and projects.
If I were to give it a score, I’d give it 3/5. It’s not quite polished enough but if some of the minor design flaws were tweaked, the application given a facelift I think and the import/export issue addressed I think GTD Agenda could be a really useful tool, even the free version.
Certainly, if you’re looking for a Web-based tool for managing your life in a GTD-style then certainly consider GTD Agenda, or at least keep an eye on its progress.