Monday, June 17, 2024

Gubbing Things Done

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If you’re into personal productivity, you’ve probably heard about a newish, Web 2.0ish online list management service that launched earlier this year called Gubb. And you’ve almost certainly heard about David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” productivity system.

The Gubb service, the Getting Things Done system and hundreds of other tools and methods for getting your act together have obvious value. I would guess, however, that most who try them end up giving up.

Here’s the problem. The super-busy people who need this kind of help most are, ironically, too busy to make time for the learning curve. We resolve to master the new system and reap the benefits. But interruptions, deadlines and big projects interfere, and we drift back to our old ways.

Sound familiar?

Enter Gubb

I’ve tried dozens of software products and services for handling my Getting Things Done tasks and projects — even the dedicated Getting Things Done Outlook plug-in sold by David Allen’s organization. I’ve discovered that Gubb is by far the best system for managing these things — especially for people having trouble making Getting Things Done stick.

I’m going to tell you how I use Gubb to Get Things Done. But first, let me tell you about the service.

Gubb is a free online list management tool that takes zero learning to use at its most basic level.

You can copy an existing list in Excel, Outlook or elsewhere and simply paste it into Gubb. The site will create a new list and turn each item into an independently manageable unit. Or you can just create a new list manually. Make as many lists as you like, and easily move or copy items from one to the other. Share lists with others by choosing that option from the list’s menu, and entering their e-mail address.

You can moves items within lists (reprioritize) by drag-and-drop. Cross things out by clicking on the check box, or delete them with the delete option that appears, along with other options, when you hover your mouse pointer over a list item.

Each list is assigned a unique e-mail address. You can add items to, or get a copy of, your list by simply sending an SMS or e-mail to the address. You can add due dates to any item, and Gubb will e-mail or SMS a reminder to you. Gubb gives you cell phone access at

Because Gubb is online, it’s available to you from any PC and always backed up.

How I use Gubb to Get Things Done

I have a main master list that I use as my Today “to do” list. I build this list first thing every day, mainly from other lists I maintain on Gubb.

For example, I have a list of tasks I do every single day, and an additional list of items for each day of the week. Plus I have an all-important “Projects,” “Waiting for” and “Someday/Maybe” lists. I pull from these and add to my Today list according to the Getting Things Done system.

Any unfinished tasks from yesterday are still on my master Today list. So I simply use the Gubb menu for other lists to copy them into the Today list. Then I re-arrange, delete or add to the list so it reflects what I can realistically hope to accomplish today, and in priority order.

Then I begin my work by slavishly doing each item on the list in the order listed, checking off (and therefore crossing out) each item as it’s completed.

That’s the basic idea. Gubb makes it super easy to actually stick to the Getting Things Done system, because adding to, deleting and moving all this stuff around is a fun, appealing and very reliable.

Once you grow comfortable with Gubb (it’ll take you just a day or two), you can use two incredibly powerful ways to add items to lists: via Jott and Google Calendar.

I’ve written in this space about Jott before. It’s a free service that, among other things, turns a phone call into an e-mail. You call Jott (I’ve got it on speed dial), and it says “Who do you want to Jott.” You say a name that’s in your Jott online contacts list, the phone beeps, and you say something. Your words are converted into text and sent to the e-mail address associated with that contact.

I’ve got each of my Gubb lists listed as a Jott contact. So when I’m away from my desk, I call Jott, say “Today” and start talking. I’ll say something like “Call Steve about the meeting,” then hang up. Later, when I’m back at my PC, there’s the item at the top of my Today list in Gubb.

The combination of Jott and Gubb means nothing falls through the cracks.

Google Calendar lets you create multiple calendars. I’ve created one just to add recurring items to Gubb.

Google Calendar can send you “reminders” by e-mail. I’ve used the options in Gmail to forward incoming reminder e-mails from my Gubb-specific Google Calendar to my daily to do list e-mail on Gubb. I’ve created recurring “appointments” in the calendar to send reminders once a week, once a month, once a year — whatever. Now these items just show up in my Gubb list, right on schedule every time. I can also add things to Gubb lists far in the future by scheduling it on Google Calendar. (Also: I de-select the Gubb Google Calendar, and chose to send the e-mail that Gmail forwards straight to “Archive” status, so I never see these items anywhere but Gubb.)

If you’ve always wanted to embrace the Getting Things Done system, but had trouble making it stick, I strongly recommend that you try again, this time using Gubb. And try my simplified version of Getting Things Done to make it that much easier.

And, of course, if it works for you this time — and it will — make sure you add to your Tasks list to buy the Getting Things Done books that will help you take it all to the next level.

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