The core of your GTD system is going to be Tasks in Outlook. This is criminally underused in most organizations (and apps – Microsoft’s own Outlook app for iOS doesn’t support tasks, just email and calendar) but it’s really quite powerful. We’ll dig into how to set up your lists later. For now, we just want to capture everything, and I mean everything.
If you right click on the Tasks icon in the navigation bar in Outlook, you can pin the tasks pop-up to the side of whatever view you’re in. Once it’s there, the simple, unassuming “create a new task” text field will be your new best friend. Start using that to jot down everything that occurs to you, big or small, that isn’t currently the way it should be. Anything you have a commitment to change, type it here and press Enter. You’ll be amazed at what comes to you while you’re going through your email or calendar now that you have somewhere consistent to write it down.
A note on flagged emails: You’ve probably noticed that flagged emails also appear in this list. That’s one way to do it, but I don’t recommend it. Emails that you pin to your task list in this way aren’t really tasks, and they can’t be organized in the same way when it comes time to turn these vague dissatisfactions into real actions you can do. Instead, copy the email to your Tasks folder in Outlook. You can find a button to do that in the Ribbon. This creates a real task with the text of the email in its note field. Or you can just save the email to OneNote for processing later.
Not everything you’ll capture will be a task. It’s just as vital to capture reference material, ideas, clips from web sites, and more. For this sort of amorphous data, you’re better off putting it in OneNote.
In Outlook, there’s a Send to OneNote button in the Ribbon. But for elsewhere in Windows, you have the OneNote clipper, which lives in your system tray and can capture images, web pages and just about anything else.
Be greedy in what you save to OneNote. You can pare down later, but make sure you save anything and everything you want to remember.
On mobile platforms, OneNote comes with it’s own clipper or extension. But even better, you should look into Microsoft Office Lens. This is a mobile application that uses the camera on your phone to paper documents, images, white boards, and more into OneNote and other Office formats. This turns your phone in to a hand held scanner that you can use to capture everything that didn’t appear digitally.
Jeff Kirvin, PEI
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