7 ways to make GTD stick

27/5/2010 |

7 ways to make GTD stick!

1. Read the book! Not sure if you have already, so thought i’d start at the beginning! It’s useful to come back to and dip into. Also, i’ve found reading other books to compare and contrast – at the end of the day, it’s about finding what suits you, and GTD ‘pure’ is not for everyone. Others to check out:
– Tim Ferriss – 4hour Work Week (great for thinking about automation of tasks, and some good stuff
re 80-20 and parkinsons laws)
– Sally Mcghee – Take Back Your Life (great for how to use outlook as an organising tool)
– Get Everything Done – Mark Forster (lots of nice ideas re using energy and attention)
– The War of Art – Stephen Pressfield (beating procrastination)

2. Make it a game! If you’re stuck on a bit of gtd, and thinking more about the system than the tasks, make it a game. E.g. with emails, getting your inbox to zero becomes the game, rather than actually what you’re sending in the emails – forced decisiveness is the result. Check out http://www.43folders.com/2006/03/27/process-to-zero and other articles in the inbox zero series

3. Do a weekly review. If you’re ever stuck with gtd, i find this is the tool to get unstuck. I use a tailored version of the gtd weekly review checklist. It’s a great discipline, and the ‘thinking time’ invested pays off, big time. http://zenhabits.net/2007/02/weekly-review-key-to-gtd-and-achieving/

4. Cut down how much you actually do. Counter-intuitive, but part of my weekly review is about reducing what’s actually on the lists without doing them – i have a ‘force delete’ then a ‘force delegate’ section on my checklist. It’s a great tool for being ruthless in renegotiating with yourself what there is to do.

5. Morning habit – develop a morning routine. I have to say this is the one i’m failing at right now, but working on! I’ve previously had a really good rhythm going which included eating breakfast, jogging, and ‘worst first’ – completing the worst and most nagging thing on your to-do list first, and almost using the other parts of the routine as a way of ‘tricking’ you into starting the day with great momentum.

6. Think about, and write down your good and bad habits. Then expand upon the good and eliminate the bad. Sounds easy, but not something we often think about. I think the key is in giving yourself structures that allow you to change your habits without thinking about it. Personally, my natural style is strategic, flaky, intuitive, spontaneous, etc – but gtd and the other systems I use give me a much greater certainty about how well i’m doing, how much is on my plate, etc.

7. Get some training! You can find info about the official GTD workshops both in the UK and the USA. We run our own time management training workshops, both public ones in UK cities and in-house. Our workshops refer to GTD but also to other time management methodologies and models.


  1. Sarah From

    Great post Graham — I would also add that on the email front, Merlin Mann’s concept of creating an “email DMZ” can be a great jumpstart. For those unfamiliar, the idea is that if you’re really really far from zero inbox (hundreds of messages) make a folder called “DMZ” and drag everything into it. Then immediately start doing Inbox Zero from a clean slate. Schedule yourself some time to go back and hack away at that DMZ folder. But in the meantime, you’ll have a fresh start which will instantly bring relief. As Merlin says, “before you can get good, you’ve got to stop sucking.”

    • think

      yeah, I like that idea alot. we use the idea of ‘Email Death Row’ on our email courses – the idea being that beyond a certain date (typically 3 months ago) emails lose their value.


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