Getting control of email with Newton Mail and Wunderlist

logo_dark.pngAlthough this wasn’t planned to be the next episode in my Using Wunderlist for GTD series of articles, contact from the guys at Newton Mail telling me that Newton Mail now provides integration with Wunderlist meant I just had to investigate.

I’ve always used Apple Mail since I started using the Mac and, apart from a brief trial with Thunderbird, and another with PostBox, I’ve stuck with Apple’s free offering and used Wunderlist’s Send to Mail option to get emails into Wunderlist. The only other tool that I’m aware of that allows Apple Mail to directly integrate with Wunderlist is MailButler – but that only works with Apple Mail (and it’s more expensive than Newton Mail).

Newton Mail works with all email accounts:

All Email accounts

Newton Mail integrates with all these applications (and others are “coming soon”):

Screen Shot 2017-02-09 at 11.20.51Screen Shot 2017-02-09 at 11.22.50

The Wunderlist integration allows you to add an email as a to-do and enables you to chose the list, set a completion date, and a reminder.

Controlling email in GTD

Processing emails in many list managers is just not possible, and as one of the most, if not the most, difficult inbox to get under control, any approach that integrates your email client with your chosen list manager has to be worth a look.

The GTD Setup Guide for Wunderlist, as do most Setup Guides, only gives you two options for controlling email:

  1. Use the email itself as a reminder. This isn’t my preferred approach as it means you have another pair of lists in your mail app to keep track of as well as those in Wunderlist. Something is bound to fall between the cracks.
  2. Use Next Actions Lists in Wunderlist or your Calendar as the Action Reminder. This is the approach I prefer to use as it moves a copy of the email into your Wunderlist Inbox from where you can Clarify and Organise it just like any other Captured item. If, once you’ve moved the email to Wunderlist, you add a Due Date (and optionally a Remind Me date) these will be picked up as part of the Wunderlist Calendar integration (if you’re using that).

But even Option 2 is a lot of work to get an email processed, and it’s just going to fail sooner rather than later.

Newton Mail‘s integration with Wunderlist gives you a direct way of doing Option 2, because it allows you to do the following before you send the email to Wunderlist:

  1. Change the subject (add a verb to say what action is required)
  2. Select which List it goes to
  3. Add an optional Due Date
  4. Add an optional Remind Me date

Installing Newton Mail

Before you go any further, Newton Mail is only available for macOS, iOS and Android operating systems, and not Microsoft Windows yet (but a Windows app is coming Spring 2017).

Go to the Newton Mail website and start the 14-day trial – there are no restrictions on the trial version except the 14-day time limit. It’s $49.99 a year if you plan to continue to use it.

This will take you to the appropriate app store. You need to set up Newton Mail with an email address and password.

Then you need to set up any email accounts you want to use with Newton Mail in addition to email you’ve registered.

Setting up Newton Mail and Wunderlist

Once that’s all done, you need to go to the Settings in Newton Mail. Click on the My Account picture at top right of the screen, scroll down and select Settings and then select Superchargers and then Connected Apps.

Click on Wunderlist (and any other you want to use – I’ve selected Evernote as well as I may want to send an email to Evernote) and deal with any authorisation request that pops up.

Processing an email into Wunderlist

Open an email from your Inbox in Newton Mail. As an example, here’s the Welcome email from Newton Mail:

Screen Shot 2017-02-07 at 14.56.50

Note the three dot overflow symbol Screen Shot 2017-02-07 at 14.59.15.jpgnext to the address from which the email came.

If the Screen Shot 2017-02-07 at 14.59.15.jpgisn’t there, then move the cursor to the left of the address, and it will appear. Click on it and this should appear:

Screen Shot 2017-02-07 at 15.02.00.jpg

Select Wunderlist and the ADD TO-DO page will appear with the title of the email and the first part of the description, the three dot overflow symbol and a blue ADD bar.

Screen Shot 2017-02-07 at 15.06.55.jpg

If you click on the ADD bar then the email (the whole email, not just the short description) will be added to the Wunderlist Inbox.

But, if you click on the three dots overflow symbol, the ADD TO-DO page will expand to allow you to specify which List in Wunderlist you want to use, plus a DUE DATE and a REMIND ME date and TIME before you ADD.

Screen Shot 2017-02-07 at 15.09.01.jpg

Before you ADD you can edit the TITLE (but not the DESCRIPTION) so, as in good GTD practice, you can specify what the Next Action is going to be. In this case. I decided I needed to create a new Project to set-up Newton Mail so I’ve edited the TITLE:Screen Shot 2017-02-07 at 15.18.06.jpg

and, further down, I’ve selected the Computer list from Wunderlist, added a DUE DATE and a REMIND ME date and time:Screen Shot 2017-02-07 at 15.19.02

Here’s the completed To-Do in Wunderlist:

Screen Shot 2017-02-07 at 15.24.49.jpg

It’s as simple as that!

