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How to setup automatic next actions the GTD way

sevenupcan says:
Hi there,

I'm very new to Getting Things Done and may have the philosophy wrong, but when I read what others were posting about intergrating GTD with RTM I became inspired and set to create my own workflow which so far I think works greatfor me and think it will for others.

I've seen a lot of setups which people have posted but for me I feel they require more effort than I feel appropriate for collecting, processing, organising and reviewing tasks. I wanted an approach that was as flexible as possible with as little inconvienience as possible.

So this is my setup...


Inbox (all tasks and items)
1. Unprocessed
2. Next Actions
3. Waiting For
4. Calendar
5. Someday/Maybe

Each of my lists are smartlists expect for the inbox. I use numbers to help keep the lists in that order only for visual purposes.


In conjunction with these lists I have a few tagging conventions, but I have tried to keep them as simple as I can. I envisioned tags working in a few ways:

1. Allow me to see what groups and projects I have cleary, ie at the top of the list
2. Allowing me extra control over a task's meaning and attributes, ie waiting for someone, or incubating the task
3. Allow me to add context to the task so I can see clearly what state of mind or requirement is needed to help complete the task, ie email someone, call someone, douments on home computer

Here are my naming conventions using prefixes...

+ Projects (For any task that requires more than one action for it to be completed)
- Groups (For any set of tasks or items which may or may not require action but are related)
. Attribute (Attributes which help determine status of the task)
@ Context (Requirement needed to complete task)



This list has a filter on it which only shows me unprocessed tasks. I worked this out by deciding on a set of rules used to determine whether a task has been processed or not.
I class a task as unprocessed if it has no other details or attributes applied to it. That means it is only processed if it has a due date, repeating, tags (however I decided to exclude notes for when I forward tasks via email)

NOT timeEstimate:"> 1 mins" isTagged:false due:never isRepeating:false

Next Actions


This list only shows me the tasks which I can complete on a daily basis. All tasks which have been delegated or incubated (set as a someday/maybe task) are excluded. This also includes time and day specific tasks unless they are within 2 days.

isTagged:true OR timeEstimate:"> 1 mins" isRepeating:false NOT dueWithin:"10 years" or dueWithin:"2 days" NOT tagContains:- OR tagContains:+ NOT tag:.wait NOT tag:.incubate

Waiting For & Someday/Maybe


These lists are very simple and only show items which have been delegated to someone or incubating.

Waiting For




And then lastly I have a list which contains all my time specific and day specific events and tasks. This are determined by only showing tasks with due dates withing 10 years and tasks which are repeating.

dueWithin:"10 year" OR isRepeating:true

Now that I have all my smarlists setup I can add tasks and not have to worry about deciding what are my next actions and who I'm waiting for because the smartlists work it out for me.

At one point I was able to make the inbox into a smartlist but cannot replicate that function at the moment. I believe it may have been a bug, but worked a treat because it ment I could have used that as the unprocessed list. I imagine you could extend this setup even further for projects and contexts if you wished.

I'm sure there may still be a few bugs so if you notice anything funny, please let me know.

I look forward to hearing peoples comments. :)
Posted at 12:08pm on February 5, 2009
dan.julian says:
I think this looks pretty good. I like the number system and the limited number of tabs. How do you isolate extensive projects for your weekly review?
Posted 9 years ago
sevenupcan says:
Handling projects has been a little more complecated to integrate however I'm currently I am currently working on a refined version of this system which separates Project Tasks from Next Actions unless they are due within 2 days.

I have also set up another smart list which is called "Nearby Next Actions" which only shows me tasks relevant to where I am (unfortunately this only works for the iPhone at the moment). For example work related next actions.

I have improved the search filters as the ones I originally posted were missing some arguments and will provide an update when I'm happy which them.
Posted 9 years ago
unknownbreaker says:
i like this set up. i have multiple lists with copious amount of tags i can't keep track of. it's become unwieldy.

i'll give this a try to see how it works.

just wondering, do you ever apply multiple tags to a task?
Posted 9 years ago
(closed account) says:
I have a similar system. I love the "calendar". Its on ething I do that I dont se many people doing, and it works great for me.
Posted 9 years ago
sevenupcan says:
unknownbreaker - I sometimes do add multiple tags to a task as one task might be part of a project and require intervention from someone else. eg. +project-name .waiting-for

If you are interested you can check out and updated tutorial on this system in a blog post I made.

Any suggestions are welcome
Posted 9 years ago
jdukr says:
this is a great system however it fails on the blackberry. Unless I'm misinformed, blackberry does not interpret the tags. Lists, however, translate to categories. I ended up using lists as my @context so that I can filter on blackberry (such as @errand). I'd ove to integrate next actions from my project master list and project task lists currently in MS Onenote.
Posted 9 years ago
dsteele says:
Tags starting with a dot do not text wrap in the task cloud when rendered by some browsers, such as Internet Explorer 7.
Posted 9 years ago
sevenupcan says:
Hi dsteele. Can you post a screenshot for me? I'll see if I can find an alternative prefix if this is the case. Many thanks.
Posted 9 years ago
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