GTD Notes: Chapter 07 – The Buckets

This is a series of posts with reading notes of the book “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” by David Allen.

Chapter 07 – Organizing: Setting up the Right Buckets

Being organized means that we have the things where we need them to be. We have to clarify what that “thing” means to us, so we can easily put it into the right bucket.

This chapter describes seven primary types of things we will want to keep track of:

The categories must be kept visually, physically, and psychologically separate, to promote clarity. — David Allen

And these categories can be kept in lists and folders, be it on paper or digitally.


One of the main characteristics of the GTD system are the contexts list, which basically organized next actions into more manageable buckets according to a particular context required to perform the action. A context can be the tool, the location or the situation needed to complete it. It is very useful for longer next actions lists with more than 25 items. I have all my lists in a digital tool (Nirvana) and I use tags for contexts.

The most common contexts are:

Contexts are personal and dynamic. We can add or delete them depending on our needs. I also have these contexts:


This list tracks anything we've delegated or requested, and we're waiting to hear back. This list has saved me a number of time at my work, where I do a lot of “asking for quotes and budgets”. It's an organized way to know who to follow-up with.

“It's important for this category in particular to include the date that each item is requested for each entry, as well as any agreed-upon due date.” — David Allen

What about emails?

David Allen suggests a way to manage email-based workflow by using the emails themselves as their own reminders. I'm currently using this system, as I think copying or moving action emails to a task manager to be counterproductive most of the time. At work, I deal with a LOT of back and forth emails.

The system is to basically use folders as lists: @ACTION: emails that will take longer than 2 minutes to respond @WAITING-FOR: for requests or things delegated via email

The catch about this is that we have to remember to go back to those folders daily and see what's there. I took a while to build this habit, but it works pretty well. It is useful to think that the @ACTION in my email is an extension of my “At Computer list”.

Organizing Projects

A projects list is a “comprehensive index of your open loops”. The idea is to not look at it too often (unless we need to). The Projects List is reviewed at least once a week on the Weekly Review.

Remember, you can't do a project; you can only do the action steps it requires.” — David Allen

This chapter offer some suggestions on areas that we might have “hidden” projects we have not yet identified:

“When is a problem a project? Always.” — David Allen

There are also suggestions on how to sort the projects list, for example:

Project Support Materials

A place to hold projects plans, references, notes about a project. Actionable items should not be in here. It can be done is various ways:


Lists of all the things we are not sure if we want to commit to yet. I really like this list because it gives me a place to store things I want to do, but that I don't have the bandwidth to deal with at the moment. It made a huge impact on my because I tend to think I can start implementing every and each idea I have.

“We're likely to seize opportunities when they arise if we've already identified and captured them as a possibility.” — David Allen

I keep several Someday/Maybe lists:

Someday/Maybe lists - Oct 2023

The Tickler File

A physical version of a calendar to manage non-actionable items that my need an action in the future. This the famous “43 Folders” setup, with folders labelled for days (1 to 31) and folders labelled with the name of the months of the year. I won't go into this one, because I've never used it. I prefer to use my digital calendar to “tickle” me, and I don't have that much paper based reminders to manage as well.


Checklists can be a great way to record repetitive tasks for a certain process. Or they can be used as a reminder for things we care about. The idea here is to create and use them as needed, in all situations we might find them useful.

Some examples:

Checklists can be stored digitally or on paper, wherever we want them to be available to us when we need them. I have checklists stored in my to-do app (Nirvana, under the References section) and also for recurring reviews that I have on my calendar I have them in the notes field of the event.

This is a long chapter, and explains the bulk of the organizing step. The main idea is to have clear-defined and unambiguous buckets for where things will go. The next chapter is about the Reflect/Review step, the most important step to keep the system up and running.

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