GTD in Producteev: Utilizing Multiple Workspaces

GTD in Producteev

If you have read 40Tech over the past year, you may have discovered my minor obsession with productivity apps and methods. It’s a journey that began with my first post here: GTD in Evernote with Only One Notebook (posted a year and a week ago ), and continued through reviews of Action Method Online and on into my latest experiment, Producteev 2. I have really been enjoying Producteev, and have been using it exclusively for some time now — so I decided it was time to attempt a full GTD implementation, and see how it would work. After some trial and error, I’m satisfied. Check out a walkthrough of my method for GTD in Producteev, below.



The General Approach

Now let’s get right into it, shall we? There are a few possible ways to set up an effective GTD process in Producteev, including adapting the smart filters in the left tab, or extensive use of labels for contexts (this will work better if Producteev introduces labels that can be persistent across workspaces). Neither of those methods quite did it for me, though. I needed a system that would be able to provide me with snapshots of my task list in non-overwhelming chunks (by context), even in Overview mode. Currently, the Overview tab doesn’t show labels; and I like to use the smart filters and labels, both, to provide further subsets of task-data for easy, at-a-glance viewing.

To bend Producteev to my will, I chose to take advantage of their unlimited workspaces. I set up my main workspace as my “Brain Dump” inbox — I call it that because that’s what it is, and because the Producteev sidebar already has something named “Inbox”, that did not suit my purposes. I then created a workspace for every major context. I understand the collaborative power that Producteev brings to the table, but the fact is that most tasks in your day, when put into a GTD context, do not require collaboration. Your general task list is personal to you, and under Producteev’s current pricing model, you can set up as many personal workspaces as you need to, for free. For specific projects that require collaboration, or you need to keep organized with a “project management” approach (as opposed to task management), you can open up a workspace up specifically for that project.

Snapshot of GTD in Producteev Test System | 40Tech


Producteev and Your Email Inbox

Before I get into the details of mapping your contexts into workspaces, I wanted to talk a bit about incorporating your email into your GTD system. In the GTD in Evernote method, you can forward emails from your inbox directly into Evernote. You can do the same with Producteev, but with some added benefits: you can assign workspace contexts, specific labels, and even a handy date and reminder that will sync with Google Calendar. Judicious use of the forward button in your email client will enable you to process emails into next actions, projects, etc., right from your inbox. In fact, if you work in Gmail, Producteev’s Gmail Gadget brings a fully functional Producteev tab into right into your email client (it works much like the Google Chrome and Firefox plugins).

As I’m sure most of you do, I often find myself trolling Twitter, Facebook, Google Reader/Feedly, and numerous other services where I discover links that are related to things I am interested in, or directly related to my projects. Using a social media client with a “share by email” feature, or a plugin like Shareaholic, is an easy way to get those links or clips into your Producteev inbox (Brain Dump), or directly into the appropriate context. This makes for a very streamlined system, where everything you do online is working together toward the same end. Keeping your tasks manageable is the entire point of Getting Things Done, and Producteev facilitates it nicely, while working within tools you are already used to using.


A Note On Mobile

Producteev’s iPhone Client is currently the most functional way to take the entire Producteev service with you on the go. I’m not certain as to the state of their Android client. The web client is available from a mobile browser, but it is full-size, so expect to do some zooming and panning. If you are without an iPhone or web-capable phone, however, you might want to try using an email/IM/SMS combo-service (I encourage investigation, here) for notifications and task interactions. You can get your task list sent to your email daily, using Producteev’s reporting feature.

GTD in Producteev on the iPhone 1 | 40Tech GTD in Producteev on the iPhone 1 | 40Tech GTD in Producteev on the iPhone 1 | 40Tech


Setting Up Your Workspaces

I’m not going to go into too much detail on the methodology behind David Allen’s GTD System in this post. If you are new to GTD, I highly recommend you get a hold of the book or seminar (audio), or take a look at the GTD in Evernote post here on 40Tech. Mainly, I want to focus on the functional implementation of contexts into workspaces.

Please note that the Getting Things Done system, while it has many rules that have been well thought out, is mainly useless if you can’t or don’t adapt it to what suits you. What follows is a guideline, nothing more. Take it, improve upon it, or scrap it completely as your needs require.

When You Start

  1. When you set up your workspaces, plan out their order beforehand. Producteev doesn’t have a way to reorder them yet. If you are already set up and using Producteev, you may have to recreate your system and move your tasks — this is actually a good thing, as starting from scratch should be part of your GTD process anyway. If you really want to keep a workspace, just recreate it and move all of the tasks. It’s pretty easy with Producteev’s bulk options, accessed by clicking the checkbox to the left of any task. You’ll have to recreate your labels, though.
  2. Click on the + button in the upper right corner of Producteev to add a workspace. Create the following (case doesn’t matter and if you don’t like my names, they are easily changed later): @home, @work, @computer, errands, calls, waiting for*, reference, tickler, projects, someday/maybe*, “specific project(s)”.
    1. *These are contexts that I chose to handle as labels within other workspaces, but could be handled as workspaces of their own. Read their sections, below, to see details.
  3. For each workspace, click on the Workspace Settings button, or any of the little gear icons in the sidebar, and navigate to Communications Preferences.
    1. This is where you will connect your various emails, IM accounts, and Google Calendar.
    2. You can connect multiple accounts of each type — set up all potential incoming connections to make it easy for you to send items into your Brain Dump/Inbox (or whatever you call it), as well as easily be notified by or interact with your tasks.
    3. Make sure you configure each connected account’s notification settings, per workspace. You can add all incoming emails and IMs to your main workspace, and they will have access to all of your Producteev account; however, you may not want to receive notifications in all of your email/IM accounts, or may only want certain workspaces to send certain kinds of notifications to you. Experiment and see what works best in your system.
    4. DO NOT sync to Google Calendar without at least one scheduled task already in the workspace (use a dummy task to start). If you do, you will end up with a broken calendar subscription in your Gcal that has a long string of letters and numbers for a name. If this happens to you, delete the calendar from Gcal, head to the offending workspace in Producteev and disconnect it from Google Calendar. Schedule a task, then reconnect to and sync with Google Calendar. That should fix you up. If not… try again — it will work at some point.

Now you’re ready to get started!


Brain Dump (Main Inbox)

This should also be your default workspace. As per GTD principles, any new idea, unprocessed project or task goes here first. You can forward or send emails to it, including attachments (watch your space limitations per workspace); you can manually add a task from the Producteev desktop or mobile interface, or via instant messenger, Gmail Gadget or browser extension. If you’re brave, you can even allow other people to have access to this workspace so that they can send you tasks. Be careful with this last, however, as someone you invite to your workspace can view all of your tasks just by clicking on your name, unless you specify the privacy of the task. If you are going to be assigned tasks by someone else regularly, and want to skip email, then set up a specific workspace just for them, either for the project you’re or as a “sub-inbox.”

Sometimes, if I know where a task is going to end up anyway, I will add the appropriate hashtags (#+workspace, ##+label) to my email or IM, or add the info directly into the Producteev interface if I’m already there. This often takes less than a minute and saves me a step later.

DO NOT send out notifications from this workspace or schedule anything and leave it here. DO NOT connect this workspace to Google Calendar. The object of this workspace is to empty it (which has the side-benefit of a nice feeling of accomplishment!), and notifications here will drive you several stages of batty unless you actually enjoy spamming yourself.

GTD Note: Go through your Brian Dump inbox (and any others you may set up) daily, processing each task. Remember that any task that requires more than one action is actually a project and should be sent to the Projects list. All other tasks are sent to their specific context, sorted, and set as a next action by schedule, priority, label, and whatever other means you feel necessary as long as you don’t bog yourself down. Anything that can be done in two minutes or less, should be done immediately.

Producteev Note: Moving a task is easy. Click on the aforementioned little checkbox as you would with a bulk move, do it from within the task detail interface, or click on the workspace name that is to the left of a task in the Overview area. You can also change workspaces and add labels, notes, etc, by responding to task notifications from Producteev. In many cases, regular language is understood by the system.

Moving Tasks to a New Workspace in Producteev | 40Tech


@Home

This is the place for your next actions when you are at home and not on a call or on the computer – add labels as needed. Some suggested labels: kitchen, garage, bathroom, livingroom, etc.; or labels for recurring tasks that take place in different areas like “vacuum”. Whatever works for you.


@Work

This is the home for your next actions while at work (or for work-related next actions if you are working from home). Label this workspace as needed to organize yourself. If you have recurring or long term projects that don’t require their own major infrastructure to organize, use a project label here. If you work for more than one company, or have several freelance gigs going on, you can set up labels for them as well.


@Computer

This is where you put all tasks that need to be, or can only be done while on the computer. In this workspace I like to add labels like “read”, “review”, “research”, “experiment”, etc.


Errands

Out and about? This workspace is your friend! All errands go here as an easy way to keep on top of what needs to be done when you are on the go. Set reminders, add labels and remember to look here as you prepare to walk out a door.

Note on Recurring Tasks: Producteev doesn’t support recurring tasks, yet. They may in the future, but for now, you have two options: get creative with labels (though this is still somewhat limited), or sync the task to Google Calendar, then go into Gcal and modify the task as recurring. Sure, you are then relying only on your calendar as a reminder service, but the job gets done.

Calls

This is where you place all of your “to call” actions. Many calls need to be scheduled and require a reminder. This is one place that the Google Calendar integration of Producteev is a lifesaver. Remember that email bodies, and even responses to Producteev reminder messages that have quotations around them (” “), are added to a note for the task. This is a good way to keep on top of what you need to know for your call.

Quick view of notes in Producteev


Waiting For*

A task that requires the action(s) of someone or something else before it can be done goes here. Many people will view Waiting For as a context unto itself and will want to make a workspace just for it. I tend to view Waiting For as a sub-context. It organizes better in my mind when I view what or who I am waiting on in relation to larger contexts like @work or Calls, so for me, Waiting For is a label that lives inside many of my workspaces.


Reference

I debated on whether to to put a workspace up for Reference at all. This is essentially your filing cabinet, wherein all things that need to be remembered but require no action, or no further action, go. I use Evernote for that and am saddened that Producteev has not yet discovered the wonder of the Evernote API (I would love to be able to access my Evernote content as well as to send tasks and notes into Evernote!). However! There are often times when I will want to keep track of a task and/or its notes even after completion, so I created the Reference workspace and a list of tags covering the entire alphabet for file-cabinet-like searching. I have this workspace set to notify me whenever there is a note posted on it, which helps in two ways:

  1. If I allow collaborators in the Reference workspace, I can see when a note is posted and keep track of conversation.
  2. I can forward the notification email to Evernote — it contains a link to the task and can live in my Evernote filing cabinet for easy and clickable later reference. If you like, you can simply do this with all completed tasks and not bother with a Reference workspace at all.


Tickler

This is where you put everything that doesn’t require your immediate attention, but you want to get back to at some point. Connect this Producteev workspace to your Google Calendar, as you will want to give each of these tasks a loose schedule that will “tickle” you with a reminder.


Projects

Everything that requires more than one action — and isn’t a reference item – is a project. Once these items are weeded out of your inbox and everything else is sorted, you open up the Projects workspace and hammer out next tasks for your project items, adding them to your inbox/Brain Dump for later processing (or directly to where they are supposed to go, if you’re ready for that). Use labels here to split things up (@home projects, @work projects, specific project names, etc.). This is also a great place to implement the starring functionality of Producteev, to allow you to sort your projects by importance.


Someday/Maybe*

Someday/Maybe is another context that could be a workspace of its own, but I chose to put it as a sub-set of the Projects workspace, using a label. This organizes better, in my mind — you should implement it whichever way works best for you.

Someday/Maybe as a Sub-Context in Producteev | 40Tech


“Specific Project(s)” (Large/Collaborative)

I’m not a hardcore GTD guy. I love the spirit of Getting Things Done, but there are still some things that need to be organized outside of the methodology, for me. Large projects that require their own organization (milestone structure and the like), or projects that require collaboration suit me better when they are in their own workspace. If I want to, I can move the next-action tasks for those projects into the GTD aspect of my Producteev system, or I can keep the tasks focused within the specific project’s workspace. I actually have a workspace set up just for 40Tech, where I put up a list of my upcoming post ideas, which are each projects unto themselves. There are other labels in there as well, and it can serve as a place for us 40Tech types to collaborate.

