Hi, i'm slowly getting into GTD from some days, but i feel like i'm missing a small piece. This is what i'm doing now

1) I'm putting all my tasks into Nirvana app, except for ones that have real and fixed start hour and duration (meetings, dinner with someone etc). Those one are going to google calendar. I'm organizing all files into google drive, digitalizing what is paper based.

2) In Nirvana i'm using start date and due date to let the app bring to my attenction tasks on the right day. I've also inserted many habits as repetitive tasks (bring trash out, weight myself etc). Also every morning i check the contexts i know i will be into during that day and flag as "focused" tasks the ones that MUST be done today (only the must, not the i want to, those are in next list, ready to be picked up if i have free time)

This seems to be able to solve most of my productivity and organization problems, and even if i'm using it only from some days, i'm seeing first benefits. I've however some doubits and there is still one missing thing:

I tend to be too curious. If i put on my "next" actions a task like "search info about GTD" if it is intresting, i could end up getting into it for 3 hours while i've planned only 30 minutes. Is there someone that have combined GTD for keeping and organization with timeboxing / time blocking? I think that this can be the solution for me.

Also, in the past i've used with some success the "pomodoro method" during long cognitive-intensive tasks, i would like to continue doing this, is there someone else doing this?

For file keeping, i've seen that David Allen thinks about a flat alphabetical structure, but i've alwais had a nice complex (digital) folder structure and i feel well with it. Most things have only one place where they can be, some other can be in 2-3 places, but no more. Since this could happen also with alphabetical, and it may even be worse (energy bill can be at "bills", "electricity", "invoices", "house" etc) i think that i will go on with my actual structure, just adding an "Inbox" for new files that have to be organized and empty it weekly. I've already a projects folder.

I've seen also the tickler file with 43 folder structure, but in my case (100% digital, i scan all paper based documents and trash them) it seems useless. For "remembering" things to do on some day i've start dates / due dates on tasks, so why i should use it?


Your calendar is your daily hardscape. If there is nothing on your calendar for the next 3 hours, then there’s no reason (within GTD) to stop an ongoing activity.

Organize your folders in whatever manner works. Alphabetical is just a suggestion.

The 43 folder tickler is only useful in a paper based system, in my opinion.


The 43 folder tickler is only useful in a paper based system,
While I have an use a paper based 43 folder system I have a similar one in digital form. I don't like to put projects or actions unecessarily in my task manager so I use my digital tickler for the consider now types of things. Use is not consistent, I'm still almost a year later,sometimes looking at one palce or the other for stuff but overall I am improving and the digital system works well for me when I remember to use it.


Some thoughts to consider:

”Search for info on GTD” is not a next action, it’s really the project ”Learn more about GTD”, or whatever form appeals to you. It’s fun and interesting and ”productive” to spend large amounts of time on it, so it’s pretty common to spend more time than desired. But one of the things GTD aims for is a kind of situational awareness, where you are aware of all the factors that tell you where you should focus your attention next, with confidence that things will get done.

Some people, like Cal Newport, willl tell you timeblocking is the key, and maybe it is for him. Maybe it is for you too, but you should probably give GTD a good try before deciding you need more or something else. A good try is certainly at least months, and possibly years. There’s nothing wrong with regular “appointments with yourself,” but not many people do well with scheduling everything.

Reduced to its simplest form, the Pomodoro method is about standing up or something every 5 minutes out of 30. Sure, go ahead. If you have a digital file system that works for you, keep it. But be honest if it’s not really working. Same with ticklers. A big part of GTD is about seeing stuff when you need to, and retrieving stuff when you need it.


Thank you for the answers.

For the file system, i'm finding everithing (at least, everithing that is inside the archive) fast (i think faster than with alphabetical system). If the alphabetical is more a suggestion than a rule, at least in this first months i will keep my original file structure, with the inbox folder added. I will probably add a review folder too, where to put files that i want to read / review when i've free time (i will probably need something to sync this with my ebook reader to make it really work)

For the tickler file, i prefer to not have to look into a foder to remember things (i know myself, if i have more than one place where to look, some days i will not look into one of them). The app that i'm using supports tasks "start date" (task will be in "scheduled" list untill start date is reached and then automatically moved into "next" list). I think that this was basically what tickler was for, to hide you something untill a specific date, right? (i can also remember to me on that date if i put also a due date on that scheduled task).

ome people, like Cal Newport, willl tell you timeblocking is the key, and maybe it is for him. Maybe it is for you too, but you should probably give GTD a good try before deciding you need more or something else.
I think that you've misunderstanded my approach, but i will like to go a little deeper into this discussion. I've started only from some days and surely i want to go on with GTD for at least months. I feel that GTD is at least part of the solution, but maybe it needs a little help in the "doing" part from some other techniques.

Your calendar is your daily hardscape. If there is nothing on your calendar for the next 3 hours, then there’s no reason (within GTD) to stop an ongoing activity.
My app have a "focus" list, i can manually focus task from next list (they will be in both next and focus list) and the app will automatically focus tasks that have a due date expiring today. Every evening i'm quickly reviewing "next" list and giving focus to tasks that MUST be done the next day. To avoid letting me loosing more time than supposed one on other tasks there are only 3 ideas that comes to my mind:
- do those focused tasks for first, so what you MUST done fot the day is over and you can start taking other things from next list (not alwais possible, something to do today may be done only after a certain hour)
- use pomodoro technique (or at least a 30 minutes reminder) in tasks where i know i can loose the cognition of time, and every time it rings quickly check if i need to stop because is time to do something else (usefull, but, expecially for mentally intensive tasks, it can breack the idea flow)
- timebox those tasks in the moment when i pick them up (i pick up a task that can potentially leave me loose time cognition, i check other tasks and calendar and, if i see that i've 2 free hours, even if i think that the task will only require 1 hour, i will put a reminder after 2 hours, like a stop light that say "stop this task, is time to move on another one, you will come back to this later".

