Getting Things Done

@ashwin95r became the first person in the team to receive a free Kindle book y’day. Congrats! He got this:

I’ve been using these techniques since 2005 – but recently revamped my system to make it paper (card) based. The physicality of tasks makes a big difference IMO. I’ll do a bigger write up to explain how I use this system.

I highly recommend people to get this book :slight_smile: and discuss here – need any ideas for implementation, how do you use it, etc.

I am going to pick this up next after finishing HItchhikers Guide to Galaxy.

1 Like

Thank you @mrjn! :slight_smile: Started reading it and the main focus of the book seems to be on how to stay relaxed, more happy and focused on one task without trying to mentally remember all your responsibilities. Eager to learn what the rest of the book has to say

1 Like


So, as promised, this is my set up. Here’s a picture of my desk right now:

I basically went to Office Works here in Sydney, and picked up a bunch of cards, and small and large clips.

Whenever something comes to my mind, or I’m talking to you guys and I need to track something, I write one task / idea on one card. And stick that in Inbox. Later, I can move that card to one of the other categories, categories being:

  • DGraph (Project, most used)
  • @ Computer (second most used)
  • @ Outside
  • @ Home (less used)
  • @ Office (less used)
  • @ Done
  • @ Waiting For
  • @ Today
  • Agendas (things to follow up on with others)
    • Prashanth
    • Ashwin
    • Pawan
    • Other people based on who I’m talking to

I wrote each of these categories on a card, and then just clipped all the cards belonging to that category behind it using small clips. When I’m working, I remove the clips, so I can easily move the cards around.

In addition, I realized it was hard to quickly pinpoint a category from a stash of cards, so I also picked up a few colorful stickies to mark the category card. For e.g. I chose red for @Done and @Waiting For category, which don’t need my immediate action. As you can see, the color coding and naming makes it really easy to find the desired category card stash.

Every morning, I pick up a few cards that I think I should be working on that day, and move them to @Today category, which I place on my keyboard. I work through them over the day. If some of them are left, I just clip them together, and re-consider them next day. Anything I don’t want to do today, I move those cards back to the right category.

I like to keep these cards with me all the time. So, in the evening, I use the big clips to put them together.

Now, 2 more of these big clips – one for @Done and @Waiting For, and another one for the stash of unused empty cards. So, with 3 big clips, my system is ready to go with me to home. Sometimes as I work through emails at home, more tasks show up – so I mark that email as unread, and also jot down any action item, again on a fresh new card, and put that in Inbox. Later, they get merged into categories as I explained above.

I read this book in 2005 – with a friend of mine who introduced me to this book and concept – we used PocketMod back then, and I’ve used it over the years on and off. But, the power of digital is always very convincing, so I’ve tried online lists. The one which stuck out the most was Omnifocus. It’s a very well designed software built around GTD, but it’s only available on Mac and iOS – and, I realized digital task organizers just don’t have that stickiness to them. Once, you close the software, they’re gone – out of sight, out of mind.

The current system with physical file cards is working much better – there’s a certain joy in physically holding a task and finishing it – and I’m quite liking it. Time will tell how it goes :slight_smile:.

P.S. Also see:


Very interesting. Kind of looks overwhelming at first , but one would end up simplifying life if one gets in a habit of managing tasks like this ? Eager to try this out.

@mrjn Thanks for sharing how these techniques work out for you. Interesting to hear your perspective on physical cards vs online lists. A lot time ago I used to use Post-It stickies in much a similar way (wish I had a photo of my desk from way back when :slight_smile: ). But sounds like you’ve fine tuned your system to make it really work for you. Would love to hear if you’ve ever run into any limits with the cards. I think it comes down to individual preference too and what works for you. For my personal longer term todo list I like to use – I don’t need to refer to it all the time so it works out well.

Imagine if this is overwhelming on paper, how many tasks might be juggling in human mind if one doesn’t write them down (the central idea of GTD is that if you don’t put them in a reliable system, your mind would randomly juggle through them) – taking away attention, happiness and focus.

The only downside of card system is that it sort of runs against my Zero Waste resolution; but I’ve made an exception for being lot more productive. These cards come closest to how GTD methodology is supposed to be done with paper; and having tried a bunch of lists both online and on paper, I don’t find them as flexible, because it’s hard to move tasks around. However, Trello is built around the same concept of cards and lists; and comes closest to GTD.

The problem with digital world is, it encourages lot of stashing without much retrieval or action – that’s my story with almost all the online task management systems I’ve tried. Physical cards steer you clear from that.


Right, and then the mind picks things up randomly without prioritizing.

1 Like

Just found this app: Blinkist – summarizes books for you. I read through GTD, and while it skips on the concrete steps the book proposes, it captures the overall gist of the book well.

1 Like

Read up the first part of the book which explained philosophy behind the technique.

This workflow looks really powerful.

Now onto the more interesting part of implementing it.


Awesome! Yeah, this is a very powerful workflow.

The Inbox thing that we have in our boards, come right from this. Also, to answer @koppula’s question about how to further divide up the board tasks – I think we should create project lists within the board. GTD defines projects as anything which has more than 1 next action items. So, this should help us group up cards together.


Yes, I can see where the Inbox and Waiting For come from :slight_smile:

I am trying to use Trello for my personal In-tray and for other lists too. Lets see how it goes.

1 Like

The great thing about GTD that I didn’t originally expect is how natural it feels. Very happy about that. And the best way to imbibe the spirit is to use it in practice, the way we are!

@mrjn Yeah using project lists seems like a logical approach.


David Allen talks about GTD in teams.

We’re on the right path with training people (not orgs) and our weekly reviews. As we advance and mature, we could do the last thing he talks about which is allocating output, not next steps. But, I think for now, helping each other determine the next steps is going to be crucial for our collective training.

Here’s the full video.