GTD Note: The Weekly Review is the lynch pin of your GTD setup, whether in Producteev or another system. Make sure you review all of your projects, as well as the health of your GTD implementation, in general. This will ensure that you keep on top of everything, as you will be able to see where things are lagging or doing well, and tweak your system accordingly.

Producteev Note: Overview Mode is a fantastic way to get a solid and non-overwhelming picture of your entire Producteev GTD system. There are several sorting options, the most useful of which (for the purposes of this system) are sort by Deadline, Priority, and Workspace.

Overview Mode with GTD in Producteev | 40Tech


So there you have it, a fully fledged GTD implementation in Producteev, utilizing multiple workspaces and added labels for easy snapshots of your task lists. It has been working well for me, so far, as it allows me to manage myself and everything I’m working on or need or want to do, while still being flexible enough to allow collaborations without overwhelming the system. GTD in Producteev also offers me the main thing that GTD in Evernote just hasn’t yet: easy calendar and reminder management. I need that…

Give the system a try and let me know how it works for you! Got a better idea, suggestions? I’m all text-based ears!

UPDATE: Producteev now supports recurring tasks!

UPDATE 2: Producteev has produced a 4 minute screencast that boils down the concepts of this post into a simplified method. Check it out below:

YouTube Preview Image


Bobby Travis

Bobby isn't 40-something, but is a strong supporter of the Grown-up Geek kind. He's a loving husband and father first, but is also a freelance writer, productivity nut, operatically trained singer, and (not-so) closet geek. Check out his random thoughts, wackiness, and Instagram pics on Tumblr, Twitter, or Google+-- or just head over to bobby-travis.com.

71 Comments:

  1. I like Producteev’s look and feel better. It makes me want to come back. I like Evernote’s note taking better because I can edit notes and make checkboxes, etc. Plus, I’m a bit nervous that I’ll love Producteev and then get zapped with having to pay because I have so much stuff in there. Any insight?

    • Hi John,

      Producteev’s pricing plan offers quite a bit of freedom for personal users (2 users per workspace and 500MB, I believe) — and personal workspaces are free.

      If you love Evernote, I would suggest you use it for your reference and delete any attached images and files in Producteev that are no longer needed (completed tasks and such). 500MB is a fair bit of space for documents — and you could always attach an Evernote/Dropbox/Box.net/Google Docs share link to the note instead of the actual file.

      Where you will run into cash outside of this is in collaborative teams in a workspace. Which is still pretty reasonable, and only needs to be active as long as the collaboration of more than two people are needed.

      Hope that helps! :D

  2. That does help…thanks! Am I right about the notes? I’m really leaning towards Producteev. I took your setup and tweaked it a bit. I only use seven workspaces: dump, today, home, business, projects reference and errands. Then I’ll use a bunch of labels to separate items within the workspaces. The reason for seven was so all workspaces would be in view without toggling…out of sight, out of mind for me.

    Is there a way to edit the notes in Producteev?

    • Nice adaptation with the “visible-only” workspaces!

      I’m an out of sight out of mind guy too. Out of sight means it doesn’t exist for me — my wife is constantly exasperated when I say I didn’t eat the plate of leftovers she left for me (or some such) because I didn’t know they were there. She believes that I should have known they were there because any normal person would have looked in the fridge. This does not work for me… :P

      In fact, that’s why I set up this system. I rely heavily on the overview area and need it to have easily visible separation. I’m glad you were able to use the system as a basis!

      As for the notes, you are correct. There is no way (currently) to edit notes in Producteev. I’ve been bugging them about Evernote integration, but unless the majority of users start clamouring for it, it’s not likely to happen.

  3. Thanks for the feedback…I’m the same with leftovers ; )

    Not being able to edit notes may just be a tradeoff I’ll have to sacrifice. I’ll probably try it this week and see how I work with it. Evernote is great, but I have problems not seeing what to do next without looking for it.

    I may get more productivity from visible-only than I will with note editing. It’s worth a try.

    • Heh — no problem!

      I suggest forwarding the notification email from Producteev to Evernote, and adding a note in Producteev that states where you can find it in Evernote via a quick search.

      Let me know how it works out for you! :D

  4. Hi Bobby!

    I like Producteev, it looks great and it’s nice to work with, but I feel that it’s a “partial” implementation of GTD (to put it mildly).

    The lack of contexts (or cross workspace labels), for example, really annoys me about.

    I’m pretty sure you have checked out Toodledo.

    I wonder why have chosen Producteev over Toodledo.

    Cheers!

    • Thanks for your comment Luis. :)

      It would be nice if I could apply certain labels across all workspaces — in fact, if that were the case, my GTD method within might look a bit different (or, at the least, there would have been less redundant labeling in certain workspaces). For the current iteration of Producteev, though, the set up I describe above is working really well for me! Producteev is not designed for GTD, but you can make it work with a bit of creativity.

      As for Toodledo, Evan (also from 40Tech) uses it and likes it quite well, and I agree it is a very powerful tool. I couldn’t get into it, though. Something about the interface bugs me — I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it doesn’t inspire me to want to keep looking at it, and that is death for me with To Do software.

      I like the flow of Producteev’s look and feel, and its ability to integrate fully into tools I already use. The only thing missing for me was a solid GTD implementation — and now I have that. I’m always looking to try other methods (it’s practically a compulsion :P ), though, so I may get back to Toodledo at some point.

      • I know exactly what you mean. I couldn’t use RTM, for example. And the interface looks better than Toodledo’s. But still…

        I actually don’t like Toodledo’s interface myself.

        I use it because I need some kind of GTD in my Android. Got To Do + Toodledo is the best option I’ve found.

