My GTD System (2014)

This post and all other posts relating to GTD have moved to a new site.


Around April each year I review my GTD System as it’s my birthday month and therefore a new year for me. Also it’s seasonally appropriate to do a Spring-clean!

I’m still with my paper-based A5 Filofax system but late last year the David Allen Co (the originators of GTD) revised their Setup guide for Paper Organisers so this was the main trigger for this year’s “system review”.

There are two key points from the revised Setup Guide for GTD and Paper Organizers that I have tried to take account of:

1. Avoid the use of pre-printed forms

This includes fields, columns, etc. that most times you won’t need as these will become a distraction.The 2014 GTD Organizer, produced as an editable PDF in Letter and Junior size by the David Allen Co illustrate this principle by ensuring that the only forms that have columns with titles are the right column on the Next Actions, Waiting For and Projects forms. All the other forms are completely free format (Agendas and Someday Maybe).

2. Additional sections

Ten sections are suggested including, for the first time, a Focus & Direction section to cover the Horizons of Focus of GTD above the runway (Next Actions) and 10,000 feet (Projects).

This has always made me smile because the GTD system originated in the USA so it has Imperial measures that make so much sense to me. In the rest of Europe do they convert 10,000 feet into metres (3,048) to centimetres (30,480) or just elevate projects to 10,000 metres (10 kilometres)?

The PDF 2014 Organizer does contain forms for this section but as yet I have not seen (or worked out for myself) how to use them to best effect. There is some guidance in the Setup Guide to help with this.

GTD Filofax 2014 Sections

So, taking these into account, my 2014 GTD System looks like this (the forms are available as editable PDFs on the Resources page):

1. Notes/In

For capture of of notes and ideas that I don’t yet know what to do with – just so I don’t lose them.

2. Calendar

The hard landscape – day-specific and time-specific actions and information. In addition to a standard calendar (one week spread over two pages) I also have an Annual Events checklist covering all birthdays, anniversaries and other key events.

3. Next Actions Lists

List of all the next physical actions to complete both project and non-project related. One page per context and I typically use the following contexts:




@Errands (sometimes with a separate page for particular stores – for example @Errands Amazon)


@Office (in my case this is my office in my home)

@Waiting For

4. Agendas

Lists of reminders of items that need to be discussed with key people (sometimes with a separate page for key people – for example @Agendas Anne Marie).

5. Projects

Lists of projects – outcomes that will take more than one action step to accomplish.

I hold three Project Lists – one for Business Projects, one for Home Projects, one for Personal Projects. Used to have a Current Projects List but this effectively made the other three lists Someday Maybe Projects and I decided that didn’t fit with GTD so now there’s a separate list of Someday Maybe Projects that is in the Someday Maybe section.

6. Project Support

Any supporting materials for projects. I use a number of forms to help with this. One is a form that outlines the purpose and goal (outcome) of a project with space for notes and possible Next Actions. The other is simply a form to set out a sequence of Next Actions. Whichever form I use (if any) Project Support material (notes, etc.) is filed behind the form.

7. Someday Maybe

Those Next Actions and Projects that I might want to do at some point but not at present. I have learned to be more ruthless about Projects in particular that I haven’t yet started (that is, there’s no Next Action identified).

8. Focus & Direction

This, as noted above, is a new section and although I have made an attempt before to deal with the Horizons of Focus above 10,000 feet (above Projects) nothing has been successful so far.

Having read David Allen’s last book, Making It All Work, I have a better idea of what’s needed and the 2014 GTD Organizer has some suggested forms to help with this and the Setup Guide has some advice. As yet though, I have not made any further progress and I need to consider whether I need to design my own forms to help with this.

9. Reference

This holds any non-actionable information, lists, checklists, etc.

10. Contacts

Details of names, addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses, etc.

This is now starting to hold other types of contact information such as web sites.

11. GTD Guides

This contains a copy of the Setup Guide for GTD and Paper Organisers and the GTD Workflow Processing and Organizing diagram (from the GTD System Guides)

Other GTD reference information may be added from time to time – for example the Weekly Review guide (also from the GTD System Guides) and selected pages from the  2014 GTD Organizer.

