Implementing GTD using Multiple Inboxes for Gmail

This post is an exploration of using Gmails new “Multiple Inboxes” Labs app to implement David Allen’s Getting Things Done system of personal productivity.

Gmail Labs just rolled out a new gem for gmail users and I had the inspiration to use this as a supplement to the online side of my personal GTD system. I use Gmail for all my email and organize all of my business around a detailed labeling practice. Multiple Inboxes sparked an opportunity to refine my system.

Ok, this one gets a little dicey for GTD purists so bear with me.

I know the holy grail for GTD masters is the fabled ‘inbox zero’ at the end of the day and especially at the end of the week. I am personally a big fan and adherent of this principle of GTD so why on earth would I want more inboxes!!??

The first thing you have to do to use Multiple Inboxes for GTD is forget that the name is “Multiple Inboxes.”

Think of these as, Multiple folder dashboards or something. The goal is still (and always is)inbox zero for the real inbox.

I am currently practicing using Gmail tasks as my GTD action Items with mixed results. Gmail tasks are easy to use, but they exist outside my email workflow and thus require additional energy to maintain integration. I just moved off of Things for mac and iPhone, and may actually move back (though things is technically a workflow breaker as well.)

So back to Multiple Inboxes.

Since most of my “follow-up” actions are email related, I set up one additional “inbox” to show my “status=follow up” emails. I have a label S/ FollowUp that I automatically tag to anything that needs further action in the future without a definite date. It’s like an ongoing tickler file, somewhere between someday/maybe and action.

This status label is very important to my work as a freelancer, where I often get referrals or send out bids to clients and will benefit from following up with them at a future date.

So here is the tricky part I ran into, how to get the content you want into the new “inbox.” There are no real instructions for this as Multiple Inboxes is a labs feature and not yet fully supported.

I tried inputing “Label: S/ FollowUp” in the field for the additional box, the name of the desired label as it appears to me and it didn’t work. There is a little syntax thing that happens in Gmail labels that can hang you up here.

Click on the label you want in the extra box. This will bring up all the emails with that label. Notice in the search box the way the label is displayed. For me “S/ FollowUp” becomes “S–FollowUp.
picture-2

Copy/paste this tag into the Multiple Inbox field and your new box will show all the content with that label. I set the Extra Panel Positioning to be “below the inbox” so it is less of a distraction when I am working. Save the changes and refresh your browser.

If you are using the same system as I do, you will see a new box below your inbox with all the messages you have tagged for follow up. On daily review you can skim these and respond to any that are timely.

This system is brand new to me so I am still reviewing it for effectiveness. Let me know If you have any suggestions or innovations using Multiple Inboxes.

Email Mapping for Fun and profit

I have been emailing habitually since 1995 and the creation of my first Hotmail account. Over the years I have accumulated new email address, let old ones die and woven an intricate system of forwards, pop fetching, labels and filing systems and filters.

Using gmail, my system was really effective…until I decided to move.

Inspired by some insightful feedback from a good friend, I decided to take my principle email identity over to a brand new hosted gmail account, casey[at]caseycapshaw[dot]com. I no sooner started the process when I realized this would be more complex than it appeared.

Fetching old Emails

I found a great tutorial for pulling emails into the hosted gmail account. Figured I would pull all 27k emails from my old email “hub” (using the “get mail from other accounts” feature in Gmail) into the new one in case i needed anything from the archives. At the time of writing this, it is actively pulling mails. We’ll see if they all make it.

The main problem with this is that I have a system of labels in my old gmail hub that neatly parse all the archive emails so I can find old things easier. I can find a way to preserve the labels through the transfer so I bit the bullet and will rebuild labels anew. The start of the new year is a good time to purge filing anyway right. If I really need to find an old thing, the labels will still be active at the old gmail hub and I can go login there to find them.

Mapping

I had no idea where some of the mail I had forwarded to my old gmail account was originating or how to tie all this to my new email profile. This called for a map.
emailmap1

I mapped out all my accounts and the forwarding/pop/imap action happening in each. This wasn’t too hard as I had most of them forwarding to the gmail account anyway. It’s just a matter of pointing them to the new account. This web of forwarding seemed to be the most important job to tackle first. I would worry about organization later.

Adding Accounts

In my new account(we’ll call C-mail for now) under setting>accounts, I added all the email accounts and verified them so I would have the ability to “send from” those email addresses within C-mail. That’s how I had it set at my old gmail so as not to confuse when replying to an email that was forwarded in. I did this while all the accounts were still pointing to the old gmail to make the verification process a one stop affair.