        Shuffle needs Tracks (which I really don’t like). Astrid is great, but way too simple for me. ActionComplete is actually nice, but the webapp has HUGE ads (try to use it in a netbook…) and there’s no way to export tasks. Sync is a must for me, which leaves out many other apps…

        Isn’t it too bad that there’s no single webapp that looks good, that has complete GTD functionality “out of the box”, that can be accessed from your mobile (in my case, Android) and with a fair price?

        Anyway, let’s keep trying and reviewing alternative methods!

      • On my list is to write a post on my GTD setup with Toodledo. I haven’t finished the book yet, though,so I’m not sure it is a “pure” Getting Things Done solution with Toodledo, but it does work well for me. The nice thing about Toodledo is how it lets you slice and dice everything on such a granular level, so that you really can use it with almost any system. My system is set up in such a way that if I input an item with enough data, things are pretty automated. It floats to where I need to it be in my system, at the right time.

  5. hi bobby,

    great article , thanks

    im a bit nutty about to-dos myself and tend to jump from one to the other porting my data, rather than actually doing the to-dos! :(

    anyway i like producteev a lot ,except for a few things like u mention but especially no recursive tasks ..

    i want to mention GQueues that i also use , its pretty good (except u have to pay for reminders which is the only reason im looking for another solution). also its not buggy whereas i noticed a few minor flaws in producteev. but if it improves and adds the missing features, i will switch completely. right now i use both :)

    cheers nigel

    • Hi nigel,

      Thanks for the comment! I, too, often spend more time trying to find the perfect system than actually doing what I am supposed to — that’s one of the reasons I write for 40Tech. It’s my enabler. It gives me a reason to justify my habit. :P

      Paying for reminders, eh? I don’t think GQueues would get on very well with my friend Cheapness. Two different worlds, those two.

      As for the Producteev commentary, I agree that a few more features would be nice. The devs over ate Producteev are always driving forward, though. I’ve had a few in depth conversations with some of their main people, and they are certainly passionate about making Producteev one of the best systems out there. The only way I’ve found to handle recursive tasks to date is to enter it once in Producteev and then add a repeat to the task in Google Calendar. That way I still get my notification reminder, and have a record of the task and any notes in Producteev.

  6. For implementing GTD you can use this web-based application:

    Gtdagenda.com

    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, schedules and a calendar.
    Comes with a mobile version too, and with an Android app.

    • Well, I don’t mind paying a fair price for something that’s useful to me.
      But I get the same I could get from GTDagenda.com with Toodledo. And $40 for an incomplete account doesn’t really qualify as very fair (compared to toodledo’s $15 a year)

  7. yeah, but free is good and with gtdagenda, you only get this free:

    3 goals, 5 projects, 5 contexts, 5 checklists and no file storage.

  8. Producteev is so close to the perfect system for our use. It’s hard to find a system with good multi-user notifications and task delegation that you can look at progress. We’re using 5pm right now as the sub tasks make life so much easier as a full isolated project is overboard for small tasks.
    If only Producteev had the subtasks, a customizable overview (so you can see labels and other custom fields) and allowed for labels or contexts to be shared across workspaces.
    I’ve grown tired of the neverending search, but simultaneously am tired of the lack of organization or communication in working with a small team.
    Hopefully Producteev will make some of these changes soon!

    • Hi Marcus,

      I used to use 5PM a few years back. Something about it never quite did it for me, though. Keep an eye on Producteev — I am told they will be rolling out sub tasks and the like soon! :D

  9. In case you missed it — check out the two updates at the bottom of the post. Recurring tasks are now supported and Judi Huck of Producteev did a 4 minute screencast based on my method of Producteev GTD. :)

  10. I really appreciate the time you spent on this Bobby. I recently retired my Palm Centro and am floundering looking for an alternative to Bonsai and Datbk6. What a trip… Your work is much appreciated as is Producteev. I am using it with Astrid and hoping I’ve found a good work around. Take care. Ken

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  12. Thanks for the time invested. Now that you’ve tested the waters which of the 3 applications do you stick to for your GTD?

    • Hi Bobj,

      At the moment, I’m still heavily invested in my use of Producteev, though I still use Evernote daily. It’s not that the Evernote system doesn’t work, because it works and it works well — it’s more a result of two things:

      1. Due to the nature of what I do and like to write about, I am always looking to do something new and play with new tech, bending it to my needs.

      2. I discovered that I need a reminder system that is relatively automated and connects with Google Calendar. Without that, I have a tendency to let things get fuzzy. I could get by without the reminder system, using ticklers and manually adding things to my calendar, it could even be argued that that is better, as it leads to being more thorough — but automation removed a step for me, and made things a bit easier for me to stick to the commitment required for GTD.

      Hope that helps you!

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  16. Bobby,

    Thanks so much for sharing your system. Very helpful.

    Any reasoning for use workplace as context holder, and not use labels as context?

    For example, what is the downside of setting up like this:

    Workspace 1: GTD
    Workspace 2: project 1
    Workspace 3: project 2

    Within each workspace add labels like @home, @work, @errands, etc.

    Please share your thoughts. Thanks!

    • Hi Sean,

      Mostly, the reasons I chose to use multiple workspaces was for less visual clutter and more flexibility. Having all of the contexts in one GTD workspace was simply too much for me to look at, and overwhelm meant a higher probability of dropping the system, so I used the workspaces to visually compartmentalize. Also, using a workspace for each context allowed me to further sort them by adding labels — like specific projects that have a high importance (I am often working on multiple projects, both personally and as a freelancer and business owner). With a few labels I can sort my contexts quickly and this helps to prioritize next actions.

      If you don’t need that extra flexibility, and are fine with simply sorting your GTD workspace by context, that should work fine for you.

      Hope that was helpful! :D

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  18. This method will not work for my GTD process. I need to have tasks remain in the “Projects” context but also in another, for example, “@Office.” To illustrated, I have a “prepare for Baltimore trip” project–set up with a label, the next task for which is “gather paperwork.” If I place that task in my “@office” context, then it no longer appears in the “Projects” workspace. I need to see ALL my tasks in the projects workspace, even after I move them to their relevant context. That’s how I work GTD and I don’t think this method accommodates that, unless I’m missing something?

    I may try to do some other way to make Producteev work the GTD way, but I think using labels rather than workspaces for GTD contexts is going to be clunky.

