14 DecGoogle Docs as a GTD workflow system

Wasted time is the devil

There’s no bigger time-waster than loosing track of where you were in a project and needing to retrace your steps to figure out where to begin again. Personally, I’m not a big fan of wasted time so I do what I can to maximize my use of what I’ve got.

I use Google Docs to organize my entire workflow and have adopted David Allen’s GTD system (good book, btw) within Google’s cloud-based document solution to suit my workflow very nicely. I have an general ‘Open Loops’ document that is essentially everything that is on my radar as something that I’m currently working on or which need immediate attention as soon as the thing I’m working on is complete. I have a ‘Someday / Maybe’ document that contains all the ideas that come up for me that seem like a good idea at the time, but which I don’t have the time to implement immediately. What’s interesting is that sometimes I’ll go back and find things in this document that in retrospect I realize either weren’t a good use of time, that I accomplished in another (usually better) way or that are now otherwise irrelevant. What I mean for you to take away from this is that I saved time because I didn’t waste it on things that later revealed themselves to be unneeded.

I should also note that I have a ‘Master’ list of everything that definitely needs to happen, one called ‘Waiting For’ that contains open loops that are currently in someone else’s workflow, and I have various specific documents for each individual project that I’ve got going. This keeps all of my thoughts straight, compartmentalized, backed up on Google’s servers and accessible to me from wherever I am, even from my phone.

The most beautiful part of this system though is its interlinkability (it’s a word now), which allows me to move easily from one document to another by creating links between the two, and its searchability (ditto), which allows instant, content-deep search capability across all of my documents account-wide.

As a working example about the linkability, I link from my Open Loops document to the specific document for a project, or even a specific section of that document and can then move swiftly from a large overview to a project overview. I sometimes even create sub-projects if the document begins to become too bloated and unfocused. It’s simple to ‘cut’ a section of a document and paste it into a new one.  Then I head back to the main doc and drop an appropriately titled link to the newly created one and BAM! Instant workflow.

The other great thing about Google Docs is the incredible search capabilities that is characteristic of Google’s products. From your ‘root’ folder of your Google Docs you can search the content of all your documents. And from within a spreadsheet, for example, you can search ‘one’ or ‘all’ sheets for a string.

I recently discovered a Google Desktop widget for Google Docs that makes all of this work even more easily and quickly. The widget allows you to search your docs, open them and even create new ones directly from your desktop. Its still using the documents online, but you save yourself the extra time it takes to launch your Google Docs ‘root’ folder to then find and work with the document you need. Instead you simply go right to what you need.

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Joshua Guffey

Project Manager at Dependable Data Services
Father. Husband. Search Marketing Professional. Conversion Optimization Consultant. Love Rumi.
  • As much as I use Google Docs, I never even thought about searching or linking. Great tips!

    • Thanks a mil! It’s incredibly useful. :)

      BTW, I guess Google Docs are now editable from Android 2.2. Have you tried that yet?