GTD, Anyone?

I had my own mailing system for things to handle… and I’ve somewhat interested about the way GTD organizes stuff, but I might want to rework my whole “do stuff” possibly the GTD (“Getting Things Done”) way. I’ve read one GTD book – but for some reason never really got into it.

Couple of points:

How do you sort your email?

Do you use GTD or similar approach? If yes, any tips/hints examples for starting points?

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. Personally I don’t use email for my to do list, as that’s just one of the ‘buckets’ that I have that generates tasks for me (as do other people, meetings, and breaking down my own ideas).
    Having played with Remember the Milk and some other tools I eventually settled on mGSD (http://tiddlywiki.org/wiki/MGSD). With this approach you can change the views so that you can see:
    – all tasks per project (great for seeing if you’ve got everything covered)
    – tasks to do per context (ie on tasks to do on the phone, email, meetings etc)
    – all urgent and important tasks across all projects and contexts

    I’ve been with this approach for about 18 months now, and can’t see myself moving onto another system for some time.

  2. I read the whole book and spent like a week organizing all my stuff. Been a lot more organized since then (was pretty good before). I didn’t follow his system exactly but made up my own thing. My email box is always empty.

  3. As I read my emails from my laptop@home, my workstation@work, on the go from my mobile, I prefer to use the web interface. It is fast, and I got used to it.

    As Morning Toast noted, I also color tag my labels so that everything important pops out immediately.

    I saw this method of using the inbox/labels/folders/archiving as a todo list system a few years ago on a GTD blog, I gave it a try (I had something like +10 000 emails in my inbox at that time) and now I’m very happy of it.

  4. The three todo’s give things priorities. Generally the Todo Today’s had to be done today, other than that, it was a little more flexible – more or less FIFO. To do someday is more or less a suggestion box to look into once a year for new features.

    If you can’t keep up with what you need to do, that’s a different problem. May be time to delegate :)

    The main benefit of this system is reducing the number of emails you look at over and over again to see if you can do something with them. I knew guys who had 6 months of email in their inbox, and they had a lot of problems with things getting forgotten.

    When I adopted this, I was doing support for 6-10 game teams plus firefighting issues as games went through compliance plus fixing bugs and managing a small team. I didn’t have time to waste if I wanted to see my family.

    I also used an assortment of mail filtering rules to highlight stuff from managers, sort mailing lists into folders to look at when I had some spare time, etc.

  5. What if you don’t manage to do something “today” (or “this week”)? And then more things come, and you don’t manage to do those either?

    Other than that, it looks somewhat similar to what I’m building here on my box.

  6. I found this technique extremely effective when dealing with large numbers of email I got back when working at EA.


    – Inbox
    – Todo Today
    – Todo This Week
    – Todo Someday
    – Project Specific Archival Folders

    When an email hits the inbox, if it requires a response and I can do it in under 1 minute, do it now, file email in archival folder. Otherwise sort into one of the three TODO folders. If no response is required, file into archival folders. The inbox stays empty. You never have to reread most emails. Tasks never get lost in your inbox. People think you’re a superhero.

  7. I color code my e-mail to help my GTD routine…but like one main part of GTD suggests, I do “something” to every mail I get. Anything that I requires my action stays in my main inbox but everything else gets filed or categorized. Then my inbox is basically my to-do list — of course, this works because my tasks get mailed to me (at the office).

    But for my pet projects (including game making), I just make a list and start working down each one until it’s done. The one rule I make for myself is that once that list is made, nothing more gets added to it (unless its a critical fix/bug thing), but no more features or add-ons or anything. Anything I think up after that master list is made goes on the v2 list.

    GTD is a great way to seed your thoughts for organization, but it’s hard to be strict with and if you ask me, is somewhat unnecessary anyway.

    BTW…I just came across your blog while travelling through some indie game posts elsewhere. Some good posts here and you’re now in my feed :) Cheers.

  8. Hi,

    For what it’s worth, I use a combination of a gmail account and a custom domain name.

    Every time I need a mail for a specific context, I simply create an alias that is redirected on my gmail account. This allows me to really simply sort my emails into labels/folders using gmail filters based on the destination mail.

    For example: If I need a mail to be contacted for a special event I simply create a specialevent@mydomain.com that is redirected to myaccount@gmail.com and setup a filter to send all those mails to a Special Event folder.

    This way, I can archive and find pretty easily every email I receive and keep my inbox clean.

    Having a clean inbox allows me to use it as a reminder to what I have to reply to, what are the upcoming events, etc. Every email that do not match one of my filters is processed as it arrives, keeping the whole system smooth since 2 or 3 years and helping me getting things done efficiently.

    I don’t even have to use the new “priority inbox” feature or the starring system (as for today, my inbox contains exactly 6 emails, everything else is sorted and archived in my ~25 labels/folders).

    The worst part of it was to start this system. I used the filters to sort my emails (the option “also apply to existing email” saved me a lot of time on this task :)

    Hope this helps.

    ps: I also provide custom emails to every website I create an account on like ebay@mydomain.com, amazon@mydomain.com, linkedin@mydomain.com, etc. On one hand, if a website starts to spam me on a regular basis, I can apply filters and/or destroy the alias. On the other hand, if for some reason I need to change my domain name, I know which websites has my address so I can easily go through this list and change my accounts :)

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