Getting Things Done (GTD) by David Allen is one of the most well known productivity systems in the world. I was first introduced to GTD via Merlin Mann's 43 Folders blog many years ago (can't believe it has been 9 years since his final post!) Through that site Merlin introduced me to Omnifocus, which I've used at various times (many, many times) over the years.

While I've never been able to follow GTD 100% consistently, I've used elements of the system like the inbox and review in almost every version of my setup over the years.

Let's dig in...

The Basics

There are five basic steps to GTD:

  1. Capture - have a trusted inbox where you put everything.
  2. Clarify - process that inbox and decide what are projects (more than 1 step), tasks, next actions, or reference material.
  3. Organize - add dates, contexts, organize into projects, delegate tasks, etc.
  4. Review - review your projects and tasks regularly to make sure you are working on the right things.
  5. Engage - do the work! Trust the system to know you are doing the right thing at the right time.

There's a lot to like about the GTD system. The workflow makes a lot of sense and some of the ideas like an inbox and review are crucial to any system, as I've mentioned.

The two areas where GTD usually falls apart for me:

  • There's a lot of time spent "managing" your tasks. If you don't keep up with the system you quickly fall behind and the system naturally becomes untrustworthy.
  • It's a large scale process change. Lots of change all at once is usually hard to maintain.

Generally, it's a lot of work to stay organized. That may work for some people, but it doesn't fit in my busy life.

Zen to Done

Alternatively, there is a system developed by Leo Babauta called Zen to Done, which is loosely based on GTD. Leo attempts to simplify and improve on the system by focusing on doing and slowly adding new habits.

The basic flow of the system:

  1. Collect - Leo recommends a small notebook as the "inbox"
  2. Process - very similar to clarify: make quick decisions and do things that take less than a couple minutes.
  3. Plan - Zen to Done focuses on picking 1 to 3 Most Important Tasks (MITs) and to do those first each day
  4. Do (focus) - tackle one task at a time and minimize distractions
  5. Simple trusted system - create simple lists that you check daily; not a lot of contexts and don't keep trying new apps (*looks*)
  6. Organize - make sure there is a place for everything. Don't let things pile up.
  7. Review - review you system and goals weekly.
  8. Simplify - reduce your tasks and goals to the essentials.
  9. Routine - set and keep routines
  10. Find your passion - seek work that matches your passions.

Where GTD tries to encourage you to do more, Zen to Done seems to encourage you to do less quantity and more quality. I do like the sound of that!

Zen to Done does match many of my stated goals too – using routines, building habits, developing passion, and a focus on simple. I will definitely look back at Zen to Done when developing those aspects of my system in Notion.

To recap, the parts of GTD/ZTD that will be part of my system:

  • An inbox
  • A daily and weekly review
  • A way to consistently add routines into my daily activities
  • A way to build and track habits

Next up, I will take a look at the Dash Plus and Bullet Journal methods to see what aspects I can use in my new system. Until next week!