From GTD to Time Block Planning


I've been using the GTD system since 2003. It has worked well for me, but the world of technology and work has changed a lot since then. The biggest thing that has changed is the ubiquity of the internet and computers in our pockets. The idea of contexts has almost completely fallen away for me. No need to have a Phone or Computer list. With the pandemic, the idea of a Home and Office list has also gone by the wayside since I've been working from home for over a year now. I've been using the Things app for a few years now to implement my GTD system.

Recently I've been reading the work of Cal Newport and his idea of time block planning. At first I tried doing it with pencil and paper, but didn't like the inflexibility of it, but recently I discovered another application called Sorted. I've been using it for a couple of weeks now and it finally made time block planning work for me. The ease of moving around the tasks as the day changed is what made it click.

I'm also using a Trello board to manage my projects, so I have a visual, big picture view of everything I'm working on. So my full workflow is this:

1) Using Drafts as my capture tool
2) Trello to organize projects, it also has a Backburner column for things I'm not ready to deal with (like a Someday/Maybe list)
3) Sorted for the ground level tasks, next actions if you will

Why do I like using 3 different tools instead of just 1 (Things)? I found one of my biggest issues was that my task list inevitably grew too large. I would be turned off to a list of 50-100 tasks to choose from. With my current workflow, I end my day by planning out what I will work on tomorrow. Every task that makes it into Sorted has a time estimate. I make sure that each day has a mix of the longer 1-2 hour tasks (the Deep Work in Newport's terminology) as well as a few smaller admin-type tasks that are still necessary to move projects forward. If I end up finishing everything I planned the day before, I can grab a few more tasks and work on them too.

In Sorted, my main list of tasks is called This Week and has about 20 or so tasks that I plan on doing this week. I make sure this list never goes beyond 20. Either something has to come out to make room for a new more urgent task, or I just park the task in the Backburner column of Trello. I find reviewing a list of 20 tasks once a day better than what I was doing with Things, trying to choose from 50-100 tasks several times a day.

Seeing my meetings and tasks together in 1 timeline has been making it easier for me to schedule more time on deep work and spending less time on shallow tasks, which are easier to accomplish, but in the end aren't as important.

Anyway, I still think the principles I learned from my years of practicing GTD are still in play. Especially the idea of capturing everything and having regular reviews.


Thanks for the report. I’ve played with Sorted, but it seems like extra work to me. The whole time blocking thing seems to me to appeal to people who want more structure than GTD provides, but if it floats your boat, go for it.