5 steps of GTD

The 5 steps of GTD and the tools I use in each step

Here I’ll cover the 5 steps of GTD and the tools I use in each step. These five steps are the backbone of any GTD implementation. Having the right tools will make the process a lot easier.


If you are not yet doing GTD

If you are totally new to Getting Things Done, this is not the place to start. To succeed with GTD, you have to really understand the methodology. Getting Things Done is a set of tools, not a one-size-fits-all solution. You have to understand the basic purpose behind the 5 steps of GTD to be able to GTD. No app can substitute this.

Before diving into the 5 steps of GTD, start reading my FOCUS page about GTD, below.

Getting started with Getting Things Done

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If you are doing GTD

If you are practicing Getting Things Done, please continue reading. Hopefully, you will find a few new productivity hacks or new ideas. Enjoy.

Both analog and digital tools are needed for the 5 steps of GTD. (Picture: Stocksnap.)


The 5 steps of GTD

Let’s get down to the details. Here are the five essential steps in any implementation of the Getting Things Done methodology.


Step 1: Capture

Capture everything that has your attention.

Capturing is a continuous process. Capturing has to be both digital and physical. Good capture tools have to work in every situation. The solution to this is not to try to find the one tools that will work in all situations but to find the tool that will help you to capture effortlessly in the different situations you find yourself in.


Physical capturing

Here I use a good old physical in-tray, both at home, at work, and at the cabin. When traveling, I use the red plastic folder I received during my first GTD course. Unfortunately, the David Allen Company has stopped selling physical items.

I always bring my Mont Blanc Starwalker pen and a small Moleskine Volant Extra Small Ruled Notebook.* with me at all times.

For taking notes at the office and at home, I generally use my Livescribe pen and a Moleskine Livescribe Notebook.* Since using the Livescribe pen is about making physical notes digital, this is the perfect opportunity to switch to the next topic; digital capturing.

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Digital capturing

If I have the time, I like to put things directly into Todoist on my phone or on my computer. Given that I have the time and clarity of mind, I like to do step 1, 2, and 3 in Todoist at the same time. If you have an idea, you know what it is – and you know which project is should go under.

Back to digital capturing; I write minutes into Evernote (for private meetings) and OneNote (for work meetings.) If I take physical notes with my Livescribe pen, these notes will also end up in one of those two places.

If I’m not able to use pen and paper, and not able to type anything into my computer or phone, I have found an awesome new app called Braintoss. With this app, I get voice recordings, pictures, or text directly to my Todoist inbox.



Handling email

I would say that email handling is the most critical issue in the first step of GTD. On my computer, I use the Todoist Outlook add-in. On my phone, I use to have Newton. Newton cannot compete with the Todoist Outlook add-in in the sense that there is no link between the email and the task, but it’s the best option for email on the go. On the positive side, Newton is cross-platform, Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android. The possibility to see all email accounts in one single mailbox make Inbox Zero easy.

Read Newton Email is shutting down – Here are the alternatives


Step 2: Clarify

Find out what it means. Is this actionable? If no, trash it or file it.
If yes, start by asking yourself what is the next action?

This is how you get your inboxes to empty. For my physical inboxes, this is a part of my weekly review. For my digital inboxes, I tend to do this while commuting, and as a part of my weekly review.

No special tools are needed for the clarification.

Picture: Pexels.


Step 3: Organize

Get your items into the right list and set appropriate reminders. 

Digital reference material is filed in OneNote if it’s work-related. For everything else, I use Evernote.

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Meetings and other appointments go into my Outlook calendar. I do a one-way synchronization from my work calendar to Google Calendar using gSyncIt. My Google Calendar then synchronizes with my phone, laptop, and desktop computer.

Everything that is actionable and takes more than two minutes goes into Todoist. With my current setup, I’m mostly able to do step 1, 2, and 3 in Todoist at the same time.

Todoist GTD setup

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Step 4: Reflect

A weekly review of all current projects and lists is essential.

weekly review

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During the weekly review, I’m touching most of my digital tools. Outlook, OneNote, Evernote and my Livescribe pen and app. Most of the stuff ends up in Todoist. My GTD weekly review checklist is a separate project in Todoist. You can download it here.

GTD Weekly Review – Your most important task of the week

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Don’t forget that the purpose of the 5 steps of GTD is to reach step 5. (Picture: Stocksnap.)


Step 5: Engage

This is what it is all about.

The last of the 5 steps of GTD is all about getting things done. Obviously, Todoist, Outlook, and Newton is the place for all my lists and email communication. Depending on the type of work, I sometimes use Pomodone. This Pomodoro timer integrates nicely with Todoist.

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For scheduling meetings with a lot of people outside of work, I find that Doodle is a lifesaver. I just enter the dates and times I’m available and send the poll to all participants. As by magic, everyone can indicate when they can match my schedule. Most times one or two alternatives are left. This saves me a ton of emails and phone calls.

For video meetings, my preferred tool is Skype. Skype for Business has very good integration with Outlook. This makes it easy to host meetings with people attending both physically and remotely.



Curiously, I find that I spend more and more time in Facebook groups dedicated to my interests or just me and some friends planning events or just sharing information.

I could have continued, but I think I will stop by saying that this blog post was written in WordPress with the help of my favorite spell checker; Grammarly.


Disclosure: Links marked with * are affiliate links. This means that if you buy a product using this link, I may get a small commission. Book Depository has free worldwide shipping. I would never recommend a product without trying it and liking it myself.





  1. Hi Bjørn, have you heard of “Nirvana for GTD” app? I recently came across this on Youtube and was really impressed with its features and functionality.

    I have already paid for Todoist premium for this year. So won’t be checking out Nirvana app until end of 2018. I’ve added it to my Someday/Maybe list.

    1. Hi Ridwan. Thank you for reading my blog. I haven’t tested Nirvana myself, but I have heard some positive things about it. I find that testing other apps from time to time gives me new ideas about how to set up my GTD system. However, I have stopped constantly looking for the perfect GTD app. It does not exist! ?

      Stay productive!

  2. Thx a lot for this interesting post. And thx for the recommendation of Braintoss. But i have one question: How do you do sending with Braintoss to Todosit? As i know Todoist can receive only from ONE Mailadress. So i can´t receive from the braintoss mail. thx for advice.

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