Tool-agnostic GTD essentials by a decade-long practitioner

Unload and capture

1/ Make a habit of unloading all tasks and ideas of tasks from your mind to any kind of digital or paper tool.

🧠 Your brain is for thinking, not storing tasks.

2/ Low friction to add a task. Capture tools must be convenient and easy to access. Tap on screen away from recording an idea. I use a long press with the Todoist app icon on a phone screen to add a task to my system.

3/ Have a buffer for all the incoming tasks so they have time to loose their perceived urgency. I have a separate inbox for tasks created today. They are moved to the general inbox tomorrow.


4/ Process all your captured tasks up to a zero inbox. Do it as often as possible but not more than once a day. You have to get a sence of trust in your system so you don’t avoid putting important things there.

5/ Use one task system for all of your activities both professional and personal.

6/ Make sure there’s only one task processing system. Don’t store some tasks in your email app or a messenger. A message is a signal. Upon receiving determine if it’s a task and write it down. You can reference a message with a link but never confuse signals with tasks.

7/ If it’s not a task, but you want to write it down, put it into your notes for future reference. Never confuse reference info with tasks.

8/ If it’s not a task, but an event, put it into your calendar. If you need to prepare for the event, make a task for that. Events are not tasks.

9/ When processing, rename and define clearly tasks and especially their scope. How do I know that the task is done?

10/ Task name answers the question ‘What to do next’. Task is understandable for the inner monkey. Clarity prevents procrastination.

Work form the list and review regularly

11/ Begin every day with your task list. Make sure you work out of your list. it’s not a report, it’s a working instument.

12/ Frequent review is where most productivity systems fail. You don’t sort out garbage, soon you stop trusting the system and either default to memory as you main tool or start over with a new fancier tool.

Define and manage projects

13/ Two level task system works best for me. On the task level I do small chunks of work from 2min to a couple of hours long. They are typically small-scale, easily achievable tasks that you can ‘do’ rather than ‘manage’. They are usually part of a project, contributing to its completion.

14/ Projects are the top level tasks that require more than one action step. They can range from ‘Clean the garage’ to ‘Launch new product line’. Make sure they are not mixed up with tasks.

Projects list — is a bridge to your desired future.

15/ Project and task statuses could be ‘Next’, ‘In progress’, ‘Waiting’ and ‘Completed’. I also generously use ‘Someday’ and ‘Maybe’ (yes, separately) for delayed tasks.

16/ 🔑 Hugely underestimated GTD practice: flexible project scopes. If the project was to ‘Create a new business’ but you’ve validated one idea and it turned out to be unfeasible, you could redefine the project as ‘Validate idea X’, close it and work on the next idea.

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