GTD and GMail

Tessa Lau wrote a comment to my posting on the joys of an empty inbox, asking whether Gmail and Getting Things Done might not be incompatible, since Gmail discourages filing, while GTD discourages leaving things in one’s inbox (physical, computer, or metaphorical).

I don’t think they’re incompatible. I archive things in GMail to get them out of my inbox (and therefore, out of my face) unless I expect to deal with them almost immediately. The only filing I do in GMail is to automatically move some mailing lists into their own folders, never letting them into the inbox at all — and to be honest, I’m not sure that’s really a good idea for most of them, because then I’m tempted to let them sit. For everything else, I rely on search.

That’s actually fairly similar to the way I work in Lotus Notes, too; I have a few folders I use for active projects or obviously-related things (all of my electronic paystubs get filed in their own folder, for example), but most of my stuff gets “filed” in “Miscellaneous” (which could just as well be named “not the inbox”) and I rely on search to find anything I need. Keeping my Notes inbox empty is a harder task than my GMail inbox; I haven’t looked at it since I left for vacation nearly two weeks ago, and I dread what I’ll find when I do look.