    Suggestions?

    D

    • Well, I think I see the best workaround. If we could use global labels for contexts, it’d be better, but if you create them for each workspace (apart from inbox/brain dump), then you can use the search function in overview to find all of your, for instance, @desk tasks.

      I’d love to hear other suggestions. Once I work out my best solution maybe I’ll post a tutorial.

      D

      • Sorry for the late reply, David — but you came to the same conclusion that I did, actually. I use labels to get a better visual when sorting, already, and have a fairly standardized list per workspace, as there is often some sort of minor context overlap, or I want to be able to drill down even more within any given workspace. I say mostly standardized because I needed to keep myself from going label-crazy and making the system unusable.

        Producteev’s search is fairly powerful, and should be able to do what you need. You may also want to try creating some smart filters. With those, you can add multiple labels and other criteria into one search and then add the new filter to your sidebar for one-click filtering. It works really well!

        Labels that span workspaces would solve this problem, but that may still be a while out.

        Let me know how you work it out!

  19. I’ve been using Producteev for a while and for the most part I’m loving it. I started out thinking that I’d only need one workspace because I like to have it all collected in one place and not having to click around different workspaces. However I’ve come to realize that I do get overwhelmed by the sheer volume and visual of 50+ tasks in one workspace.

    Looking at the topmost screenshot it’s REALLY puzzling that Producteev would change the layout from having workspaces laid out across the top bar, to them being hidden in a dropdown menu, hiding the workspace list from sight and requiring two clicks to change workspace – very inconvenient and completely incomprehensible design choice.

    That being said, Producteev is still the best I’ve tried. One other thing I’m missing is the distinction between “deadline”-date and “planned-to-start-on”-date.

    Anyways is your Producteev usage still working out Bobby?

    • Hi! Gandalf — and I gotta tell you, I’m lovin’ the name!

      Yeah, I realized quickly that my senses would be crushed without disseminating tasks into their own little boxes. I still need to make sure I do quick label sorts in some hefty context workspaces to not frighten myself into non-functionality. :P

      I actually don’t mind the dropdown — or, rather, I stopped once I got used to it. I didn’t like having to click click click to scroll workspaces, and the dropdown solved that, though I would have been happy with just a faster and smoother way to scroll the tabs.

      I agree that Producteev is the best I’ve tried as well. There are a few creeping up, like Wunderlist, but it can’t compare with the functionality yet — though it is amazing to look at.

      I agree that the dating distinction would be an asset. Have you mentioned it to them? They are pretty open and often ridiculously cool.

      I’m guessing I already answered your last question… :P I am definitely still digging on Producteev. In fact, I wrote a guest post for them, just the other day called How to Deal When GTD Kicks Your Ass: 5 Steps to Sanity. Check it out below, if you like! :D

      http://blog.producteev.com/guest-post-how-to-deal-when-gtd-kicks-your-as

      How’s your setup working out for you? Did you employ any special tweaks to make it flow just for you?

  20. Heh Cheers, I do get that from people :-)

    Quick label sorts, what do you mean by that?

    When I saw the top screenshot I didn’t take into account that you might have more workspaces than could be displayed at one given time, so you had to use the arrows – well in that case the change might’ve been an improvement. I’d still prefer that I’d just stretch out over several rows, or just keep the drop-down menu folded out. In any case I just ended up making bookmarks on Google Chrome bookmark bar for each workspace and that is working out so far.

    Just checked out Wunderlist, looks cool. Still too simplistic compared to Producteev and strongly prefer a web interface compared to a desktop program, even if it syncs. Good with some competition though!

    I haven’t shared that particular idea about the starting date. I just looked it up in their feedback forum, and it’s already there with 168 votes! https://producteev2.uservoice.com/forums/49079-producteev-2/suggestions/1060407-add-a-start-date-to-a-task-
    I’m going to go there and vote regularly now hehe..

    As a solution for the time being, I’m indirectly using the priority stars as a starting date indicator, because I always work my way down my tasks by descending priority, starting at 5*. Luckily what’s most important is almost always what should be done first. When something isn’t strictly important but I know that it will fit into the workflow on a particular day, I sometimes set a task priority to 4* even if it isn’t important, strickly speaking.

    I did read that blog post not long ago, so it was you huh! Nice post :) I’m subscribed to the producteev blog via Google Reader.

    So I just restarted my system this weekend, going from 1 workspace to 1 (2) to 5 (6) workspaces. I did have a reference workspace all along where I occasionally throw in unsolved questions and apparent paradoxes I encounter in physics (I’m a physics student), but it’s more like an unordered reference list than a task list.

    Workspaces and labels (translated) are:
    1.Personal (with labels Home, Errands/Outside, Self-study and Persons). Home covers all things that can be done at or from home including phone calls, on the computer etc. Errands is any context out of the home. Self-study is anything I think of either out of curiosity or regarding physics. Finally the Persons label has tasks of just person names, and then things I need to tell/ask/give the person as notes on the task.

    2. University – covers my university study curriculum

    3. Projects – Typically bigger assignments, reports and papers from my uni studies. Here they are broken drown and having this as a seperate workspace greatly reduces the clutter and complexity of the University workspace.

    4. Work – anything related to one of my student jobs, be it my science departments IT support job or occasional personal physics/math teaching job.

    5. Colloborative projects – The workspace I plan on using for collaboration when writing reports with my group. Haven’t even tried Producteev’s collaborative features yet, but I (we) might later this week.

    6. Physics questions – As described above.

    I’ve considered to have a “maybe/someday” workspace, but instead I take advantage of the starring system. If a task has 0 stars, it’s inactive. Something that isn’t immediately important enough to think of, but I revisit and revise once a week.

    To begin with I used my weekly review to schedule almost every task out on the week days. However when reality came and went I didn’t get half of them done, and my email inbox got spammed every midnight with 10 messages of “Oops did you forget about…”. Part of this can be because I perhaps didn’t wrote 100% of all tasks into Producteev and when I did those tasks there weren’t taken into account in the planning phase, and I didn’t have the pleasure of crossing it off when finished. So now I’ve begun making sure that every task gets recorded.

