5 Simple, Effective GTD Tools

Post written by SysBots.

Recently I posted my new twist on the excellent GTD system, Zen To Done (ZTD): The Ultimate Simple Productivity System. This is the fifth in a series of posts exploring each of the 10 Habits.

Are you a fan of GTD? What’s your trusted system? GTD, and my twist on it, ZTD, recommend that you keep your task in a series of lists based on different contexts. And while many popular GTD tools (Kinkless, stikkit, Outlook, Remember the Milk, etc.) make things a bit complicated, the truth is that all you need are lists.

Many followers of GTD get caught up in fiddling with the tools, with creating complicated systems, changing tools and systems every week or two, instead of actually getting things done. But ZTD asks you to use the simplest tools possible, and then forget about them. ZTD is about the doing, not the tools.

ZTD Habit 5: simple trusted system – keep simple lists, check daily.

GTD asks you to place your tasks (“next actions”) in a series of context lists, such as @work, @phone, @home, @errands, @waiting, etc. Basically, you need to ask yourself “What can I accomplish right now, based on where I am and what tools are in front of me?” and then focus only on those tasks. GTD simplifies that process by breaking down your lists into separate contexts, so you only need to worry about the context you’re in right now, and not about any other contexts. There are also a couple of other lists in GTD: the someday/maybe list (stuff you can’t do now but might do someday) and the waiting-for list (a great way to remember to follow up on stuff).

That’s the easy part. Now the question is: which tool to use to keep your lists. Here are my recommendations — the simplest, most effective GTD tools:

  • Simple GTD: This is my favorite, and the one I use right now. I was using Tracks, which is also simple and very good, but I recently switched because I wanted something a little simpler. Simple GTD has what you need, with a nice interface, but none of the frills. Play around with it — the interface is extremely intuitive and doesn’t require a manual. It doesn’t have a lot of features, but that’s its appeal.
  • Moleskine: Another of my favorites. Actually, any small notebook that fits in your pocket will do — the easy of use of a notebook (you don’t have to power it up or press any buttons!) is perfect for this daily GTD habit. But the Moleskine has a special appeal — it is aesthetically pleasing, and wonderful to use. I highly recommend it!
  • Hipster PDA: Popular among the low-fi GTD crowd, the Hipster PDA is as basic as it gets, and extremely portable as well. Basically, it’s a stack of index cards attached with a clip. You can find templates for printing them online, or just simply write your lists on them. The cool thing: you can toss the cards when they’re full, and replenish your PDA at any time.
  • Tadalist: Perhaps the simplest tool of them all, tadalist is simply a list program. No frills, although the interface is nice (it’s from the same folks as Backpack and Basecamp). Create as many lists as you need, print them if necessary, check only the context you need. Simplicity at its best.
  • Todoist: Another simple, slick to-do list manager, this has a few extra features, but nothing complicated. I don’t use it simply because I don’t like the outline interface, but that may appeal to some of you more. It’s worth a look, at least.

Once you’ve selected a tool, set up your lists, and keep them simple!

The next part of this habit, and really the most important part (more important than the tool you use), is checking your lists every day. This needs to become a habit, and as a such, it will require special focus for about 30 days. Once you make checking your lists a daily habit, your life will become much more organized and productive.


Read more about simple productivity, focus and getting great things done in my book, The Power of Less.

  • Purpose Your Day: Most Important Task (MIT)
  • My Morning Routine
  • How I Became an Early Riser
  • Feeling Down? 7 Ways to Pick Yourself Up!
  • Tracking My Goals (Ben Franklin hacked)
  • Best Way to Jumpstart Your Day (evening routine)
  • Top 10 Productivity Hacks
  • Top 20 Motivation Hacks
  • Think About Your Life Goals
  • Best 8 Way to Deal With Detractors
  • Email Zen: Clear Out Your Inbox
  • 5 Ways GTD Helps You Achieve Your Goals
  • My GTD Implementation
  • Beginners Guide to GTD
  • Mind Like Water
  • How to Do the Weekly Review in Under an Hour
  • Weekly Review: Key to GTD and Achieving Goals
  • Tips for GTD’s Ubiquitous Capture
  • Why is GTD So Popular?

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