January 18, 2009

Free Ways To Implement GTD With BlackBerry (And Where They Fall Short)

Filed under: blackberry, getting things done, gtd — dev @ 8:46 pm

A while back Isaac Bowman wrote a great post on how to implement a system for Getting Things Done with BlackBerry by using just the Tasks application that comes standard on every device.

Isaac’s idea is a very ingenuous one, works reasonably well for small-scale GTD implementations (30-40 tasks or less and a handful of projects and contexts) and cleverly pushes the limits of the BlackBerry Tasks application pretty much as far as possible in my view.

Actually, in the early days of Viira development we used his post as our internal benchmark: if we wanted Viira to be successful, we realized it needs to be able to provide much more than what can be eeked out from the Tasks application.

At its core, Isaac’s idea of implementing GTD on a BlackBerry is fairly straightforward. To flag a task as belonging to a project or a context, encode the project or context name in the task name and use the search function to find all outstanding tasks for a project or context.

Another slightly more technical variation on this idea comes from Mike at Clutter Free Mind who uses the task names to encode a larger category of tasks, like work relating to specific clients for example.

A key problem with relying exclusively on the Tasks application for implementing a system for Getting Things Done with a BlackBerry is that the native BlackBerry apps don’t do a good job of combining tasks and appointments together. This makes having day-specific tasks, a requirement of any solid GTD system, that much harder to achieve.

Another problems with implementing GTD with BlackBerry this way is that a lot of extra typing is needed to get even the basics going. Switching between contexts or projects requires typing every time, and if you are a more involved GTDer your thumbs will start feeling it after a bit. For someone with a BlackBerry Pearl or Storm this can become an even bigger problem.

Also, when it comes to re-assigning tasks from one project to another or renaming projects or contexts the limitations of this approach of Getting Things Done becomes more obvious. Changing the project or context a task belongs to requires editing the task’s name, and renaming a project makes it necessary to re-edit the names of all tasks in that project.

If you are like me and have 30+ projects and start forgetting the exact wording of the projects’ names the entire process will become daunting in a hurry (in Getting Things Done David Allen talks about 30-100 projects being the norm). Mistyping a project name in the task field can cause that task to “fall off” the projects’ radar as well.

At the end of the day, the BlackBerry Tasks application was just plain not designed with GTD in mind. While some hacks can be used to augment the Tasks functionality it is hard to make them scale effortlessly to a larger, fuller and intuitive GTD implementation that works smoothly all the time.

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  1. [...] bookmarks tagged gtd Free Ways To Implement GTD With BlackBerry (And Wh… saved by 4 others     starydawn bookmarked on 01/26/09 | [...]

    Pingback by Pages tagged "gtd" — January 26, 2009 @ 10:34 am

  2. I’m looking for a comprehensive GTD solution for my Bold that will sync with the built-in Tasks app or Outlook on my desktop. One thing that is driving me crazy: I can’t find a BB GTD app that does what for me is the single most important GTD effort: turning email into next actions! GTD just is not GTD if you cannot process email. Is there a way that you address this in Viira?

    Comment by Jeff Berlin — January 27, 2009 @ 9:21 pm

  3. tks for the effort you put in here I appreciate it!

    Comment by MichaellaS — July 21, 2009 @ 4:23 pm

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