    I’m still experimenting as to whether I’ll use the starring system or the scheduling system for deciding on when to do what, next actions. I’m thinking that perhaps it was a good idea to schedule it all once per week after all and, but that I just need to be realistic and have a time buffer in the planning proces.

    I’d say that I did make one “tweak” to producteev. Right against your own experience I’ve been estimating time usage for each task and labelling them accordingly. The base system I use for task management is GTD (apparently, I’ve been using many aspects of GTD before learning of it, but now refined it), namely writing down EVERYTHING and doing a weekly review. For execution I use the Pomodoro technique (http://www.pomodorotechnique.com/) – seriously if you don’t know it read the free eBook (or even better have Adobe Reader read it aloud to you as I did!). Basically you divide our working sessions into 25 min. chunks called “Pomodoros” (there’s more to it than that, read about it). So for all my workspaces I have 5 labels: 1PD, 2PD, 3PD, 4PD, 5PD (In the P-system any task that takes more than 5-7 PD’s is divided). They have the colors green, orange, pink, red and black respectively. It complements the starring system very nicely and gives a great overview on how long every task is estimated to, how much effort is required timewise. It makes it a little more easy to adjust your workflow according how much time and energy you have, complemented with priority. While I wouldn’t want to do minutes, units of PD’s is fine and the color coding essential. It also makes it easier to delegate tasks weekly when you have a target amount of PD’s to do every day.

    • Wow, that is one monster reply! O.o

      I’ll do my best to answer everything, but will be moving paragraph by paragraph.

      - By quick label sorts I mean that I create a few very specific labels in a workspace to be able to quickly sort for specific types of tasks in context workspaces. Examples would be project-specific labels, or labels that indicate how long a task might take. That way, when I’m in a task-heavy context/workspace, I can make everything I don’t want to look at right then and there vanish quickly before overwhelm sets in. :)

      Custom filters play into that as well, as I can create a custom smart filter in a workspace, add multiple labels to it, and then add that filter to the sidebar with Hot and Inbox and friends. Instant saved search.

      - Using the Chrome Bookmark bar to provide quicklinks to your workspaces is nothing short of brilliant, Gandalf! Very clever usage, especially as it keeps your productivity system right in front of you while you are working. Add in the Producteev extension and/or the Shareaholic extension, and you have everything you need just a click away while you are in the browser. I just might use that!

      - Wunderlist is a web app as well. You can install it from the Chrome Web Store. It’s definitely not as powerful as Producteev, but the interface is very cool, and I think it would be a good minimalist GTD management tool. It will be interesting to see where they go with it, or what their upcoming commercial offering will be capable of.

      - I had a feeling that the start date idea may have already been proposed. Here’s hoping it makes the list in the next couple of iterations.

      I like your stars approach. That may not work for some, but as long as it helps you get what you need done, right? I wonder if you might be able to use the smart filters in some way here… I’ll have to think on that. Maybe some sort of Starring, Due Date, Label combination or something…

      - Thanks for the compliment RE: the guest post on the Producteev blog! I really enjoyed writing it, and hope that it lends some value to people. :D

      - I’m a fan of physics — but we are purely platonic and just hang out for coffee every once in a while.

      - Your system seems fairly straightforward and functional. I would be careful using the stars (or lack thereof) as a someday/maybe tool though. That could get out of hand if you get busy, even with weekly reviews.

      - Time buffers are definitely important. And you should only schedule what you absolutely need to, or it might defeat the purpose of contexts altogether, and lead to overscheduling, which will become stressful. Maybe it would be better to just focus on priority within the contexts, as well as the potential length of time a task will take. Schedule everything that is important enough to need a reminder. That way, you can let the priorities within the context of where you are float to the top and just knock them off one after the other, and can schedule reminders for things that dictate where you need to be.

      If you aren’t already using the Google Calendar connection, you should consider it. You could schedule a reminder in Producteev, and then pop into Google Calendar and add a more complex reminder, one that stretched back a ways, if you need it to. Another possible option to play with is to use the recurring task options to keep the task live from start date to end date. Again, Gcal has much more powerful recurring task features.

      Where my suggestions re: scheduling might trip you up, though, is with the Pomodoro technique, since it is so heavily time-based. I am familiar with it, and I think your use of it is pretty awesome here. It’s a bit granular for my tastes — though I have no doubt the granular nature would help increase efficiency.

      Honestly, I think you have that part pretty solidly worked out, and I’m curious to see where you go with it. In fact, once you have everything set up the way you like it and thoroughly tested, I would love it if you sent me an email/post so I can add it to our Reader Workflow series!

      And dude, if that is your real name, you have some seriously awesome parents! :D

  21. I have found one important discovery recently: the importance of knowing when to stop, and for each say having a clearly defined “good enough” amount of tasks. It’s really best summed up in this post: http://zenhabits.net/simple-work/

    The thing is, when you use a system such as GTD it has tremendous power and potential for both productivity and procrastination – the latter caused by the fact that the GTD lists easily grows massive in size. Therefore I have decided that for the next week at least, the scheduling option in Producteev shall be used for my “daily essential / good enough”-task list for the day, where I can genuinely relax and not have to look on my lengthy lists once the daily tasks are done (not until I plan the next day at least). If I have the desire and energy to do more, I’m free to go ahead and nail more tasks. If the high-priority tasks are already out of the way, leaving me with a good conscience, that is more likely to happen.

    That’s not to say that I won’t look on my Producteev lists during the day – I will still be doing that in an opportunistic manner – however not as a primary way of planning what to do as the day comes along. I do think I need that kind of “end in sight” motivation.

    However I will still be experimenting with the possible interplay between starring and scheduling.

    Regarding the no-stars on “inactive” tasks, I have to say, that part works good so far. Maybe this is because I don’t really use it exactly as a “someday/maybe” in the sense that I typically don’t have items with a broader horizon than a few months tops. TBH I don’t really use the “bigger perspectives” part of the GTD with goals etc.. not yet at least.

    I am syncing my tasks with Gcal however in my experience it doesn’t sync very well. I wish it would work quickly and consistently though because it’d be nice to have that kind of total overview from Gcal from the beginning of each day.

