Friday, June 11, 2010

Organization: Gmail for todos (Day 11)

The job of school principal is totally hectic and filled with an enormous list of things to do. There are many articles, books, and websites that give advice on how to stay organized in a job where information and tasks are somewhat like a busted, underwater well head.

Anyway, I’ve decided that it is high time that I share some of my tips and tricks for staying on top of the todos in my principal (and personal) life. Over the next several days, I will share write about some of my most useful tools. Most of what I use, I learned about from someone else, but I can no longer remember who or when. Suffice it to say, that my organizational system would be nothing without the work of several others.

My main tool for tracking tasks has been Google Mail. I don’t use Google Tasks even though it is integrated nicely. Instead, I use a Firefox/Chrome extension called ActiveInbox (nee GTDInbox). Even without ActiveInbox, my system works but with fewer bells and whistles.

Here are the basics of my todo system (I am not attempting to create a detailed, step-by-step guide to gmail).

  1. Using Labs, enable multiple inboxes in gmail.
  2. I set up my multiple inboxes as indicated in the second and third photos (click to enlarge).
  3.  The main idea is that each email that comes in is really an action waiting for me.
  4. For each email, I should decide to do it right away, make it a low or high priority todo, assign it to someone else, or archive it.
  5. I use labels such as “Next” or “Action” or “Follow Up” the most. I assign one of those to each email if I can’t just act on it right away and in just a few minutes.
  6. The multiple inboxes are set up so that the first one (below the normal inbox) shows all of my todos by displaying any email labeled with either Next or Action.
  7. I leave items labeled Todo for as long as it takes to get it done.
  8. Once the task is complete, I can remove the todo label.
  9. Because this is in Gmail, I can access my emails/todos from any computer with an internet connecction.
This system has been working fairly well for me since 2007. In future articles, I will write about more of the details of using gmail; Evernote; and other Google tools to keep this busy principal on top of things.

Day 11 of my month of blog-a-day (Spilling Ink 19 remaining.