GTD Not Working for You? Try Action Method Online

image Some of you may have already read our rather detailed how-to on Getting Things Done in Evernote with Only One Notebook — in fact, we are pleasantly surprised on a daily basis by how many people keep reading it… But what if you  don’t use Evernote? *gasp* Or what if GTD just doesn’t quite do it for you? Maybe you need something a bit more visual? A bit more project-centric? If so, then Action Method Online may be just what you have been looking for.

Action Method Online is a web app (for both browsers and Adobe AIR) by Behance that brings a whole new methodology to the productivity, task management and project management worlds. It was originally developed as a paper based, offline program that is both stylish and functional and the online version adheres to the same principles. Everything about Action Method Online is focused around a functional visual presentation of your projects and tasks that has not been effectively accomplished by any of the multitude of project management applications we have researched or tried. This is no surprise though, as Behance initially created the software for creative types, alongside their other offerings: the Behance Network and The 99%.

image

How is it different from GTD?

At first glance, GTD fans may find some similarities with David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology — but it is actually quite different in its approach. The main differences between the Action Method and GTD, straight from the creators, are as follows:

“(1) While GTD is based on WHERE you are when you do stuff (eg: @work, @home), the Action Method is project centric (not context centric). Especially for the creative world, we believe that, in many cases, work is home, home is on the road, etc.

(2) While GTD is focused on the integration of email into workflow, we believe that Action should be separate and center. As such, the Action Method views the inbox as a means of communication rather than a tool for action management.

(3) The GTD best practices were created for an office environment – and fine-tuned for the bureaucratic cycles of organizations. In contrast, the Action Method is based on how creative individuals and teams function – and their tendencies.

(4) The Action Method is an attempt to use design to boost productivity, while GTD proclaims to be design agnostic.”

 

The Action Method is based on five core elements:

Action Steps — These are tasks (or Next Actions for the GTD crowd). Techcrunch described Action Steps as the “virtual equivalent of a Post-it note"”. These can be used as with any task, as a means to jot down something that needs doing, and are displayed alongside all the other steps in the project. They can be dragged and dropped around for organization and can be colour-coded for importance (Blue, Orange and Grey). All Action Steps can also be assigned a target date (to complement the sort-by-date function of the software), and have a track time feature.

References — These are notes, attachments, links and other items that are relevant to your project. It’s not Evernote — but it you can keep everything that you need to know to complete your project successfully in the References area for easy access via the tab or the search function.

Backburners — These are your non-actionable items. This way you have a visual and trackable area to keep your ideas percolating until you’re ready to move on them.

Discussions — Here, you can manage ongoing conversations about your projects with anyone who is working on the projects with you. Discussions are forum-like in style and help you keep all relevant communications on the project (such as feedback, problem solving, and decisions) in one place. This can go a long way to getting rid of convoluted email chains and increase the productivity of both you and your team.

Events — These are your your milestones and other major moments (morale parties, meetings, calls, deadlines) in your projects.

 

The Action Method considers personal and professional projects as one and the same, just like GTD — but every task is boiled down to a project, which you can then organize as you see fit.

 

Main Features

Beautiful and Intuitive Design: The design and functionality of Action Method Online makes it easy to use and limits the possibility of “glance overwhelm” — you know, when you look at your task list for a moment and then feel compelled to curl into a little ball and cry. It helps you to put everything in manageable chunks so you can look at it without increasing your likelihood of a myocardial infarction or aneurism.

image

Empowers the User: Perhaps the strongest feature of Action Method Online is that it addresses every aspect of project collaboration, organization and communication without taking away your freedom to devise what works best for you. Behance did a lot of research and testing to create the Action Method, and they found that many people would abandon active use of project management software that required them to conform to a usage pattern that didn’t necessarily suit them. Action Method Online allows you to not only discover your own way of working with the software, but it does not share your task list directly with anyone else; rather, it shares only what the pieces of projects you want to share or need to share, allowing you to adapt the system for work and life in general without having people looking over your shoulder or stifling you.

Task Delegation: Furthering what was mentioned above, tasks are only delegated to someone if they are accepted by that person. This adds accountability, something which is sorely lacking from many project management systems. You can even delegate to people who are not using Action Method Online — all you have to do is enter an email address (or just start typing the person’s name if you have imported your address book) and send it on to them. Once the recipient of a delegated task accepts the Action Step, he or she will have the ability to file the task into their own implementation of Action Method Online or other project management software or method. The person can also choose to decline a task, and send it back to the original delegator with a short explanation.