    The first time I read about Pomodoro I wasn’t too keen on the whole idea either. It wasn’t until I read the eBook (using the Pomodoro technique hehe) and gave it a chance that I actually discovered that it’s not as rigid / inflexible system that one think it is on first encounter.

    The thing is that in practice you shouldn’t think of it as “25 minute workperiodes” as much as it is “5 minute / 30 minute breaks” – the potential for almost constant work thank to these small breaks. The whole point of PD is the strong awareness about internal/external distractions, queueing up ideas that pops up instead of acting on them impulsively. This encourages single-focus tasking, batch-processing, and as I’ve learning, the potential for extremely high productivity periods. And as much as I’d like to continue sometimes, the 5 minutes always fly by and the break did some good, even though it didn’t feel necessary at first.

    I don’t use the PD system for all my tasks, and every once in a while I put away the timer if I’m on an unstoppable roll, but it works for me most of the time. Sadly I have mostly neglected the PD system for the past couple of week, but I’m planning on getting back on track tomorrow.

    I wouldn’t mind writing a reader post about it all once I’m adequately done with my experimentation period. I’ll throw you an email when the time comes ;)

    Finally… I guess my parents are awesome :)

    • I’m a fan of the Zenhabits approach, myself. And I also have to be careful with not presenting myself with a huge task list, as it will lead to inevitable overwhelm. That was one of the primary things I spoke about in that guest post on the Producteev blog I mentioned.

      Mostly, I focus on just adding in the most important next actions, though, on high priority days, I sometimes make a sub-list — or perhaps it is better called and over-arching list — of the major things that need to get done, just so I can have an at-a-glance look and re-look at them. This can be done in various way in Producteev, including priority starring, due today filters, and specialized labels, but I will often create a separate list — sometimes on (gasp!) actual paper — just to make sure that it is both in my face and hammered into my memory. It helps to keep me from allowing in distractions. Also, it is not common for this to happen in multiple contexts at one time, but when it does, having that external list to refer to can be a lifesaver.

      Not the most purely GTD way to do things, but I am not in any way a purist. I use what works for me, and I recoomend everyone else do the same.

      Stars, someday’s, and inactive tasks — It sounds like it works well for you so far. You might also want to consider a label in each context for “upcoming tasks,” or even a someday/maybe in each context, as it might add an additional layer of visual organization.

      I’m curious about your Gcal problems. I use Gcal all the time with Producteev and have never had an issue. I would like better reminder or reminder/syncing options, and better recurring events connections, but other than that, no issues at all. There was a bug a while back that caused workspace calendars to act strangely or display weirdly in Gcal when workspaces that were connected to Gcal before there was a scheduled task in that workspace. I think that has been fixed, but am not sure, as I created dummy tasks as a workaround. If you are having an issue, their support team is very good and very hands on.

      The Pomodoro system is definitely intriguing. I’ve actually tried something similar on my own, before ever hearing about Pomodoro, when I was working on about seven projects at one time. It’s an interesting balance between focus and multi-tasking, but it is really hard to stick with when you are a “project obsessive” — which I definitely am!

    • I forgot to mention — I look forward to the email on your workflow when you have it hammered out! :D

  22. The “Today” list in Producteev (i.e. tasked that are scheduled for today) should ideally work exactly as a physical list on real paper – or rather BE that list. Having an iPhone (or as soon as the Producteev android app comes out, an Android phone), one could refer to the “today” list on-the-go. However I would never dissuade anyone from using a physical list, you should really do work works for you. However having that total list of all tasks that needs doing (The essence of the GTD system) is a very good idea, and this big list is just much more practical in electronic form since it’s quickly organizable and filterable. I agree, no need to be a purist!

    I actually haven’t even read David Allen’s book yet, just seen some interviews etc. on Youtube and read a few articles, so I don’t even know the complete system – I might not even agree with everything in it hehe. However I do agree with everything in Randy Pausch’s Time Management lecture (I’m sure you know it, google it if you don’t), and that particular video is actually what got me started on thinking about how I spend my time.

    As for Producteev I really miss two things at the moment: subtasks and seeing labels in the overview mode. These two things would GREATLY improve the possibilities and experience.

    the Gcal issue is that especially when I reschedule tasks in Producteev, the tasks keep hanging on to the original dates in Gcal etc., it just doesn’t update properly. I would be nice if this could work 100% reliable, so that I could use the gcal throughout the day as the only place I’d had to look for what I have to do, and where I have to be, but for now I need both a Gcal and Producteev window open to do this.

    It might take me a little while to get all of this under control, as much as up to 6 months, but I’ll let you know then ;)

    • I am familiar with Randy Pausch — quite a fellow. I would have appreciated him as a teacher. In fact, it was one of my own teachers — and my awe at the amount of things he could get done and still maintain a happy family life — that inspired me toward my time management obsession to begin with. The man was amazing!

      I do believe that sub-tasks are on the docket in an upcoming release, but there is no finite timeline that I am aware of. Seeing labels in overview mode (optionally, or it could get messy) would be cool, as well as being able to sort by them. YOu can do something like that in Springpad, and it can be handy. Springpad has the capability to have persistent labels across notebooks though, and I would love for Producteev to implement some sort of specialized, cross-workspace label capability. If they allowed custom filters in Overview mode as well, it would be perfect!

      I don’t recall, offhand, if I have had your particular issue with Gcal — usually, when I change a due date, in Gcal or Producteev, it re-syncs just fine. You may want to contact Producteev’s support. They are very good. If you have some sort of problem getting a hold of them, let me know.

      As long as it takes, I’m interested. I’m in the process of starting a productivity focused blog with another 40Tech reader, Daniel Gold (find him at http://dangoldesq.wordpress.com/, or on Twitter as @dangoldesq) — it could be your post will work very well on there, as well. Keep in touch! :D

  23. One last thing: do you plan tasks or work time or a both into your days? I’m going into an experimentation period where I use a hybrid of both ways now, so I’m curious as to what other people do – a google search surprisingly didn’t give me any results, so maybe I don’t know just how to phrase it. Usually I’m pretty good with google searches, oh well :)

    • I work from home, freelance, and often hourly, so often have to commit a certain amount of scheduled time. However, the beauty of GTD is the context system that allows you to work on things based on where you are/have to be. I generally try to just keep track of how long a task might take, to get a clearer picture of my day — but I do schedule in thing that are important and require a solid block of time.

