GTD Coverage: Understanding the Getting Things Done Methodology and its Application in Applications

David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology has made a breakthrough in approaches to time management and productivity. This system helps people effectively organize their work and personal lives, reducing stress and improving performance. But like any advanced methodology, GTD has its own nuances and complexities that can raise questions for beginners and experienced practitioners alike.

As part of this series of articles, I’m going to clarify some of these non-obvious aspects by answering common questions about GTD and discussing how different applications implement the methodology. We will cover important topics such as Tickler File, contexts (action lists), the concept of “Agenda” and the main problems users may encounter when using task management applications.

My goal is to help you deepen your understanding of GTD, utilize this methodology effectively, and choose the right application to meet your needs. I hope you find this information useful on your journey to improved productivity, and look forward to receiving your feedback and comments as we discuss these topics.

What is Tickler File in the GTD methodology?

Tickler File is a reminder system in the GTD (Getting Things Done) methodology. It is a system for organizing materials or tasks that need attention in the future. The essence of this system is to “postpone” a task or information until it becomes relevant. For example, if you have tickets for a concert in two weeks, you can put them in your Tickler File under the date of the concert to remind yourself of them when the time comes.

How is Tickler File different from putting off a task to a specific date?

By postponing a task to a specific date, you are setting yourself a reminder to look at that task or start working on it on that particular day. Tickler File, on the other hand, is a system that allows you to organize tasks or information chronologically and “put them off” until the right time.

What are action lists (contexts) in GTD?

In the GTD methodology, an action list (or context) is a group of tasks that share a common resource or circumstances needed to accomplish them. These can be circumstances such as a location (e.g. @home, @work), a specific tool or resource (@computer, @phone), or even a particular state of mind (@needs_concentration, @non-demanding_tasks). This helps you focus on tasks you can accomplish right now, based on your current circumstances or available resources.

What is Agenda in GTD?

In the context of GTD, “Agenda” is usually used to describe a list of tasks or topics of discussion to bring up the next time you meet with a particular person or group of people. For example, you might have an action list “@Agenda_Bob” where you write down things to discuss with your coworker Bob the next time you have a meeting or chance encounter.

What are the shortcomings of most applications in terms of implementing the GTD methodology?

One of the major problems with many applications that claim to support the GTD methodology is the lack of support for all aspects of the GTD methodology. For example, many applications do not have built-in support for key GTD concepts such as contexts (action lists) or Tickler File.

Also, many applications group tasks into projects but do not provide mechanisms to handle action lists (contexts), or vice versa, which limits the effectiveness of these applications within GTD.

Can tags help solve these problems in task management applications?

Yes, some applications use tags (or labels) as a way of representing contexts in GTD. This can be a useful tool for creating a more flexible and customizable task management system. Tags can also be used to represent other aspects of GTD, such as priorities, energy levels, or timelines. However, it is important to remember that successful use of tags requires discipline and consistency in their application.


To be continued …