How to Back Up Your Outlook GTD System Outside of Outlook

This whole post is about the Getting Things Done system, outlined at length in David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done. I think it’s worth the read. For you, it might not be worth implementing everything in the book. I did a fairly complete implementation, but I’m a little bit of a nerd. In any case, it’s got some good ideas for getting your ToDos, clutter, and email under control.

Ok, that said, I’m assuming that those of you who are still reading this post are somewhat familiar with GTD and have at least considered implementing a plan in the past. I’m going to share my version of the implementation, which isn’t going to work for everyone, but which may help you figure out what you’re going to do.

When I set out to implement my system, I had several problems:

  1. At my company, we use Exchange 2003 (ugh). My specific computer is a PC with Outlook. However, at home, I have a Mac, and I can’t use Outlook for Mac with Exchange 2003. I refuse to use Entourage. Just refuse.
  2. I didn’t necessarily want to keep everything on a server at my place of business, without the guarantee that it won’t all blow up. If we had an office fire or something, I would have to restore from a possibly incomplete back-up, or, God forbid, if I got laid off, I would just be out of luck.
  3. I wanted everything to be accessible via my mobile device, which happens to be an iPhone. Since tasks are an essential part of this setup, and you can’t see Exchange tasks on your iPhone, I needed a different solution.

So, here’s what I did:

  1. Set everything up in Outlook on my work PC: all my calendar stuff, all my tasks using categories for contexts, all my email folders.
  2. Set up my Outlook calendar to sync with Google Calendar. There are several ways to do this, but I’m using Google Calendar Sync. (If you’re going to do this, note that it only syncs while you have Outlook open on the computer where you install Google Calendar Sync. It’s not an Exchange syncer.)
  3. Set up my Outlook tasks and notes to sync with Toodledo. (I looked for a solution that would use Remember The Milk, but couldn’t find a free one. So you lose, RTM.) The Outlook/Toodledo syncer is a third party job, but it seems to work well. Again, as above, you have to have Outlook open on the computer where you install the Chromatic Dragon Sync for it to sync. It’s not an Exchange syncer.
  4. Bought the Toodledo iPhone app. This is the only thing I spent money on for this whole set-up. It was worth it to me to have the functionality. However, if you’re a cheapskate and can’t stand the thought, Toodledo has a slim site that will work on your mobile device.

Tada! That’s it! Now I can still use Outlook at work (because that’s what everyone else uses and it’s just easier), but have everything backed up to web-based stuff that I can access at home and from my iPhone as well. I am a task-completing, note-taking, inbox-annihilating machine.