For you new to GTD, check out my first post on the subject.

GTD is simple and fun! You can make it as complex you want it to be, but if you want it to work for you – make it simple and fun! If you’re really into GTD, I suggest you read the book.

I’m asked a lot “how does it work?” so I decided to write this “one-page short version” of it – just to give you a quick overview!

Here’s what we want to do:

Get everything out of your head. Make decisions about actions required on stuff when it shows up—not when it blows up. Organize reminders of your projects and the next actions on them in appropriate categories. Keep your system current, complete, and reviewed sufficiently to trust your intuitive choices about what you’re doing (and not doing) at any time.

The five phases:

You basically got 5 phases which are:

  • Collect
  • Process
  • Organize
  • Review
  • Do!

I will give you an overview of each step.


Get everything out of your head – and I mean everything. Not a single thing should be missing because if you have stuff laying around, you’ll end up not trusting the system you’re trying to build.

If you’re just starting up – I suggest you sit down for an hour or so and just write down everything you can think of!

All these inboxes, often referred to as “buckets” could be your e-mail Inbox, a physical inbox at work, your notebook etc.


After the collection it’s time to empty all these buckets. Pick-up each item one-by-one and ask yourself “is there an action I need to take about this item?”

If there’s no Action required for this item, either throw it away or file it for reference.

If there’s a next action you can take and you can do it in less than a few minutes – DO IT NOW! Otherwise, decide on next action (ie. “call repair shop” or “read this article”) and put it to your “Next Action” list. If this is one out of several actions for something to be complete – put it to your “Projects” list (ie. “call travel agency to get prize on flight” is not the only action you have to take to get that trip completely organized).


Since you probably have a huge list now you have to organize it. Remember to not spread out your “lists” you should always know that what you need to remember is in the same place –not some notes on paper, some on your computer and some in your head. You should have several lists, but not too many so you won’t find what you’re looking for or know where to put a certain action. Here are some lists to start with – expand when you feel like it:

  • Next Action – What to do next (E.g. write blog post on xyz, e-mail eric about xyz, read article xyz).
  • Projects – You probably have some stuff you need to do but consists of many actions – let’s call them projects. For example “get new computer” (E.g. check site xyz for review, check prices on stores x and y, order computer from x, install operating system and so on).
  • Waiting – You probably have some actions that you need to wait for something/someone else. Put all those actions here so they don’t distract you.
  • Someday/Maybe – There are usually many things you want done but simply don’t have time or maybe long-time goals? Put them here. You should have everything in your list! You will probably have stuff laying aroung here for years!
  • Calendar – Try to keep your calendar clean with stuff that you really have to do at a specific time – for example meetings.
  • References – There are always stuff you need to save. For example notes, articles and everything else you may need in the future.


If you talk to people who have used GTD for a while, you realize that the probably most important thing is to review the list often! Schedule time to do it at least once a week but when you get the hang of it – some lists you seek every day. This way – you always know that the list is up-to-date and current! During this review, process all your “inboxes” and basically do the Process step above.


Ok, now you have everything in front of you what needs to be done. And from here-on, it’s basically up to you since you have total control on what needs to be done you.

To help you, have this workflow diagram printed out and stick it to your monitor. It will help you – guaranteed:

GTD - Getting Things Done

Please comment if you have anything you want to add or ask. In future posts, I’ll look deeper into how to use tools online for an efficient way to GTD – Getting Things Done.

Want to know more?

Check out the Colorado College Lunch & Learn session which is a basic session on first-time GTD:ers: