What's the next action

Getting started with GTD – 7 easy steps

At first, getting started with GTD may seem like a complicated task. Trust me, it is not difficult if you follow these steps.  


Getting started with GTD

A new year has just started. This is the perfect moment to start making a profound change in the way you commit, prioritize and execute your responsibilities and actions – both at work and in your personal life. The Getting Things Done methodology has, literally, transformed the way I do things.

Using GTD, I manage my commitments, responsibilities, projects and to-do lists with confidence. I know that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing right now – in order to deliver according to what I have committed to.

Getting started with GTD is not difficult, but it requires you to understand the principles. You will not succeed with Getting Things Done if you skip this step. To install an app is not enough. Here is my recipe on how to get started with Getting Things Done.


1. Read the book

Getting started with GTD

The first thing you need to do is to really understand the underlying principles. For this, I highly recommend David Allen’s book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. The book is full of tips on how to get started and how to work around the common pitfalls.





2. Read my blog post Getting Things Done (GTD) – What is it?

In this post, I give you a summary of the most important elements of GTD together with my personal notes on each subject. This post is not a substitute for reading the book.


3. Start doing the first step in GTD

Already? Yes. The first step in getting started with GTD is to capture everything that has your attention. I mean all of it!

  • That talk with your boss that you have been avoiding
  • Planning your next vacation
  • Get milk

Write it down on a note and place the note in your inbox, one subject/task per note.


4. Continue with the next step: Clarify

To clarify means finding out what it means. Is this actionable? If no, trash it of file it.
If yes, start by asking yourself what’s the next action?

Remember the sentence: What’s the next action?


5. Move on to the third step: Organize

This is where the rubber meets the road. You will have to create projects and contexts as you move forward.

Getting started with GTD



A project is anything that requires more than one step before you can tick it off as done.
By this definition, “Paint the house” is not a to-do item. It is the end result of a project with the following actions:

  • Check if you have paint
  • Check if you have brushes
  • Find the ladder
  • Check weather forecast
  • Do the painting

By breaking it down like this, you know that you have the paint and the tools – and you know when the weather is good enough to do the painting. This makes it easy to get started once you have the time.



Contexts can be either the tools you need to get the job done, like a computer or internet access, or a physical place you need to be. i.e at work, at home, in a specific store or in the same room as your boss.


Use verbs

To make easy to start doing an action, use verbs like these:

  • Buy…
  • Check…
  • Discuss…
  • Email…, about…
  • Call…(phone number), about…


6. Find a GTD tool

Todoist GTD setupThis is maybe the most tricky part. You will have to decide on how you will manage your implementation of GettingThings Done. My tool of choice is Todoist.

For instructions on how to best set up Todoist for GTD, see the below posts:

My Todoist GTD setup – Part 1: Projects, contexts, and actions.

My Todoist GTD setup – Part 2: Weekly Review and Focus Horizons.


7. Do all the five steps in GTD

As described in David Allen’s book and in my blog post Getting Things Done (GTD) – What is it?, there are five steps you need to practice in order to do GTD. Once they are a part of your workflow, you have succeeded in getting started with GTD.


8. Get more knowledge (optional)

I would recommend reading the book one more time after having done GTD for a while. This is a good way to deepen your insight. It will surprise you how much you will learn from reading it one more time.

Podcasts are a good way to learn. In this post, I’m listing four good podcasts about productivity and GTD.

A GTD course is a good investment after a time. Aside from formalizing your competence, you will have the possibility to ask questions and to meet other GTD’ers. Here is information about courses offered worldwide: http://gettingthingsdone.com/mastering-workflow-series/

If you want more knowledge about Todoist, I recommend my blog post 10 tips for getting the most out of Todoist.


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