If you’re like me, your reaction after reading David Allen’s Getting Thing Done was a head-slapping, “Duh! Why wasn’t I doing this years ago? It’s so simple!” That may be a reason why many folks, myself included, are almost religiously tied to the methodology. It simply makes sense.
A new online application, Nozbe, describes itself as “Simply Get Things Done!” It lives up to its tag line, showing a lot of promise for an early beta.
Why? It gets to the heart of the matter…projects, contexts and next actions, without forcing the process down the user’s throat.
A project is a group of related actions. A context is what you need or where you need to be to get that action done, not directly related to the project. So if the next action in a project is to make a phone call, but you’re nowhere near a phone, it does no good to be focused on that call. Go on to the action that’s in a context that are you able to deal with, in the time you have available to deal with it. Next actions are how you prioritize the actions that need to be done in a project. Don’t focus on the tasks that are at the end, keep your eye on what has to be done next. Start at the beginning and take it one step at a time, yet step back and take a bird’s eye view on a regular schedule to make sure you still have the big picture in focus.
The developer notes that Nozbe was inspired by 37Signals’ Backpack. Fans of the GTD system who don’t want to download a dedicated desktop application love hacking existing online tools to get them to fit into the methodology they really want to use. You can “do” GTD with Backpack, Gmail, Remember the Milk, and more. Nozbe is built for GTD from the ground up.
Currently the beta is limited to just 5 projects. I’m sure that restriction will be lifted as the the application ramps up. List your project’s tasks and notes (files are coming).
As you add tasks, you set the context for them. I wish there was the ability to add/edit the context list. As a web worker, my context set looks quite different than the Nozbe default set. I often find myself throwing too much in the “Computer” context, since that’s where I spend so much of my time. I prefer to break my “Computer” contexts up by application category, finding that if I’m in a writing/editing state-of-mind, it’s often easier to pick an easy “next action” that’s also about writing and bang it out than switch mindsets to work a task in page layout or web development. Contexts are personal, and I hope the developer rethinks his decision to try and find a one-size-fits-all list.
The idea is not to limit yourself to only thinking of tasks that are immediately do-able. Make your plan to take over the world. Now break it down into small steps that you need to accomplish that will move you to your goal, then decide on the contexts you’ll need for each step. Review your plan and figure out what is the very next action you need to take to move you on your way. Click the star next to that action to make it the “next action.” In Nozbe, that will pull that action to the “next action” view so you can see what is literally on your plate at the moment, across all projects, without being distracted by the steps you can’t tackle yet for whatever reason.
Nozbe still needs work. In addition to the uneditable contexts and the limit on projects, it doesn’t work with any other on or offline system. No importing/exporting tasks or projects to work with a favorite calendar or email application. No RSS feeds. No reporting. No date-specific tasks. Sometimes you have to do something because it’s due, regardless of the accessibility of the context. I think all of these things can be added without losing the simplicity that makes this application stand out.
It’s a good start. If you’re a GTD fan, this is a web application to watch.