Project Grouping: For further organization and custom implementation, you can create your own project groups to help you get a better view of the “big picture”. You can put as many projects into each group as you like and, as both projects and project groups are listed in the same type of order as a folder on your hard drive, you can use familiar modifiers such as ‘*’ and ‘-‘ or numbers and letters to create a hierarchy. An example of a project group set could be: *Work Projects, Contracting Projects, Home Projects, Mixed Bag.

Sharing, Sharing, Sharing: You can share pretty much anything you enter into Action Method Online with anyone on your team, but as mentioned before, you don’t have to. No managers looking over your shoulder and seeing your “Send Company X My Resume” task in your “Get The Heck Out of This Place” project in the “Need Newness” project group. Nope. You just share with them the tasks that they have delegated you, the tasks you have delegated them, discussions, the entire project that you are working on, timelines of the projects you are sharing, events, or whatever else you decide to share with them. The rest is yours and yours alone.

Notifications: All of your activity across all of these tools is recorded and displayed in your configurable activity feed. You can choose what you want and don’t want recorded and use it to track your progress. You can, of course, share certain notifications with others, as well. There is also a Nag feature that allows you to pop a quick reminder message or question up on the screen of someone else who is using Action Method Online, and to whom you have delegated a task. You can also send them an Appreciation message to leave them feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.

Integrated Discussions and References: As noted above. Very handy. No Evernote… but very handy.

image

Tips: Action Method Online will also, if you so choose, provide you with pop up tips to help you get the most out of the software and the methodology. There is also an extensive Resources section that will answer many of your questions, as well as dedicated support staff and a forum for suggestions and problems.

Mobile Application: Behance has recently released an iPhone app for Action Method Online that looks to be just as slick as the main application. Only for the iPhone though… As with many software developers, they went where the pretty was first (though I give them a break due to their designer-type and creative-type customer focus). There are no formal plans for other mobile apps unless there is a demand for them from their clientele — so if you want one, then make sure you tell them so.

 

Pricing

The pricing for Action Method Online is very straightforward. You get pretty much everything for free as long as you keep it below 50 Action Steps. More than that and you will need to sign up for a monthly pricing plan of either $12 bucks per month (USD) or $99 per year. The premium plan gets you everything and a bit more (i.e. 2 gigs of upload space for attachments and files, and 10% off of Action Method paper products). The premium version also helps to subsidize free accounts for the non-profit world, which they offer in limited supply. There are special corporate packages available by request.

 

A Tiny Bit of Negative

Everything in Action Method Online is tightly connected, and the UI is extremely intuitive as well as pretty, but there are some definite areas for improvement.

For example, there is no export feature. Export to Evernote (all software should integrate with Evernote!) would be ideal, especially for the References and Discussions, but any export feature would be a good start. There is also no calendar feature. They did this on purpose as Behance believes that calendars should be used strictly for scheduling and arranging appointments, but one could argue that appointments on your schedule are tasks that require action and thus an export feature, at the least, would be both peachy and increase productivity overall. There is also no offline access. This is hardly unexpected for an online application, but what do you do when you are in the middle of something and your internet goes down? 

Action Method Online is relatively new (about a year or so) and is growing, so expect a few bugs. The drag and drop functionality, while awesome, is not complete (you simply can’t do it in some sections, and in the sections you can do it, the order you established doesn’t always follow), and there are a few other things like notification errors and such. The support staff is fairly active, however, if sometimes a bit slow to act (or they just need to update the person who posted the bug more regularly). Finally, Action Method Online is not supported on all browsers. It’s main focus has been Firefox and Safari and Behance is working on Internet Explorer 8. Other browsers are a possibility, but not supported. If it doesn’t work on your browser of choice, you can always download the Adobe AIR app as AIR is available to all major operating systems — and most major updates and new features work there first. Bottom line: if you are extremely picky about how your software works, it is recommended that you try the free version first and do a thorough test before you commit yourself.

 

All in all, Action Method Online is a feature-rich, fully functional and visually pleasing project management — or even life management — program that is constantly growing. The methodology is sound and the app is slick. You can use it on pretty much any computer and from anywhere there is online access, and if you are a power user, it is actually pretty darn cheap.

 

What do you think of Action Method Online? How do you feel it compares to GTD systems?

Leave a Reply

  1. Hi 40Tech team! Brittany from Behance here.

    Thanks so much for the great review. I just wanted to quickly address a few of your “negatives”:

    1) We do offer an export of all data, via the “Data Download” link (this is located under the Resources tab)

    2) Calendar, offline, and drag/drop are all features we’re batting around for future upgrades.

    3) Customer service is something we’re constantly striving to improve; if you ever need an urgent response, try contacting us via Twitter (@actionmethod).

    All in all, this feedback is great — as a growing business, we really rely on suggestions from our users to continually hone the product. Keep ‘em coming!