Other Newton Mail features

As well as application integration, Newton Mail can add attachments to emails from Google Drive, Box, Dropbox, OneDrive and iCloud.


Newton Mail handles read receipts automatically but you need to set the option on globally or per email to be notified when emails are read.

You can schedule emails to be sent so that they land at the right moment and you can snooze incoming email and remove them temporarily from the Inbox and get them to come back at a later time or date and even snooze them from your mobile device to your Mac’s desktop.

You can get a sender’s profile by clicking on the round disk (which may have a photograph) next to their name on an incoming email and find more about them such as job title, organisation, location, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter profiles and detailed organisational information that they’ve made avaialble.

I’m sure the guys at Newton Mail have other enhancements planned.

Features you won’t find in Newton Mail

If you are an Apple Mail user like me, your may miss things like Smart Mailboxes, Flags, and the ability to import and export mail and rules to control your mail.

But Newton Mail‘s clean and simple approach may win you over, and it’s a real boon to be able, through the integration with Wunderlist to have a real chance of achieving Inbox Zero.

Try it and see!

Using Wunderlist for GTD – Part 1: A guide to the official GTD Setup Guide


sz-wunderlistWhen the David Allen Co, the global training and consulting company that supports GTD, asked me to review their upcoming GTD Setup Guide for Wunderlist, I had not heard of the application.

Although not designed specifically to support GTD, Wunderlist has many of the features that can be used to support GTD in its free basic version.

The Pro version (at $4.99/£3.83 a month) adds 10 more backgrounds (not really important in my view), removes the limit on the size of files attached to T0-dos (it’s 5MB in the Free version), removes the limits on the number of people you can assign a To-do to (it’s 25 in the Free version) and also removes the limit on the number of subtasks that a To-do can have (it’s also 25 in the Free version).

None of these Pro features is essential for a personal GTD implementation, and my advice would be to start with the Free version and only upgrade if you need to.

This article explains what the official GTD Wunderlist Setup Guide covers, what it doesn’t cover, and how I have expanded on what is in this excellent Guide to make further use of Wunderlist’s basic features. The Pro version doesn’t add any new features, it just expands the Free version’s features, and what the Guide covers is the Free version, and this is the version that I use.

The GTD Setup Guide

d_830The GTD Wunderlist Setup Guide from the David Allen Company only costs $10/£7.67 as a download, and it’s free to members of GTD Connect.

As with all the Setup Guides they produce it starts off with a brief overview of the GTD Methodology and then the bulk of the guide covers the application of GTD to Wunderlist.

Projects and Next Actions

  • The Most Common GTD Lists
  • Setting Up Lists
  • Explanation of the Common GTD Lists
    • For each type of list (Agendas, Anywhere, Calls, Computer, etc.) it explains what the list is used for and how to set it up in Wunderlist.
    • For the Projects List, it also explains one way to add Project Support material.
  • Linking Projects to their Next Actions
    • It explains how to use the Wunderlist Tags feature to do this. I have expanded this approach, as you will see later, to link Project Support material and the GTD Horizons
  • Moving Items between Lists
  • The Weekly Review ties it all together
  • Customising your Contexts
  • Using Subtasks
  • Creating Folders
    • How to use the Wunderlist Folders feature to group similar lists, for example, if you wanted to have a Someday/Maybe – Personal list and a Someday/Maybe – Work list. Again, I have expanded the use of this feature for the GTD Horizons.
  • Using the Wunderlist Inbox
    • The Wunderlist Inbox is an excellent feature for capturing ideas for later Clarifying and Organising and this section shows you how to capture ideas straight to the Inbox, via email, and via the Wunderlist extension on your desktop or mobile device (meaning you can clip items from the web).
  • Reviewing your Lists
    • Daily and Weekly Reviews of your Lists are recommended
  • Using Due Dates, Reminders and Starring
    • These are three features of Wunderlist that need to be used cautiously in a GTD implementation as their overuse will “erode trust in your system by creating a pattern of false due dates” as the guide warns. These features include Smart Due Dates whereby a date in a To-do that you enter, such as “Meet James next Wednesday” will automatically add a due date of next Wednesday. This feature can be switched off as mentioned under Waiting Fors under the Explanation of the Common GTD Lists
  • Marking Items Complete
  • Sorting Lists
    • Wunderlist can sort Items in a List alphabetically, by Creation Date, and by Priority (putting Starred items first). It can also sort by Due Date and Assignee if you’ve used these features.
  • Using Shortcut Keys
  • Sharing from Wunderlist
    • Emailing Lists and To-Dos
    • Adding Shared Access to Lists