Forwarding

One at a time, I logged in to all my email accounts and reset the forwarding to point to C-mail. It helped to use Safari for these accounts and leave C-mail open in Firefox.

For the accounts that are in gmail or hosted gmail, this can be found under settings>forwarding and pop/imap. I set mine to forward and ‘leave a copy in the inbox.” I then created a filter to “mark as read” all emails that come to that address (this is just a personal preference, you could just as easily leave them unread.)

Labels

Then came the labels. This got a little ugly.

I use a system for my labels in gmail. P/ projectname for active projects, OLD/ projectname for old projects. I also have an S/ Action and an S/ Reference for status. I am going to try out gmail’s new task feature with this transition so I may no longer need action and reference.

Finding no elegant way to make the transfer, I simply copied all my existing labels from the old gmail into a spreadsheet. I created new labels, one at a time, in C-mail corresponding to each of my P/ project labels.

Oh yeah…Filters

I replicated my filter system, which automatically applies project labels based on the account the mail was sent to. Something sent to contac[at]thenewmanpodcast[dot]com get the handy label P/ The New Man right when it comes in the door, saving me a few cycles a week. I only had about 10 filters in use so I just replicated them manually.

Contacts and Calendars

Calendars were easy. I simply added the C-mail account to all the calendars I had access to “make changes and manage sharing.” I had to request an invite under my new C-mail account from two calendars that had been shared with my old account.

Contacts were easily exported from gmail and imported into the C-mail account. The one problem is that it did not preserve my “groups” so I will have to recreate these if I want them in C-mail. If anybody has any suggestions on this, please leave it in the comments.

In conclusion

Wow, that was geeky! But I feel so much better about my unified email system and updated personal brand. I updated my system map for my own reference and ended up with 11 email accounts, all integrated into a streamlined and efficient Google hosted mail account under this domain.

Branding is preserved across multiple projects and domains without any of the hassle of multiple logins. My personal brand feels more solid and professional with email under my own domain.

If you would like help setting up your own system, email me at casey[at]caseycapshaw[dot]com for an analysis.

Focus For the new year

Shawn Phillips

Shawn Phillips

The new year is a great time to assess and refocus energies, realigning our efforts towards our truest goals.

This week The New Man hosts Shawn Phillips, strength expert and physical training pioneer. Shawn tells us how important focus is for any of our efforts, whether in the gym or in the boardroom.

The is a great show to help you kick off 2009 with strength.

The Typealizer analyzes my Blog

According to The Typealizer, this blog’s author (your’s truly) is of the type:

INTP – The Thinkers

The logical and analytical type. They are espescially attuned to difficult creative and intellectual challenges and always look for something more complex to dig into. They are great at finding subtle connections between things and imagine far-reaching implications.

They enjoy working with complex things using a lot of concepts and imaginative models of reality. Since they are not very good at seeing and understanding the needs of other people, they might come across as arrogant, impatient and insensitive to people that need some time to understand what they are talking about.

The Typealizer scans the text of the blog and determines which Myers-Briggs typology the author is writing from. More on how it works here.
My only surprise is that this app nailed my personality type. Very cool.

A Tribe of 1 Million

If you ask Brian Johnson what he is up to, he’ll tell you he is giving away 1 million subscriptions to his popular educational service Philosopher’sNotes. What you may think is, “what is the catch? What is the business angle here?”

There is no doubt a business case to be made for this kind of attention, but I will offer, what Brian is really doing is creating a tribe.

I am listening to Seth Godin’s Tribes on audiobook as I write this. Seth defines an emerging understanding of our evolving marketplace as a collection of tribes, groups of people aligned under a common goal or interest and under unifying leadership. Tribes are everywhere, just looking for leaders.

Brian is stepping into that leadership role. You know Brian’s tribe already. They are the folks that find most mass media intellectually un-stimulating, and find exciting tidbits here and there on the internet. They feel a vision of a better world and would love to lend a hand helping us get there but they are not yet clear just how to do it. They love exploration in their own ideas and the world around them. They are ready for change and would love for someone to point them in the right direction.

I am joining Brian’s tribe. Not only am I joining, but I am recruiting!

Aside from the fact that Philosopher’s Notes is a great way for busy people facing information overload to digest and understand essential ideas from the great thinkers of the past and today, and the fact that he is giving us a subscription for free; joining this tribe is the first step in connecting me with a virtual township of like minded individuals.

