Is Todoist good for GTD? I take a deep dive into the essentials and show you how to import multiple templates to kick-start your GTD workflow.
It's easy to start and quick to learn.
Who's this for?
- Early to Master Todoist Users
- Early GTD Enthusiasts
This tutorial assumes basic knowledge about Todoist and GTD. If you are new to both these topics or need more information, check out https://gettingthingsdone.com and if you're ready for a full deep-dive into GTD, you can grab their Official GTD Guide For Todoist for a modest $10.
What do I need to setup Todoist and Getting Things Done?
All you need to do to get started is follow this two-step list:
Step 1: Import the following GTD Todoist templates.
Here are the essential projects to add in Todoist. Note: the Inbox is enabled by default in your Todoist account.
This one is already in your Todoist account. Use it to capture your ideas and offload your brain. It could be anything from "buy friend a birthday present" to "empty the fridge." Make sure you process items in the order they were added. The first question you should ask is "Is it actionable?" which leads us to the second project.
This project helps track the items and topics you need to discuss with people you meet with. For example if you have regular meetings, you might list several topics or questions you'd like to bring up. There are a couple sample tasks in this project to give an idea of what you might use this project for, check them off when you don't need them anymore.
- Waiting For
When you are working with someone else and you're waiting to receive something, this is where you'll put that task. Assign dates for time-sensitive tasks and follow-up as necessary.
All the things you want or wish you could get to but aren't a priority right now. This will likely be the biggest project you have, and if you had all the time in the world, you'd probably complete every single one. Remember, if it's not worth doing, it should be deleted or checked off. There's a sample task in here, too.
Any other projects will fall into this main Projects category. You'll create several if not dozens of projects that fit your goals or desired outcome. Over time those projects may change or drop completely.
Note: This project should only contain nested projects and not tasks. Unfortunately there's no way to import sub-projects in Todoist so this is left blank.
- Weekly Review
In this section you will revisit each task weekly and add or remove tasks as necessary to improve. This is the most important part of GTD, which forces you to incrementally adapt the GTD methodology to better suit your needs and lifestyle.
Note: This template's due date occurs every Sunday.
Step 2: Use these items as labels, not projects. They're better suited to provide context to a task, and not define where the task should live or with what value it's associated with.
When a task is ready you'll assign this label, and when you're ready to work you'll look here first. You can also use this as a starting point for filtering out by context, for example you could create a filter to view "next actions" at "home."
Tasks you can complete at any place.
Tasks you can only complete while at home.
Tasks you can only complete while at the office.
Tasks you need to complete "while on the go."
Tasks you need to complete using your phone.
Tasks you can only complete at the computer.
- Assign color as you see fit.
This gives logical separation to your list.
To change a project's color in Todoist, view the left sidebar, highlight your project ==> click on the three dots ==> Edit project ==> Color
What's the process for using Todoist and Getting Things Done?
Here are the things you need to do on a daily and weekly basis. It's not an exhaustive list but only the essentials to replicate a GTD-like environment in Todoist.
Use your inbox for capturing notes, ideas, and any other "jot-down" things.
Learn the quick add task shortcut or hotkey, and if it's on your mobile device, install the widget on your toolbar.
This is where Todoist shines because they have an app for every device and platform, it's always a click or tap away. You can even install it on Google Home and Alexa.
Define what is actionable and distill them into steps, milestones, and success.
This is also very easy to do with Todoist as you can view your list on your phone, computer, and even your watch, and make use of small time.
Sort information as it comes in, tag, or place in appropriate projects.When you organize tasks, you can drag and drop those into each respective project. The Todoist mobile apps have come along way but this might be easier on desktop.
Examine your behavior and progress, make adjustments to do better next week.Perhaps my favorite part - looking at my week in review and trying to discover those insights hiding behind my experiences. We can all learn a lot if we take some time to think carefully about what happened in recent memory.
Here's a detailed flowchart from the folks at Todoist.
What are some examples of using GTD and Todoist?
Here's a playlist from Carl Pullein who I've come to admire for his insight into using Todoist as a productivity system.
What else should I know about using templates with Todoist and GTD?
Todoist and GTD is comprehensive
As you might expect with anything on the internet, the rabbit hole goes much further than this. Some productivity experts will charge hundreds of dollars for a full course on how to properly implement GTD in Todoist. But this isn't necessary. As you use the program you'll discover opportunities to follow the GTD in better ways than a course can teach you, that's because it relies more on your personal insight and not a stranger's experience.
GTD isn't perfect
Keep in mind that we're all different and some habits and methodologies aren't well suited for certain people.That said, it doesn't take much time to figure out whether this program will or does work for you. Rapid testing and failure can lead to great success in the long run.
Things can and will change
GTD was never meant as the end solution. It's purpose is to give your life enough structure so that you can improve upon it. Start with a solid foundation and you'll eventually build the system that works for you - that's where the real value is.
Why is Todoist bad for GTD?
Lack of start date functionality
Many people will agree that the due date and do date is one of the biggest gripes you can have with Todoist. How should you discern whether to relax or hustle on an upcoming task date in Todoist? I guess it comes down to personal taste. But one thing that prevents GTD users from fully adopting Todoist is the ability to use start dates and due dates. If you can't separate a task by it's start date, it becomes mentally taxing to review your overcrowded list of tasks. This is possible with advanced filtering and over-processing labels, but at that point it becomes more work than using pen and paper.
High-maintenance and overhead
I think most people use Todoist for its simplicity and user experience. There are lots of tools out there with more bells and whistles, but it might not work as seamlessly between devices or have the same "feel" as Todoist. When using the GTD system, there's a lot of clicking and moving around, tagging tasks and adding details or descriptions.
I've personally tried using Todoist to the fullest and it became a burden that I couldn't keep up with. After burnout I think we all tend to slim down and only the necessities survive. In my case, I rarely use labels and I don't use filters at all. I keep the essential, important tasks right up front and put clear P1 (priority) tags on them with due dates. That being said, I started with GTD and this has been my result after years of tweaking. We all have to start somewhere and this isn't bad at all.
How do I know if this is right for me?
If GTD hasn't worked for you in the past, you might find this straight-forward tutorial a good litmus test. It's super easy to get started, all you need to do is import the templates and move around a couple projects.
The point is you won't know until you try.
The true test comes over time, through illness or burnout, as that is when we are at our limit on what we can and cannot sustain. I have found that GTD has rarely survived those types of experiences. Thus over time I have found that simpler is often better and my main philosophy can be summed up in this way: "push gently to keep the ball rolling, be flexible and be willing to change." I'm a little optimistic in that I hope for the law of averages to eventually send good favor my way.
In summary, I don't use GTD in general, but I still use the weekly review. I can always spare a few minutes to reflect, and in some cases, that's all we need to gain insight into our experiences.