April 13, 2009

Google Docs to Get Things Done

In the next 3 weeks, I will be moving out of my cozy dormitory and into a house. Also, in the next three weeks, myself and 7 friends are going to Italy (for a week of Linguine!) Since both of these activities are happening at once with many different people involved, I have been having a hard time keeping things straight.

Just recently, my use of Google Docs (and Google Calendar) has reached critical mass - I have transitioned all of my personal notes to Google Docs, along with my other todo lists and information. I never thought it would happen, but I am using Google Docs everyday. I have finally been able to update notes fast enough for them to become living documents. Living documents is a phrase that I have used to describe documents (mostly software documentation) but have never actually seen them come alive.

I think that it is important to have a Getting Things Done (GTD) Strategy, and Google Docs serves as the end of the day resource to catalogue and organize the organizeable parts of my life. After I log a days worth of notes (why yes, I do use one), I decompress them at the end of the night. I can expand and organize project ideas that strike me during the day. Throughout the course of the day, I pick up alot of book recommedations (like Daivd Allen's book on GTD) and blog post ideas, so I can remember them when it is time to read/blog.

A great advantage of my nightly decompression is that it puts me back in front of past ideas. This allows me to keep other ideas current and cull out older, nonsensical ideas.

Much to the dismay of Nate, Paul and Matt, Google Docs are collaborative documents - so just call me Shawn Fanning because I'm sharing the love. I shared two spreadsheets about our Italy trip (adding to our growing library on Google Docs) and two more spreadsheets about the house we are all about to move into. Two of the sheets were shared within 10 minutes of each other.

This may seem excessive, but it gets the job done. One particular use of the shared documents will surely work out well - Sharing group expenses on a Google Spreadsheet is fast and easy - a perfect fit for any group that will have to settle up their finances at the end of their trip. I got this idea from a group of friends that were Spring breaking in Texas. They utilized a shared expense sheet to distribute gas, hotels, beer and other expenses across 8 people.

I am slowly becoming a fan of Google Docs, but I can't wait to see how Microsoft Office performs online. I'll post more about GTD, but until then, check out Lifehacker - you won't be disappointed.


  1. Doesn't that make you wish Google would improve them...at all? From a fellow doc fiend, I really want it to get better.
    The good news is that they are focusing on spreadsheets (more useful), but I like docs too.

  2. Do you ever use Gmail's tasks? It is really convenient to add an e-mail as a task and it includes a small link back to the original e-mail.

    I wish Google would come out with themes for Google Docs. Call me crazy, but I love my Gmail theme.

  3. Zoho > Google when it comes to online documents, etc. Just FYI.

    Also Microsoft OneNote makes a killer GTD app, but unfortunately it's not cross-platform

  4. Nate - I think it's a lost cause. Unless Microsoft signs a legal document stating that they will not enter the online office market, any attempt to gain market share will be crushed (eventually).

    Matt - I do use Tasks. I park todo items there before I put them in my calendar. Once they get in my calendar, I know when and where to not complete them.

    Kevin - I would use OneNote, but I am always spread across two computers. Do they have an online solution?

  5. No, but OneNote does have a decent sync capability, as long as you're using two Windows machines. I wouldn't recommend actually using the software though, because it locks you into their OS. You can run it on Linux through Wine, but I've never gotten that to work perfectly.

    They don't have a web solution, but if anybody ever wrote a OneNote clone online I would use it in a heartbeat.

  6. I think I see the obvious solution - quit your job and we'll write the clone. Deal?