I expect Brian at some point to ask me if I want to receive information on special offers and products similar to the content I find in Philosopher’s Notes. I will eagerly click “yes.” Part of my participation in this tribe is the sincere hope that Brian will leverage the power of 1 million people to guide me to the things that are relevant to me. I want him to edit the deluge of information online for me so I can focus on what I really want to be doing.

I have argued about the death of the banner ad and the evolution of how businesses and organizations promote themselves. I would rather participate in a number of tribes than be constantly bombarded with irrelevant information.

I agree with Godin in that tribes like Brian’s are the future of promotion (read connection) in our evolving marketplace. Good luck in your goal Brian, I look forward to reaping the rewards of my participation.

The New Man turns 1 year old!

On December 13th my podcast, The New Man turns 1 year old. We have published 40 episodes talking with the nations experts in men’s issues, relationships, sexuality , and authenticity. We have generated a sizable audience and it is a project I am proud of. It has certainly been an amazing and fun year.

In celebration of our birthday, we created a new Community Website and a CD gift set of our best shows of this year. We want to make it easy to share The New Man and open someone to a whole new possibility for living with these insightful and entertaining dialogues.

Check out The New Man Community site and I would love your feedback and any suggestions to improve the experience.

The New Materialism: Efficiency (RED: Scarlet)


The Red: Scarlet DSMC(Digital Stills and Motion Camera) was released last week. It is a thing of epic beauty. I am not even a real video producer and don’t really have aspirations to be one, but I am totally geeked out by this system.

I see it as Agile Development in hardware form. “They don’t make em like they used to” does not apply here, or if it does, it turns the favorite aphorism of the Greatest Generation on its head.

The system is built around the concept of modularity. Every piece can be swapped, mixed, matched and upgraded. Darwin would be pleased, the camera has evolution built into its design.

This evolution has already been demonstrated in an amazing example of loyalty cultivation from Red. Early adopters of the 1st gen Red camera body over the last year would have been upset at the roll-out of the new, upgraded version. Red is rewarding its early adopters with a FULL trade-in value on their 1st gen bodies, for upgrade to the new ones. This is unheard of…and totally awesome! I would’ve gladly traded in my 1st gen iPhone for the 3G model but would’ve had to pay the “early adopter fee” of hundreds of dollars. Even Apple could learn from Red.

Yes, the system is expensive for the video hobbyist, but far cheaper than comparable cameras of this quality and well within the budget of even indie filmmakers.

Perhaps the Red team should take over Detroit in this bailout plan. It seems that if we shifted our material focus from quantity to quality and stressed modular evolution over seasonal replacement we might solve a lot of the worlds problems and waste a lot less time and effort in the process. Perhaps I am being overly optimistic but if Agile development works so much better for software, maybe it can take hardware to the next level as well.

I want all my tools to be modular, scalable and evolutionary.

The End of Banner Advertising.

The Nielson Norman group has put out some of the findings from their recent exhaustive study on web user behavior using reliable eye-tracking technology.

The results of their findings? Not good for the banner advertising industry.

The group’s research shows that users consume websites in an “F” shaped pattern, focusing intensely on the content (or regions where content is typically found) with only cursory attention paid to navigation elements and almost no awareness on the areas where advertising is usually displayed.

This research dramatically affirms my experience with web advertising, both as a content provider, displaying ads and as an advertiser, looking to generate traffic with banner advertising.

While banner advertising spending has been in decline on percentage since around 1999, It’s actual dollar numbers have been steadily rising, and fueled by web 2.0 networks and pageviews.

I think this is money wasted and a serious problem for content providers online.

The assumption is that if you create great content, get tons of viewers, and sell a bunch of ads you can make money online.

Users are reluctant to spend money to access content, often circumventing paid content with torrents or other free access.

Advertisers way well be paying money for eyeballs, but as the Nielson study shows us, they are not actually getting these views.

So how does a business promote online?

Podcasting and Online Video Content (OVC)

I come from the Seth Godin school of marketing, stating loosely, that marketing is all about trust and relationships and gaining permission from the audience…and this cannot be bought.

The boom of Podcasting and OVC has created infinite content options for audiences. Gone are the days of consuming media because it is what is popular or what the network provides. We can now go out and find exactly what we want and consume it when we want it.

So how is this better for advertisers?

Self-directed
The user has taken the time and effort to select this content, download it, and has blocked out a part of their day to consume it. They are much less likely to be distracted or their at random.

Targeted
Because audiences can get anything they want, what they are consuming is exactly right for them. if someone is listening to a show on men’s issues, they are interested in men’s issues…period. They are not there because it fits in their timeslot or they have nothing else to do. Advertisers with content related to men’s issues have a built in, near 100% targeted market.

