GTD Journey: Is my System too complicated?

I have never asked that question before. But suddenly I felt like I was overwhelmed and that I was spending too much time and energy to manage my lists. So this year I decided to sit down and write a description of my GTD system to understand what was going on.

The inspiration came from a post from Cal Newport in which he describes his Rooted Productivity document. For him, it's a one page document that he keeps in a plastic sleeve on his desk. The idea is to have a “root commitment” that includes all your productivity habits.

GTD is based on 5 steps, which are:

  1. CAPTURE: Collect (Inbox)

  2. CLARIFY: What is it?

  3. ORGANIZE: Put it where it belongs

  4. REFLECT: Review and Update

  5. ENGAGE: What is the next action? Do it!

Based on Cal Newport's idea, I came up with a description of my system based on the following questions:

In doing that I could list all the tools I was using. And I could ask myself:

This reflection came in good timing with the end of the year when I like to do a full system review.

The first page of my GTD system description

Here are some things I felt like I wanted to change:

Note taking

I used to rely heavily on Evernote for all my notes related to projects, checklists, references, notes. It was scary to acknowledge that after using it for almost 10 years I had so much information in there. And what if I wanted to back up all this information? How to make it available outside of Evernote? It turns out it's not that simple. Since I've been through the process of exporting/importing notes from Evernote to OneNote and vice versa, I don't want to be in that situation anymore. If I want to have a note taking tool, it has to be one that can easily export my data to an accessible format (like .txt). I decided to have most of my support material and notes using good old Microsoft Word/Excel. Nowadays with OneDrive cloud it's easy to access those files when I'm on the go if I need to. But I also wanted something to quickly jot down notes while using my phone or computer. Some quick, hassle free, simple tool. So I started using Standard Notes for that, which is serious about privacy and all the notes are exported to .txt. It syncs on my computers and mobile.

Lists Manager

I've been on a crusade for the best task manager for too long now. After fully installing my system on Evernote, Trello, Todoist and Nirvana I decided that Nirvana is my best bet.

Todoist is great for next actions and integrates with the Calendar beautifully, BUT it doesn't work that well for managing projects for me. I tried it. I insisted on it. And in the end I had friction on my system because of it. I was excited with the Google Calendar integration. But changing projects or actions status from active to someday/maybe has never been smooth in Todoist.

Nirvana is still the best GTD implementation in terms of organizing tasks and projects. It's simple and elegant.

Review Flow

I was never good at Weekly Reviews. I could never keep a steady planning routine. I tried doing it with apps (Trello, Evernote, OneNote) and I could never stick to it.

But I like spreadsheets, so I did some experimentation and created a template for my planning needs. It's for the whole year, separated into quarters and months. I also developed a simple Projects List Log, that gives me the list of all the projects I worked on in a given year. Its goal is to register what is done, rather what is ongoing. Everything that is ongoing is on Nirvana.

Routines and the Calendar

I identified the review routines that are part of my system. They are crucial to keep the system updated and my mind clear. But I've never had a clear identification of those reviews. So now I have a list of these milestones and a guiding checklist for each of them. I put reminders for all the following review routines on my Calendar:





#GTD #notes #productivity #apps #Nirvana

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.