12. GTD Forms

This holds spare copies of my GTD forms.


GTD System goes large!

This post and all other posts relating to GTD have moved to a new site.


Having stopped working on contracts that involved travelling from home, I have reverted to a paper-based GTD system. This continues to be based on an A5 Filofax as I have described in previous posts. But for those wanting a larger system, there follows the construction of an A4 version.

Choosing an A4 Binder

Any A4 binder would do – though it would have need to be a 4-ring binder for stability – but I have a few TMI A4 binders from the days when my system was based on the Time Manager philosophy. Of these binders, two are “system folders” in the sense that they were designed to augment an existing TMI system with additional A4 materials. These binders, as well as the very good Time Manager ring system, have a folder over flap, four pen holders and an array of pockets for cards and other small items. They also have a set of 12 dividers complete with a customisable index.

The closed binder looks like this (click image to enlarge):

2014-03-27 17.14.10

Inside it looks like this (with the right flap folded over (click image to enlarge):

TMI A4 Binder RT Flap closed

One of the pockets down the left of left flap actually allows you to remove the ring mechanism (along with its backplate) of an A5 or Traditional-size Time Manager binder and insert it here within the A4 binder. This isn’t possible with a Filofax as they don’t have this facility – it would have been very useful when it came to moving from the A5 system I had.

With the right flap open showing how the index (see below) is used (click image to enlarge):

TMI A4 Binder RT Flap open


These binders are still on sale from TMI and have the advantage of using the standard 4-ring binder spacing so that a normal hole-punch can be used.

Setting up the binder

In setting up this paper-based GTD system, I have used the GTD Setup Guide for GTD and Paper Organizers which was revised last year.

Around the same time that this latest edition was published, they also produced an editable PDF organiser which contains most of the forms needed for a paper organiser including calendar pages for a year which means you can also have a paper calendar as part of the system.

This editable PDF is in American Letter Size (8.5 by 11 inches). Although an A4 version has been suggested this has not yet been produced. Nevertheless, A4 size forms can be producing either by “scaling-up” the forms to A4 for printing or just printing them as they are (as the size difference isn’t significant). If you are sticking to the A5 size that I used in a Filofax previously, then there’s an American Junior Size (8 by 5 inches) that can be “scaled-up” to A5.

For this A4 system, you could use the forms from the editable PDF but I have now produced A4 forms (based on the original A5 versions). These are available for download in as PDFs on the Resources page.

I am working on producing my own calendar pages for my A5 system and if there is sufficient interest I will produce A4 versions.

GTD System

Although the Setup Guide only requires 10 sections, this binder has 12 sections, so I have set them up like this:

  1. Notes/In – inbox for capturing notes and ideas
  2. Calendar – day-specific actions, time-specific actions, and day-specific information
  3. Next Action Lists – next physical actions, listed by context, for project and non-project items
  4. Agendas – reminders of items to discuss with people and at meetings
  5. Projects – list of all current projects
  6. Project Support – support materials for projects
  7. Someday Maybe – items to be done at some point but which have no current commitment
  8. Focus & Direction – higher horizons of focus – 20K, 30K, 40K and 50K feet
  9. Reference – simple reference list and checklists
  10. Contacts – key contacts, names, addresses and numbers
  11. GTD Guides – key GTD guides (including the Setup Guide)
  12. GTD Forms – blank forms

Next Actions

The following actions have been completed but are included here to help you if you decide to take this approach.

  • Obtain Setup Guide for GTD and Paper Organisers – @Errands
  • Read Setup Guide – @Anywhere
  • Obtain appropriate A4 binder – @Errands
  • Obtain 10-part divider set – @Errands
  • Obtain divider index – @Errands
  • Decide whether to use own forms or GTD PDF Organizer – @Anywhere
  • Obtain GTD PDF Organizer (if required) @Errands
  • Produce own forms (if required) – @Office
  • Set up dividers and index – @Office
  • Transfer existing lists etc. to new binder – @Office
  • Use and review operation as part of Weekly Review – @Weekly Review

In the meantime, Filofax has just released a new type of binder – the Clipbook – and I will be reviewing this to see if it provides a less-cumbersome replacement for my full-size A5 Filofax. I will, in any case, be reviewing the contents of my A5 Filofax against the updated GTD Setup Guide for GTD and Paper Organizers.

