One Year into GTD: My report

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Aug 3, 2005, 10:34:47 AM8/3/05
to 43 Folders
I was introduced to GTD exactly one year ago. I swallowed it hook line
and sinker, and have used my version of it daily ever since. I figured
now would be a good time to report in with my results.

This actually started as a response to this thread:

... by Bryan Villarin. Reading it, I think a good conclusion would be
that each of our implementation of GTD *has* to develop organically.
Everyone ends up tweaking their system to match their way of thinking.

I'd bet that only a small 5-10% of GTD readers follow exactly what The
David suggests. Even he is probably constantly tweaking his own system.
Two years from now, he'll probably be doing it differently.

In the end, here's what worked for me. I could not figure out this
stuff beforehand. It developed organically, as I used it and found what
worked, and what didn't:

--- I started by using everything that The David suggested, just as a
baseline but also because of his years of tweaking. The A-Z thing
quickly died out, it just wasn't how my brain remembered things. Even
the 12 month folders died as well. It's not how my home based business
needs to work.

--- The One Inbox has remained King. Everything gets put into there,
and then everything gets filed, out of sight. "Out of Sight" is one of
the mantras that really stuck from GTD. This concept alone is worth the
price of admission.

--- I created a separate Reference metal filing cabinet and a Current
Stuff metal filing cabinet. The Reference is 8 feet away, and the
Current Stuff is here at my desk.

--- I found out I was big on General Groupings. Most of my manila
folders ended up being generalizations, such as Bills-All, Computer,
Networking, Cash Receipts, Taxes, Large Devices, Medium Devices, Small
Devices. Example: just purchased a new Dyson vacuum. Instead of a Dyson
folder, I filed the manual in Large Devices. I will, though, also break
out certain items into their own folder. Each of my 4 bank accounts get
their own folder, as do each utility.

--- If a new project comes along, I create a new folder, and then
stick it in the Current Stuff file. This works about half the time.
Often I find that I make a new project, and then 3 months later, I'm
looking down into my Current stuff cabinet and see a couple of
"projects" that never moved beyond one piece of paper. At that point, I
just toss it, or file it somewhere else.

--- I live and breathe with Entourage 2004. It is, in my opinion, the
software built for GTD. I completely depend on Entourage's popup window
reminder system (called Office Notifications). I am in front of my
computer for most of the day, and even when I'm not, it's on, and since
I work from my home, I'm always checking it. If I have a commitment in
the future, it goes into Entourage's Calendar (although I'm trying to
use its Tasks feature a bit more, so the calendar doesn't get jammed).
I do this for everything, from Trash Day (a weekly reminder... I'm big
on setting up repeating tasks) to Return Tom's call at 2pm, to Date
Night with Wife (which is every Wednesday whether I like it or not).
Every thing I need to remember is put into Entourage, so that I never
have to remember it. I rely heavily on its Remind feature, which I can
set to 5 minutes before a call, or 3 days before a weekend event, or in
the case of a huge project, I'll set the reminder to go off 7 months
before the due date. I also rely heavily on the snooze feature,
especially in that 6 month example. I'll snooze it for a week, and then
again over and over until the time is right to get to work on it.

That said, I have never figured out Entourage's new Project feature. It
seems like it would be so cool, but damn, it's impossible to actually
implement in any realistic real life way. To date, I've yet to find
anyone that actually really uses it.

--- Again: no January-December folders. I have only one Deal! folder.
This holds anything that needs to be referred to shortly that doesn't
otherwise have its own folder. Nothing goes in there, though, that
doesn't get an Entourage reminder first. In the reminder, I put a short
note, saying, "Grab the XYX out of Deal!"

--- There are no multiple contexts for me, such as @Home, @Work,
@Family, etc. This one took me awhile to realize, but once I did, it
was as if a weight lifted off my contextual shoulders. I'm a @Life kind
of guy. Or a @Workaholic, depending on the viewpoint.

--- To-do lists are handled by a Giant Word Document, set in outline
view. I'm not proud of this fact. But it works ok for now. When I think
of something I need downtown, I hit F3, the GWD opens, I write "buy
gloves" or whatever, and close it. When I need to go downtown, I copy
that into a quick little template and print it up on my DYMO label
printer. Or just quick copy them to a sticky note.

--- I love great technology (dual 20" LCDs, Mac with a ton 'o ram),
but when the HIP PDA came out, I finally released the last vestige of
any thought of ever, ever buying a PDA. Thank you Merlin for doing
that. I always HATED those things, but I was so sure I needed one.

--- I don't let magazines lie around. If there is a mag that I haven't
read, and it's laying around more than a week, I go through it quicky
the first time, and rip out all the articles that I want to read later.
Every one of these get a quick staple through the corner and put into a
simple two-pocket paper folder, then I toss the magazine. This was one
of those "duh!" forehead slapping moments when I discovered this one.
No more stacks of magazines, but more importantly: no more visual
reminder that would flood my body with the chemicals known as
"Cripes-I-Have-Alot-To-Read!" hormone, which for me was really toxic.

That's my 1 Year report from the field.


Aug 3, 2005, 2:12:44 PM8/3/05
to 43 Folders
Outstanding post Tuqquer. Thanks for the look inside!


Aug 3, 2005, 3:04:39 PM8/3/05
to 43 Folders
Just a comment to the Entourage Project Centre bit: I use it for just
that - 'Projects'. Instead of generating a folder for each new
project, I let Entourage do that. As I've already posted earlier in
some other thread, I use the Project Centre as a 'glue' to hold various
digital documents together, be it e-mail, note, task, appointment, Word
or Excel document. Now I have all relevant files in one place. Project
Centre Categories, on the other hand, act as GTD @lists. I use @action,
@waiting, @agenda[person/meeting] for example. I admit that there is a
lot of room for improvement in Project Centre, but even as it is now,
I've also found it to be 'the software built for GTD' - at least in
my usage.


