Getting back on GTD, the 125th time

Or Laziest Way Ever to do GTD

Yeah, you know what GTD is…

You have tried it 108 times.. Now you are reading this article because you want to get it right, this time…

Welcome dummies! You could never be fooled better….

You should know this… because these are the other titles I had for this article:

  • Not another article on GTD
  • Dummy’s Guide to GTD and sticking to it
  • Restart GTD, the 110th time
  • Getting restarted with GTD, the upmteth time

Yes, we are getting there right!

Stop trying to GTD again and again ;)

Yeah, I am not going to rewrite what GTD is. There are more than enough articles on it. But I want to present a baredowned version of GTD, that I have been doing.

And seems to work…

Important disclaimers:

It is…

  • Easy to start,
  • Easy to maintain and
  • Easy to stick to.

And it has only ONE list.

So it is not for the faint-hearted!!!

The key is in subtraction. That is, removing all that I found unnecessary or that simply I couldn’t do or sustain. ~ Me (stolen from too many articles I read on minimalism)

So what does this barebone GTD don’t have?

“The definition of genius is taking the complex and making it simple.”

~ Albert Einstein (He was indeed a genius, if you didn’t know him already!)

“Any fool can make something complicated. It takes a genius to make it simple.”

― Woody Guthrie (some random guy I haven’t heard of. I found his quote when I was searching for the above quote)

You got the point right. I am no Einstein or Guthrie.. but here is my take on the bareboned GTD.

  • No separate inbox/ projects/ next actions list
  • No multiple contexts
  • No weekly review needed — the list replenishes itself
  • No software/ fancy app needed
  • No brains required!

Ok, that last one was just me!

So what does it have?

That’s just one of the 12 pages I got at the moment!

Yes, it has one giant list of tasks. That’s it.

Yes, seriously.

If you got that right, you can stop reading this article and implement the system, now.

If you want the rationale behind it, continue…

My inspiration

I got his idea of the more simplified version of GTD, that it is okay to let go off parts of the system that doesn’t suit me from — Mike Shea’s simplified GTD system.

“ Why would someone spend so much time pontificating the details of a system like this? To make our lives simpler. We don’t do this to obsess about our systems, we do this to get our systems in order and get it out of the way so we can work on things we really care about.” ~ Mike Shea

Another guru who gave me the much needed courage to experiment with my system is Mark Forster. His long list method is something very similar to what I am proposing.

“ The point of a Long List system is to build up consistency of action. It’s consistency that brings about results.” ~ Mark Forster

Rationale (I better have one)

No inbox:

Why do I need it? I am capturing my ideas, tasks, follow-ups, etc in this ONE list. If I want to ‘process’ it, I shall. Otherwise I let it stay in its raw form. During my scanning the raw gets processed naturally.

No projects:

Same as above. The inbox → project conversion is a burden. An extra step, that I don’t need. Plus, I didn’t need a master project list to keep my projects in track. I take a stock of what I am working on, once in a while, to get a big picture view. Then I stop there.

No next actions:

Okay, actually this could be misleading. My one list is mostly an action list. I am not too anal to ensure that the action list is spelt out in the right format — with verb in the front, noun and objective to follow. I sometimes do that, if I feel like it. But otherwise I let it be.

I also believe that the next action is a bookmark for my progress. So I don’t dwell on writing ALL the next actions. I write enough so that I can pick on the particular project where I left when I come back to it.

No contexts:

Duh! I don’t want @computer, @home, @call separately. All contexts are omnipresent. If you have been living under stone, welcome to the 21st century!

My linearity in scanning only dictates the suitability of whether the task can be acted upon or not. But since I can do something doesn’t necessarily mean that I should. I wait for inspiration to appear. As Mark Forster says, ‘standing out’ i.e., I wait until the right time/ mood/ context/ whatever arrives for the task to be done. This is a little hard to explain, but it is easy to recognize when you do it. I recommend visiting Mark Forster’s blog on wonderful treatise and deliberations on this concept.

No weekly review:


I hear you.

I am really bad, I mean really really bad in maintaining a habit. So I couldn’t.

David Allen says, ‘If you are not doing Weekly review, you are not doing GTD!’

So, I need to find a new name for this system then (that’s another discussion altogether, I think). Or, did I accidentatly invent a new, profoundly dumb, easy to follow, no-cash-burnt productivity system? All credits to the rich & wealthy productivity gurus who stimulated my resourcefulness!

I found a way to escape the tyranny of doing a WR. The ONE list by its repeated process of scanning and reviewing, makes the WR irrelevant. Ideally, I should run through the entire 100+ list on my fat ass list 3 times day. The more the better, suggest Mark Forster. Using the little and often technique, I get to act on a variety of projects, multi-task wonderfully and move every bit of my commitments forward, at least by an inch daily. That’s progress, my friends. That’s productivity, damit!

No apps

Didn’t I already tell you that I have my list in a notebook? I am biased in that way!

No brainer

If a dumbass like me could do it, a dumberass like you can also do it! Try it.

Yeah, there are limitations!

