For those of you not steeped in the intricacies of the GTD craze, it stands for “Gettings Things Done”. It’s basically an approach to help you be more productive and less forgetful and it is set out in all its glory in the original book by David Allen. One of the core elements of any GTD system is the task list and the iPad represents an excellent opportunity to move beyond paper and pencil lists and take advantage of its technology.
The iPad represents an excellent GTD tool for a number of reasons.
1. It’s extremely portable: The notion of a constantly available tool for recording to-dos is a core element of the GTD methodology. Personally, I always have my iPad within reach, at work and at home. The iPad is small enough and light enough for most people to bring it with them, unlike many bulky day-planners or Filofaxes.
2. Inbuilt calendar and note-taking apps: The iPad comes with its own calendar (iCal) and notes application. Both of these could be combined to facilitate planning and keeping notes of your projects and “next actions“
3. Internet connectivity: The iPad can connect to online GTD systems via wifi or 3G, meaning you can sync with online services (for examples, see below) and ensure you always have the most up to date version of your to-do list(s) with you and also update this on the go.
4. The App Store: If the iCal/Notes combination isn’t for you, just search for GTD in the iTunes Apps store to find alternatives. You’ll quickly see that there is a plethora of GTD apps and solutions now available. These definitely vary in terms of quality and utility, but volume means it’s more than likely you’ll find an app that works for your needs.
5. Location aware: Many GTD apps allow you to tag your notes and/or actions with location, something that you can really take advantage of with the location-aware iPad. Some services allow you to be reminded of to-dos depending on where you are at the time (which is great for must-have groceries when you’re near the shops!).
6. Great battery life: The iPad’s battery will always be beaten by simple pen and paper (!!) but I regularly get over 10 hours’ use from the device, so I never have to worry that my critical lists or notes will disappear just when I need them most. The comfort factor is really important, and combined with the size and weight, helped convince me that iPad trumps paper in the GTD stakes.
As I noted above, there are now many different GTD solutions available for the iPad – I won’t attempt to list them all. But a few of the options really stand out. They differ in terms of price, flexibility and ease of use:
Remember the Milk: RTM is pretty cheap and quite powerful for managing multiple lists of to-dos. It can synch over-the-air and keep your iPhone and iPad in sync. You can also access your lists via any browser, as long as you’re connected to the net. However, for now, you can’t access it offline on the Mac without additional plugins and the use of Firefox. I’ve used RTM in the past and stopped using it for this reason. Try it – you may find it’s all you need.
OmniFocus: OmniFocus is a bit like a Swiss Army knife – it can do almost everything you might need it to, but at the same time can be more than some people actually need. Helpfully, it syncs over the air with a variety of solutions, so you can also have your to-do lists on your iPhone. However, in anyone’s book, this is a very expensive solution. In addition to paying for the desktop solution, the iPhone app comes in at $19.99 (£11.99 in the UK store), while the iPad app is an eye-watering $39.99 (£23.99 in the UK store). Aside from the steep price, the OmniFocus functionality may be overkill for most people. I’d recommend it for those that have tried other, more simple, solutions and found them wanting.
Things: Things is the GTD solution from Cultured Code. Like other apps in this category, Things comes in flavours for the Mac desktop, the iPhone and the iPad. Unfortunately, this means multiple purchases and Things is far from cheap. The iPad app costs $19.99 (£11.99 in the UK store), while the iPhone app is a much more reasonable £5.99. You’ll also need the desktop solution, which is priced at £44.95 direct from Cultured Code. While you can simply sync your lists and projects between your devices, there is (as yet) no over-the-air (OTA) solution like there is with Remember the Milk. Instead, you use your wifi network to sync your desktop with your iPhone/iPad directly, as opposed to via the cloud. While this is a deal-breaker for some – in that you can’t access your data via a browser – it’s not a problem for me. Things really does have a beautiful interface and is incredibly simple to use without being simplistic or limited. My only additional gripe would be its apparent glacial pace of development. Check out the Cultured Code support forums for a flavour of this.
My personal favourite
At the moment, I use a combination of Things and Evernote to help me stay on top of organisation. This means I have Things and Evernote installed on my Macbook Pro, my iPhone and my iPad. Things handles multiple device synchronising smartly and quickly, so you don’t have to worry about which device has the most up-to-date information on it. Actions can be organised in projects, tagged and prioritised. I use Evernote as my electronic brain, as it contains notes I might need for everything from my doctoral research, day job as a psychologist, DVDs I want to buy and ideas for blog posts. For me, these two applications are all I need to stay on top of Getting Things Done.
Your mileage, as they say, may vary.