What System Do You Use to Get Things Done?

Time for a bit of reader participation.

I have nearly 800 subscribed readers to this blog so I know you are out there!I am interested in hearing from you all what system you use to implement GTD?

How many of you use apps like NozbeiGTDNextAction, and OmniFocus? How many of you own and use a Moleskine?

Comment on this post and let me know you are there!Thanks, in anticipation of course.. 

29 thoughts on “What System Do You Use to Get Things Done?

  1. Mark

    Bonsai by Natara Software on a Palm TX is my GTD engine, and I’m very happy with it. I am a math professor at a small college.

    Bonsai’s features are ideal for GTD. My outlines have life areas/roles at the top level (I know, sounds like Covey, and you’re right) under which are projects, which in turn are parents of next actions. I can specify whether I want Bonsai to treat the children as seqential next actions or not.

    It’s then easy to filter into flat do lists by contexts. When I complete an item, it’s the sequential next action takes its place in the filter. I sort by due date, but Bonsai has built in capability to filter by today, tomorrow, this week, next week, etc. When I check off an item, it records the completion date. I can filter on Last Week (complete, incomplete, or both) which is great for my weekly review.

    I use the built in Palm contacts and datebook, but only by linking to them via Bonsai to do items. The only thing that goes on my calendar are places I have to be at a fixed time. If it only needs to be done next Thursday (i.e. a one day sale) then it’s a plain vanilla to do item with next Thrusday as the due date.

    Someday/Maybe’s are just items in the Bonsai outline that don’t have a due date. Again, I have a filter to bring them up all at once, or by context.

    Items can be configured in many ways that I don’t even use. For example, each item can be given a priority, start date, keywords, a note, or a contact. All these can be used in filters, for example, to list all next actions related to a certain client or even just the software issues with that client. I’ve thought about using priorities for Covey’s urgency vs. importance quadrants, but don’t want to have to enter that for every item.

    I can work on Bonsai either on my Palm TX or on its desktop companion program, which I have open all day on my computer at work as my dashboard.

    My main inboxes are e-mail and three to five old business cards (index cards are too big for my taste and I do not use a binder clip) that I carry around everywhere to input on the fly, between classes, during phone calls, etc. At the end of each day I enter into Bonsai whatever’s on the cards, then toss them.

    My key criteria are that a GTD system must be able nible enough that items can be entered QUICKLY and robust enough to catch and track EVERYTHING.

    A few have written up quite very nice and elaborate GTD systems based on Bonsai (Fox Mulder’s palmorganized.com is one; StuGib on Natara’s Bonsai discusson boards is another). Initially I toyed with fancier GTD schemes–my tendency is toward over-classification–and as a consequence my first attempt at GTD a couple of years ago failed. My post-mortum analysis revealed that entering a new project or item required too much congnitive load, so I avoided the system and drifted back to just making to do lists. I have pared my GTD down to the indispensable minimum which I seek out instead of avoid, even while remaining a work in progress.

  2. Mary Anne

    I use both digital and paper. I use a (whoever acquired At-a-glance) Dayrunner?? paper calendar in a 5 x 8 ring binder with to do pages and notes, liberally tabbed with stickies as labels, and with a larger sticky to-do list that moves from day to day. I have a monthly tickler file, and a seven day tickler file. I also use iCal both for hardscape and task list, and sync with a Palm T5.

    Having a dialup connection means that I’m totally uninterested in any online apps. I’ve looked at things like iGTD and Omnifocus (what was it I actually downloaded for a trial? It was on the computer that had a logic board failure so I can’t go look. I played with it for a while, but it just didn’t suit me.) None of them seem to fit me very well. iCal doesn’t either, but it’s _there_ and it syncs with the Palm.

    Redundant? Me?

  3. Katie

    I’m still trying to not fall off the waggon too often, but I like using ThinkingRock. The main reasons for it were its portability, both short term of the data (when having to work on two computers) as well as between platforms. Since I am far away of being connected to the internet all the time, a web application was not going to do it for me.
    Additionally, I take notes in a little simple notebook. Having said that, I’m still figuring out what works best for me.

  4. Scott G

    I use old pal Remember the Milk— No GTD system I’ve used meets MY needs (I’ve tried most of them, Tracks, tadalist, todist, etc.)but RTM provides the best match to my needs.

    For analog notetaking and reference materials such as work flow I use a Circa notebook from Staples (poor man’s levenger).

    For reference I use manila folders and Google notebook.

  5. Andrew Mason Post author

    Keep the comments coming, some good answers so far and some different ways of implementing GTD!

  6. Jake Jacobs

    I used to be a big fan of Vitalist before it went mostly subscription based, so then moved my ideas of to RTM. But I have not been truely happy until I decided to ditch everything digital and go to GTD Moleskine. I have year planners drawn out at the back for dated entries, an Inbox page for quick capturing, a Notes page for general daily notes, and various pages of lists for each work and personal project. Tie this in with a Weekly Review and three months later I’m still going strong.

  7. Phil

    For email management I use Gmail. I have filters that take care of a lot of the labelling for reference purposes. The labelling system really scores over traditional folders. I whip through my inbox and add additional labels for everything that can’t be done in 2 minutes according to whether its an active project ($projectname), @read/review, @deferrred etc. Then when it has been processed I remove the GTD label and leave the reference system label. For short duration projects, its easiest to just rename the active project (eg $project1) by deleting the ‘$’. I bcc: myself emails that I want to track responses to and have a filter set to bypass inbox and label @waiting on.
    For Calendar, I use GCalendar which is synchronised to my Palm Lifedrive using Goosynch.
    For non-email based ‘stuff’ I use Natara Bonsai. One outline for projects (includes a ‘general’ project to catch all those todos that are stand alone). Every action reminder is given a context related category so I can filter by context and see what actions I can do according to the context I am in.
    Then outlines for Agendas, checklists and responsibilities.
    For regular recurring thinks I need to be ‘tickled’ to do (like the weekly review), I use Outlook tasks setting the task to regenerate a number of days/weeks etc after marked complete.
    When I’m on the go, I use the audio note taking facilility on my mobile phone to capture random thoughts and things to do.

  8. Darren Meyer


    If you use Gmail for GTD (I do to), check out the GTDInbox Firefox extension. It has several features that fit in very well, but doesn’t screw things up — so if you’re at a computer without the extension, you can still use your system.

    Very nice — no association, just a satisfied user.

  9. Brian

    I use a number of different systems.

    For my work projects list (really a list of active cases; i’m an attorney) and task list I use two simple google docs. It makes it easy for me to access from home or work whenever I get a chance to do my review. I also generally have a printed out copy of my task list that I can update as I go through the day, then update on the actual document and re-print every few days. My task-list has both personal and work-things. I have no non-work project list (I know, bad).

    I try to keep a stack of notecards with me (hipster pda), so that I can jot down new tasks, things that need to go into the system for processing.

    I have not updated my someday/maybe in forever. I’ll do that someday/maybe, but for now it’s in my treo.

    I use outlook for calendaring. It syncs up to my treo so I always have that. I put actual calendared dates in there, deadlines, and tickler info.

    I have 43 folders in my desk filing-cabinet to use as a tickler system, but haven’t gotten the hang of using that yet. It’s good in theory, but I don’t remember to check it and often forget to throw things in there. I hope in ’08 to fully commit to it.

    I also have a stack of bins in my office. An “In” that people and me throw things in that I still need to process that. I try to do that every day or so. There’s also an “out” bin for things to go to my secretary. And a read/review bin.

  10. James Crossman

    I use the MonkeyGTD tool (free, browser-based and on my keychain USB drive) with a moleskine cahier as an always available inbox for collecting ideas and project notes. Trying to improve it so am scanning the net to see what is available.

