Making GTD Work

I went through a GTD rebellion in the past few years. I felt the checklists, todos, the obsession with inbox zero was just a way to convince myself that I was doing work when all I was doing was pushing buttons.

“I am a maker”, I would say. “I build things”. “I don’t need to make lists about the things I build, I should be building the thing that captures the things that I need to build.”

I was wrong.

Getting clear and using GTD is a good idea and something that I highly recommend trying and sticking with as long as possible. Here is a quick recap of GTD.

  1. Capture everything you need to do in an inbox
  2. Systematically review your inbox once per day
  3. If you find a task that you can do within 2 minutes do it, if not, add it to your inbox or delegate it
  4. Preform a bigger review once per week.


Obviously there is more to it then the list above, but the core tennant is that you should only touch something one time. You decide what to do with it right there.

  1. Do it.
  2. Process it (add to inbox to do later).
  3. Delegate it.


If you have never tried a system like this before, then you will be shocked when you do. It truly is amazing how good you feel once you have captured all your todos into a system that you will review daily and then fully once per week. This enlightened state lasts several weeks if you are lucky, several days if you are honest. What’s the problem?

The weekly review!

You won’t remember to do it, or worse you will spend 5 mins doing it. The weekly review should take at least 30 mins, I block off an hour knowing that I will spend some time looking at a hilarious post or two. I can normally get it done in about 40 mins when I turn off the music and focus.

So do the weekly review. It will save your life.

If you are curious for more trial and errors so that you don’t need to try and error on them yourself, here is my new routine.


  • Nightly inbox zero
  • Process my inbox very fast (Gmail keyboard shortcuts)
    • If I can reply in 1-2 mins I do right away
    • If it needs more than 1-2 mins, I Star and move on
  • Calendar reminder to review Starred email at 10:00am daily.


  • I use OmniFocus
  • As the day goes on I will add 10-20 things to inbox daily
  • Process my inbox at night very quickly (keyboard shortcuts)
    • If I can do the task in 1-2 mins I do it
    • If not, I assign a project and add a context
  • Each morning (after email) I do a quick scan of @Waiting, and main project lists.
  • Every Friday from 10:30-11:30 I do a full weekly review.
  • Every Monday I attempt a large brain dump
  • Every evening, normally before reading or watching Corrie, I do a mini brain dump.


I pick my tasks based on focus, energy, and then context.

I try to limit interruptions by turning off email and slack when I have a deadline or need high level creative time.


I maintain the @Waiting list very diligently. If you owe me something, chances are you are on my list. This allows me to quickly see the bottlenecks in projects and processes that I am involved in.

Someday maybe

Not as good with this one as I should be, but have committed to trying it more. Instead of realistic things it is mainly full of movie and short story ideas.

Levels of focus

As a father, a husband, son, brother, friend, and Tilter… I have a lot of areas of responsibility. I want to get more formal about how I plan and set goals against these levels but normally I try and meditate on these ideas once per week typically while commuting on the train to beautiful Toronto or while flying to beautiful San Francisco.

That’s pretty much it. Would love to hear your thoughts on it. Drop a comment and let me know what works for you!

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