  • Integrating Actionable Email with Wunderlist
    • This is always a difficult area as few apps make this easy. However, two options are provided in the Setup Guide
  • Two Options for Managing Actionable Email
    • Option One: Use the Email as a Reminder
      • This isn’t my preferred approach as it means you have another pair of lists in Mail to keep track of as well as those in Wunderlist. Something is bound to fall between the cracks.
    • Option 2: Use Next Actions Lists in Wunderlist or your Calendar as the Action Reminder
      • This is the approach I prefer to use as it moves a copy of the email into your Wunderlist Inbox from where you can Clarify and Organise it just like any other Captured item.
  • Wunderlist for Outlook
    • There’s a Wunderlist for Outlook app for or Outlook 365 subscribers using Outlook 2013/2016 for Windows, and this section explains how to use that. As a macOS user, I don’t.
  • Getting Your Inbox to Zero
    • How to manage your Email Inbox using the GTD Workflow Map (shown in the first part of the Setup Guide).


  • What belongs on your Calendar
    • What you should, and shouldn’t put on your Calendar
    • Setting up a Calendar Feed
      • Wunderlist has a feature for producing a Calendar Feed so that you can see your Due Dates (if you’ve used them – see warnings above) on To-dos on your system’s main Calendar (be it Calendar on macOS/iOS, Outlook or Google).
  • Reviewing your Calendar


  • Using Wunderlist to store Reference Information
    • How to store non-actionable Reference lists, checklists, etc. using the Wunderlist Folder feature. I have used this approach to maintain the GTD Horizons of Focus, but that is outside the scope of this Setup Guide. I will explain later how I have done this.


  • Syncing between desktop, web and mobile versions of Wunderlist is seamless and automatic so that your lists all appear more or less the same and the basic user interface is identical.

What I will cover in future articles

The articles listed below are planned and will change to links to each part as they are produced.

Part 2: Account Settings, Smart Dates, Smart Lists and Printing Lists – how I have set up Wunderlist and how I use its advanced features

Part 3: Setup – how I have used the official GTD setup guide and Wunderlists features to meet my system needs

Part 4: Wunderlist in Daily Use – how I use Wunderlist each day

Part 5: The Weekly Review with Wunderlist – how I carry out my Weekly Review

Part 6: The Horizons of Focus and Project Control – how I use some of the tagging in Wunderlist to link Next Actions to Projects and Projects to Horizons of Focus

Part 7: Reference Material – how I file some Reference material within Wunderlist

Part 8: Hints and Tips – what I’ve learnt in the first year of using Wunderlist for GTD




The ultimate guide to stress-free packing that also saves you money


As a keen user and advocate of the Getting Things Done approach to stress-free productivity, I am always looking for ways of improving (that is making them simpler, easier and less stressful) the way I do most things.

For example, I hate the way hotels clutter up the limited space in their rooms with magazines, brochures, laundry lists, and many other things I probably don’t need. So the first thing I do when I get to my room (following the round of Twenty Questions at check-in) is to clear everything off the desk and tables into the bottom drawer (if there is one) or failing that the bottom of the closet, tempted though I am just to dump it all in the trash can.

So, imagine my interest being piqued by being asked to review an early draft of Erin McNeaney’s The Carry-On Traveller, The Ultimate Guide to Packing Light, which is now available  (on Amazon in the UK and in the USA) for the price of a short bus ride or taxi fare. You will save many times this amount the first time you travel on an airline that charges you to check in a single bag!

Erin and her partner Simon are “digital nomads” who, for the last six years have been continuously travelling the world with their entire possessions strapped to their backs and have NEVER checked in a bag! As Erin says in the introduction “every time I whiz through an airport in ten minutes while others are crowding around the baggage carousel, every time I waltz onto a bus without worrying if my bag will emerge from the luggage storage at the end of the journey . . . I am convinced it’s the best way to travel“.

But this saving in time and hassle is nothing compared to what you’ll save in travel costs by not needing to check in a bag. Just look at the costs of checking in a bag on every major domestic airline in the US here or with UK airlines here. Erin’s book costs $4.99 in the US and £3.49 in the UK – that’s a ridiculously small amount compared to what one person could save on a single trip.

What’s in the book

The book is available for the Kindle and falls into five main parts:

Part 1 – Getting Started

Why would you want to do this? It’ll save you stress and money, time and back pain. It’s more secure and gives you greater freedom.

Why wouldn’t you want to do this?

Some basic principles need to be mastered, including:

  1. You don’t need as much as you think
  2. It makes no difference how long the trip takes – only pack for one week (unless it’s a shorter trip)
  3. Don’t take things just in case
  4. Buy it when you get there – this is especially important with toiletries as the airlines restrict you to 100ml per item in carry-on.

As do the individual airline’s restrictions.

Advice on what luggage works best for carry-on is provided.

Part 2 – What to Pack

This section provides advice on the best travel clothes with a section on women’s clothes and a (predictably) shorter section for men’s clothes.