      I’m in transit and realise I might be unclear – let me know if that made sense. :)

  24. Hi Bobby,
    Thanks for this great post, it really helped clarify where I was trying to go with GTD. Had created notebooks galore in Evernote and then abandoned the system for a while. I started reorganizing with the nested tabs but when I opened Evernote in my iPhone and iPad they just list all the tabs with no nested organization. Any tips?

    Thank you!!
    Karin

    • Hi Karin,

      Thanks for the love! If you are set on Evernote, check out my post on GTD in Evernote With Only One Notebook. You can find it here: http://www.40tech.com/2009/08/25/getting-things-done-gtd-in-evernote-with-only-one-notebook/

      That method works well, but relies on a list of tags and nested sub tags. The problem there is that the sub tags will do the same thing in mobile that notebook stacks do — i.e. Revert to alphanumeric order, structure be damned. The good news is, I believe Evernote is working on an update that will fix the problem, at least with Stacks.

      Another option you could try is using AwesomeNote as a front end for your mobile setup — if you are iOS, that is. See this post by one of your fellow readers: http://www.40tech.com/2011/04/27/gtd-on-the-go-with-awesome-note-and-evernote-reader-workflow/

      I use the Producteev method now, as I needed Google Calendar integration, reminders, and some visual blackboxing (see: pretty) to combat task overwhelm. It just works better for me, at the moment. The Evernote method (without a front end like AwesomeNote) is really more for those who are want to combine a pen and paper style system with portable technology. I also have it on good authority that subtasks are on the way…

      • Alas, I thought I was actually commenting on the referenced “evernote using one notebook” post but had opened this link to review in the meantime and ended up posting here! Too many windows open, and I guess that explains why I couldn’t locate my comment last night.

        After going through your Producteev review I will download the mobile apps and see how they work. I rely on the iPad and iPhone quite a bit for task and time management since we have 4 boys and a business and am rarely fully planted in front of the desktop. And am in crucial need of gaining control and getting things done!

        Thanks again, will try to comment under this here post if I have any further questions… about Producteev!

      • Lol! No worries on the comment placement. The iPhone app for Producteev is pretty good except for a bug that renders links in notes useless. There is no iPad app yet, but the iPhone app works well enough. The web app works on the iPad as well. It is very responsive, only lagging a bit on opening the dropdown for workspaces.

        Let me know how it works out for you!

  25. Thank you so much for the intro to Producteev! I’ve been integrating my gtd system with some conscious effort and am enjoying the process. I do wish it had a desktop version as I like the ability to work offline (one of the great things about Evernote). But am really pleased with the Outlook plugin and think that more than makes up for it. I hadn’t used the Tasks portion of Outlook since the days of my Palm Treo. And am hoping the calendar sync will upload through to my iPhone and iPad without any problems.

    I do wish the notes were editable. I emailed some Evernote tasks through to Producteev and they were pretty messy. Any suggestions?

    Am sure to have more questions for you as it all comes together. Thank you!!
    K

    • My pleasure, Karin! I’m glad you like it. :D

      The problems editing notes is apparently a bug, and I have no idea where it is on the hierarchy of things to be fixed. It might be a good idea to check their support forums. I may do that myself, as well, or just contact Judi and see what I can find out. If you happen to learn something before I do, please post it here!

      If you have more questions, I will be happy to try my best to answer them!

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  28. Thanks so much for this post…it’s been immensely helpful as I decide on a (hopefully final) choice for task organizer. How did you get the Producteev workspaces to show up at the top like tabs? I would love this, but can’t seem to figure out how to do it…Thanks again!

    • Hi Binh,

      Glad to hear that the article was helpful! The pics you see of Producteev here are what the service looked like at the time of the writing. Since then, they have moved to the dropdown model — which is actually more efficient, once you get used to it.

  29. Hi there,

    This is one of the best reviews I’ve seen in a long time.
    I work for Apollo, http://www.apollohq.com and reading this review was an inspiration.

    (BTW Apollo is not quite in the same scope as it covers project management, CRM, calendar, timers, etc.)

    While we are very strong in terms of group-oriented project management, we are working on improving our “My tasks” section and how GTD we are. This article was great as it gave us an opportunity to really realise what we need to do.

    Thanks…

    Merc.

  30. So how do you guys deal with subtasks in Producteev? I know anything with multiple ‘steps’ goes into the Projects section, but how do you link the main item to the sub-items? How does it look? It’s the only part of Producteev+GTD that I can’t wrap my head around. Thanks!

    • Sub-tasks are supposed to be on the way, but they haven’t hit production yet. The only way you can handle them at this point is to set up a specific workspace for large projects and sub-task that way, or to use labels within your context workspaces, or both.

      Just make sure you carefully think out your labels beforehand, otherwise, they might get away from you.

  31. Pingback: GTD, Producteev, Evernote — Bridged! | 40Tech

  32. Good Post Bobby.

    I use Toodledo and find it well suited for GTD expecially considering its tags, contexts, and locations. It doesnt do the folders well and its interface can be a bit clunky.

    I am trying producteev for its subtasks and workspace sharing. Your post us helpful and while I use labels for context, I am trying your approach of multiple workspaces for folders… How do you get them to appear across the top like that? Mine appear in a big box with large pictures along the top and everytime I change I have to drop down. Did you modify the interface?

    • Hi Callum,

      Those pictures are outdated. That is what Producteev looked like at the time I wrote the post. The drop down is an improvement, though, as moving through the tabs with a lot of workspaces was a bit of a pain. I especially like the new location, front and centre (in the web app).

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  36. It is actually good idea dude.iam truly proud of you . Do u have twitter?? i wish to stick to you .thx

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  41. Great review. One more GTD tool I’d like to bring here and it is Proofhub(http://www.proofhub.com). It is easy to use. It has features which some of the leading PM software lack.

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