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

Introduction

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.

 

2 thoughts on “GTD On The Cards – 3 by 5 inch Index Card System”

  1. Hi Sir,

    I cannot get where to place 3×5 cards?
    Do I have to put it on my same Organizer or I have to buy a different organizer for it?

    In any case why there is circle on the right side, top corner?

    Can post a picture your Index card system. I would be quick to understand that how to use it.

    Ali

    1. Thank you for your question Ali.

      The 3×5 inch cards are for a separate “organiser” system. A standard 3×5 inch index card box is what you would use to hold these cards – see here for further information.

      I will consider providing an illustration using my system in the near future.

      The circle in the top right corner of the 3×5 inch index cards is for you to number the cards if you have more than one of any type.

      David

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