If you’re heading for the colder climates, then there’s advice on what to wear.

Then there’s a section on toiletries, electronics (the longest section of the whole book!), miscellaneous and luxury items (if you must), and documents and money.

Finally, she tells you what NOT to pack!

Part 3 – Preparing for Departure

This section is about HOW to pack and for those with a GTD-sense of the world, her advice on packing organisers is really sensible. I’ve already started using packing organisers and they make packing and unpacking really easy and quick!

There’s a short section on overcoming any concerns you might have with what may seem a minimalist approach to packing.

Finally in this section, some advice on security and travel insurance. When you’ve got your entire worldly possessions on your backs (as Simon and Erin have), you can’t be too careful. But you previously trusted the airline with your bags and nothing ever went wrong there did it?

Part 4 – Interviews with Carry-On Travellers

Although I originally thought this was the least useful section, the advice from the wide range of travellers that Erin has interviewed helped me understand what would work for me.

Here you’ve got backpackers, retired people, those who want to travel in style, those travelling with a toddler, short term and long term travellers, a camper, a solo traveller, and an artist. Even if none of them is you, they all have elements of their lifestyle that will match some of yours.

Part 5 – Practical Help

Though this isn’t a titled section, this is where you’ll find some Final Words which contain one of the key lessons, not only about packing but checklists in general:

Write a packing list and stick to it – don’t panic and add extra items at the last minute!

I would add one further piece of advice, as with any checklist, if you decide on this trip that there’s something you need to take next time or, more importantly, that you don’t need next time, then make it a Next Action to update your packing list. In this final section, there’s a link to

In this final section, there’s a link to bonus packing resources to help you. Plus what Erin and Simon’s packing lists and other travellers’ packing lists. The latter are particularly useful as you may identify more e with them than the NeverEndingVoyage ninjas!

main-us-tortuga-osprey-farpoint-40-backpacksFinally, there’s a useful list of the airline’s carry-on restrictions but check these before you travel as they’re always changing (usually not for the better!)

As I said at the beginning, you’ll reap many times the cost of this book when you make that next trip without checking in a bag. Erin McNeaney’s The Carry-On Traveller, The Ultimate Guide to Packing Light is now available  (on Amazon in the UK and in the USA).

You can read an excerpt from the book on using packing cubes here and about the ups and downs Erin had when creating her first book here.

. . .  and if you want to know how I got on when I first travelled with carry-on only, read the interview with the lady who wrote the book at Never Ending Voyage.



Gaining control of your Apple Mail – Part 2

Following on from Part 1, now I would like to explain how to process your emails, using the GTD flags that you set up in Part 1.

To help with this, you need to set up two more Smart Mailboxes.

Firstly set up a Smart Mailbox with these properties:

Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 15.19.41.png

Note that I have included Sent messages so that I can track emails I have sent as well as those I have received.

This will give you a list of all the emails you have flagged. This is needed to help with the other Smart Mailbox which will list all the emails that you have yet to flag.

Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 15.23.09.png

There isn’t a property you can set for a Smart Mailbox to make it list unflagged emails so you have to create one to list flagged emails and that the @Unflagged Smart Mailbox can check against. Sometimes you have to be devious to get Apple Mail under control!

Now you can work through your list of unflagged emails until they’re all flagged! Note that the @Unflagged Smart Mailbox doesn’t update itself whilst you’re in it – just click out of it (into the @Flagged Smart Mailbox for example) and back again.

During the day, when I check Mail, I just look at the @Not Flagged Smart Mailbox (instead of the Inbox) and process them with the appropriate flags. I then click on the @Flagged Smart Mailbox and back to the @Not Flagged Smart Mailbox which should now be empty (Mailbox Zero!).

Gaining control of your Apple Mail – Part 1

I am indebted to Rishabh R Dassani (at Dazne and on Twitter @dazne) for this idea.

1. Decide what to call your GTD flags

Mail gives you 7 flags and by default these are named after their colours as follows:

Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 17.01.23.png

Decide what GTD contexts you want to use for each of the 7 flags.

The GTD flags I use are:

Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 17.13.15.png

2. Rename the flags

Take 7 emails in your Inbox and give each one a different coloured flag. It doesn’t matter which emails – you just need all 7 flags in use to rename them.

To do this click on the right-pointing triangle against the Flagged mailbox and you should see each of the 7 flags listed in the sidebar under Flagged.

Click on the Red flag subfolder twice and type in the new name Action. Do the same with the Orange subfolder and rename it to Agendas.

Then do the same with the Yellow flag and the Green flag. Rename these flags’ subfolders to Waiting For and Calendar.

Then change the Blue and Purple flags to Read and Someday/Maybe.

