As both a Gmail user and a practitioner of David Allen's Getting Things Done methodology for personal productivity, I wondered what to do with the star feature. After all, because GTD doesn't have you assign priorities, it doesn't make sense to differentiate between "important" and "other" messages - they all need to be considered, decided on, and then moved out of "IN." . Thus the star is freed up for something else . But what?
I decided to take a cue from Susan Jeffers' book Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, in which she describes the idea of a "Book of Abundance" (briefly, a notebook of positive experiences in your life, both large and small, that you update daily). The point is the book helps us focus on the wonderful things that do happen to us, not just the "gloom and doom, wish and want."
Given that perspective, I decided to use stars to highlight good news that comes in. I currently have about 50 of them, including:
- Testimonials from happy clients ,
- Support, praise, and encouragement from readers,
- Feedback on things I've done that have helped others,
- Requests for consulting,
- Nice introductions from new friends ,
I've found that this practice helps me counteract bad news, and encourages an active focus on the positive. Plus, the act of clicking the star is pleasing, somewhat like that feeling of checking off a next action or finishing a project. So next time you get some good email, click the star!
-  For more on how processing of email works, you might enjoy Matt's Idea Blog: How to process stuff - A comparison of TRAF, the "Four Ds", and GTD's workflow diagram.
-  I use a paper planner for my GTD implementation (more at Fare thee well Hipster PDA - I barely knew ye), pulling out actions from Gmail as needed. There are, however, a number of ways to use GTD within Gmail, including Bryan Murdaugh's GTD with Gmail Whitepaper, the GTDGmail Firefox extension, as well as many great tips in the comments of Gmail for GTD Implementation.
-  More on my consulting practice at Building a Personal Productivity practice from thin air: An update.
-  See A geek "gets" networking: The strange magic of connecting with others and On the goal of meeting three new people a week - A ten week retrospective.