GTD – The Story So Far

This post and all other posts relating to GTD have moved to a new site.
As part of the preparations for the revamping of this website, I have consolidated all my writings on David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) as links into a few new entries. This one summarises the five phases of mastering workflow at the heart of GTD.


Would you like to have more energy, be more relaxed, and get a lot more done with much less effort? Who wouldn’t? If the answer’s “yes” then David Allen’s Getting Things Done systematic approach to the “game of work” and the “business of life” is for you.

When I first came across David’s work in 1987, he was still, I believe, refining the practices that he later synthesised into Getting Things Done which he published in 2001 and remains an international best-seller. In 2001 I bought the book and started implementing, or rather transforming, the time management system I was then using into what is now known as the GTD systematic approach.

It was 2006 before I was able to attend one of David Allen’s seminars, which by then had become the GTD The RoadMap. At this I met David and was pleased to find him friendly, approachable and inquisitive about how I came across GTD and how I’d implemented the system.

Since then David has published Ready For Anything (in 2003) and his latest book, Making It All Work, was published in 2008. He is reported to be working on a revision of the original Getting Things Done book that will incorporate what he has learned over 12 years of experiences with the original approach which is largely unchanged.

What is GTD?

GTD is shorthand for Getting Things Done, a systematic approach to achieving higher productivity and reducing the stress in you life.

The approach was first explained in David Allen’s book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity and there’s no better first step than getting his book and then working systematically through it.

However, here’s a simple guide to his five step process:

  1. COLLECT everything that has your attention
  2. PROCESS what has your attention to define what each means to you, what outcome you want to achieve and the next physical action you need to take to move it forward.
  3. ORGANISE reminders in an appropriate way so that you’re reminded what needs to get done, when and where you need to be reminded.
  4. REVIEW your whole system on a regular basis (at least weekly) to keep it current.
  5. DO the next physical actions you’ve processed and organised, according to the context, time and energy available, and priority.

To get started you’ll need to:

  • Set aside the time (particularly for the initial COLLECT phase) – a couple of hours should get you well on your way.
  • Set up the space – a nice clear area, desk, kitchen table, the bench at the bottom of the garden or even a corner down your local coffee shop!
  • Get the tools you need – you don’t need any sophisticated software or other expensive tools – just pen and paper.
  • Get everything else out of the way – make sure you’ve got no interruptions!

In the meantime, get an overview of the Five Phases of Mastering Workflow from David Allen’s site for free


COLLECT is the phase where you need to capture everything that has your attention in leakproof in-baskets.

Your in-baskets can be:

  • physical in-trays
  • email inboxes
  • voicemails
  • notes
  • your head!

Get one physical in-basket and put them all in there. For your emails, print each single email off and put it in your physical in-basket.

The rule is – one item per piece of paper. No lists! Break them down into single items and one per sheet of paper. I know this sounds wasteful but you’ll find it easier to process them that way – trust me!

What you may find is that you need to do what is called a full mindsweep. There may be things on your mind that you don’t know are on your mind. What’s in that cupboard? What’s in that box? What about all that stuff in the garage? If you need help with this try going through this trigger list to remind you of things you need to deal with.

Take a walk round your house. Start in one corner at the bottom, left-most corner near the front of your property and cover the whole house until you’re at the top, right hand corner. Write everything down that you see needs your attention.

You will end up with a very long list but that’s the only way to get everything that’s cluttering up your mind out of your head and down on paper.

You’ll start to feel what it’s like to have nothing on your mind.

Next we can start to PROCESS what you’ve collected!


Before you can get ORGANISEd, you need to PROCESS the information that you have COLLECTed.

You need to decide what each item means to you by asking firstly – “Is it actionable?” – that is, is it something that you need to take action on, or do something about?


