23 Aug 2012

simplicity is the key for GTD?

In terms of ‘Getting Things Done’ or GTD, there are many ‘systems’ out there. However, I’ve found that the best way is not to use someone else’s system but to find, through trial and error, the one that really works for you.

I don’t have any experience of any of the GTD systems out there so I can’t say what was successful and what wasn’t and I don’t claim to be an expert on this topic. This is purely a post to show what has worked for me; but that’s not to say it will work for you. I’m just hoping that there will be one little thing, no matter how small, that will appeal to you and make you think, “oh yes, now that might work for me”.

Now for me, I find simplicity is the best. No dashboard, no need to move things about. The key is to be simple and realistic. Although I am simple in my way of time management, I am by no means simple and minimalistic with decorating my diary! It is important to note that I don’t decorate my pages until the day has passed. This ensures that there is enough space to write in my to-do list and also any timetabled events for that day. The less you need to move about = the less effort needed to manage your time = the less it seems like you have to do (psychologically speaking).

For every day, I will have a few things to do along with a tick box next to each of them. So as not to complicate things, I only have a maximum of two or three; but sometimes I sneak a few extra in if some of my to-dos are quite simple, straightforward and not as time-consuming as usual. 

I keep my to-do description as short and simple as possible. This means that space is conserved, and also makes the task seem less time-consuming and tedious. I’m thinking of colour coding my tasks (personal, work, study, sport, etc) but if it ain’t broke, why fix it, eh? And it must be emphasised, my current system definitely isn’t broken. In fact, it seems to work perfectly for me.

Next, how to monitor the progress of these tasks. This is simple for me. There are three possible states a task can be in at the end of the day: done, cancelled or postponed. If it is done, a tick goes in the box (you have no idea how satisfying this is after a long day). If it is cancelled, a cross goes through the box. Tasks get cancelled if they no longer need doing, if I have changed my mind and deem the task an unnecessary waste of energy or if it has to be changed slightly. And finally, if a task is to be postponed, a horizontal arrow goes through the box.

My second, and final, method of task organisation is to use washi tape. I use washi tape to highlight important tasks that have a definitive time limit and ocassionally for decoration too!

Using washi tape, or even a bit of colour if you prefer, allows the more important things relating to that week to catch your eye first. I sell a lot of my unwanted clothes on eBay and I have to make sure I package efficiently and dispatch quickly so washi tape gives me a method of reminding me to do this in order to keep my feedback profile at a high level.

One final word, though. Although it is all well and good to organise tasks for the next day/week/month, you have to motivated in order to get them done. It is no good having a daily inbox with tasks to-do and leaving them in that state. Sometimes, it may seem tedious or pointless to get a task done but don’t you feel better once you’ve ticked that box? I certainly do, and I know that all my tasks lead to some form of happiness at the end and this, for me, is how I motivate myself when it comes to these task lists. 

Remember, an efficient to-do list = better time management = more free time to do whatever you want once everything important/more urgent is out of the way. And even though my system may seem overly simple, it works for me. For me, this is just further evidence in that one system does not fit all and that sometimes, simple may be better.

However, this may all change once I find full-time employment but for now, this works fine for me.


  1. I definitely agree with you that simplicity is key. But I would also like to add that a part of this is picking one system and sticking with it. I see some people who are always trying out different systems, or fiddling with the system that they have, with the result that they never get the full benefits from any one system because they never stick with it long enough. Just pick one system, or develop your own, keep it simple, and stick with it! If it needs adjustments, make them, but, like you said, if isn't broke, don't fix it.

    1. Definitely agree with you there about chopping and changing systems. The most important thing is realising what works for you (as everyone is different, everyone's organisation system will also be different). I don't follow anyone else's system, I just stick to what works for me, and if it stops working, then I will seek out ways to tweak it in order to make it work once again. x

  2. Really loved this post!!!

    What pen do you use to write on your washi tape?? All my permenant pens will not write on it, it kind of disolves??

    I love how you organise your things, I kinda have to agree if it isn't broke why fix it, I kind of feel that way about my 2 days to a page, but yet I am moving too 2 pages per day.... not sure if it is the right move?


    1. I use the Staedtler Lumocolour pen in Super Fine Nib (Black ink) :) It's a permanent pen.

      Hehe, well, once you try 2 pages per day, you'll know if its the right move or not. Worth a try if you don't like the 2dpp anymore? xxx

  3. I love this post! Angela! The insides of your Filo are one of the prettiest out there!

    And your post has given me the push I needed to start listing my 12 or so purses that I want to sell!


    1. Aww thank you :) and yes, it feels so good to sell something that you no longer want/need! x

  4. Thanks for sharing a little bit on the mechanics of your to-do lists. I've used a similar system to yours, on and off but more on than off, since high school (which is, let's just say, a Long Time Now). As Heather and you discuss a bit above, yes, it's important to not change things up too often or compulsively, or you'll never glean the advantages of any system. I've been tweaking things a lot recently, including switching up my planner formats and trying color-coding; I think this is only preventing me from gaining the advantages of simply having a system -- I'm managing the system in addition to (not effectively) managing my time and my tasks.