Finally change the Grey flag and rename this flag’s subfolder to File

So now, if you move your mouse over the down arrow next to the Flag box on the toolbar you should see this:

Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 16.35.32.png

You can now clear the flags on the 7 emails you have used (or you can change them to the appropriate flag).

3. Clarify what needs to happen to your emails by marking them with the correct flag

As each email comes into your Inbox, mark it with the appropriate flag.

Do the same with all the existing emails in your Inbox.

4. Set up Smart Mailboxes as Next Action lists for each flag

Using the Mailbox menu scroll down and select New Smart Mailbox and set up Smart Mailboxes for each of your GTD contexts as follows:

Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 17.24.34.png

The default name of Smart Mailbox 1 has been replaced by Action and the condition has been set to Message has flag and the Action flag.

Do this for all your GTD contexts.

Make sure your Smart Mailboxes are visible – click Show – and you should see something similar to this:

Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 17.29.42.png

Note that I have started each Mailbox name with an @ symbol as I wanted them to stand out from the other Smart Mailboxes I have set up.

You will need to order them by dragging them up or down – they don’t order themselves!

5. Action your emails

Process each email according to the context.

Change the flag to File when done or delete the email if you don’t need it.

Now if someone knows an easy way to print off the list of emails in a Smart Mailbox, then please let me know!






Using the 3×5 inch Index Card Calendar


The 3×5 inch Index Card Calendar is different from most other calendars because only the Annual Calendar is fixed – months, weeks and days are only added as you need them and used parts of the calendar are scrapped when they are no longer needed.

Initial Calendar Setup

Using the necessary templates from Downloadable Forms:

  1. Select the appropriate Annual Calendar form. For this example the January 2015 to April 2016 template is used.
  2. Create Month cards for the required number of months. For this example we’ll create 3 covering January, February and March.
  3. Add events from your existing calendar that occur on fixed days in these 3 months (such as birthdays) and events that need to occur at some time during each of these months (for example, Arrange Car Service).
  4. Create Week cards to cover the first 4 weeks. In this example this will be: Mon 28 Dec (2015) – Sun 3 Jan; Mon 4 Jan – Sun 10 Jan; Mon 11 Jan – Sun 17 Jan and Mon 18 Jan – Sun 24 Jan
  5. Add events from your existing calendar that occur in each week (as for Month cards).
  6. Create Day cards to cover each of the days of the four weeks.
  7. Add events from your existing calendar that occur on each day including timed appointments and things to do that day.

After completing these steps you should have a stack of 36 cards as follows:

  • Two double-sided Calendar 2015-2016 cards covering Jan-Apr 2015; May-Aug 2015 and Sep-Dec 2015; Jan-Apr 2016
  • Month card for January 2016
  • Week card for Mon 28 Dec 2015 – Sun 3 Jan 2016
  • Day cards for Mon 28 Dec, Tue 29 Dec, Wed 30 Dec, Thu 31 Dec, Fri 1 Jan, Sat 2 Jan, Sun 3 Jan
  • Week card for Mon 4 Jan – Sun 10 Jan
  • Day cards for Mon 4 Jan, Tue 5 Jan, Wed 6 Jan, Thu 7 Jan, Fri 8 Jan, Sat 9 Jan, Sun 10 Jan
  • Week card for Mon 11 Jan – Sun 17 Jan
  • Day cards for Mon 11 Jan, Tue 12 Jan, Wed 13 Jan, Thu 14 Jan, Fri 15 Jan, Sat 16 Jan, Sun 17 Jan
  • Week card for Mon 18 Jan – Sun 24 Jan
  • Day cards for Mon 18 Jan, Tue 19 Jan, Wed 20 Jan, Thu 21 Jan, Fri 22 Jan, Sat 23 Jan, Sun 24 Jan
  • Month card for February
  • Month card for March

If you wish, you can set up fewer or more weeks and days depending how far ahead you want to plan and in how much detail. For example, I only plan two weeks ahead in detail so I wouldn’t have the day cards for the last two weeks above but I would still have the Week cards for those last two weeks.

Using the Calendar – Daily

Add any new Calendar items to the Day card, Week card or Month card as required. Strike off completed items on the Day card, Week card or Month card as required.

Using the Calendar – Weekly Review

Decide whether you want to extend the Calendar, for example, if you’re going away on holiday you may want to plan further ahead.

Make sure you have the following blank cards (as a minimum, more will be needed if you’re planning further ahead):

  • 7 Day cards
  • 1 Week card
  • 1 Month card (for use when you pass into another month)

Work your way through the Month, Week, Day cards checking off all completed items. Discard completed past Day, Week and Month cards.

Add events for next 7 days to new Day cards, Week card and Month card as required.

Hints and Tips

For important regular events it’s worth having them on all the appropriate Month, Week and Day cards e.g. a birthday should be on the Month, Week and Day card.

