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Digitally Getting Things Done

This page is related to the workshop held at the eth0:2011 Winter event on 16 january 2011.


If you have attended the Digitally Getting Things Done workshop, you may want to review the following 'slides'. I actually simply did a Google Images search for them, and thought these results were useful:

Google Tasks

Then there's the somewhat obscure link to Google Tasks. This is something to bookmark (because storing stuff in your head is *bad*! ;-)

First you should rename the "yourname's list" task list to "0. INBOX". This makes sure that new tasks are put into your inbox by all Google Tasks apps (it's the magic task list).

Then, add new lists, so that you get the following list of lists:

  • 0. INBOX
  • 2. SOON

In the THIS MONTH list, put a list of new tasks numbered from 1 to 31. Put the date of today at the top of the list. So if today it is the 18th day of the month, you get a list like this:


Tip: Remember that only half of the months in a year have 31 days. People tend to use this list as a calendar to plan their work in. That is obviously not a good idea, as some days don't exist (like the 31st of april :)

Now do the same for the NEXT MONTHS list (but use the names of all months instead), and you're set to start using the system.

Just copy & paste the below:


Again, put the next upcoming month at the top.

Everything further away than one year can be considered as a SOMEDAY / MAYBE task.

Note: For projects, or other categories of stuff you want to stop having to remember, you can add additional lists. Some of my favorite project lists are "Movies to watch", "Books to read" and "Cool project ideas". You're free to pick your own ofcourse.

Tip: I use Google Tasks Organizer Lite on my Android phone. It doesn't work perfectly, but let's just say it has less problems than other apps... :P

The hard part

Making lists is easy. Putting the system to work, and ensuring it is reliable enough to allow you to forget all the to-do stuff in your head, is the hard part. If you can't trust the system, your mind will keep trying to remember all the things you have put on your list. And it will keep reminding you of them at the wrong times.

Keep to the 'rules' described below, and it should work out.


Whenever you think of a task, write it down directly.

If you don't have access to your main task list, use a temporary system that you can trust. Some people prefer scraps of paper, some prefer a little notebook or the notes application of their mobile phone. Whatever you do, beware of allowing your temporary system to usurp your main system. So, whenever you regain access to your main task list, synchronize with it: Take what's on your scraps of paper, inside of your wrist, or on your pile of post-it notes, and enter it into the inbox of your main task list. Then, throw away those temporary notes; there is no use for them lying around!

Do a weekly review of your task lists

The review really takes only a limited amount of time, so just DO IT! It is extremely important to be able to trust the system in making sure you have the right information at the right time. Your weekly review takes care of this.

  • Get yourself a nice cup of tea/coffee/mate and sit down.
  • Start at your INBOX, and follow the order of your lists (0, 1, 2, etc.). In case you have separate project lists, make sure to include them in your review as well. They may require your attention just as well.
  • Read all of the tasks individually.
  • If you see a task that has already been done, then yay, you can check it off your list!
  • If you encounter a task that is not relevant anymore, simply delete it, and feel good about losing another thing to do.
  • Whenever you see a task that is on the wrong spot, move it to where it should be.
  • If a task is vague or incorrect, simply update it.

Here are some common pitfalls:

  • If you are having trouble starting your weekly review

Try to define a first action for (the task of) doing your weekly review.

  • If you tend to forget to do your weekly review

Put the weekly review into your calendar as an appointment, preferably at the same time each week, so you can condition yourself, which helps to remember it without having to use your calendar (this takes a lot of time, so don't expect quick results!)

  • Make sure you do a full review, so don't just check your inbox, but check *all* lists.

Use your calendar wisely

Your calendar should only contain your appointments. No tasks allowed!

You can recognize an appointment in the fact that it has a starting and an ending time. Ofcourse you can use your calendar to plan when to work on certain tasks, but only put those in your calendar if you have a starting and ending time for them. Don't put lists of things to do that day in your calendar. You have the THIS MONTH list for that.

Don't plan too much on one day

Only put things in your THIS MONTH list that really have to be done on a certain day. If something is very important, put it in your SOON list. You may even want to put an item called "URGENT" at the top of your SOON list, or create an URGENT list alltogether. As long as you keep a day's tasks down to 3 or 4 tasks, which you can do in about half a day tops, you should always have the opportunity to get to your list of URGENT tasks.

Update your THIS MONTH list every day

Each day (preferably at the start of the day, but see what works best for you), you should update the THIS MONTH list, by moving the previous day to the bottom of the list (Ctrl-Arrow_down is your friend here), and move unchecked items to other days, or back to the INBOX.

Keep tasks tiny

Tiny tasks are easy to start, and easy to complete. They are the best tasks.

Big tasks are hard to start, and hard to complete. Luckily, they are almost always nothing more than a series of tiny tasks that have not yet been discovered by you! :)

Feeling overwhelmed by any particular task is simply a sign that you have not broken it down into small enough pieces yet.

Check off tasks you have done

Whenever a task is finished, check it off from your list. This is satisfying, and gives you a good feeling on your performance, which keeps you motivated. Important stuff, this...

Good luck

I hope you have a good time using this way of working. It has certainly proved it's worth to me.

Read the book by David Allen if you haven't already done so. It does not only describe the GTD system in detail, but it's also full of useful tips and tricks to overcome specific (procrastination related) problems.

If you have questions, send me a message.


Useful links