Aug 5, 2005, 11:32:10 PM8/5/05
to 43 Folders
I appreciated your post. I swalled GTD whole myself two weeks ago. I
wonder, today I did a weekly review that took TWO HOURS. Did your
first WR's take longer and then taper off?

Morpheuz Neo

Aug 7, 2005, 9:23:59 PM8/7/05
I'm just started..

still reading the book halfway.. couldn't wait to finish it..
but my lot'sa work seems to hold me from finishing it..

is there any summary that I can straight away jump in??

thanks tuqquer! great insight!


Aug 9, 2005, 7:35:01 AM8/9/05
to 43 Folders
I also have an 'organic' GTD process, don't know if it's appropriate
but may be of use to some. I read a lot of stuff about the GTD craze,
implemented a lot of it and then realised I was spending 80% of my time
maintaining my GTD process and 20% getting things done (well, the
numbers aren't exact but I'm a management consultant so...) Here's a
description of my process -

Book: Unfortunately, I'm not one of the 1000s that begin their
testimonies by saying that they've read the book and how great it is
and how they've bought a million copies for their friends e.t.c. I'm
just not a book kind of guy, most of my reading is online and if I
haven't finished the article/column/etc. in 15-30min then good night.
I'm ashamed to say it but oh well.

Mindsweep: do these when I start getting insomnia because of unfinished
issues or when the nagging from my boss/clients goes beyond acceptable
levels. Usually once a month.

Inbox: have one by my desk, always have, even before I discovered GTD.
Sometimes my inbox contains 50% genuine IN stuff and 50% procrastinated
tasks, I'll come into the office on a Saturday morning and deal with
the latter, this usually involves throwing letters, sticky notes, etc
from colleagues in the trash.

Filing Cabinet: Use one at the office for clients and 'internal
initiatives'. everything else goes in the trash when I'm done with it.
Bought one for home, not delivered yet. At this point I must mention
that I'm a paperless kind of guy. In this place having the
documentation for something means you're responsible for it. I
therefore keep a large percent of my 'stuff' in a very strict filing
system on my laptop and on our knowledge management system (notes
server with elaborate document databases). I have a Clients folder and
a Misc. folder. Under clients I have Leads and Archive. Each job has
it's own folder and the job begins it's life in the Leads folder, when
the client is mobilised their folder goes up a level, and when the job
is finished/suspended or the lead is lost moves to the Archive folder.
I move archived to a backup server every 3 months or so.

Todo List: The most consistently used is my Lotus Notes todo list. I
take my laptop into every meeting except those with 'important' people.
I synchronise the Notes todo list with the one on my phone (Nokia 6600)
3 times a day - this works quite well as I've got my laptop anytime i'm
in the office or at a client site and I've got my phone everywhere
else. Luckily, you can add notes to your todo's in Lotus Notes so for
example 'buy gloves' remains as that but resolve Acme client dispute
comes with additional notes/thought-triggers to help in the process
(cringe busting -

That's how I've totally messed-up the worlds best productivity process
and come up with something that fits into my life.

Bryan Ewbank

Aug 9, 2005, 1:36:18 PM8/9/05
Not much. Two hours is at most 5% of a week, right? It's a cost, but
the benefits outweigh the cost. There's also a bit of a learning
curve as you learn it, so it might drop to one hour at times, but it
might also be three hours at times.

Stick with it, as the WR is really the crux, or the touchstone.
Otherwise, it's just todo-ing...


Aug 19, 2005, 2:38:03 PM8/19/05
to 43 Folders
Tuqqer, I'm glad to see how you've simplified and adapted GTD. Maybe
I'm just not "getting it", but I go from to-do to ta-da! a lot better
than I have ever done with my own organic adaptation.

Mine is a lot like yours:

- I live by Outlook for reminders, for things I forget, (I don't forget
to go to the gym at lunch or walk my dogs) but I forget a lot of other
stuff (like do my timesheet at the end of the week or pay bills)

- 1 portable inbox (moves from home to office and back) - I keep it on
a permanent diet. Every actionable item that I don't do/finish now gets
an expiration date/reminder in Outlook and get filed away til later
(e.g. in my Sept folder or in a "hot" piling box, see below). Most are
represented by a to-do item on a Project index card or on my daily To
Do/Errands index card which often refers back to Project cards (and
that includes "waiting for" items, if I don't hear back from someone,
they have a deadline and I hound them - that also gets a reminder in
Outlook!); I restrict number of projects and to do items to 7 if I can
- there's only so much we can do in a day, therfore purge constantly

- at home: 1 "often" file box (It holds my Jan-Dec folders, must say
that works for me, but I can't have 31 daily folders - argh! Too much!
It also holds bank info, utilities) + 1 "not so often" file box (income
tax receipt copies, etc) for routine stuff; 1 "ongoing projects" file
box. On top of built-in purging, I use the same method you do to pare
down on number of barely-started projects. Recycling box sees a lot of

- at work: 1 credenza with reference stuff, by project (we're ISO
certified and have to keep paper for a while) and several labeled,
stackable divider box lateral thingies (I'm a piler, not a filer) for
ongoing projects. Thos eare my piling boxes. Labels color coded for
importance/urgency or "hotness". ISO process and tools take care of a
lot of the details, it really simplifies things, even though all work
is project work... and really makes it so that I don't do Next Actions
much, just project and to do items with expiry dates and reminders

- I use my hipster PDA for out of office (with my outlook Calendar
printout for 4 months, works so far), I don't use contexts either, I'm
@life all the time. My old Visor has one chief function: gathering dust
on its docking station. Hubby paid dearly to get it for me, I can't
bring myself to turf it.


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