Regular weekly events can just go on the appropriate Day cards e.g. if your Weekly Reviews are always planned for Friday then just put it on each Friday Day card – there’s no need for it on the Weekly card.

If an event can occur at any time that week then just have it on the Week card e.g. if you’re expecting an item to be delivered sometime that week rather than on a specific day.

Get your USBs under control

Isn’t it annoying that you can never get your USB the right way up before you insert it?

475px-USB_Icon.svgThe little symbol is sometimes hard to see and there’s a 50:50 chance you’ve got it the wrong way round!

Well, get yourself some of those little sticky dots – green and red green-dot-hi3.75dotr9and put a green one on the side with the USB symbol and a red one on the other side.

Now you know which way up your USB plug is!





GTD On The Cards – 3 by 5 inch Index Card System


The purpose of this post is to show you how to use Index Cards for your GTD system.

Choosing Index Cards

Although any size of Index Card can be used, this system was built using 3 by 5 inch Index Cards. Plain (blank) cards can be used and this is the current type that I use. I have designed layout that can be printed on 3 by 5 inch Index Cards though getting your printer to format this size of cards can be quite a challenge. All the card formats are available for in PDF on the Downloadable Forms page.

You could also use lined cards or grid cards and draw up the cards by hand.

You will also need a set of of 3 by 5 inch Guide Cards to mark out the sections of your Index Cards. These can be either plain tabbed or with numbers or letters. I printed off labels to affix to the Guide Cards to indicate the sections.

Set Up The Primary Sections

Set the sections up in the following order to ensure there is the required flow in the way these sections work together.

  1. Notes/In
  2. Calendar
  3. Next Action Lists
  4. Agendas
  5. Projects
  6. Project Support
  7. Someday/Maybe
  8. Focus and Direction (no cards available yet)
  9. Reference (no cards available yet)
  10. Contacts (no cards available yet)

Each of the cards listed below is available in PDF form from the Downloadable Forms page except for the ones listed. However, there is plenty here to keep you busy!

1. Notes/In

Screenshot 2015-03-05 14.41.38This is the Notes/In Index Card and a PDF version can be downloaded from the Downloadable Forms page.

This is intended as a “portable inbox” for capturing notes and ideas for later processing.

Use this for Mind Sweeps, individual ideas as they come to you, or as someone mentions something to you.

Examples include: notes from voice mails, meetings, conversations etc.

2. Calendar

The calendar needs to hold three types of items: actions that are specific to that day; actions that are required at specific times that day; and general information specific to that day.

You may decide that a separate diary is the best way to maintain this type of information, but if, like me, you decide to maintain your calendar on the same 3 by 5 inch Index Cards, then the following cards may help.

2.1 Annual Calendar

Screenshot 2015-03-02 16.26.36This is the first page of the Annual Calendar It is a four-page calendar covering three months on each page from January 2015 through April 2016. UK Bank Holidays are highlighted in colours on the cards.

This Annual Calendar is just intended as a checklist on which you can tick off the days if you wish or just as a reference tool.

2.2 This Month

Screenshot 2015-03-05 14.47.38This card is used to list actions that need to be done this month and these can be flagged by date or just listed as actions that need to take place at some time during the month.

There is a space to insert the Month/Year and an optional When column to indicate the timing of the action. The column on the left, next the the checkbox column can be used to record the context of the action.

 2.3 This Week

Screenshot 2015-03-05 16.06.46This card is used to list actions that need to be done this week and these can be flagged by date or just listed as actions that need to take place at some time during the week.

There is space to insert the Week Commencing Day/Date and an optional When column to indicate the timing of the action. The column on the left, next the the checkbox column can be used to record the context of the action.

2.4 Today

Screenshot 2015-03-05 16.13.31This card is used to list actions that need to be done today and these can be flagged by time or just listed as actions that need to take place at some time during the day.

There is space to insert the Day/Date and an optional When column to indicate the timing of the action. The column on the left, next the the checkbox column can be used to record the context of the action.

 3 Next Action Lists

Screenshot 2015-03-05 16.16.22This card is used to record the next physical action by context and a number of cards will be needed, one for each context, @Call, @Computer, etc.

There is space to record the context for Next Actions recorded below and an optional Due Date column on the right.


Screenshot 2015-03-05 16.20.59

An additional special Next Action list is Waiting For card which has space (against the left-pointing hand) so that you can group Waiting Fors against a particular person, organisation, etc. or this can be left blank. There is a column for an optional Due Date on the right.



4. Agendas

Screenshot 2015-03-05 16.32.07This card is used to record reminders of items you want to discuss with people, organisations, or at meetings.

There is space (against the right-pointing hand) to record the name of the person, organisation, or meeting if you wish to group the reminders.


5. Projects

Screenshot 2015-03-05 18.21.16 This card is used to make a list of all your Projects – outcomes that will take more than one Next Action to complete.

