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Productivity hacks weekly in bite-size chunks. Just up your alley if you're at least slightly geeky or a tad bit obsessed with Evernote or WorkFlowy!

Gingko App & Inception: An idea within an idea

Frank Degenaar

This post showcases my Kanban Calendar task management system within a text editor called Gingko. It is clearly an unusual and curious app to use as a to-do list, but those with a curious mind - read on, and learn more than just about task management. After all, Gingko claims to be the only tree-based text editor that exists.

In the 2010 science fiction heist thriller film, Inception, Leonardo DiCaprio plays Dominic Cobb, a professional thief who steals corporate secrets by infiltrating the subconscious of his targets in a shared dream state. He is then given the inverse task of planting an idea into the mind of a CEO. It gets a tad bit complicated, requiring Cobb and his team to go three levels deep: into a dream within a dream within a dream. 
Cobb's Totem - the top. It spins continuously while in a dream. It stops spinning in the real world.

Cobb's Totem - the top. It spins continuously while in a dream. It stops spinning in the real world.

Even those with a sharp mind have to stop and think at times about whether they are watching a dream state or "reality" playing out before them. Still, at the close of the movie, we are left wondering. We may have lost track of how many levels deep in the dream they were.

When it comes to analyzing and organizing information, the fact is that our conscious mind is not as organized as we imagine. That's why we have tools such as outliners. Think of Gingko as an outliner with the content bundled in too. It has also been described by academics as "a horizontal outlining and writing tool". This allows one to focus on structure and content at the same time.

Let's take a look-see at how Gingko makes for a pretty solid Kanban board. A little different, but it definitely screams the two basic rules of Kanban: Visualize your workflow and limit your work in progress. It is highly visual and makes for a fascinating "Kanban Calendar" system, with it's own unique strong points.

Plant an idea within an idea within an idea in Gingko App

Click to enlarge

Here's the concept in a nutshell: Gingko works with a system of "cards", where each card can have one or more "children" cards in the column to its right. Each successive child card goes into finer detail. From more general to more specific. One can keep expanding, going deeper and deeper into each new level/ column. By selecting any parent card, all of the related children cards will be highlighted so as to isolate what you would like to focus on. Not only do you get focus, you also get clarity as you see the bigger picture and how everything is connected. You get perspective. And Kanban.

Dominic Cobb always carried his totem - a spinning top that helped him gain perspective on reality. By referring to it he always knew where he stood - whether or not he was in a dream state.
Click on the image to tinker with this Gingko tree...

Click on the image to tinker with this Gingko tree...

I created a very basic Gingko tree based on an Inception infographic. The idea is not primarily to have specific columns reserved for specific categories, however, if you set up your tree with a little forethought, the columns may be set up logically to reflect material that should be grouped together. And so it is with setting up a task management system, where we need contexts and projects grouped together. Take a look below at some of the basics that make Gingko a serious contender for structuring your task management system, specifically with my Kanban Calendar system in mind...

Gingko App & Kanban Calendar

Each app that I test thoroughly to implement my Kanban Calendar system has its own peculiarities and advantages... and none more so than Gingko. There is a teeny bit of a learning curve involved (because the concept is just so different), but once you push a few buttons and get into it, you realize you have a powerhouse tool on your hands.


In my Gingko tree I have set up: (1)Projects (Backlog) column, (2) Today (WIP) column and (3) a Calendar column.

Notice in the video clip how you are able to align different columns by scrolling up and down. In other words, you can align your "Books to Read" category in the Projects column with the Today column for easier transferring of tasks. I recommend creating each task in a separate card for just this purpose.

An Eisenhower Matrix is part of the Today column, which is nestled between the Projects and Calendar columns for easy pushing and pulling, since it is the center of the Kanban Calendar. 



Hide-ability & Search-ability

You can totally zone in on whatever parent card you select, (along with its children cards) with the ability to hide all the rest. Gingko also has a search feature, so you may want to take advantage of the @tag.


Tomorrow never dies

Each new day we pull the tasks from the next day in the Calendar column into the Today column, as well as any tasks we might want from the Projects column… thereafter deleting that day in the calendar.


Not to leave you in limbo

Just a few odds and ends to wrap this up...

  • A quick intro video to Gingko (by Gingko).
  • I have created a Kanban Calendar template for you in Gingko. You're free to view and/or "clone" it once you have signed up. 
  • Gingko is free (up to 3 trees). For a premium you get unlimited trees.
  • The app is web-based, and beautifully optimized for tablet and mobile.
  • Here's a link to their FAQ page. They explain how you can use markdown text to format notes, insert checkboxes and images from dropbox, etc. Plus there are sharing and collaboration tools.

...or you could just use Gingko as a writing tool. So here's to the real world and staying out of limbo.