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GTD on a budget

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  • GTD on a budget


    I have nearly finished listening to the GTD audiobook twice and am loving the insights and the tips. Whilst listening I have gotten a lot of minor tasks done although I am yet to make progress on my big projects.

    It is clear that if I am going to do GTD properly then I will need to set up a filing system. I notice that David pours scorn on cheap filing systems - which I would normally go for as I am on quite a tight budget at the moment.

    Can anybody provide me with advice on a budget? My filing system would normally consist of putting items into big envelopes according to type.

    Is there a better option that does not cost the earth?


  • #2
    Craigslist. You can sometimes find old file cabinets that offices want to get rid of for something like 25 - 50 dollars, depending on the condition of the filing cabinet.


    • #3
      You could temporarily use portable file boxes or bankers boxes to hold your files until you can afford or find some quality file cabinets with a slider block (so that you don't have to use hangers). You can stack some old books inside them to keep your files upright.

      I also suggest that you get an inexpensive desktop labeler with plastic (not paper; it peels away) tape (black letters on white background) and manilla folders (so that you can label your files).


      • #4
        Agree with ellobogrande...

        My tickler file and my alpha file are in a plastic filing box using manila folders. I used Avery labels instead of my Brother labeler.

        I also use an old filing cabinet for general reference and filing. For this one I use manila envelopes instead of folders... I use a sharpie instead of the labeler to ID the envelopes.

        For my briefcase set (In-Basket, From Home, To Home) I use plastic file folders.


        • #5
          "Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes." (Henry David Thoreau)

          This forum is loaded with suggestions for implementing GTD with minimal tools, usually paper. See the suggestions above, for starters.

          I am entertained by speculation about what Thoreau would have used for a GTD system in his little dwelling on Walden Pond. All paper, of course, and look at what he accomplished! I believe he used his journal as a UCT, or perhaps in-box, and then mined his journal entries for essays.


          • #6
            Rolling file carts are great as well. I have used them for years with great success.


            • #7
              I heard some people use milk crate/s for their files..

              I reuse envelopes (wide enough for A4 paper to be inserted) for sub-projects, previously I used them for projects too (cause it's greener to reuse!), it could get a bit messy though, now I re-use existing folders I found used as sub-projects or such (you might be surprised!)

              The important thing is to label clearly, so you can see from the outside what's where. It could probably be doable with envelopes too.. Depends how you put them where you keep them - and how thick your files are. Just try and experiment a bit..

              I'm inspired by the mantra, 'Work with what you've got!'
              It's more eco, and you can always upgrade...


              • #8
                Hi, also new to GTD and started on a (really tiny) budget. You can use any box as a container for a start. You can even make your own manila folders if you want (it costed me 25% of the price at the retail store to buy manila paper and have it cut as I wanted - where I live the price for each folder was 1 U$D). Attached is a picture of boxes and files.

                As for the labeler, although David Allen considers it very important, I don't think it is essential if you are starting on a (small) budget - unless you are unable to read your own handwriting
                Attached Files


                • #9
                  at first, i also thought of getting an office file cabinet.

                  but in the end i got this to store my files.

                  and also 2 plastic boxes as inbox and outbox for bulky items. for normal stuff, i use a simple tray as my inbox.


                  • #10
                    matsuru: I am interested in the link you posted but it doesn't seem to work.


                    • #11

                      hmm... i tried clicking the link and it worked for me.

                      Anyway, go to and look for "GORM shelving unit"

                      you should be able to find it there. if not, google will do the trick.

                      btw, the link shows the bigger platform unit (with 5 flat wood piece as base). i am using the smaller platform unit ( with 3 flat wood piece as base)

                      or, you can find something similar in your country for your usage. it's just an untreated wooden shelf.
                      Last edited by matsuru; 10-08-2009, 09:43 PM.


                      • #12
                        matsuru: it worked now. Nice solution! Thanks!