GTD Processing

GTD Processing

I finally got my act together and finished processing my inbox, which didn’t take as long as I thought it would. Here’s what’s I’ve gotten through so far, as far as process.

Processing the in-box isn’t as daunting as I thought

After I had filed, sorted, and piled things into the right place, there were only about 50 outstanding things that were on my mind. Things that I could do quickly I did: scanning URLs, invoicing people, opening bills and processing them…it was rather relaxing.

The tricky part was figuring out what to do with some of the things, since you’re not allowed to put things back into the in-box. My processing went like this:

  • 2 minutes or so? Go ahead and do it.
  • Takes more than 2 minutes? Add it to the appropriate list.
  • Something that I need to do tomorrow? Put it in tomorrow’s Tickler Folder.
  • Related to a current project? Put the material in the project folder, which is out. I might consider putting those files into a noguchi filing system
  • Is it something I need to put on a calendar? I haven’t selected a calendar yet, so I stick the dates on post-it notes and array them on a wall.
  • Is it fileable reference? Then file it already!

Having a place to put things was the minor challenge, particularly for the pending items that I didn’t want to do right away.

Projects and Items

textpadTasks that would take more time I entered into an ad-hoc list system based on the text editor TextPad. TextPad can save a “workspace” that loads all these textfiles at once. I thought about using a Wiki, but I find them cumbersome. A straightforward text editor with a document selector works just fine.

Now that I have these tasks captured, I’m realizing that GTD doesn’t really give me a system to figure out what to do next, once all the 2-minute tasks are done.

GTD doesn’t recommend “emergency scanning” of the in-box, because this prevents you from really emptying it. Once you’ve emptied the in-box and stripped away all the non-actionable items, you end up with a “pending projects” list which needs prioritization or some attack strategy. Which items do you do first?

  • I could do things by context (suggested as @OFFICE, @COMPUTER contexts, for example) and just start from the top.
  • I could assign hour blocks to each type of category: 2 hours for chores, 4 hours for project work, 2 hours for administration and overhead, and so on. Not everything gets done off the list, but you just process them as necessary.
  • I could also use The Printable CEO™ to drive the high-yield selection of tasks. I could create a separate “point table” for each category of tasks.
  • Of course, tasks that are due earlier get bumped up.

GTD doesn’t recommend a particular project management methodology, so I just will insert my own.

Computer Organization

Since I’ve put my list management on my main production computer, I want to make sure that it’s easy to access anywhere, anytime.

jumpI have a convenient folder shortcut on my desktop’s toolbar for the programs and utilities I run most frequently. The folder actually contains the project lists; when I want to open up all of them at once, I select the workspace file. This folder shortcut thing, incidentally, is built-into Windows XP.

referenceI also set up a computer mirror of the General Reference file I have, and processed all the crap on my desktop into it.

I also created a Visual Reference file, to store the various bits of graphical inspiration I find around the Internet.

I set up folder shortcuts to the most-commonly used folders on my computer. You can see them in the dropdown menu.

Right now, all this is stored on my production machine, but I’ll have to centralize it all on my file server so all the PCs and the Mac can get at it. I’ll just dump ’em all in the same folder, but I may have to sub-divide the folders into alphabetical groups.

Starting off the Day

Here’s my procedure for tomorrow, which I’m totally making up:

Night Prior: Pull out the Tickler folder for tomorrow and put it on my desk. If there are things I’d like to do tomorrow, put the item in the folder. This is sort of a GTD no-no, because I’m creating a physical pile of To Do items. If I allow myself to feel OK about not getting to all of them, though, that’s probably OK.


  1. Grab a blank Emergent Task Tracker Form. I like the wide one, personally.
  2. Review the tickler file. Scan the Lists in TextPad. Scan contact lists. Scan upcoming dates. Form an assessment about what needs to get done today, allocate some time to each task.
  3. Block out the day roughly on the ETT form, filling in billable and non-billable things to get done.
  4. Go!

End of Day:

  1. Evaluate what got done.
  2. Process any in-box items that got created during the day.
  3. Update the lists. I wonder what I should do with checked-off items…just erase them? Or maybe this is something that’s captured in the project management software (I’m using BaseCamp for this right now).
  4. Prep next day’s Tickler File Folder!

End of the Week:

The collection of Emergent Task Tracker forms should give me a good idea of how the week went. And this is a good time to do the Weekly Review. I think it would be a good idea to write some kind of assessment of the week in terms of achieving long-standing goals. I forget if this is mentioned in the GTD book; will have to review it again…

Anyway, that’s the plan!


  1. Mirta 18 years ago

    As we tend to underestimate or overestimate the time needed to finish the task, whether is 2 minutes or 20 minutes, your PCEO forms (those coming with mark for the initial start of the task) should come in handy :D

    Anyway, you’ll see that there’s much compatibility between PCEO and GTD; in fact, I think PCEO makes actions more actionable. Maybe with little tweaking, though, but only in order to make PCEO more obviously GTDish.


  2. Keeran 18 years ago

    Getting better Dave – You’re doing a much better job at reporting your progress than I have been!

  3. karmatosed 18 years ago

    I have been reading your GTD posts and have become really interested. I am just about to get see for myself as I am in dire need of some productivity increase and sense of random information sources. Here’s to bringing a little GTD in my life – I think you need a “I’ve been GTD’d” button :)

  4. Vicente 16 years ago


    Nice job here! Congratularions!

    But we try to use your metod, but our job is more fast. We get atualizations in ten minutes. ever ten minutes we get once more….

    what do you propose?