Applying GTD to my life – capturing items

Some days ago I re-initiated reading a book on GTD aka “Getting Things Done” methods.

I don’t know exactly what got me into this, but since the methods seem quite tested, I thought to give this a go. I don’t know yet where this will lead me, but I am willing to try things as they are explained by the authors.

I’m applying the system in different areas in my life and was thinking of explaining how I do stuff and how I feel about GTD in general.

I’ve yet to finish reading the book, but so far I’ve found that there’s couple of things that I really feel already benefit me. Here’s summary of them:

  • Shopping list 2.0 (name by me) GTD explains that you should be aware of the “context” or “location” where you can do something. For example, if you need to buy Diapers from shop, it makes sense to have a list for “shop location”. Instead of checking “what’s missing”, I’m now gathering stuff like “butter” or “diapers” or “xmas tree” in the shopping list. And when I’m at the proper location (supermarket), I’ll simply check the list. This is different from having a shopping list you try and create. I append this list whenever I think “I’d need to buy item X”, I keep appending the list and get stuff out of my mind. It’s brilliant.
  • Inbox this is another pretty sweet thing: list for stuff that I need to do, uncategorized. Whenever I get a “task” I’ll add it to my list. Whether the task is “research thing X” or “do thing Z”, I have it written down. This is a good way to get things out of my mind (Later I process these, but I’ll explain more about that later)

I’ve also tested several different systems for capturing items, and ended up with a combination of iPod/iPad “Reminders” and “Notes” apps. Reminders is missing some stuff I’d like (foldering, arranging tasks, showing number of undone tasks on list title) but it is much more simpler & easier to use than other products I’ve reviewed or tested (such as Things, Evernote, Remember Milk and others). So, to me, Reminders is just great device for capturing items

Currently I have the following lists in the device:

– GAMEDEV: project name (8 different, such as “gamerelease.net, infected, blog posts” and “misc”)
– HOME: “project” name (7 different, such as “homework, own stuff, xmas preparations” etc)
– LOCATION: place name (I have 4 different: “computer, pharmacy, shop…”)

This list is very much subject to change but I’m listing it here so that I can later check back and see how the list looks (off-topic: I’m scheduling a task to my INBOX to reflect back on this matter…)

What is important that these lists should only contain things that I’m supposed to do, they don’t contain the actual work material. I’ve set up “library” folder on my harddrive to contain all my stuff there (and I too set up a backup too to better sync all the files into separate external hard drives). The items in my lists merely help me know where to look in the library folder if I need to do so.

So far I’ve found out that it’s essential to have a great way to write things down anytime. iPod Touch is a neat device for that for me. It’s also important to capture stuff so that they don’t haunt me when they shouldn’t… and I was first sceptical about the “location” based lists, but I now see that they are brilliant. I’ve managed to amaze my wife by telling her what we need to buy and she has been like “oh, good that you remembered!”

These were merely some thoughts on “capturing” items. What I do about these is a matter of another blog post.

The first impression is that I feel somewhat more organized, getting somewhat more “misc home stuff” done and me and my wife spend less time talking about “what we should do” since we know that we’ll mark stuff down and will review “what to do” on weekends (or so).

I’m experimenting this out for at least month or two, if not the whole next year, and reporting my findings and results.

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. Yeh, the shopping list is pure greatness. So simple little thing, but so effective.

  2. “How come with all the productivity tips you did not manage to finish that zombie game?”
    I’ve pretty openly shared the progress, obstacles, victories and all related to Dead Wake zombie game in the past. I feel that it’s combination of scope of the project (which quite fast expanded too big to tackle), unexcepted technology issues (some of which caused serious headache), extended dev time and eventually also money caused me to release it with its current state.

    Now I’ve been doing a yet another (card) game since 2010, and I have my own goals for its release… and will share more when I have more stuff to tell.

    GTD isn’t only about games, there’s many projects I’m working on (for example “xmas preparations” or “preparing backyard for the winter” and very many other things), and I’m testing GTD to see if this can help organize the stuff.

    “Your advices would be more interesting if games would come out of your hands, not just tips.”

    Maybe you’d have some tips to share? ;)

  3. I imagine an iPod touch would be a great capture device–I am forever grabbing input with my iPhone. The camera, voice memos, and Notes app are my primary on-the-go inboxes!

    I also think you perfectly capture the power of GTD-style lists with the shopping list; if there’s any one list that could get a skeptic to understand what GTD lists are about and can do, it’s probably shopping. Identifying a tool to capture items needed–groceries, supplies, hardware, clothes, etc.–and doing so when you first notice they’re missing, and dividing them up by where they can be bought is a simple and easy to implement. The payoff will be obvious to anyone who tries it, and although it’s only one area of life that it covers such a system would demonstrate a relatively complete model of GTD.

  4. Hi,

    Nice post about GTD.
    Good obvious ideas in here, but sometimes the obvious needs to be stated.
    Speaking of getting things done. Did you release a game yet?
    How come with all the productivity tips you did not manage to finish that zombie game?

    Your advices would be more interesting if games would come out of your hands, not just tips.


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