GTD is a productivity technique developed by David Allen and described in his book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. It’s a methodology that encourages people to get all of their to-dos on a central list and process those to-dos weekly in order to stay on top of outstanding tasks and accomplish more.
To succeed with GTD, it’s important to use the right tool for collecting and organizing your to-do list, and while we’ll admit we’re a little biased, we think MeisterTask is the perfect tool.
In this post, we’ll walk you through how to use MeisterTask for GTD by showing you both a simple approach for GTD beginners and a more advanced approach for GTD masters who want to take advantage of some of MeisterTask’s automations.
Simple GTD with MeisterTask
GTD is an incredibly scalable system that can be as simple as you want it to be or as complex as you need it to be.
But if you’re just getting started with the technique, it’s probably best to keep things relatively simple and get the hang of collecting and processing your to-dos before introducing increasing levels of complexity.
With that in mind, here’s how you can take a simple approach to GTD using MeisterTask.
Step 1: Create a GTD project in MeisterTask
The first step you need to take is creating a GTD project in MeisterTask. Sign up for a free MeisterTask account or sign in to your account if you already have one. Then, click the plus sign next to “Projects” to create a new GTD project.
Give your project a name and, if needed, adjust your sharing settings, then click “Create Project.”
Step 2: Set up your capture lane
One of the core tenants of GTD is that you have to collect all of your outstanding to-dos in a central system. That means getting all of your to-dos out of your head, your email inbox, your phone, etc. and getting them onto a single list.
If you’re using MeisterTask for GTD, you can set up the first lane on your board as your capture list. Click on the text that currently says “Open” and give the lane a new name—something like “Inbox,” “Capture,” or “To Process.”
This is the lane where all of your unprocessed to-dos will live.
There are a number of different ways to get your to-dos into this MeisterTask lane.
Add new to-dos manually
If you’re transcribing your to-dos from a handwritten list or just doing a brain dump of the outstanding tasks in your head, you can add a new to-do manually by clicking the plus icon in your capture lane.
Give your task a title, then repeat the process until you’ve added tasks for all of your to-dos.
Email to-dos to your MeisterTask lane
If you have to-do items in your email inbox, you can forward them to a specific email address to add those tasks to your capture lane.
Click the down arrow in the right corner of your lane, then select “Automations.” You’ll see an email address at the bottom that you can forward emails to in order to get them to appear as tasks in your capture lane.
Copy that email address and add it to your address book so you can start forwarding any existing and new to-dos to MeisterTask to get everything into your capture lane.
Gmail users can also use MeisterTask’s Gmail add-on to add tasks to MeisterTask without forwarding emails or leaving the Gmail interface. The same goes for users of Outlook or Spark.
Add to-dos from other tools
To add to-dos to your MeisterTask collect lane from other applications, you can use one of our Zapier integrations. This allows you to do things like:
- Create MeisterTask tasks from Evernote notes.
- Create MeisterTask tasks from Google Calendar events.
- Add Google Sheets rows to MeisterTask as tasks.
- Create tasks in MeisterTask from Slack messages.
Zapier lets you connect MeisterTask to more than 1,500 other apps, so you can use its automations to make sure your to-dos in any app are added to your collect lane.
And if you’re an IFTTT user instead, you can also use our IFTTT integration to build custom workflows for adding your to-dos to your capture lane.
Migrate tasks from Trello or Asana
If you’ve been using Trello or Asana and want to switch to MeisterTask, you can import your Trello boards or Asana projects with just a few clicks to save yourself the time of manually copying and pasting all of your to-dos between the two tools.
Step 3: Create your processing lanes
Once you have all of your outstanding tasks in your capture lane, it’s time to make some decisions about how you’ll organize and process your to-dos. GTD recommends a variety of lists you may want to consider adding, but for a simple approach, we recommend the following:
- Next Actions: Tasks you need to complete
- Projects: To-dos that represent larger bodies of work and multiple tasks
- Tickler: Things you need to do in the future but cannot begin on yet
- Someday: Things you’d like to do one of these days but aren’t priorities
- Done: Tasks you’ve completed
You can edit any existing lanes on your GTD board to give them the appropriate titles by clicking on the text of the current lane name, and you can add new lanes by clicking “+ Add Section.”
You can also change the background color of any lane header by clicking the down arrow in the right corner of the header and selecting a different background color.
Finally, once you’ve created all of your lanes, you can simply click on the icon in any lane’s header and drag and drop it to the appropriate spot to order your lanes as desired.
Step 4: Start processing your to-dos
Once you have all of your lanes set up, you’re ready to start processing your to-dos as part of your weekly review. Go through each item in your capture lane and drag them to the appropriate lanes:
- If a task will take you less than two minutes to complete, just go ahead and do it, then drag it into your “Done” lane.
- If a task will take you more than two minutes to complete, drag it into whichever lane is appropriate: Next Actions, Tickler, or Someday.
- If a task is very large and needs to be broken down into multiple subtasks, drag it into the “Projects” lane.
When you’re finished, your capture lane should be empty. All of your tasks should be in the other lanes on your board.
During your weekly review, you can also start breaking down your projects using MeisterTask’s checklist feature. Click on a project task to open it, then select “Add Checklist Item.” Enter the tasks you’ll need to complete as part of that project. When you’re ready, you can turn these checklist items into their own tasks.
For time-sensitive items in your “Next Actions” and “Tickler” lanes, you can add due dates to your tasks to make sure nothing gets overlooked. Just click on a task to open it, click “Due Date,” and select a due date.