Does some of you use one of those or something else to handle this problem? Do you see one better alternative?

Also, if you start working on a task, and for somehow reason you need to leave this task before to have completed, what you usually do? Leave it there and put notes into it or flag as completed and insert a new one task to the completition?


A focus list is fine, but if you want to follow GTD precisely then everything which must be done on a certain day/time must go in the calendar. I’d agree with timeboxing those tasks and planning them at the earliest time possible.

GTD tends to dissuade one from using pop up reminders, but if you have trouble keeping track of time I guess this could help.

GTD does not track “tasks” per say. It tracks “next actions” as in, the single next action to make progress on a task or project. There is no stopping point defined in a next action. At any point that you stop when the task or project is incomplete, you should identify and write down the new next action that you need to take when you are ready to start again.


Professor of microbiology and infectious diseases
It is perfectly okay to blend time blocking with GTD. I do not believe in scheduling every minute of the day like Cal Newport, but if you need focused time for deep work on some projects, the best way in my opinion is to block time on your calendar for that work. It is NOT at odds with GTD at all. There have been numerous posts by GTD coaches and David Allen himself that it is fine to time block. Here is David Allen's reply to one of the older threads on time blocking in this forum:

"Hey folks, if you've ever committed to a meeting on your calendar, you've already acknowledged the value of a time block for some resulting outcome. Time-blocking with yourself is simply recognizing that you have an inner committee that needs corralling, in the same way, for the same kind of outcome. Block away!" David Allen, 2-5-2016.


Thank you guys. You've really helped me figuring out how to optimize my GTD "system".
Below you will find my actual setup, that i will keep testing for the next weeks, to see if it works for me. Maybe it will be helpful for someone else.

Where things goes:
  • appointments (meetings, dinner with friends and everithing having a start datetime and an estimated duration) on google calendar, with just one reminder, that let's you get out of the work flow in time to be at the appointment.
  • normal tasks (tasks that have to be done ASAP) goes in Nirvana APP next list, with proper context and tag
    • if a task have to be done before a certain date, it will have a due date.
    • if a task have to be done after a certain date it will have a start date and stay in scheduled list untill that date (then will be automatically moved into next)
    • if a task have to be done at a certain date (but have no time, so it won't go on google calendar) it will have the same date as start date and due date. Since Nirvana APP automatically "focus" tasks on theyr due date, this will bring the task to my attenction as a tickler or calendar would do
    • if a task is recurrent it will go into "scheduled" list, with repeat settings that will automatically copy it into next list (if needed with proper due date) at the needed interval (this is usefull for habits, even those that are weekly or so)
  • files are in google drive, inside a complex structure that i'm already using from years. It is not what GTD says, but i've never had throubles finding files in it, so i will keep it. I've just added a "inbox" folder to put new files that must be organized, so that i will not resist to archive them.

How things are organized:
  • every evening i check my inbox, refine tasks that i've quickly writed during the day adding them context, tag, start date / due date if needed and, if usefull and estimable, needed time / energy, i put them into the proper list (next, waiting, someday, scheduled). All tasks in waiting MUST have a due date.
  • if something in inbox can be done in less than 3 minutes witouth moving from where i am i will do it immediatly
  • every evening i review my next list and "focus" tasks that must be done the next day. My app will also automatically focus at midnight tasks that have the due date set at the present day.
  • every week i review the someday and project list, clear something if have been left in inbox and clear the file inbox folder

How things are done
  • i start in the morning with tasks in my focus list, trying (when possible) to get all of them done first. After i start picking up from my next list based on context etc.
  • if a project is big and needs much time, i will handle it with multiple subtasks, everyone with a due date or with timeblocking (as Longstreet says, is an appointment with yourself).
  • if a task is about something where i know that i can lost time cognition, before to start it i will put a reminder after the maximum time that i want spend on that task, based also on appointments and other focused tasks to get done (this is something near timeboxing, but done just before to start the task)
  • if a task is cognitive intensive, i will use "pomodoro method" (nothing more than 3-5 minutes of pause every 25-30 minutes of work). It seems dumb, but i'm using this from some time, and often when i'm stucked on a problem i found the solution during those relax minutes or just after i resume working.


Professor of microbiology and infectious diseases
I wanted to add something to my answer. I had stated this in the GTD Connect Forums, but perhaps not here in the Public Forums. We are always choosing so we need to choose wisely. When I come upon a time block (almost always in the morning), I ask myself is this still the best use of my time? I may have created this time block 2-3 days ago and perhaps my world has changed significantly since then. It is all about situational awareness and perspective. In some cases, I decide in that moment that no, I have other equally or more important things that have come up that I now need to address. Per David Allen's comment - what has your attention? Again, situational awareness. Many times I will maintain that time block. So my point is again that we are ALWAYS choosing what to do regardless of what is on our calendar. When I do not have a time block, then I choose what to do based on the standard GTD criteria as so elegantly laid out by David Allen. So....take a moment....assess your situation....and choose wisely! :)