A few months ago I was contacted by the developer of gtdagenda.com and offered an premium account that I could evaluate and, if I wanted, review.  I have now been using the site for several months and wanted to post a review of my experience.

What is gtdagenda?

gtdagenda.com is a web-based implementation of David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology.  The site gives you the ability to track, work at and associate tasks with all different levels of goals.

At the top level you can set broad goals (such as Finish my PhD) that guide your choice of projects.  These can be defined with a time frame, a category (such as Academic, Family, Work), and a priority (which GTD purists will recognize as NOT being part of the core GTD methodology but a piece I have long thought was missing).  Goals can be viewed sorted by either priority or category, offering the chance to see if things are out of balance (for example having far more goals in the Work category than the Family category).

One thing I really like about the application is that the top two goals remain at the top of the page as you move through other parts of the application.  This helps in keeping them always in focus.

Goals Listing

Within each goal you can define Projects.  These conform to the standard GTD definition of a project, are associated with one of the larger goals, and again have a priority.  Again, these can be sorted by either priority or the goals to which they are related.

One neat feature of the Projects list is that it shows you how many tasks are associated with each project.  Projects with no tasks need to be revisited or have their priorities changed to reflect their lower importance.

Project Listing

Interestingly, notice that my top two projects are related to a goal that is not in my top two goals.  Something for me to review.

Anyway, within each Project there are Tasks. (No picking on my task lists; the details are in the notes, but each is actually just a single sit-down-and-do-it activity 🙂 I should probably add some action verbs though.)

There are a few neat features to the task list display.

  • Starred items are next actions and they always float to the top of your task list.  There is also another view that shows you just the next actions.
  • Contexts are immediately visible, as are the project to which the task is associated
  • You can mark multiple tasks as done by putting a check in the box and clicking the button for Mark as Done
  • You can schedule repeating tasks (such as grading), add notes to yourself, and set a due date if that makes sense for the task.
  • Overdue items have bright red highlighting of the date the item was due to increase visibility.
  • You can modify many settings (priority, setting as a next action, moving to someday/maybe) from the menu.  This lets you make the change to several tasks at a time without having to edit each one.

Tasks Detail

So far all these have been in the left pane of the application.  The right pane brings a number of other useful features.

Right PaneLet’s start at the bottom.

You have a list of your projects.  Clicking on any given project will give you a list of the tasks for that project.  Notice again that the number of tasks is shown clearly next to the project name.

Above that you have a list of your contexts.  Clicking on a given context will allow you to see only the tasks for that context.

On top there is a calendar, and it’s there to show you more than just the date.  You can schedule things like standing appointments (classes taught) on there as well has scheduling tasks for or due a particular date.  When you click on the date, the tasks for that date open up.

An interesting addition is the Checklists.  This is an implementation of the personal development concept called “Don’t Break the Chain” (sometimes attributed to Jerry Seinfeld), wherein you get a check mark for each time you do something that is unscheduled but a habit you are trying to build.  You add each one, set up the days you intend to do them, and check them off as you go.  Given the struggle many of us have with these types of habit-building activities, this is a good way to track them.  Notice also that you can have checklists at different levels – things like “give the dogs their heartworm medication” can go on the Month frame.  When the due day of the week (or month or year) comes up, these items appear on your task list.

Checklists

There are a few more features that most potential users will find very helpful.  First, there is an email address you can send a task to and have it added to your lists.  There is also an iCal feed so that you can show your tasks on your google calendar or any other ical-compatible calendar program.

There are several settings for your account; do you want tasks and/or calendar items emailed each morning, what view you want opened when you log in, your timezone, etc.

Finally access from your phone has been streamlined on their http://www.gtdagenda.mobi site.  While not full featured (yet), it offers quick and easy access to your task list from anywhere.

What works well

I am very impressed with the combination of productivity and organizational tools offered here.  The integration of two items I’ve though were long missing from core GTD (priorities and  checklists) works well, and I love that checklist items show up on your tasks for the day in question.

I am particularly impressed with what a great job the tool does of keeping you focused on properly using the system and not getting too buried in the day to day task list.  It is very easy to get focused on a list of next actions and forget the larger goals; these items are in constant view and attached to each project, so that the larger purpose of what you are doing is always there.

Performance has been fine, and I have not stumbled on anything I would call a bug.

Dan (the developer) has been very responsive to questions and/or suggestions for improvements.  He continues to actively improve the application, taking into account the comments of current users and soliciting their opinions.

What could use some improvement

All that having been said, there are some items that need improvement.

  • There is no syntax that you can use to enhance emailed tasks the way Remember the Milk allows.  This to me is the biggest current flaw, because while I can email myself a task I have to go back in later and add all the attributes.
  • There are no start/end dates for schedules.  I would prefer to be able to put my academic calendar in far in advance, but can’t because the items begin showing up immediately.  This is my number two current biggest flaw.

Other items that should be addressed, but which I don’t consider to be a big deal.

  • No file attachments, so if it isn’t a short text you are out of luck.  An oversight, but not one that is critical for my purposes.
  • I find the schedules feature very confusing to use.
  • Entering lots of tasks is a bit tedious as far as overhead goes.  Supposedly a new feature is on its way to address this.  Bulk upload would be terrific.
  • I personally would like a way to mark a task as delegated/waiting for and make it disappear until some future date when I need to check on it.  I can use contexts for delegated/waiting for, but the item will remain on my task list.
  • Right now when I “Mark as done” one or more tasks, the tool crosses them off but doesn’t remove them from view, even when my current view is Active only.  I would like them to disappear without having to refresh my screen.
  • Two-way ical integration (so that scheduled items from google calendar can be picked up) would be very nice.

Pricing

In a perfect world this tool would be free and open to all.  In the real world, developers of new products often need to charge in order to support development.  Such is the case with gtdagenda.

Pricing

Anyone can sign up for a free account, but it is limited in the number of goals, projects and context.  If your life revolves around a few large projects this may be enough.

Most people will need at least the Basic level.  At a few dollars per month (less if you autorenew) the cost is relatively low for the completeness of the application.  All payments are through paypal and they offer a 30-day money back guarantee for you to try the full product.

Premium is for those who need a LOT more goals / projects / contexts or checklists.

Recently they have also added 2 different shared accounts for work groups, one with 5 and the other with 15 users.  These offer, in addition to the features of the premium level, your own subdomain, message board and branding.

Overall Assessment

Despite desired improvements, gtdagenda.com is the  best consolidated GTD implementation currently available as a web application.  It implements the methodology in a clean, usable interface and adds the things that many GTD users have long thought were missing from the original specification.  By managing all the cross-referencing between goals, projects and tasks, GTDagenda makes it easy to keep an eye on the big picture while working through your daily activities.

As mentioned above this review was based upon a free premium-level membership.  Were this being paid out of my own pocket, my review would not change but I would choose the basic membership instead.  It is generous enough in terms of projects and goals to meet the needs of my life and nothing I do is secretive enough to require SSL security.  When they add file attachments, my guess is that the Premium pricing will be more attractive for those with lots of (or large) files.

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