You can also filter your board to only show items that are due today, tomorrow, within a week, within two weeks, within a month, or in the past. To filter your board, toggle the switch in the right navigation menu to open it, click the filter icon, click the dropdown next to “Due date” and select the desired timeframe.
If you select “Due today,” for example, your board will update to only show tasks with due dates set for today.
Finally, you can also prioritize any of the items in your list by dragging and dropping your task cards into the order you plan to/need to complete them.
Step 5: Start getting things done
Now that you have your project set up, your lanes created, and your tasks consolidated and organized, you can start getting things done. Just work from your “Next Actions” lane, review the tasks in that lane daily, capture your to-dos as they come in, and process your capture lane once a week.
Advanced GTD with MeisterTask
If you’ve gotten the hang of the basic GTD process and are ready to take things a step further, MeisterTask can help with that, too.
For example, in David Allen’s “Engage” step of the GTD workflow, he recommends further organizing your tasks by context (i.e. work vs. home), time available (how long will it take), energy available (how much energy do you need to complete the task), and priority (how important is it to complete the task).
Assigning categories to tasks not only helps you keep your tasks organized—i.e. you can have separate lists for work to-dos and personal to-dos—but it also helps you make better decisions when you need to choose what to work on next.
For example, you can choose tasks you categorized as low-energy when you’re feeling tired or tasks you decided would only take a few minutes when you’re strapped for time. And since you made these decisions while you were processing your tasks, you don’t have to think through all of those details in the decision-making moment.
If you want to engage in more advanced GTD with MeisterTask, you’ll need to create another project. Here’s how to do it.
Step 1: Create a new capture and categorize project
This new project will serve as both the place you capture your to-dos and the place where you add context to those to-dos.
Start by creating a new project in MeisterTask. Name your project something like “GTD Inbox.” Once your project is created, add the lanes you need to add context to your tasks. For example:
- You may want a lane for “Home” and a lane for “Work” to categorize the things you need to do by where you need to do them.
- You may want lanes for timeframes like “30 Minutes,” One Hour,” “Two Hours,” “Four hours,” and “One Day” to categorize tasks by how long you think they’ll take to complete.
- You may want lanes for “High Energy,” “Medium Energy,” and “Low Energy” to categorize tasks by how much energy they’ll take to complete.
- You may want lanes for “High Priority,” “Medium Priority,” and “Low Priority” to categorize tasks by their importance.
Add lanes for any of the categories you want to use to the left of your capture lane in MeisterTask.
Step 2: Create tags for each of your categories
Now, we want to create tags for each of our categories. This will let us see each task’s categories at a glance.
Open any one of your tasks by clicking on it, click “Tags,” and select “Manage.”
Click “Add Tag,” then type the name of your first category.
Repeat this process until you have one tag for each of your categories. You can also change the color of your tags if you want by clicking any tag and selecting a color.
Step 3: Create automations to automatically apply tags to tasks
Next, we want to set up automations that tag cards with their categories as we put them into the right lanes.
Start with your first category lane. Click the down arrow in the lane’s header and select “Automations” > “Add Automation.”
On the automation selection screen, select “Update Tags.”
On the “Add Automation” screen, select the “Add these Tags” radio button, select the appropriate tag for the category, check the box next to “Run this action on all existing tasks in this section,” and click “Done.”
Repeat these steps for each of your categories.
When you’re finished, dropping any card into a category lane will automatically add that category’s tag to that task. This lets you move cards into each category group (context, time available, energy available, and priority) to add the tags you’ll need later to make decisions about which tasks to pick up.
Step 4: Create an automation to move your cards to your main GTD board
Since this board is just for capturing tasks and categorizing them, we need a way to get our captured and categorized tasks onto our main GTD board. We can do that automatically by creating a final “Move” lane on our GTD Capture board and creating another automation.
Once you’ve created your “Move” lane, click the down arrow in the lane’s header and select “Automations” > “Add Automation.”
Select “Move Task.”
Click the dropdown under “Move to” and select your main GTD project.
Select your capture list’s name under “Sections.”
Finally, check the box next to “Run this action on all existing tasks in this section,” then click “Done.”
Now, when you’re finished categorizing your tasks, you can drop your tasks into the “Move” lane to automatically send them to your main GTD project’s capture lane.
Step 5: Start categorizing your tasks
When you do your weekly review, start with your capture and categorize board. Drag each task into the appropriate lane to add its tag. When you’re finished, drag the task into the “Move” lane to automatically send it to your main GTD board.
After that, you can use your main GTD board to make decisions about how to organize and complete your tasks. And you can even filter your board to show only tasks tagged with certain categories (e.g. only work tasks or only tasks that will take less than 30 minutes to complete) to make decisions more quickly.
Other Ways MeisterTask Helps With GTD
In addition to the workflow recommendations we’ve shared, there are a lot of other features in MeisterTask that you can use to GTD better:
- Need to delegate some of your tasks? You can add employees, coworkers, or even a spouse to your MeisterTask project to delegate tasks easily.
- Need to track the time you spend on tasks? Enable time tracking for your project to keep your tasks and your time records in the same tool.
- Need to see your task list while on the go? Download our Android or iOS apps to quickly access your tasks from anywhere in the world, even when you’re not connected to the internet.
If you use MeisterTask with GTD and have a tip we didn’t cover in this post, we’d love to hear more about it in the comments below!