August 22, 2008

GMail To-Do list idea

Posted in ADHD, External Links, Organization, Posts by Renee, Tools at 2:02 pm by bloggingawayadhd

I tend to forget things I mean to do, so I have come up with this system (that’s not working too well) where I mark important emails as unread so they stand out to me, and when I open some web pages to get work done, then get interrupted or sidetracked, I leave the web pages open so I’ll eventually see them and hopefully get to that task. (Firefox’s tabs have really helped me cut down on taskbar clutter) If I bookmark an item, it tends to fall into my uncategorized bookmark abyss and is rarely seen ever again.

There are 2 major problems with my existing system, though –

  1. If my computer shuts down or I accidentally close a window, some of my to-do tasks go missing. This also prevents me from shutting down my computer regularly because I don’t want to close the windows. Windows Update and my memory aren’t too happy about me rarely rebooting.
  2. I tend to pile up a lot of half-done tasks, so I end up with a TON of windows open, which both slows down my computer, and slightly overwhelms me.

Other to-do lists I eventually intend to use include Remember The Milk, but I have yet to regularly add my tasks into the lists (even though it’s already integrated into my GMail) so I haven’t made good use of it yet. One thing I do use when a task has a time set to it, like a meeting, is GCal. Google Calendar is a life-saver, especially when it emails you 24 hours before a meeting to remind you that it’s tomorrow and you better finish your 10 hours of to-do list items for that meeting NOW! Haha.

So, when I saw another GMail “trick” for to-do lists on Lifehacker, it really intrigued me. It looked convoluted and possibly not-useful at first, but after leaving the window with the article open for 3 days, I eventually looked at it last night. It’s very simple.

Basically, you enable Google Labs in your GMail, go to the settings and pick the stars and icons you want to use, then click on your to-do emails (I get a lot of emails from customers requesting tasks so this is great for me) and rotate through the stars/icons by clicking until you get the one you want. I use yellow stars for stuff I eventually need to do, orange stars for stuff I need to do soon, and red stars for the most important things. Then I pick 3 of the most urgent items (I’ll expound on the virtues of the 3-item to-do list another day) and change their star to a red exclamation point.

Next, you create a “quick link” to the search results showing your stars. I have one quick link for all stars, to show all of my to-dos at once, then one for “important” tasks, which are my red stars, then one for “Next 3 things to do” which shows only my 1-3 red exclamation point items.

Now, all I have to change is that when someone emails me something important, instead of marking it unread, I’ll mark it with the appropriate star.

Now here’s where my add-on idea comes in – when a bunch of links related to a to-do are open in all kinds of tabs on my computer and I start feeling the “too much stuff open overwhelm” begin, I can just write an email to myself in the same “conversation” in GMail that is starred for my to-do list, and paste all of the relevant links, then close the pile of windows. When I’m ready to work on the task, and open the email, I’ll just click down the list of links and open them to start working on the task. Less “taskbar clutter”, and the emails won’t disappear when I reboot, and they are sorted by task (unlike my bookmark folders)! Yay for solutions!



  1. Renee said,

    There’s another added benefit of this that I just noticed… if I’m in the view for the “Next 3 Things” quicklink, I don’t always notice the new emails coming in, so that’s one less distraction when I’m trying to focus on getting my 3 things done! Of course, as soon as I look at the sidebar and it says “Inbox (1)”, I click over there :)

  2. […] Back to Basics: Your Task List Finance Daily 12 New Rules of Working You Should Embrace Today Kick My ADD GMail To-Do list idea Tags: lynn truong, productivity, simple ideas, stress, task list, to-do list, […]

  3. bloggingawayadhd said,

    WordPress suggested this related post. Worth checking out!

  4. Joan said,

    I’m lol at your never shut off your pc method. I could see myself doing the same thing in some form or fashion.

    All I have to say is, “I Love google and all it’s wonderful tools including gmail!!!” I just posted my daily goals calender using google template for a calender. It’s form was more ready to use than what I’ve used in Excel.

    Good luck with your tasking!

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