There is space at the top of the list to title groups of Projects – Work, Personal, Home, etc. and a column at the right for an optional Due Date.


6. Project Support

Screenshot 2015-03-05 18.36.48This card is used to list any Next Actions for a Project.

There is space at the top of the list of Next Actions for the title of the Project and against each Next Action to record the context and an optional Due Date.


 7. Someday/Maybe

Someday/Maybe items are those on which you have no current commitment to complete. These may be single actions or projects.

Screenshot 2015-03-05 16.27.21

Two different cards are available (though you could use just one) and the first is for single actions. It has space (against the question mark) so that you can group Someday/Maybes against an Area of Focus or whatever you wish and there is a column on the right for an optional Review date when you might what to look at the action again.


The second is to separately record Someday/Maybe Projects.

Screenshot 2015-03-05 18.28.13


These are projects that you don’t plan to move on for, say, the next month or so and keeping them separately keeps you focused on projects that have your current attention. This is similar to the Someday/Maybe Next Action list.


8. Focus and Direction

Screenshot 2015-05-15 15.13.50This is the new title given to the Horizons of Focus in the GTD Setup Guides. The original 5 horizons were Runway (Next Actions), 10,000 feet (Projects), 20,000 feet (Areas of Focus and Accountability), 30,000 feet (Goals and Objectives), 40,000 feet (Vision), and 50,000 feet (Purpose and Core Values). As GTD became global and given that many countries use the metric system rather than the imperial system of measurements, the horizons are now just “Levels”.

So we now have:

Ground – Next Actions
Level 1 – Projects
Level 2 – Areas of Focus and Accountability
Level 3 – Goals and Objectives
Level 4 – Vision

Level 5 – Purpose and Principles

Cards are only required for Levels 2, 3, 4, and 5 as your Projects List is Level 1 and your Next Action Lists are Ground.

These are essentially free format cards as they are simply a set of checklists to be used at the appropriate review points. All four cards (only Horizon 2 is shown above) are available from the Downloadable Forms page.

9. Reference

Screenshot 2015-05-18 15.26.10

These Reference cards are free format for making a wide range of simple reference lists and checklists.

Examples include:
– Packing Checklist
– Books to read
– Music to listen to
– Restaurants to try
– Places to visit when next in <name of place>

10. Contacts

Screenshot 2015-05-18 15.25.51These cards can be used to capture key information about people and places that you wish to have as a part of your GTD system (rather than in separate address books or emails).




This completes the 3×5 inch index cards for a GTD system.


Building an A4 GTD System


Although My GTD system continues to be based on an A5 Filofax, for those wanting a larger system, there follows the construction of an A4 version.

Choosing an A4 Binder

Any A4 binder would do – though it would have need to be a 4-ring binder for stability – but I have a few TMI A4 binders from the days when my system was based on the Time Manager philosophy. Of these binders, two are “system folders” in the sense that they were designed to augment an existing TMI system with additional A4 materials. These binders, as well as the very good Time Manager ring system, have a folder over flap, four pen holders and an array of pockets for cards and other small items. They also have a set of 12 dividers complete with a customisable index.

The closed binder looks like this (click image to enlarge):

Inside it looks like this (with the right flap folded over (click image to enlarge):


One of the pockets down the left of left flap actually allows you to remove the ring mechanism (along with its backplate) of an A5 or Traditional-size Time Manager binder and insert it here within the A4 binder. This isn’t possible with a Filofax as they don’t have this facility – it would have been very useful when it came to moving from the A5 system I had.

With the right flap open showing how the index (see below) is used (click image to enlarge):

These binders are still on sale from TMI and have the advantage of using the standard 4-ring binder spacing so that a normal hole-punch can be used.

Setting up the binder

In setting up this paper-based GTD system, I have used the GTD Setup Guide for Paper Organizers which was revised last year.

Around the same time that this latest edition was published, they also produced an editable PDF organiser which contains most of the forms needed for a paper organiser including calendar pages for a year which means you can also have a paper calendar as part of the system.

This editable PDF is in American Letter Size (8.5 by 11 inches). Although an A4 version has been suggested this has not yet been produced. Nevertheless, A4 size forms can be producing either by “scaling-up” the forms to A4 for printing or just printing them as they are (as the size difference isn’t significant). If you are sticking to the A5 size that I used in a Filofax previously, then there’s an American Junior Size (8 by 5 inches) that can be “scaled-up” to A5.

For this A4 system, you could use the forms from the editable PDF but I have now produced A4 forms (based on the original A5 versions). These are available for download as PDFs on the Downloadable Forms page.

I am working on producing my own calendar pages for my A5 system and if there is sufficient interest I will produce A4 versions.