Captive Audiences
Audio and video content is linear, where webpages are not. Users are guided through the story or conversation by the podcaster, with no real ability or desire to skip around. Webpages are much easier to selectively consume and bounce away from.

Trust
Podcasters and OVC creators are establishing a rapport with their audience. They become trusted authorities on the subject matter and editors of the content for the audience. A trust relationship is formed, and the endorsement from a trusted person carries a lot more weight than a random banner.

So why is it so hard to sell ads or promo’s in podcasts?

As a podcast producer, I am amazed sometimes at the reluctance or undervaluation of podcast advertising and promotion. I think it is simply still on the leading edge. Many advertisers or companies do not yet understand the technology. Podcast audiences tend to be tech heavy early adopters, a demographic not in alignment with many businesses. All of this is changing.

Banner advertising is not going to go away, the market for online promotion is merely diversifying, albeit at an exponentially rapid rate.

Podcasting and Online Video Content are opening up new and more efficient possibilities for promotion and refining promotional campaign effectiveness. This study is further proof that the time is ripe to shift to these new and more effective promotional opportunities.

Casey Capshaw is available for consulting on podcasting, new media marketing and business development strategy. email caseycapshaw(at)gmail.com

Re-Envision Transportation, Yes We Can!

Following the decisive Obama victory on election day yesterday, I immediately went into visioning mode about what is possible for America and the world from this place.

Energy tops my list as the most interesting and world-changing opportunity we face. Energy is one of those “root-cause” issues—solutions here lead to all manner of positive changes across all systems.

Being an intensely practical person, I am drawn to energy solutions where the “rubber-meets-the-road” so to speak—with transportation. Fix the way we humans get from point A to point B to point…San Francisco and we have produced a monumental shift towards a sustainable existence on this planet.

I grew up in the west. I understand the value of horsepower and the value of freedom. After several years in LA, I understand the value of mass transit(or lack therof.) No one solution is going to immediately address all the transportation challenges we face, but a complex and interaged approach certainly can, and with the resources and technology we have available today.

Rocky Mountain Institute
has been publishing transportation solutions for over two decades, most of which are seldom adopted or capitalized on in the mainstream. It has simply been too cheap and easy to rely on existing petroleum and steel. These days are obviously coming to an end, and RMI is more relevant than ever. They have been in talks with such organizations as Wal-Mart and the US Army around hyper-efficiency and alternative energy.

These organizations are feeling the cost of energy dependence and looking to the future to stay competitive. Whatever their motives, it is good for the planet, and if major entities like these get on board, real solutions are not far to follow.

So what can I do?

I live with my girlfriend a few miles outside of Boulder in an amazing little house in the canyon. We’re near the river, and both get so much from our mountain retreat. The progressive suggestion is that we get rid of our cars, move to town and bike everywhere to reduce our carbon footprint and get more sustainable. I don’t want to do that and I refuse to think that is the only way I can lend a hand.

My girl recently traded in her inefficient Jeep Liberty for an all-wheel drive Subaru Impreza (we need the 4 wheels for the winter snow.) After an initial resistance to the smaller size, she now loves this car and especially the extra mpg’s.

She works in Denver, which is a major energy drain. She negotiated to work 2 days a week from home, saving 60 miles of commute time and energy. She also rides the bus from the park-n-ride every day she does go to the city, a little more time consuming but a lot more efficient. She has come to enjoy the downtime of the ride to listen to great podcasts or read.

I heard of a start-up recently(name and link forthcoming) that is going to be offering gas-to-electric conversions of existing vehicles at a reasonable price. These conversions will get all the performance of a combustion engine at about a 60 mile range. At first thought, 60 miles does not seem like much, but when I did an analysis of my transportation, i rarely drive more than 60 miles in a single day…usually its less than 10.

The company will set up financing for the conversion, effectively replacing your monthly gas bill with your monthly conversion loan payment. This is at current fuel prices, when fuel hits $5 a gallon, the loan payment will be much cheaper.

I started shopping for old mini-trucks with millions of miles or busted engines to get my conversion. I love the idea of tooling around in a little truck, making no sound and using no gasoline. My grandpa used to drive Datsun pickups, always with over 100k miles. it was a point of pride in the value of the thing for him, and a statement against frivolous luxury. He could have afforded whatever he wanted to drive, and brand new.

I think I inherited his flair for rebellion, underpinned with a genuine compassion and practical sense of value.

That’s where I am going to focus my energy for change. I contacted the conversion company about helping them grow their business. I look forward to reshaping the way Americans use transportation.