Regular readers will know that I like nothing more than getting sucked into some new productivity tool or method. Recently, I’ve been revisiting Getting Things Done (GTD), considered by many as the OG.

The first edition came out in 2001 and made quite a splash. I’m reading the updated and revised 2015 edition. I won’t attempt to summarise the book - if you’re into productivity systems, you should definitely go read it.

“We (1) capture what has our attention; (2) clarify what each item means and what to do about it; (3) organize the results, which presents the options we (4) reflect on, which we then choose to (5) engage with.”

Over the next few posts, I’m going to cover off how I handle each of the five elements above. Having blundered about every concept and framework under the sun, I’ve realised that what works for one person may not for another. We each design our own hybrid system.


Stage one of GTD is to get everything out of your head and into an inbox. This isn’t a new concept. It’s how offices worked before computers came along. No really, it was! Everybody had a tray on their desk called an in-tray or in-box. Post, memos, and requests would be put into your tray. That’s how you knew what work you had. David Allen postulated that this system made a lot of sense. Tasks to be done, things to be considered, work to be finished should live in the box, not in your head. Your brain is to be used for actually doing stuff. Groovy, huh?

Since then, all the neuroscience supports Allen’s assertions. Smart cookie that David chap.

For all you bright young things, a computer analogy might be that the brain is RAM and the intray is storage. Use all the RAM for storage and all your apps will slow down and stall. There. That’s you all caught up with the theory.

“1  |  Every open loop must be in your capture system and out of your head. 2  |  You must have as few capturing buckets as you can get by with. 3  |  You must empty them regularly.”

Now, I’m assuming that buckets is not a literal requirement.

Of course, now that we have been blessed with the incredible simplifying power of personal computing, we all have way more intrays. One e-mail, or even multiple accounts. Social media, Slack, message apps. Dinosaurs like me even still get post too. At one point, I had three Twitter handles, two Instagram accounts, multiple Facebook pages, Linkedin profiles and pages...buckets? I had more than I could carry.

How to reduce these multiple capturing buckets into a few? (Other than binning all the social media - which I highly recommend.)


  1. I have an inbox in Things 3. I can forward emails to it, or use the share sheet (or something swish like that). Copy / paste works too.
  2. Tot. On this dinky little app, I reserve space for a note called @thisweek. Here I jot anything that comes up - so that I can grab it and get it into Things later.


  1. Foglietto. These cute coloured cards live on my desk and in my wallet. If something occurs to me, I write it down and then, wait for it, toss it into an actual intray! See what a cool hipster I am?

I have used various notebooks for this too - but the problem is that I have a tendency to lose these important action points in amongst all my other jottings. Who knows? Perhaps I’ve missed a vital deadline because a task is buried within an abandoned plot outline in a Field Notes.

That’s it. My capture system. Easy ‘innit? Capture is the top end of the funnel. I want it to be easy to get everything in there, so that through the later stages of my workflow I can consolidate everything into "one trusted system".

Next - "clarify."

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