I read about some new organization software over at LifeHacker, which got me thinking about what would be my ideal organization software. I am beginning to embrace the implications of the uneven levels of attention I can pay to people I know, and the definite limit to which I can keep everyone in my head. With this in mind, I have come up with 8 requirements which would greatly enhance my ability to maintain a wider and more useful network of contacts. What software do you use, and what would you add to the list?
- Integration of Email, Contacts, Tasks, and Calendar. Supporting your network requires all of those, so a tool to help you manage it should too. (I refer bellow to an entry in any one of these as an event.) My favorite piece of integration is the automatic add of new contacts to my contact lists.
- Reminders for events relevant to your contacts. Any good calendar should do this. Unfortunately, most require the calendar to be open to perform this. Hosted calendars like Google’s and Yahoo’s, allow you to be reminded by email. A handy function for those of us on the run.
- Reminders to reach out to your contacts. You can do this manually now through tasks or using your calendar, but this is ripe for automation.
- Provide context about each contact. This should be presented when you are reading or creating a task/email/meeting in your system. How you know the person, and the last time you saw them, etc., are usually available through searching your contacts and calendar if you keep track of these, but again, ripe for automation.
- Provide context about each conversation. Latest emails, events, etc. each time you are creating a task/email/meeting in your system.
- Show tasks outstanding and recently completed for the individuals in each action. A summary of the tasks you owe someone can help define a productive conversation.
- Show tasks outstanding and recently completed by the individuals in each action. A summary of what you are owed, similarly can help define a productive conversation.
- Automatic tagging of actions and participants. With all of the natural language processing developments over the recent years, it would be relatively simple to pull themes from the content of each event and record those along with the participants. When you create new events, the tag database could be polled as you are creating a new event to recommend people who may be interested, and other relevant topics. Would be a helpful plugin for your word processor too.
Most of these are available today, but not in an automated fashion and often not available at the same time. I primarily use GMail with a Firefox plugin called GTDInbox which together provide good integration of email, contacts, tasks, and calendar.
Google Calendar provides good reminders of events relevant to my contacts, but requires me to set them up.
The more recent version of GTDInbox provides an increasing level of context about the participants, and I hope they keep pushing in that direction. The unfortunate thing today is that it does this by learning association of special labels it uses. This is indeed helpful for labeling, but the more I communicate with someone, the less I need the context. Since it’s a Firefox plugin, they could create a side panel, which would also allow showing the tasks owed and outstanding.
As for autotagging? Please, this is a desperate cry for help…. If there are any creative programmers out there, take a look at OpenCalais, and make a pluggin for FireFox + GMail!