  • Is it reference material? If so file it as reference material in an A-Z Filing System. We will come back to the best ways to do this at a later date. For now if you don’t have a filing system put it in another in-tray labelled “Reference”.
  • Is it something you don’t need to do anything about just now but you’d like to be reminded of it at a later date? For example, menus for Christmas or New Year meal that you may want to book. These sort of items go into a Bring Forward (or Tickler File). Again we will talk more about these at a later date. For now put them in another in-tray labelled “Bring Forward” or “Tickler”.
  • Finally, in the Non-Actionable, is it something you no longer need? In this case bin it now!


  • Is this something you can defer until a later date – a reminder to pay a bill for example. This can then go into your Bring Forward file to be actioned on that date.
  • Is this something you can delegate to someone else to do? If it is put it in a pile labelled “Delegate to”.
  • Is this something you need to do? If it is you have two choices. 1. If it will take less than two minutes to do then do it now because it will take more time to write it down and pcik it up again! 2. If it will take longer than two minutes then what’s the next physical action you need to take on this to move it forward? Write this down on a list as an action, for example, “Call Fred about Jane’s school report”.

In dealing with the ACTIONABLE items, think about what outcome you seek for the item that you originally COLLECTed. What does DONE look like? The next physical action is about DOING something that will get something DONE.

If that one next physical action will get the item done then you can discard the item you COLLECTed. But if it will take more than one action to get something done then you have a PROJECT and as well as listing the next physical action on a list you need to put the PROJECT on a list of PROJECTs so that you’re reminded that it’s not finished yet. Then you can discard the COLLECTed item.

Next we’ll look at ORGANISE where you put the items you COLLECT and PROCESSed into a trusted system that will help you with Getting Things Done


Now that you’ve COLLECTed everything that was on your mind and PROCESSed everything so that you know what each item means to you (what’s the expected outcome and what’s the next physical action to move it forward) we can start to get ORGANISEd!

Most people, when they try to implement GTD, have a problem with separating PROCESSing from getting ORGANISEd. But this is a key step because in ORGANISE you build the trusted system that will allow you to release all the stuff that’s clogging up your brain and allow you to reach the GTD “nirvana” of being totally buried by the amount of things you need to do but having nothing on your mind – what David Allen calls a “mind like water”.

But you’re not there yet!

First you need to group all the results of what you’ve PROCESSed into appropriate categories so that you can retrieve and REVIEW them when you need to – remember that REVIEW is the next phase of mastering workflow.

The four key categories are:

  1. PROJECTS – projects you are committed to finish that will take more than one action
  2. CALENDAR – actions that must occur on a specific day or specific time
  3. NEXT ACTIONS – actions that need to be done as soon as possible
  4. WAITING FOR – projects and actions that you’re waiting for someone else to do

For each of these categories you need to make a list of each item you’ve PROCESSed that falls under that category. For CALENDAR items that’s easy – they go on your CALENDAR.

A list of PROJECTS is just that.

A list of WAITING FORs is also relatively simple to compile.

The lists of NEXT ACTIONS should be broken down into separate lists depending on the context in which the action will take place. This is a key principle of GTD that differs from other activity management systems – listing actions according to where they happen.

Typical CONTEXTS are:

  • AGENDAS – lists of the people you need to communicate with, and meetings planned, with the topics you need to discuss
  • ANYWHERE – list of actions that have no restrictions on where they can be carried out
  • CALLS – list of calls you need to make, by type of phone (mobile, landline, etc.) if that’s appropriate
  • COMPUTER – list of actions that require a computer
  • ERRANDS – list of things you need to do whilst you are out and about
  • HOME – list of actions that need to be done whilst you’re in your home environment
  • OFFICE – list of actions that require you to be in your office
  • READ – list of articles, books, etc that you’ve decided to read
  • SOMEDAY/MAYBE – list of items and actions that you might wat to do at some point but not now

So now, armed with your lists of NEXT ACTIONS for each of the CONTEXTs above plus your list of WAITING FORs and PROJECTs you’re ready to go into action. But before we do that, next we’ll look at the REVIEW phase that’s key to GTD – how you keep your lists up to date.


The REVIEW is the most important of the 5 phases of mastering workflow but it’s the one most people struggle to do.

However, it’s essential, once you’ve got all your open loops under control, that you keep them that way otherwise you’ll lapse back into your old ways and get completely out of shape!

