I've been following an evergreen thread of comments to a post on What's the next action where people are listing the litany of applications they've tried and dropped in their pursuit of the perfect tool(s) for Getting Things Done. I rarely subscribe to comment threads but this one has proved to be very interesting and last night a post pointed to a new web-based application called Nozbe that I took a look at this morning.
Nozbe is in early beta and there's some work to be done before it could be declared to be ready to move into on a full-time basis. It needs printing support, the ability to capture actions and assign them to projects in a processing run at a later time, and a few other ingredients which appear to be on the development roadmap. But what appeals to me is the simplicity the developer, Michael Sliwinski, has kept to in distilling the essence of project and actions management into a web application.
I've become so frustrated by the overly complex approach many GTD-focused developers have taken – usually with the best of intentions – in trying to automate, integrate, and encapsulate every little thing you might ever want to do in a GTD workflow into a single application. We all know that those intentions can end up paving the road to a warm place. I've tried to use many (most?) of these applications. Despite some long-term success with a few of these tools, I've decided that the pain and suffering induced by adoption, integration, and maintenance far outweighs the benefits and that what I want is something that is simple, simple, simple.
I understand why so many people have embraced the Hipster PDA, Moleskine journals, and other "retro" approaches to managing their lists. I've reached the point where I'm no longer fascinated with the attempt to create a neural net of applications that can read my thoughts, capture them, and organize them in real time, across every device I use, without me even having to lift a finger. I've invested far too much time, effort, and money in this pursuit and I've almost always ended up spending more time fiddling with settings, conduits, and scripts than I have actually working the system.
GTD-speak for the simple life is "plain vanilla". I'm not there and may never be. I am far too closely in touch with my inner geek to be willing to completely let go of my toys. But I am committed to simple and have reached a point where I have eliminated a lot of the tools that ended up being more of a time sink than an enabler to productive activity.
So when I saw Nozbe, I smiled. Here's an application that gets the essence of David Allen's approach exactly right in the browser where I can conceivably touch my projects and next actions from any of the devices I use in any of the locations in which I work. It's a matter of a few clicks to define a new Project, add a few actions, assign a context and estimate to the action, and capture some related notes.
I've stated often enough that I believe a migration to the cloud is inevitable. It won't happen tomorrow and, for many people in my generation, it won't ever happen. But I am convinced that the trend is inarguable and inexorable. It will happen as the digital natives, web workers, and next-gen workforce takes over. In the near future, the notion of keeping all of your stuff loaclized to a single device will be looked at with the same sense of nostalgic indulgence and sympathy we apply to leisure suits, pet rocks, and mullets.
If you're a GTD practitioner, comfortable with the idea of moving your stuff into the cloud, and looking for a very lightweight tool that does the basics without a lot of bling, take a look at where Nozbe is headed. See if you don't get a smile on your face too.