GTD 101: The Complete Guide to Getting Things Done




We’ll be focusing on how to GTD with Todoist, but the same principles apply no matter what app you use. The key to GTD isn’t the specific tools you choose but rather the habits you employ on a daily basis to think about and prioritize your work. Review your calendar several times a day and check your to-do lists at least once a day to select your next task. Remember, the goal of GTD is to spend a little time organizing to get a big payoff of time you would have spent on unnecessary, unproductive work.

gtd system

Research shows that increased cognitive load (aka the amount of information your working memory is processing at any given time) reduces creativity and leads to poor decision-making. When you offload thoughts and tasks from your mind, your brain feels less overwhelmed and synthesizes information properly. Furthermore, the Zeigarnik effect explains how our brains are wired to remember unfinished tasks and continually draw our attention to them. Once we create a plan to complete the tasks, the signals stop because we know exactly what to do.

GETTING THINGS DONE® is a personal productivity methodology that redefines how you approach your life and work.

Any task that requires more than one action is a project in David Allen’s GTD method. A project can be anything from renovating your home to a professional marketing campaign for a product. Put all of your projects on a project list that you review regularly.

If you are going to the store you will see all the things you need to do nearby. Reflect on what is important to you and review the items in your system. Constantly review your system in order to work productively and ensure that you continue to trust in the system. This will ensure you have a place to jot down random thoughts and to take advantage of any time you have. If you need to run an errand suddenly you can scan your lists to see what else you need to do in that area. Keep a notebook with you at all times to record things for your in-basket when you are away from your desk.


In GTD, an inbox, be it physical or digital, is a visual representation of all the inputs you need to somehow deal with on a daily basis. Getting Things Done is great if you prefer a highly analytical and structured approach and already have some clarity about your goals and priorities. If you’ve been entrusted with a variety of different tasks, the system can be a practical tool for ensuring even better clarity. Watch your energy level change throughout the day for a week to find out when you have energy highs and lows.

gtd system

After listing your commitments, recognize and gather your “open loops”— anything that needs to be done. When your to-do list keeps growing and you can’t help but worry about the amount of work that’s piling up, what’s your way of getting things done? The GTD method may address some of your most pressing productivity obstacles and more. Therefore, when you speak to someone, you can easily see all the things you are waiting for from that person. This is where you put all tasks that take longer than two minutes to complete. Put everything you want to work on but can’t until you can add it to your project list, such as learning a new language.

It ensures that you don’t forget your tasks

Your brain is great at thinking but terrible at remembering things. At any given moment most people have numerous things on their mind. Our brains become cluttered with information, ideas, tasks, etc. We are so busy trying to remember everything that we cannot concentrate fully on the work at hand.

You can either read the following to learn about the system or you can sign up for our free GTD course that will take you through each of the steps. However, there are a few steps you need to take in order to get there. We will take you through each of the steps and provide all the free printables you will need to get there. Global celebration of 35 years of the development and distribution of the Getting Things Done® methodology. Write, record, or gather any and everything that has your attention into a collection tool. There’s a reason why millions of people around the world swear that Getting Things Done changed their lives.


Part of that vaguery makes it easy to remix and personalize it to match your needs, but it also makes it difficult to approach. Get back on track by using these time management strategies to become more focused and productive. The only difference you will find between a team and an individual’s GTD approach is that the teams are not required to determine their next steps. Whereas, the individual needs to devise his/her next action to deliver the required results.

  • Open Upcoming to see what’s coming down the pipeline this week and any week in the future.
  • Now that you understand the basic premise of GTD, getting started is simple.
  • Add as much information as you can to save you time puzzling over it later.
  • Next actions are separate from future actions — steps you’ll take eventually but do not need your focus right now.

The weekly review is a powerful productivity ritual regardless of whether you GTD or not, so we wrote a standalone guide for how to run your weekly review. Add your most important task views to your favorites so they appear at the top of your navigation menu above your Projects list. Simply right-click the filter, label, or project and select “Add to Favorites.” The filter will then show up in your navigation panel. When you’re ready to sit down to work, click on Today in the left-hand navigation menu to see any tasks that you must complete today.

That way you won’t have to work your way through a huge to-do list in order to decide on your next action. Your system is in place, you’re becoming comfortable with processing your inbox, and you’ve started knocking things off your list like a pro. Writing something down as a physical, visible action lowers the barrier to you starting the task. In terms of mental effort, it’s much easier to ‘call Jennifer to book babysitting for Thurs night’ than it is to ‘organize babysitter’, even though they’re technically the same thing. If something can be done in 2 minutes or less, you should do it right away. The idea is that if it’s such a quick thing to do, it would be a waste of time to bother adding it to a list or delegating it.

gtd system

Don’t hesitate to modify the system to suit your unique needs and preferences. Several tools and apps are available to manage the GTD process, but it’s essential to keep it simple. For those who prefer the analog approach, gtd system using pens and paper can be just as effective as filing trays to separate items into different inboxes. GTD emphasizes a top-down approach, encouraging you to break down tasks into their smallest actionable components.

Tasks can be divided into actionable and not-so-urgent commitments. The actionable tasks can then be delegated to your colleagues and teammates. It also enables you to review your projects and overdue tasks by sending reminders into your inboxes quickly so that you can take immediate action. David Allen emphasizes reviewing your progress and keeping your GTD system up to date. According to this GTD method, you must keep track of your project lists, project support material, pending actions, to-do lists, and reference material.

gtd system

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