Do it - instead of letting a GTD SW work for you



last few weeks I tried to find information and opinions about how people use software like Things, OmniFocus and organize projects …
Sometime I have the impression that some users try to put their whole life (or ToDos) into a software e.g. like “Washing laundry”, “Buying food”. Is it really needed to add tasks like these into a “GTD”-software?
For me it is more important to DO and to finish tasks. And this is my “problem” - to do, to find the motivation and to find the time to start and finish something.
E.g. Reminders or OmniFocus are just tools to administrate or “organize” tasks. Still, the person has to do the work and finish tasks …


You’re 100% right. No software or machine is going to get you off your duff, do your work, and finish it. Do you feel good when you finish something you committed to? Most people do – just use the memory of that feeling of accomplishment as a motivator (a carrot as it were) for the next task. Then the next one and the next one – the self-motivation builds up over time.


Yes, it is nice to see and a good feeling having done tasks.
But do you also mean e.g. in OF adding a task “Bringing down the trash”, doing it, marking the task as “Done” and being happy?
It would end in making “endless” simple, daily routine tasks just for marking them as done and feel better?


And that’s why software can only lead you so far.

Yet for some people just having a repository of things to do is helpful, and it’s a start.

I find that lists themselves don’t help me get things done, but putting items on a calendar does; it prioritizes what I need to do and I allocate the days/times to do things. I’m not crazy about the proprietary calendars in most task apps, which pull in regular calendar data, but I do find very useful Todoist’s 2-way calendar sync with Google Calendar. With Todoist I can, using natural language, set a time/date for a task and it almost immediately appears in my calendar… and if I need to move it I can do so in my calendar and it will instantaneously sync back to Todoist. (This is available in the free version of Todoist, by the way.) It makes a huge difference in increased productivity for me.

An unexpected benefit of Todoist’s currently-primitive checklists/subtasks is that I am more focused on what steps/subtasks I need to do and when, which propagates into my calendar… and gets done. (For lists I mostly use Apple Notes, Google Keep, and AnyList, depending on the list I’m maintaining.)


One important reason to put tasks on a list:

“Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.” (David Allen, creator of GTD)


Do I tend to forget to do something if I don’t put it on a list? If so, I put it on a list.


Apps like OmniFocus and Due are really just repositories for all the things that flood into my consciousness during a given day. A fair bit of my project management is done using them and, speaking as a scientist, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of small details that are involved in each project over time. But should anyone “run their life” out of them? Probably not, there needs to be a bit of room for creative downtime and just winging it (variety is the spice of life - kind of thinking).

For some people with diagnosed memory and/or attentional issues, these apps are critical to keeping up with the demands of current life.

The overall argument is that progress in any area can best be summed up with four words: Get On With It.


What I see is that the user spends more time with creating and organizing (categorizing, tagging) “simple” tasks like “Trash …” in e.g. OF and marking them as “Done”.
For me it would be too much time I would spend with OF and managing such tasks.
Or, just to add a task, mark it as done, and to feel good. It might “unfocus” (?) you from the important tasks …
At the moment I try to find a workflow which works for me - which tasks should be in OF (and which not), tagging, with/without due or defer dates …


Unless you have problems remembering to throw out the trash, I wouldn’t use OmniFocus for minor stuff.

Some people get off on tossing out the trash, I suppose. But that really wasn’t the feeling of accomplishment that I had in mind. Completing a project, finishing a difficult assignment you’ve been putting off, coming to the end of a series of journal reviews – that’s what I meant. Don’t be too literal.


Part of the process of learning how to keep your own system is learning how others do it and using that information to decide what does or does not work for you. In my travels I’ve seen plenty of cases where I thought, “I would never need to do it like that.” And then, every once in a while, I come across something and think, “That’s brilliant! I never would have thought of doing that.” And I grow.

The beauty is that unless you have a “Worry about other people managing their tasks wrong” task on your to-do list, you can just learn and move on.



  • “Try the Two-Minute Rule, which would mean handling things that take less than two minutes to finish when they show up” is one of the 10 tips for success with GTD.

  • “Engage” (“Simply do”) is one of the five steps in GTD (like “Organize”)


There are several benefits to putting the mundane or routine tasks into your task manager.

  1. If you then have a copy available it means someone else can pick up and do what you normally do in the event you are injured, sick or dead.

  2. It can be very motivating to check off a bunch of things. At least for me I’ll sometimes add a task to Omnifocus after the fact just so I can check it off for that feeling of checking off something.

Even if I set the projects that those taks belong to on hold in Omnifocus so I don’t see the daily or mundane tasks, I still have them documented there as part of my “oh shit” backup of what I do. I’ve been through a case where a sudden death meant that the survivor (me) was left picking up pieces with incomplete information. BTDT and the stress of that situation is something I NEVER want to put MY loved ones through. So I have a belt and suspenders approach to documenting even the most routine and mundane of things.


I guess you haven’t seen me manage large, long-term, complex projects in OmniFocus. I’d be positively lost and likely make mistakes had I not made clear, detailed lists of the steps that need to be done in the appropriate order.

Some things don’t need to go into OmniFocus (or your task manager of choice) because indeed, they are perhaps trivial or self-evident, or because they belong somewhere else like your calendar. But this is a judgement call and depends on your circumstances.

We vacuum the house every week. Do I need to put that in a task manager? no. It’s just what I do every weekend. Not a problem. If I forget or I’m busy or don’t do it for a day or two, it’s no big deal.

My trash needs to go out every week on a certain day, and recycling every other week. Would I forget to do this, and forget which week is also recycling week? Yes, I would, so I put that in Due because it really DOES have to get done otherwise we’re screwed for a week (or two, in the case of recycling). I REALLY don’t want to forget this and it has to be done by a certain time with zero flexibility.

I am employed as a researcher with rather large, multi-step, multi-component projects with lengthy deadlines and many concurrent tasks. In addition, some things are procedural: there’s a specific order in which tasks need to be completed, and steps can’t be missed (e.g., procedures for tracking participant recruitment). In this context, deadlines matter, order often matters, dozens of concurrent things are taking place or need to get done, most tasks involve other people, or other people are depending on me to do these things, and there are so many things to do that prioritizing and triaging is required – I can’t just keep it all in my head. This all goes into OmniFocus.

Use your judgement. If you don’t need a tool, don’t use it. Some people need a table saw to cut plywood, and a table saw is great at cutting plywood. If you don’t have any plywood to cut, then don’t buy a table saw, and it’s probably wise not to criticize people who do need a table saw.


Thank you all for your comments.
Please understand me correct, I do not criticize anyone! I try to understand how others use e.g. OF … If s.o. wants to add “Trash …” then why not. It is not my task-list and absolute not my intention to criticize if someone wants to add this to OF…
It is just what I read from other users during the past days/weeks and for what they use e.g. OF.
I do not think about long-term projects with lots of sub-projects and tasks in OF. I use OF for my projects as these are to big to remember. It was more about what “smaller” tasks you add to OF (or not). Just to hear others opinions …


I agree it makes sense to just do a quick one-time task and to have general good habits. I think of OF as a part-time assistant and project manager that does some work organizing my day and reminds me of the next step in a project when I haven’t been immersed in it. I wouldn’t ask real people in those roles to tell me to do basic tasks or to remind me to brush my teeth before work. Once you think of OF as doing some organizational work behind the scenes for you instead of motivational work, it should become more clear what should go in it.


Precisely how I do it. For example, I have a reminder to take out the trash–so my wife doesn’t have to remind me; OF is gentler! :slight_smile: Or, my packing list to make sure I don’t forget something.