I am a digital immigrant. I started using to-do lists when mainframes were the only way to access the Internet. When email came, I loved it... and then it took over my life. In the last 2 years my business has taken off, bringing me unprecedented success... and unprecedented inbox overload.
At first I ignored it. Email management was beneath me. So were to-do lists. They were meant for the grunt work of everyday life. They did not deserve my strategic attention.
But, my inbox became more than an overstuffed annoyance. I run my business on relationships. Personal contact is the currency of my realm. My email catastrophe was an opportunity mine in disarray with diamonds in the rough obscured by urgent communiqués stacking faster than I could clear them.
There were no flotsam and jetsam. I am merciless with newsletters, spam, and irrelevant missives. Unsubscribe, spam filters, and a well-worn delete key are an integral part of life. So, all this stuff crammed in my inbox was important.
I had to pay attention. On a personal retreat it became clear to me that my inbox and my email dilemma had become a constraint, holding me back from achieving the next level of scale in my business growth. I had to come up with a strategy to get my inbox and to-do list in control.
I have been an effectiveness junkie for a long time. I took David Allen's class before it was Getting Things Done, when he was running Time/Design with Russel Bishop in the early 80s. My love of jettisoning labor is ongoing. I read everything good I can get my hands on, from Covey to Ferriss. I try all the latest apps for my iPhone--I have even tried shopping list apps to adapt them to my needs. Yet, in the last couple of years, nothing has satiated my need for an easy-to-use, easy-to-read, elegant, uncluttered interface that allows me to forward emails, attachments and all, into a to-do list that is calendar based.
Then came Mark Hurst, a digital native, and the author of Bit Literacy: Productivity in the Age of Information and E-mail Overload. Mark opens the door of understanding. He shows why information overload is different from what we think it is. It is not just more and faster. It is a whole new level of complexity. It is the digitization of the individual.
Not only does he understand the problem, he has solutions. From his preface:
There is a better way. It is something called "bit literacy," a set of skills for living and working with bits in a healthy and productive way. Bit literacy can work for any user, in any occupation, at any age, using any kind of computer, under any load of bits. It just requires learning and practicing some basic skills...
Mark is not a self-help guru. He is a serious student of good experience. In fact he runs the GEL conference every year in NYC. Gel stands for Good Experience Live. You see Mark is all about good experience.
In 1997 Hurst founded Creative Good, a firm devoted to helping businesses create better experiences for their customers and employees. He runs it with partner, Phil Terry.
But, here's the best part. Mark has created an almost free ($3 a month for the premium version--gratis for the basic) product that you can use on the web from any computer. In the last couple of days he released an iPhone app which is excellent, works with the website, and is also free. Meet Good Todo.
Good Todo (a) keeps your inbox clean and empty (the way an inbox should be), and (b) allows you to forward full text emails and their attachments to appear on a to-do list that is organized by date.
Further, you can send a to-do item to yourself anytime by email, just by sending it to today @ gootodo.com, or Tuesday @ gootodo.com, or December11 @ gootodo.com, or any number of easy-to-remember email addresses. Voila, your to-do shows up on the date you sent it to. (And, those are not typos. The email address drops the d in good. Nonetheless, the website is GoodTodo.com). Further, it has universal email addresses others can use if they need to send you to-do's. My wife and executive assistant, for example, make good use of it as I do theirs.
It is elegant, easy, Occam's razor incarnate. It does the basics very, very well. Instead of trying to tell you all about it, just pick up Mark's free book or visit the website and check out the magic of GoodTodo for yourself. On a scale of 1-10 I give Good Todo a 15. Before you know it your email inbox will be empty and uncluttered, your to-do lists working effortlessly, and your mind free and clear.
Seth Kahan (Seth@VisionaryLeadership.com) is a Change Leadership specialist, helping leaders successfully adapt to the new world of business. He has worked closely with CEOs and executives in over 50 world-class organizations that include Shell, Prudential, Marriott, World Bank, Peace Corps, American Society of Association Executives, Project Management Institute, and NASA. His Web site is VisionaryLeadership.com. His latest book is Getting Change Right: How Leaders Transform Organizations from the Inside Out. Download a free excerpt at GettingChangeRight.com.