How often you do a REVIEW is up to you but the oprimal frequency is weekly – it’s usually referred to as the WEEKLY REVIEW.

There are three parts to the REVIEW:

  1. Get CLEAR
  2. Get CURRENT

Get CLEAR means:

  • get all the loose papers, receipts, etc. that have accumulated since your last REVIEW into you in-basket ready to PROCESS (this is a mini-COLLECT!)
  • get anything that’s in your head out and written down an in your in-basket
  • PROCESS all outstanding items in your in-basket

Get CURRENT means:

  • review all your NEXT ACTION lists and cross off anything that’s done and add any new NEXT ACTIONs that this triggers
  • look back over your calendar since your last Weekly REVIEW for any remaining NEXT ACTIONs and add to your NEXT ACTIONs lists
  • look forward over your calendar for the next few weeks and capture any NEXT ACTIONs triggered by this
  • review your WAITING FOR list checking off completed items and look for any needed follow-up on these and other items and capture any NEXT ACTIONs on your lists
  • evaluate the status of all your PROJECTs making sure that you’ve at least one NEXT ACTION on each

Get CREATIVE means:

  • review your SOMEDAY/MAYBE list and transfer any PROJECTs that have now become active to your PROJECTS list and delete any SOMEDAY/MAYBE items that are no longer of interest
  • think of any new things you want to be doing that you can add to your GTD system

One of the key tricks with the REVIEW is finding the time and space to do it justice. Book a meeting with yourself or take all your lists to your favourite coffee shop and shut out the rest of the world whilst you put your world into order.

Next we’ll look at DO, the final phase of mastering workflow.


DO is the final phase of the Five Phases of Mastering Workflow.

Now that you’ve COLLECTed and PROCESSed everything that has your attention, ORGANISEd all the open loops to make sure that OUTCOMEs and NEXT ACTIONs have been decided on and REVIEWed everything to ensure that it’s current, you now have to decide what to DO.

To make the right choices, you need to think about where you are (CONTEXT), how much time you have (CALENDAR), how much energy you have, and what your priorities are.

If you’ve listed your NEXT ACTIONs according to CONTEXT as we discussed in ORGANISE, it should be easy to identify what actions you could accomplish by looking at the appropriate list. Pick something off the appropriate list that you have the time and energy to DO.

We will return to priority at some future date when we look at the HORIZONS OF FOCUS but for now we’ll just identify what these horizons are:-

  • RUNWAY – Your current NEXT ACTIONs (look at these daily)
  • 10,000 FEET – Your PROJECTS (look at these weekly)
  • 20,000 FEET – Your responsibilities (look at these monthly)
  • 30,000 FEET – one to two-year goals (look at these quarterly)
  • 40,000 FEET – three to five-year goals (look at these annually)
  • 50,000 FEET – career, purpose, lifestyle (look at these annually)


This has been a very quick run through the Five Phases, so feel free to post any questions as comments. In the meantime take a look at the Five Phases of Mastering Workflow from David Allen’s site for free and don’t forget the basic manual on how GTD works in David Allen’s Getting Things Done.

This post and all other posts relating to GTD are moving to a new site.

ABC of Effective Meetings

My old copy of Alec Mackenzie’s best-seller “The Time Trap” was written before email became the major time trap that we all know too well. The fourth version of the book now covers that subject but the following guidelines for making your meetings less of a waste of time are still largely valid.

A. Before the Meeting

1. Consider the alternatives:

  • is the meeting really necessary? If not cancel it.
  • could a decision by the responsible person eliminate the need for a meeting?
  • postpone the meeting and make the agenda part of another meeting
  • would a conference telephone call be just as effective?
  • if you have been asked to attend a meeting them consider sending someone else. It could give them valuable experience.

2. Limit your attendance. Attend only for the time needed to make your contribution.

3. Keep the number of participants to a minimum. Only those who need to attend should attend.

4. Chose an appropriate time. The necessary people and information need to be available. Schedule the meeting before lunch, before another engagement or at the end of the day. This will focus attendees on getting through the meeting agenda.

