Recently I was asked to help a collegue get her work/life schedule in order. The best system I know about is the Getting Things Done, GTD, approach.

Since she is a, “ just give me the facts” sort of a person, I developed a lite version of the GTD system.

The barebones GTD approach

Collect all possible tasks, ideas or projects in a list — whatever needs my attention. (This implies that I have a universally available possible tasks collection list — — for instance on the my phone or a notebook that is carried everywhere.)

  • Next, clarify. Is the possible task actionable? That is, you have the skill, the resources and can define it.
  • Put the actionable tasks in next actions list or the calendar
  • If possible assign the tasks to a date in the calendar.
  • Put tasks and projects that need more data or resources in a waiting list. Or, delegate the task to someone else and add it to the “waiting” list
  • If you can’t act on it, place it in the circular file marked trash.

This list becomes your next actions list. Over the next week do the tasks in your calendar or the first task in that list.

Add all “possible tasks” to the bottom of your next actions list as they arise for processing during the weekly review.

Review the process every week, especially the recently added new possible tasks. They need to be clarified and assigned to an appropriate list or the calendar.

Things in your calendar

  •  Appointments
  • Time sensitive actions — assigned a specific time and date
  • Or, list tasks that need to be done sometime during a day in the “all day” section.


Review weekly the next actions lists, the waiting list and the calendar. They form the core of the GTD time management process

  • Maintain a calendar that has both appointments and time sensitive actions.
  • Immediately collect other possible tasks as they arise. Your list will grow significantly as old possible problems arise also.
  • Review the calendar and clarify the growing next actions list weekly
  • Maintain and review the waiting list weekly

The barebones GTD approach has 3 lists (collection, next actions and waiting list) and a calendar.

This barebones process is good for creatives who have too many ideas. If you are overwhelmed, just follow the process. It will help.

After you try the barebones version for a while, you might want to read the newest version of the Allen’s book.

I recommend the new Getting Things Done for Teens by David Allen, Mike Williams and Mark Wallace.

Don’t be put off by the “Teens” focus. It is a much more approachable description of the GTD system than the older but excellent original. For those of you that think, “just give me the facts,” start with the second section.

Here’s a summary of the original Getting Things Done.

Please tell me what you think.

I’ve been a freelancer for 2 decades. Most of my work has been monitoring the future of work information, teaching people how to use smartphones and blogging.
I’ve been a freelancer for 2 decades. Most of my work has been monitoring the future of work information, teaching people how to use smartphones and blogging.

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