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Extended GTD dictionary – Commonly used terms in GTD and productivity

So, you have just started reading about GTD and are finding that you have to both extend your vocabulary and redefine your definition of words you thought that you knew the meaning of, like “project.” Don’t worry, I have put together an extended GTD dictionary, just for you.

The extended GTD dictionary – From A to Z about productivity


Something that one intends to take action on.
See also: “Next action.”

Action item
Tasks that are “Actionable.”

Areas of Focus or responsibility 
(Level two in the “Horizons of Focus” model.)
This level points to the parts of our lives that we need to manage, but not through “projects” and with the use of deadlines.
This could be things like health, education or the responsibility of parenthood.


A copy of important files like “email,” “task list,” “reference material” and other important files made in case the original is lost or damaged.
More information: What if you lost everything? This is why you need backup


(The first of the five phases in GTD)
The act of gathering ideas and outstanding action items for later processing.

(The second of the five phases in GTD)
The act of determining if an item is “Actionable,” “Reference material” or trash.

A collection of unorganized items that are taking up mental or physical space. Clutter can often be the result of a lack of systems for properly taking care of “stuff.”

A person, place, tool or thing you need to get a particular “task” done.


A form of electronic correspondence that may be one of four things:

  1. “Actionable.”
  2. “Support material.”
  3. “Reference material.”
  4. Trash.

Improper handling of email quickly results in “clutter” and ultimately end in “Email bankruptcy.”

Inbox zero problem

Email bankruptcy
The act of deleting all emails older than a certain date, due to an overwhelming volume of messages.

(The fifth of the five phases in GTD)
This is where you get shit done.

A multi-platform note taking software. A competitor to “OneNote.” Good for storing “reference material.”
More information: How to organize Evernote – My secrets revealed


Focus Areas
See: “Areas of Focus or responsibility.”

Focus Horizons
See: “Horizons of Focus.”

Follow-up list
See “Waiting for list.”

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Getting Things Done
A productivity methodology created by David Allen, Outlined in a book written in 2001.
An updated version of this book was published in 2015.
More information: Getting Things Done (GTD) – What is it?

A desired result or “outcome” of a “project.” A goal needs to be clear and measurable.
“Reach 10.000 email subscribers” is a good goal, “grow mailing list” is not.

Goals and Objectives
Level three in the “Horizons of Focus” model.
What you will do 12 to 18 months from now, that is what has to go here. This can be projects or maybe a career change.

See “Getting Things Done.”

GTD system
See “productivity system.”

GTD Getting Things Done


Horizons of Focus
A concept for visualizing your “visions,” “goals,” commitments and responsibilities so that you make sure that your “next actions” matches your “goals” and are inline with your “purpose and principles.”
More information: GTD Horizons of Focus – A framework for success

See also:
“Runway” (Level zero)
“Project” (Level one)
“Areas of focus or responsibility” (Level two)
“Goals and Objectives” (Level three)
“Vision” (Level four)
“Purpose and principles” (Level five)


a. A physical place for holding items that await “Clarifying.”
b. A digital place like an “email” Inbox or the Inbox in “Todoist.”

Inbox Zero
A methodology for keeping your email inbox empty, or close to empty, at all times. The concept was first described by Merlin Mann.
More information: Inbox Zero – what is it?

To park an item at a designated place in your “productivity system” for later review. Might be regarded as a wait-and-see status.


Natural Planning Model
David Allen’s project planning framework. “NPM” consists of five steps;

  1. Define purpose and principles.
  2. Envision the “outcome.”
  3. Brainstorm.
  4. “Organize.”
  5. Identify “Next actions.”

A multi-platform “email” software that integrates with “Evernote” and “Todoist.” The integrations and the combined inbox makes “Inbox Zero” easy.

Newton email. (Picture: Google Play)

Next Action
The next physical and visible action that contributes towards the completion of a “task” or “project.”
More information: What’s the next action? – The one question that will improve productivity

See “Natural Planning Model.”


A productivity tool for the Apple platform.

A multi-platform note-taking software from Microsoft. A competitor to “Evernote.” Good for storing “reference material.”

Open loop
Typically an unfinished task or item that is not “captured” in your “Productivity system.”

(The third of the five phases in GTD)
This is where you create your “projects” and put your “next actions” on the appropriate list.

The wanted result from one or more “projects.” This should be concrete and measurable.


Pomodoro method
A productivity concept developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s. The concept is to break down your time into segments of 25 minutes, followed by a 5-minute break. These 25-minute intervals go under the name Pomodoros.
More information: The Pomodoro Method – scheduled concentration

Productivity addiction
The addiction to constantly read “productivity porn” and try new productivity apps and systems.

Productivity porn
Productivity related information like what you are reading now.

Productivity system
A generic designation for your productivity ecosystem. This may consist of productivity app(s), in-baskets, capturing tools such as a notebook and pen, archive for “reference material,” etc.

An outcome that is the result of multiple “next actions” performed within a 12-month span.

Purpose and Principles
Level five in the “Horizons of Focus” model.
This is the big picture. Why do you get out of bed in the morning? What is the purpose of your life? What are your unwavering principles? This level may also include aspirational values.


Reference material
Any kind of material that contains information that you might need in the future.

(The fourth of the five phases in GTD)
This is where you do your “Weekly review.” Here you will be able to adjust course in order to achieve your wanted results.

See “Reflect”
See also: “Weekly review.”

(Level zero in the “Horizons of Focus” model.)
The level of what you have to tackle on a daily basis: Your “Next actions.”


An essential component in productivity.

A list or category of tasks or projects that you want to do someday in the future, or that you maybe want to do in the future. The Someday/Maybe list should be reviewed at sufficient intervals.

Things that not yet have been organized or dealt with. Having to much stuff may result in “clutter.”

Support material
Information or material related to a specific “task” or “project.”
See also: “Reference material.”


A piece of work that has to be done. In GTD, a task ideally consists of a single “next action.”

GTD dictionary
Example of a tickler file. (Picture: Wikipedia.)

Tickler File
A collection of 43 folders used to archive anything you need to be reminded of on a future date. The system consists of 12 folders labeled from January to December and 31 folders labeled from 1 to 31.

The idea is that you file date sensitive documents so that you find them on the future date they are needed.

To-Do list
Usually a list of “projects” and “next actions”  written in a totally random order. Three days after the list is written, the listmaker has only a few things ticked off on the list. The rest no longer makes any sense.

A multi-platform “task” management software with tons of integration. Good for doing “GTD.”
More information: My Todoist GTD setup – Part 1: Projects, contexts, and actions

Todoist for Windows 10. (Picture:


Level four in the “Horizons of Focus” model.
This is a 3-5 year perspective. This is how it looks when you are living your level five values and principles.


Waiting for list
A list that might include very important delegated tasks or sent emails that you want to make sure to get a reply on.

Weekly Review
A structured review of your activities since your last weekly review. Here, you go through your notes and calendar appointments, making sure that you have completed all tasks. This is also the time to collect all papers and materials, empty your in-baskets and process all information.
More information: GTD Weekly Review – Your most important task of the week

The steps that bring all ideas and “next actions” from your inbox to a state of completion.

Work-life balance
Widely misunderstood concept that implies that work and life operate in two separated competing areas.
More information: Forget work-life balance – Go for work-life integration


The ideal number of “emails” in your “inbox”, incomplete “next actions” on your task list and uncaptured ideas in your head at the end of a day.

If you would like me to add an item to the GTD dictionary, please use the comments section below.

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