5. Pick an appropriate place to meet. Accessibility, size of room and the equipment available need to be considered.

6. Make sure you know what you want to get out of the meeting before you call it.

7. Distribute the agenda before the meeting to help those attending to prepare.

8. Limit the length of the meeting by allocating a time to each topic on the agenda according to its importance.

9. Consider the cost of the meeting. Multiply the number of attendees by the duration of the meeting and your hourly rate. Now double this figure (as those attending the meeting are not doing their own job whilst attending your meeting!) Is it worth it?

B. During the Meeting

10. Start on time. Waiting for latecomers rewards those who are late and punishes those who are punctual.

11. Take responsibility for timekeeping and taking the minutes.

12. Hold a stand-up meeting if appropriate as this speeds up the making of decisions.

13. Stick to the agenda. Ask at the start of the meeting if there is any other business rather than at the end. This way the other business can be timetabled just like the rest of the agenda rather than prolonging the actual end of the meeting.

14. Only allow interruptions for emergencies. If anyone needs to respond to a call, ask them to leave the meeting.

15. Agree actions with those attending the meeting. Do not action anyone not present at the meeting but action someone at the meeting to convey the action to them if necessary.

16. Make sure that you achieve the purpose of the meeting.

17. At the end of the meeting confirm agreed actions.

18. Finish on time so that other peoples schedules are respected. If the agenda was organised in order of importance then only minor items will be left unfinished.

19. Ask those present for their views on the meeting and the way it was conducted to improve future meetings.

C. After the Meeting

20. Produce the minutes the same day.

21. Follow up on the actions and report progress (or lack of it!)

My GTD Forms

This post and all other posts relating to GTD have moved to a new site.

As I explained in My GTD System (2011), I have designed my own forms for my paper GTD system. I must acknowledge a debt of gratitude to the people at D*I*Y Planner who gave me the initial ideas behind most of these forms.

The forms are:

  1. Notes/In
  2. Next Actions
  3. Someday/Maybe
  4. Waiting For
  5. Agendas
  6. Projects List
  7. Project Plan
  8. Project Next Actions
  9. Contacts

PDF versions of these forms are available on the Resources page.


This is the “in tray” where everything is collected for later processing (unless it can go straight to Next Actions, etc.)

These forms are used for meeting notes, jottings, ideas, etc. One of the Filofax “TODAY” markers is used to indicate the next or current page.

Next Actions:

Once it’s been decided that there’s a Next Action needed to progress something it goes on one of these forms. The right side of the header (next to “Next Actions”) can be used for the Context (“Calls”, “Computer”, “Errands”, etc.). The “Start” column is for the date the Next Action was added and its use is optional – it’s just a way of reminding you how long the Next Action’s been hanging around. The “Action” column is for the action and “Due Date” if there is one – note that if the action needs to be done on a specific date it should be on your Calendar and not on your Next Actions list.


These are Actions or Projects that you want to capture but don’t what to do anything about right now. The form has three columns for you to use as you wish.

Waiting For:

These are actions where you’re waiting on someone else. The form allows you so say “Who” you’re waiting for, “What” action you’re waiting on them to complete, and “When” you expect them to deliver.


The Agendas form is for topics that you need to raise the next time you see a person or group or attend a meeting. The right side of the header is for the name of the person, group or meeting. Again there are three columns – “Start”, “Topic”, and “Due Date” – to be used in a similar way as with the Next Actions form.

Projects List:

The Projects List is for the more than single action things that need to be kept track of. the area to the right of the header can be used to indicate the type of Project. I have separate Project Lists for Business, Home and Personal but I keep them all in one list using the first column indicate the Project’s status (“A” for Active, “S” for Someday/Maybe, “X” for Completed/Cancelled); the second column for the type of Project (“B” for Business, “H” for Home, “P” for Personal); the third for the Project title and the last for the Area of Focus – the first two columns are narrower and the last column wider in the version I use.

Project Plan:

There are two forms used for capturing the details of Projects. The Project Plan form allows you to record the Project Title, Purpose, Goal and any Notes. The back of the form allows you to brainstorm Next Actions and their Due Date – the actual Next Action on each Project must be transferred to your Next Actions list – this is just for your forward thinking!

