It’s quite a while since I read the “Getting Things Done” book by David Allen. I liked a lot of the ideas, but wasn’t convinced by the physical aspects of the system as most of my information flow is digital, excluding the occasional bill or account statement (I’ve gone paperless for those too wherever possible). I tried RememberTheMilk, but kept forgetting to check it or add tasks to it. The Someday system worked for quick items like saving a movie title, but not for more excessive things that needed archiving long term.
In fact the archiving part of the system was something that always gave me headaches. I tried using various read-it-later tools, but this always lead to saving a lot of pages and articles, and never really finding time to get back to them. One of the GTD rules is to get things out of your head. In some ways I think this worked actually too well with the read-it-later tools, yes, I could close the browser tab with an article (cutting down on my already serious tab overflow….). Unfortunately this way of capturing reading material was much like cleaning up the dirt under your carpet. Yes, I made my brain think it’s safely taken care of, but it just ended up in yet another app I kept forgetting to check.
Then I used NirvanaHQ for a while. It worked quite well, except for that “archive” problem – I still was left storing my reading or reference materials outside my “GTD system”. Enter ZenDone. I had my eye on it for a while – I do have a bit of a shiny object syndrome, but the first time I tried for a beta invite I never heard back. I kind of forgot about it and went on using Nirvana, until their big update. Once it came to paying for a service it did nag me that the tool only seemed like a 90% fit. That’s when I thought I might try to get an invite for ZenDone again… and this time I got in straight away.
OK, so it looks pretty, but does it work? In many ways ZendDone is similar to Nirvana, but what made a huge difference for me was the integration with Evernote, but I’ll get to that later. Let’s get through the basic first – you’ve got contexts, areas, and projects for your tasks. Here’s how I use these:
I have here: Personal, ThinkSentient, NaszaIntegracja, BookCoverMasterClass, PlotInMotion, etc. It would be a bit too generic to just condense a lot of these into one category called Work. And although some of these feel like projects I actually treat these as separate jobs which get their own projects. For example BookCoverMasterClass would include separate projects for the website, book, promo campaig, etc.
In GTD these are traditionally things like phone, computer, home, etc. I like to think of these as what you need to do the task, but I also like to treat these as the type of the task. Because you can filter by these in most views I really like to add context that denote activity type: code, write, design, etc. This way if I’m feeling in the mood for design I can quickly find what’s on the list that involves that.
Pretty much what it says on the tin. One extra thing worth mentioning is the “Single actions” group, where you can just throw your one off tasks, so you don’t have to create projects for everything.
Adding new tasks
There’s three ways of adding new tasks to ZenDone.
The quickest one is the quick note, which will put the text you type in there in your processing inbox (inbox in GTD). And that’s it you’ve captured your idea and can go back to whatever you were doing.
Second way to add tasks is the quick add bar at the top. It’s basically the same as going to the “review & organize” tab and adding things there into projects.
The last one is through Evernote. This is the aspect of the program that really makes it shine for me. Whatever you post to your default notebook in Evernote will appear in your processing inbox.
Processing your Inbox
Some people might find it annoying, but I really like the fact that you can’t skip around the tasks in your inbox. This was something I often got stuck with in Nirvana – when I didn’t feel like processing a task, just because maybe it involved some work to actually file it, or needed a decision which I was subconsciously delaying, I would skip it and do something else. And then I would skip it the next day, and the next, and my list grew. ZendDone forces me to make that decision, as otherwise I will not be able to process anything else. I guess I just need that slap on the wrist to focus on one thing at a time.
For the tasks you submit through Evernote you get to see all the note details, including any pictures you’ve got in it.
When processing tasks there are several things you can do with each task:
Delete – if you don’t need the task any more.
Create a task – add the tasks to your chosen area and project.
Mark as done – if you’ve actually completed a task before it got processed.
Archive in Evernote
I left that one for the last, as this is what really got me into ZendDone. Remember my complaints from the beginning of the (way too long) post? When I save an article in Evernote for reading later I can either make a task of it, so I remember to actually read it; or if I read it and just need it for reference I can simply archive it to a chosen notebook in Evernote. Because of this tight integration between the two apps, it doesn’t feel like I have to use two separate programs.
When creating tasks you can connect ZenDone with your Google calendar account and then the tasks with due dates will be automatically added to your calendar. You can also do repeat tasks, though that’s one of the few things I would like to see expanded, at the moment there is no way to do more complex patterns, like repeat every second Wednesday and Friday.
Working on your tasks
The interface is really simple and clear. So once you entered all your tasks you have the “Do” tab to go to. There are a lot of filtering options – you can work on the “next tasks” for each project or see all of them, as well as see what tasks are due soon or overdue. You can also view by area (or all) as well as filter by context.
In the “Review&Organize” section there is a neat 1000 feet view and filter – you can quickly narrow down the selection of tasks and create some interesting view. For example the tasks that have a due date for this week or this month.
– Integrates with Evernote & Google calendar
– Easy to use, pretty interface
– Inbox processing style
– Browser based
**– Limited repeat tasks – complex patterns are missing, no way to do every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday
– No Android app
– No desktop ap p
Want to try it yourself, here’s a link again: ZendDone.