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The iPhone as a GTD Swiss Army Chainsaw

iPhone.pngI have to be honest – this past Christmas, the item at the top of my wish list was the completely drool-worthy Amazon Kindle. I had watched the video intro a dozen times and was completely smitten. And while I had been secretly longing for an iPhone since they were released, I simpley never thought of it as a plausible reality due to my current cell phone contract, the new T-Mobile Sidekick I had just bought, etc. But, thanks to my terrifically perceptive wife, a shiny iPhone found its way under our tree. I seriously haven’t been the same since.

Obviously, I’m a little late to the game when it comes to this little piece of technological magic. It’s been out for well over 6 months now, has been hacked, jail-broken and otherwise futzed-with to seemingly endless degrees. But, it was new to me and I was in heaven. And, as with most Apple products, it did exactly what I expected it to, and did so (almost) flawlessly. Without rehashing what thousands of people have already said, let’s just say that it’s the single coolest piece of techno-gear I’ve ever owned.

Once I’d played with it and sufficiently cut my teeth as to it’s capabilities, the obvious next step in my productivity-obsessed brain was pondering its usability as a tool in my GTD toolbox. The fact that I now had almost ubiquitous access to the Internet (provided I had cell reception, which I almost always do) caused me to rethink my previous aversion to all- or mostly-digital GTD systems.

Of course, since the iPhone doesn’t (as of this writing) support any locally installed third party applications, this meant that I would have to examine web-based solutions, especially those with custom iPhone web interfaces. I had played with Vitalist and Nozbe in the past, but didn’t particularly care for their core implementations of GTD, so they were eliminated from the race pretty quickly. However, there was a diamond in the rough – one that I had toyed with briefly several months back, but had dismissed as incomplete and difficult to use. The site in question?

Remember the Milk

In my earlier trial runs with this application, I was really only searching for something that could efficiently handle time- and date-specific reminders (take out the trash every Monday at 9pm, submit my billed hours at work every Friday at 4:45pm, etc.). But, thanks to my good friend Glen from LifeDev and his incessant reminding of how drop-dead awesome RTM was, I decided to investigate it as a full-blown list manager. Let’s just say that, after about 15 minutes of investigating and evaluating, I was hooked. Here’s a couple reasons why:

  • It integrates with friggin’ everything: Gmail (using a Firefox extension), Twitter, Jott, Quicksilver, and a host of other sites and services. I can add items to my RTM inbox using email from my iPhone, a phone call to Jott or with about a handful of keystrokes using Quicksilver at home and Gmail at the office.
  • It has keyboard shortcuts that rival GMail in terms of utter awesomeness. Seriously, it took me about 15 minutes to input all of my 60-something projects, as well as a good portion of my action lists because I almost never needed to move my hands off of the keyboard. And, thanks to this handy Greasemonkey script, all of said shortcuts appear in parentheses next to their clickable counterpart (such as, “New Task (t)”).

But the single biggest (and I’m talking by leaps and bounds here) reason I decided to go digital with RTM was the iPhone interface. For a scant $25 per year, you get a surprisingly functional version of RTM, always at your fingertips (again, cell phone reception required). And while it positively screams over WiFi, it does a pretty damn fine job of getting up and running using the EDGE data network, as well. The iPhone UI behaves just like many of the iPhone’s built-in applications, so I was flying around it like a pro in almost no time at all.

So, now instead of carrying around a Moleskine notebook full of hand-written (or, in my case, chicken-scratched) lists, I have them sitting comfortably in my pocket. And since my iPhone is almost always out of my pocket when I’m sitting at my desk or at home, my lists are a only a few finger taps away. And because I have so many ways to add things to my RTM inbox, I’ve significantly reduced my number of collection buckets!

This just barely scratches the surface of what the iPhone can do for you as far as Getting Things Done. I’m sure there are plenty of you out there with iPhones that have become integral parts of your toolbox – I’d love to hear about how you do it, please pimp away in the comments!

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