Project Next Actions:

The Project Next Actions form is just a simpler Project form without the Goal, Purpose and Notes page where it’s pretty clear what the Project is and you just need a form to record some of the Project’s potential Next Actions. The Title of the Project can be recorded on the right side of the header.


The final form in this is just a simple form to collect “Name/Address” and “Contact Info”.

These forms are the main ones that I use. There are some others that I will introduce to you later, including an “Annual Events Checklist” that I use to make sure that I don’t miss a birthday, anniversary or other key event during the year.

My GTD System (2011)

This post and all other posts relating to GTD have moved to a new site.

It’s now a while since I wrote about my GTD system implemented using an A5 Filofax.

Although the basic principles of its construction have not changed, some of the detailed implementation has been tweaked, most recently as a result of the GTD Connect Webinar on Paper GTD Systems.

I have been working a “GTD-esque” system for over 10 years since I first came across David Allen in 2000. At that time David had published some of his ideas on the Internet. I don’t think they had been branded as “Getting Things Done” and it was a year later before his “Getting Things Done” book was published. My GTD system replaced a Time Manager system that I had acquired about 10 years earlier. Claus Moeller’s Time Manager system, for which I still have many of the books and guides, brought together the hard landscape of the “Calendar” and a list of “Key Areas” (akin to GTD’s Areas of Focus) with “Tasks” (GTD Projects) and “Activities” (GTD Next Actions). The alignment with GTD isn’t perfect and the Time Manager system had a much firmer connection between these Key Areas, Tasks and Activities and the Calendar which probably worked better in the more certain times of the 1980s and early 1990s. The Time Manager system had wide range of forms to suit different purposes and had its own ring binders that had a different ring configuration to all other binders. Operating such a system was costly unless your employer was willing to foot the bill!

Probably the key flaw in all these so-called “time management” systems was the idea that time could be managed.

So, after flirting with several of these systems, I read David Allen’s book and realised that the system that he was proposing was “technology agnostic” and I could, in fact, design my own system around his GTD principles. Since that point I have always had a paper system but I have continued to try electronic solutions.

The nearest I have ever come to going totally digital is with Microsoft Outlook with the GTD Add-In. I still use this as Outlook is the favoured email system for the majority of my clients though their systems usually preclude the use of the GTD Add-In whilst on client sites. A couple of years ago I swapped my ordinary mobile phone for a PDA (a Palm Treo running Windows Mobile) and I thought I could go completely digital. I came fairly close but there were still times when the paper system won through. A more recent move to an iPhone gave me another chance to try a full digital solution but there is still no one tool that meets all my needs. I think that eProductivity would probably be the answer but that requires Lotus Notes and that’s a bridge too far. So I’m back, where I feel comfortable, with a paper system.

This time I will try to explain the whole system in more detail and point out some of the recent changes. I must stress that the system is still, and will always, be changing as my needs change. When I wrote the original article I explained that I have been a freelance quality management consultant for the last twenty years working with a variety of clients of varying sizes.

Over the next couple of years that is going to change as I plan to give up full time work and spend more of my time doing what I want rather than what someone else wants me to do. I plan to continue to follow the philosophy behind GTD but the system must be flexible and perhaps, above all, cheap to run. Apart from the David’s books and CDs,  membership of GTD Connect, a memorable attendance at one of David’s seminars (in Minneapolis where I managed a short personal chat with David who is such a nice guy),  the GTD Add-In, and a few other bits and bobs, I  have never bought any GTD “forms”. I have made my own (in Microsoft Word) and these have evolved with the system. As I mentioned above, the recent GTD Webinar on Paper GTD Systems caused me to change the style of some of these forms and to simplify the structure of the system itself.