    I don’t use Outlook for GTD ince I have more personal items than professional items on my list, as well as side obs. So my employer’s exchange server is not where I want to manage the main lists. I do manage the e-mail carefully at work into MonkeyGTD (and same with home mail).

  11. Matias

    I, too, use monkeyGTD. I have nothing to compare it to, but I find it a fantastic, and free, tool but with a few downsides, one major one being no email-integration. ( – previous poster James – how do you solve this?).

    As mentioned above, it is browser based (written in html) so it can be used anywhere if e.g carried around on a memory stick. I think they also have a (free?) optional service where you put it on a server so you can reach it anywhere.

    Check out http://monkeygtd.tiddlyspot.com/
    but there is an even better (yet unofficial) later alpha version at:
    …and actually a major new version is on its way (…someday 😉

  12. Erik Polk

    I use a very simple to-do list TodoPub.com to organize my life. It is pretty basic, but is quick and has features I need like text message support and igoogle.

    TodoPub.com is not RTM but you may be similar to me and like simplicity with your to-do list. Todopub.com also offers an iphone version and mobile to-do list.

  13. Ian C

    I use an Outlook addon called Jello.dashboard. It is an awesome product (not affiliated, just a very happy user). I am mandated by work to use outlook but they don’t care about addons. I always have outlook open so reviewing only takes a second. I print a hard copy of the master list when I travel / away from my pc. Printing is a little funky but I have not complaints.

  14. BDI

    I use a file that contains loose sheets with my next actions list, projects list, calender all together. The sheets are removable and easily archived – I have the handy file with me all the time.

  15. David

    I use flat text files for projects lists. Each line is a task, with a single-character context at the start. All brainstorming and notes go in the same file following the tasks. Agendas are also stored the same way. I have a set of emacs macros for quickly jumping around from lists of projects to a project file, manipulating tasks, etc. My >10K goals live in another flat text file, where each goal or subgoal has a file associated with it (like the project files). A set of shell scripts scan the project-organized files to produce read-only action-oriented files, which I work from.

    I have not found a system that implements GTD as faithfully and with as little cognitive overhead for me. I’ve been looking at RTM for the last few days, but it is so tied in with dates and deadlines that it seems somewhat at odds with GTD. It also has no intrinsic support for higher-level goals and their relationship to runway-level actions. And I still have to jump around with the mouse to do some of the things that I need to do often.

    Thoughts from others welcome!

  16. IS

    I love to get online! and I like the feelings of getting my inbox to become zero! So i use Google Calendar that I set for it to send me reminder of TASKS as emails to my inbox. When I check my inbox Tadaa!…The reminder email is there to be opened, action taken, and it’ll be deleted then..

  17. cloudrider

    I have 2 systems – one for work (Windows) and one for home (Mac).

    At work, I use Tudumo. Great software. Super fast and easy to use. Doesn’t get in your way. For reference management, I use Personal Brain. An excellent way to brainstorm, mindmap, and manage all your files in a quick and effective way.

    At home, I use Omnifocus on the Mac and the iPhone. OmniFocus has a lot of features that I need to empty my mind. It is very fast to collect/capture data. I also use Personal Brain to manage my reference data. I’m also starting to use Evernote for data management, as it has some great webclipping functionality for internet research.

  18. sndr

    I use Tracks exclusively, I had it installed on my own server, but when I get upgrade-happy it could break. Now i have a tracks account at tracks.morphexchange.com
    mobile interface looks ugly, but works.

  19. Murlu

    I got old school: pen and paper. Oh, and my blackberry.

    I find it too easy to lose track of ideas when I can quickly write them down online so I solidify them by manually writing them out and mind mapping them 🙂

  20. Leon

    I use Microsoft Project for large projects.
    I use Gmail for my schedules and email and documents that I need anywhere I am.
    I use my Android Phone to navigate.
    I use http://www.clarifylife.com to clear my head.
    I also get a massage to do that too.
    I use Moodgym for therapy.
    And I use mint.com do see my bills and trends.
    All in all they help me get things done.

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