GTD System

Although the Setup Guide only requires 10 sections, this binder has 12 sections, so I have set them up like this:

  1. Notes/In – inbox for capturing notes and idea
  2. Calendar – day-specific actions, time-specific actions, and day-specific information
  3. Next Action Lists – next physical actions, listed by context, for project and non-project items
  4. Agendas – reminders of items to discuss with people and at meetings
  5. Projects – list of all current projects
  6. Project Support – support materials for projects
  7. Someday Maybe – items to be done at some point but which have no current commitment
  8. Focus & Direction – higher horizons of focus – Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, Level 4, and Level 5
  9. Reference – simple reference list and checklists
  10. Contacts – key contacts, names, addresses and numbers
  11. GTD Guides – key GTD guides (including the Setup Guide)
  12. GTD Forms – blank forms

Next Actions

The following actions have been completed but are included here to help you if you decide to take this approach.

  • Obtain Setup Guide for GTD and Paper Organisers – @Errands
  • Read Setup Guide – @Anywhere
  • Obtain appropriate A4 binder – @Errands
  • Obtain 10-part divider set – @Errands
  • Obtain divider index – @Errands
  • Decide whether to use own forms or GTD PDF Organizer – @Anywhere
  • Obtain GTD PDF Organizer (if required) @Errands
  • Produce own forms (if required) – @Office
  • Set up dividers and index – @Office
  • Transfer existing lists etc. to new binder – @Office
  • Use and review operation as part of Weekly Review – @Weekly Review

In the meantime, Filofax has just released a new type of binder – the Clipbook – and I will be reviewing this to see if it provides a less-cumbersome replacement for my full-size A5 Filofax.

Building an A5 Filofax GTD System

Since 2009 I have used a GTD paper system housed in an A5 Filofax.

Although the basic principles of its construction have not changed, some of the detailed implementation has been tweaked, most recently as a result of the GTD Setup Guide for Paper Organisers.

I have been working a “GTD-esque” system for over 10 years since I first came across David Allen in 2000. At that time David had published some of his ideas on the Internet and it was a year later that his “Getting Things Done” book was published.

My GTD system replaced a Time Manager system that I had acquired about 10 years earlier. Claus Moeller’s Time Manager system, for which I still have many of the books and guides, brought together the hard landscape of the “Calendar” and a list of “Key Areas” (akin to GTD’s Areas of Focus) with “Tasks” (GTD Projects) and “Activities” (GTD Next Actions). The alignment with GTD isn’t perfect and the Time Manager system had a much firmer connection between these Key Areas, Tasks and Activities and the Calendar which probably worked better in the more certain times of the 1980s and early 1990s. The Time Manager system had wide range of forms to suit different purposes and had its own ring binders that had a different ring configuration to all other binders. Operating such a system was costly unless your employer was willing to foot the bill!

As I read David Allen’s book I realised that the system that he was proposing was “technology agnostic” and I could, in fact, design my own system around his GTD principles. Since that point I have always had a paper system but I have continued to try electronic solutions.

My GTD System is still, and will always, be changing as my needs change.  I plan to continue to follow the philosophy behind GTD but the system must be flexible and perhaps, above all, cheap to run. Apart from the David’s books and CDs, membership of GTD Connect, a memorable attendances at a couple of David’s seminars, and a few other bits and bobs, I have never bought any GTD “forms”. I have made my own (in Microsoft Word) and these have evolved with the system. As I mentioned above, the recent GTD Setup Guide for Paper Organisers caused me to change the style of some of these forms and to simplify the structure of the system itself.

The paper system is still housed in an A5 Filofax and contains the following:

  1. Plastic protector covering a Mindmap showing the layout of the Filofax
  2. Plastic pocket to collect odd scraps of paper, bills etc.
  3. Notes/In with blank ruled sheets containing notes taken (and some blank sheets)
  4. Calendar section with Annual Events Checklist (birthdays, anniversaries, etc) and printed calendar pages from Outlook (two pages facing each other covering one week).
  5. Action Lists, currently including Anywhere, Calls, Computer, Errands, Home, Read, Waiting For, Someday/Maybe Agendas (now has its own section as a result of the GTD Webinar on Paper GTD Systems)
  6. Projects & Goals containing the Projects List and Areas of Focus List.
  7. Project Plans & Notes where all the Action Support material for projects is held.
  8. Reference containing useful lists and other material
  9. Contacts
  10. Spare Forms

My Filofax structure is replicated on my computer system with a file structure that matches the structure within the Filofax with a few subtle differences:

0 Front
1 Notes/In
2 Calendar
3 Action Lists
4 Agendas
5 Projects and Areas of Focus
6 Project Plans & Notes
7 Reference
8 Contacts
9 Spare forms

These folders are mapped and synchronised across two computers (desktop and laptop) and on a cloud using Dropbox and also, at the moment, Sugarsync whilst I decide which one to go with in the future.

 The forms used in my A5 GTD System can be downloaded from the forms page.