The paper system I use is still housed in an A5 Filofax. It is now set-up with the following dividers:

  • Plastic protector covering a Mindmap showing the layout of the Filofax
  • Plastic pocket to collect odd scraps of paper, bills etc.
  • Notes/In with blank ruled sheets containing notes taken (and some blank sheets)
  • Calendar section with Annual Events Checklist (birthdays, anniversaries, etc) and printed calendar pages from Outlook (two pages facing each other covering one week). The Weekly and Monthly Checklists are no longer used
  • Action Lists, currently including Anywhere, Calls, Computer, Errands, Home, Online, Read, Waiting For, Someday/Maybe
  • Agendas (now has its own section as a result of the GTD Webinar on Paper GTD Systems)
  • Projects & Goals containing the Projects List and Areas of Focus List. All the different types of project (Business, Home, Personal, Someday/Maybe) are now in one list rather than being in separate lists.
  • Project Plans & Notes where all the Action Support material for projects is held.
  • Reference containing useful lists and other material
  • Contacts
  • Spare Forms

My Filofax structure is replicated on my computer system with a file structure that matches the structure within the Filofax with a few subtle differences:

  • 0 Front
  • 1 Notes/In
  • 2 Calendar
  • 3 Action Lists
  • 4 Agendas
  • 5 Projects and Areas of Focus
  • 6 Project Plans & Notes
  • 7 Reference
  • 8 Contacts
  • 9 Spare forms

These folders are mapped and synchronised across two computers (desktop and laptop) and on a cloud using Dropbox and also, at the moment, Sugarsync whilst I decide which one to go with in the future.

In the next article, I will introduce you to some of the GTD forms I have designed and how I use them.

GTD for free

This post and all other posts relating to GTD have moved to a new site.

Courtesy of GTD Times, the official blog for the David Allen Company and GTD, here’s a list of FREEGTD resources:

  1. GTD Times – helpful advice, tricks, tips and strategies for implementing GTD
  2. Podcasts – including the best practices with David Allen and his team
  3. Coaches Corner – articles from the GTD Coaches
  4. GTD Connect – a two week trial of the online learning centre packed with GTD goodies
  5. Articles, Handouts and Learning Tools – essays from David Allen on GTD best practices
  6. Tips and Tools – useful tips and tricks
  7. GTD-IQ – how do you measure up against GTD?
  8. GTD Facebook Fan Page – chat with other GTDers
  9. GTD LinkedIn Network – network with business-focussed GTD people
  10. Twitter – follow David and the coaches and GTD Twitter-based classes @GTDSpecialEvent
  11. GTD You Tube Channel – fun and useful videos of David and the GTD practitioners
  12. Productive Living Newsletter – David’s newsletter
  13. David at Google – overview of the keys to control and perspective
  14. Discussion Forums – ask questions and search for answers about GTD

“Winning at the game of work and the business of life” doesn’t need to cost the earth!

GTD Tips, Tricks and Tools – A-Z Filing System

This post and all other posts relating to GTD have moved to a new site.

“The lack of a good filing system can be one of the greatest obstacles to implementing a personal management system” – David Allen in Getting Things Done.

You need a good filing system or your in tray will get clogged up with stuff you should have filed.

Your filing system needs to:

  • take less than a minute to file anything
  • easy to use
  • fun to use
  • current
  • complete

You will need one or more filing cabinets. If you can get them go for the ones with a moving plate to hold the file folders upright rather than hanging files. If it’s one with hanging files – label the folders you put in instead of the hanging folders and only only put one file per hanger. But don’t let them get more than three quarters full.

Keep a stack of new file folders handy and invest in a labeller. I use a Brother P-Touch 65 – it’s battery and mains operated and can make fancy labels as well as plain ones but I think it may have been superceded by the P-Touch 80. David Allen has this handsome beast on his desk that connects to his laptop via a USB socket.

Typeset labels “change the nature of your files and your relationship with them” says David . They’re just easier to pick out and look more professional if you take them into a meeting.

When it comes to labelling your files, Keep It Simple Stupid! Think about how best to label folders so that you can quickly find what you’re looking for. If you have lots of files it may make sense to devote a whole filing drawer to finance. If you wanted to file all your credit card statements, for example, then if you have a separate finance drawer just labelling your folders – MBNA, John Lewis, etc. would be fine but if you’re mixing all your reference files together then labelling these ones “Credit Card MBNA” and “Credit Card John Lewis” would be better. If more than one person needs to access your filing system consult them about how best to label the folders.

And don’t forget to purge your files occasionally – at least once a year!