  2. Glad you liked my review, Brittany!

    I confess, I have never seen the export feature — glad to be mistaken! Hopefully, the wonderful folks on your team are also batting around the idea of enhanced export features to programs such as Evernote, as that won’t do anything but increase your products usability and likely your customer base. The API is out there, begging for integration and the Evernote network is huge. They may even be willing to do an integration spotlight with you.

    I had previously been informed (and read in the FAQ) that calendar wasn’t being considered — so glad to hear otherwise! I do hope you are considering Google Calendar integration/sync as an option!

    Thanks for the Twitter tip, too!

  3. This has the makings of a great piece of time management, however it needs to integrate to other core software to create an inbox.
    One of the big advantages is that GTD does a bottom up review against your projects – you review each incoming data to decide how it fits in your time. This feels more top down, and I personally particularly like this, however information comes at you at apace so the ability to deal with is needed.
    The not use problem is the lack of sub-projects – life is complicated, and without breaking it down into chunks projects get unmanageable.\
    Close but no cigar

    • I agree with much of your assessment, Simon. They are still working on the integrations though and I hope they upgrade soon. Calendaring and social exporting is a must in this day and age. As for the project, what you can do is set up a project group as a sort of project header, and then list all of your projects within that group as sub-projects. To further sub out projects, you can use keywords in the beginning (or wherever) of the entry and simply run a search for that keyword and it will populate only that subproject tag.

      Hope that helps!

  4. I would recommend checking out http://www.Gtdagenda.com for an online GTD manager.

    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, schedules and a calendar.
    A mobile version is available too.

  5. Dan,

    Don’t you think you should be up front and say you are the developer of GTDagenda?

    It’s totally ok to plug your own product. It’s totally NOT ok to come on a blog where someone has written a detailed review of a competing product and then say, “I would recommend checking out” your own product.

    I have a subscription to GTDagenda and am now actively considering cancelling it because of that bit of low-life behavior. It’s uncalled for and you owe Mr. Travis an apology.

    Disclaimer: I am a subscriber to GTDagenda, and this is my own opinion.

  6. Great review Bobby- this was totally helpful. You may have just sold me on giving it a try.

    I’ve been waiting forever for a project/task management program with an interface that doesn’t make me dizzy and nauseous. As a creative professional who still maintains a tight system of organization for my life and work, I’ve been waiting for a program like this that allows me see my work in a way that makes sense to me. This program comes really close to the mark.

    The key features that have held myself and my organization back from immediately subscribing are:

    1.) Mobile accessibility. Blackberry app??? And for that matter, droid app, etc. Yeah, BB is not the creative user phone of choice, but its pigeon hole-ing to limit your product’s full functionality to only those who both have AT&T AND can stand not having actual buttons to type on.

    2.) Calendar integration. I need my tasks to pop up in my Google calendar. NEED it. I have overlooked so many task management programs in the past that refuse to do this. With this program, it would make so much sense to do and should be really easy for the user to get used to if it is- you can already assign not only due dates but time allotted for an action step as well. Plus, the events feature- if you can make an action step double as an event, it can log straight into your calendar. And in case the developers hadn’t considered this yet, (wink wink), one way to actually cover BB and many other non-iPhone users, in a mobile sense, is syncing with google calendar! If you just allow the tasks and events to pop up on the calendar, I can see them on my blackberry- which syncs with my google calendar! So even if I don’t have an app on my phone for the program, I can still see what I need to on the road.

    3.) What Simon was saying about sub-projects. Ditto. If I’m working on planning a large event, there are many many components to that project which fall under certain categories. For example, even just booking a DJ. The project being “Plan Event” should have a sub-project “Find DJ”, which should logically include action steps such as “Research DJ’s”, “Call DJ X”, “Compare DJ Prices”, “Negotiate w/ DJ X”, etc. etc. Otherwise the scope of the action step is really too big to actually be actionable. Some of those action steps there could actually be broken down further into sub-projects. The best design, functionally, for this program, would allow you to have a project that breaks down into as many sub-projects and corresponding action steps as you like. When every action step from a sub-project is done, that sub-project becomes a finished component of the project. When all sub-projects are completed, the project is completed- and stored in the completed projects section of the site, so you can go back and look at work you’ve done later on. Design wise, they could break it down into a view that will give you the project at top, and a cascading series of levels, webbed together allowing you to delve deeper into each. Something like a flow diagram visually, but really it’s a set of logical folders of projects and their corresponding action steps.

    Everything else, designers, I love it- great work development team. I feel for the first time that this is a project management tool that has the potential to grow into the program I’ve been waiting for, that I need, and could finally replace the crazy, time consuming system I have been using in it’s stead. I’m going to give it a shot and use the labeling system you recommended Bobby (although it’s going to be a pain in the butt!), and see how long I can last without being able to access my work list away from my computer (I can only imagine what the online portion of this looks like from a blackberry browser).