What did you expect… Candyland?

I faced few of the issues in using this system. But I did find a roundabout. Look, I am not that dumb :)

Sense of completion

That’s the problem with GTD or any long-list/ master list method. If you have a daily closed list, you know you have 10 things on your plate and you either did all (and some more) or you hit close (say, 6/10). There’s a visible scorecard, that gives you a sense of completion.

A long list unfortunately doesn’t work like that. You always have an unending list of tasks to do and you keep on adding to the list as and when things show up…

Solution: I write a ‘What I got done, today’ list, at the end of the day… It brings my sanity back.

Big picture view

Going round and round a list, can be dizzy. You lose sight. The classic GTD suggests you mature to the higher horizon. But I can’t wait for puberty. I need it now.

Solution: Once in a while, when I feel lost, I mindmap. The tasks at hand, the commitments I made. So I know how deep of a shit, I am in.


No. I can’t multitask. Remember I am not that smart. Multitasking is basically jumping from one task to another task quickly. It is NOT painting your masterpiece, while you type the memo to your accountant. Don’t try it, you can’t. Been there, done that.

Solution: Simple. I don’t aim to complete the task. I work on it as long as I feel like doing it (courtesy: Mark Forster). When I am done ‘dealing with’ (not complete) that particular task, I cut it out, but I reenter at the end of the list, either as the project/ note the next action, that would serve as a bookmark for me to pick up on that particular project, when I come back to it. If I did complete the task, which sometimes does happen, I cross it out. I don’t reenter it, dummy.

Easy restart — Lost & Found

Yeah, I know you are crazy sick as me. You are trying this GTD for the 125th time and you still can’t get it, can’t you… Neither can I. So we are on the same boat (or cruise). I can’t start to explain the number of times I set up an elaborate system to get GTD done (G-GTD-D what an apathy!). Only to abandon it a week later.

Solution: Look, I am as frustrated as you are. The best system is the one that you do — you heard it already. This is a barebones system!!! You need nothing else, but plain old notebook and a pen (No, I am not talking about Bullet Journal! — We are too lazy for it, remember…)

Exactly! That’s Bruce Wayne (aka Batman)’s daddy

You don’t have a Joker/ Bane to fight, but yourself. Keep it easy on yourself. Just (re)start, if you fall out.

Team work

Notebook is not the ideal way to manage team tasks, or ensure accountability/ transparency

Solution: We, at our company, use TickTick to manage team tasks/ projects. I rarely use it. It rarely demands to be used. Maybe except when we are reviewing a particular project, just to track and keep tab on each other.


To do lists are not for habit tracking.

If you have a daily log/ daily page/ weekly spread for your tasks… Yes, it is a good place to place your habit trackers. A long list.. Nope, not a good idea.

I tried ‘date’ tagging it, etc.. It didn’t work.

Solution: I don’t track. If at all, I do it rarely. I have a set morning routine/ habits stacked up. It’s pretty convenient. So I let it be there.

Hey, what about Waiting for & Someday/Maybe list?

You are a true GTDer, I believe. And you must have read so many articles like this and failed miserably!!! And you are here, what a pity!

No, I don’t use them. ‘Waiting for’ is part of the big ass list, if you haven’t already figured it out. I simply note the task with ‘w:’ to help me identify it, during my scanning. So I can freely skip it.

Someday/Maybe — never arrives. So, any crazy idea I came about. I will write it down. That is the first step. If I can’t do it now, I don’t park it in my incubation cell aka S/M list. I delete it. To write this article was on my list, it could have been on a S/M. But I felt like writing it. And so I wrote.

Cal Newport says (I am name dropping, so that you know how much research I did writing this article, or I was just plain useless that I had so much time reading such stuff)…

“If the project is that important, I trust my mind that it would make me pop up again and push me that I have no other option but to work on it” (This is not even his actual quote. I am just paraphrasing his thoughts. I told you I was lazy…)

Follow the path of least resistance

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” -Lao Tzu

The water flows from a high to a lower plain

The plant bends to the natural light

The nature follows the path of least resistance

I wanted to make it sound esoteric… I wanted to sound cool… To prove to you that I am the next new-age guru in the making…

But the reality is… we are fucking lazy asses!!!

We want the most freaking easiest way possible…

We want both the icing and the cake…

No you can’t or maybe you can…

I like how Mark Forster says it here… (yeah, I am obssessed with him. That came out wrongly. What I meant, what I like, really like, what he writes.)

“I want my life to be frictionless, effortless…

Effortless doesn’t mean that I don’t do hard work…”

So the ultimate aim of this productivity system, or any productivity system is to do the work, without feeling the pain of doing it. If any system denies that, you better find another guru.

So, give it a try, may you can indeed get both the icing and the cake.

All the best!!!

Get my free ebook!

What do you think are the most overlooked but useful skills in life/work? WRITING!

“I listened to David’s Write of Passage podcast (all Episodes 1–21). I’ve summarised what I learnt in this ebook.”

Download my free ebook ‘A Summary: Write of Passage podcast by David Perell’



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store