  7. HI Joey,

    Very valid observations, all! Behance has really created a beautiful and well thought out application. My major concern with Action Method, after months of use, is that they tend to be a tad slow at updating the software with any community requests.

    You may also want to give Producteev 2 a try. I reviewed them in early June here on 40Tech and have been working with the app for the past month. So far, I’m pleased and you may find that the calendar sync feature they have solves the issue you will have with Action Method. They are also always updating and improving. I don’t believe they have a Blackberry app, but it is likely on their roadmap, and you may well be able to get the site to work in the browser.

    If you choose to give Action Method the full treatment, let me know how it works out for you!

  8. Pingback: Producteev 2 Review | Cross Platform Task Management App | 40Tech

  9. Pingback: GTD in Producteev: Utilizing Multiple Workspaces | 40Tech

  10. Bobby,

    Thanks for the awesome reviews. I’m also passionate about productivity systems and software, and it’s been handy to have you pioneer ahead of me, designing logical GTD implementations and discerning pros from cons for several potential software solutions. Your reviews are fantastic.

    1. I’ve now read a fair number and auditioned several of the programs, but so far they all lack one key functionality that would greatly aid a GTD system. One of the brilliant innovations of GTD is natural planning, and while these on-line solutions all provide a way to list projects and effective ways to treat Next Actions Steps, none of them connect these two functions.

    How cool would it be to click on a project and enter a list of actions steps you’ll likely have to take to complete the project? Then, when you cross an item off a list, all you have to do is move the next step into the appropriate context.

    Your commenters have been remarkably astute, and when I read between the lines, a lot of the comments seem to be asking for this functionality.

    2. Some people have asked about grocery lists. I’ve given up doing it as part of a GTD system. I found the program grocery IQ in the android market and so far that’s done what I needed. As a bonus I can enter items by scanning their barcode. All I put in for an action item is “Grocery Shop.”

    • Hi Andy,

      It’s true that there is no perfect system out there yet. There are always things you need to tweak either to suit the methodology or your personal needs. There are a few paid systems out there that allow for better context management. I’ve been looking at them recently, but their biggest drawback is that they cost money. They aren’t perfect either. Some have horrendous interfaces, and some trade functionality in favour of prettiness. There are two in particular I am curious about, though, that may serve your needs as they develop. One is the Get it Done app, and the other is Nirvana. I’d recommend you take a look at both of them.

      And I also use Grocery IQ — it rocks much. :D

      • Thanks Bobby,

        I’ll check into those two. I’ve been able to work around by using producteev for next actions by context, and storing all my projects in E.N. with the plan listed in the notes. Not fun having to use 2 programs but it’s working for the short run.

        I’m a creative type and like the action plan idea of keeping Projects grouped by type, but I like the actions steps by context still. So eg. my writing projects are listed together in EN, but the next steps for each move to Producteev @computer one at a time. Not smooth but effective.

      • No problem, Andy.

        I actually use Producteev almost exclusively for my GTD needs, at the moment, and find that it works really well. I use a multiple workspace approach and also have a workspace specific to projects for my projects list, using tags to increase my organization. The notes system of Producteev works well for project related notes, but is unwieldy if you are visual and have a need to reorganize things. I use Evernote as my filing cabinet, and find that that eases things.

        If you want more info, here’s the link to the Producteev GTD post: http://www.40tech.com/2010/09/03/gtd-in-producteev-utilizing-multiple-workspaces/

  11. Great posts from everyone,
    I’m architect and loved the Action Method software, specially because I’m a lot visual, so the ability to see all my tasks and projects easily as well as the filters to order them is great. Unfortunately I have no plans right now to pay for the services, I don’t want to increase the costs in my company right now (specially because I’m a company of one man, not for long), anyway, Bobby or anyone else knows about a similar project management tool?
    I’ve been trying the Doit.it, it has some nice interface, but it is too slow and has no way to visualize the tasks in a post-it fashion.

  12. Pingback: Evernote / GTD | Pearltrees

  13. It’s 2013 now — the price is dropped — but Calendar and Offline remain in “future upgrade” status!? (Note that Action Method is now owned by Adobe.)

    Would love to find something exactly like Adobe’s ActionMethod — but *with* Calendar and “Work Offline” features.

    Any ideas out there or competent competition?

    • I’m not aware of any, JJ, but I’m pretty wed to Omnifocus on the Mac at this point. Bobby (who wrote this article) doesn’t check back here much these days, but maybe somebody else will see your question and have some suggestions.

      • Thanks for your input, Evan… just checked out Omnifocus & will review it more thoroughly — it certainly looks comprehensive.