Getting Things Done – codemac

Getting Things Done is a book by David Allen about personal productivity.

I have many feelings on the topic – but the best intro I’ve found is Erland Hamberg’s excellent summary and overview.

My workflow largely revolves around using Emacs and it’s fantastic Org-mode. This document describes my approach to using GTD in my life, in ever more increasing detail as I have time. Consider this a living document of my GTD process.


Collection is the first part of the GTD process. My philosophy has been one of having the confidence that I record what is important.

Here is a list of my inboxes:

That should be everything. It’s too many, yes, but none of these can really be consolidated easily. That’s ok as long as I can be explicit. It’s important to me to be honest and actually check all of them to get IN to zero.

I attempt to get these all to zero at least once in a 24 hour period. By keeping these to zero, I know I’m aware of anything that should have my attention about within a day. Sometimes this isn’t frequently enough. Also my phone is the worst of all of these as it’s the most difficult to get content into and out of.


The act of processing is to transform an item in your inbox to an element of your GTD system. This is not the same as organizing, but when your system is well oiled it can feel that way.

I have the following types in my system:

Next Actions
A next action is the next physical action that takes more than two minutes to drive something forward. This is usually something like “Draft email to Bob” or “Call Sally about work”. It is the meat & potatoes of GTD.
Waiting For
This is how you track what others are supposed to get to you
(no term)
(no term)
Project Support Reference
(no term)
(no term)


I keep all of my GTD system when it’s fully reviewed as a series of org-mode text files organized as the following:

Next Actions

Next Actions are stored as Org-mode TODO items, placed in file for anything work-related, and for anything else. I would love to have one file, but this makes it easier for me to keep work-confidential information only on work machines. Emacs has something called TRAMP where I can read the remote file locally, but never actually store it locally. I haven’t succeeded in using this, so I just maintain a separate text file for now, and hope that’s a clear enough divide.

The main look like:

* Perspectives
* Projects and Outcomes

* PROJECT Finish up this long post about my gtd setup
:CREATED:  [2020-10-05 Mon 15:37]

Notes about this project will go here

** Actions
*** TODO This is an action specific to the parent project, let's pretend it's a phone call :PHONE:
** Archive :ARCHIVE:

* Agenda
* Next Actions
** TODO This is a todo that requires me to be at a computer                     :COMPUTER:
:ID:       e195847a-e05e-40f5-b83c-7dd134a265c7

* Inbox


An “agenda” list is one you keep per-meeting or per-human. The most common to keep is one Agenda list for each person who reports to you at work, along with one for your boss. In your personal life, it’s common to keep one Agenda file for each immediate family member, room mate, and partner.

To Do state machine for Org headings.

The TODO state machine I use is pretty basic:



Contexts are merely Org-mode tags that I use without inheritence, and that are all mutually exclusive from one another. I’ve never used a system with multiple contexts per next action, and I don’t think the complexity would help me.

I’ve been experimenting a little more with contexts recently, as my old INTERNET context is now the vast majority of my time. The experiment is currently splitting the INTERNET context into three different groups, COMPOSE, HACK, and INTERNET. They are all described below.


Org-mode TODO items, with the todo keyword PROJECT in a simple list. One in for personal projects and one in for work projects.

These are the two headings I currently have:

For any next action that I want to be specified as part of a specific project, I include it underneath the project’s heading. This allows me to use org-mode based searches for all kinds of fun searchengs:


For my reference, I have two filing systems. One digital and one shrinking physical.

This is it, sufficient in most ways for me. The largest missing functionality is that of managing attachments / images / things that are not plain text but that contain very actionable things. Today I currently just use org-mode attachments, but this does not work well in environments where my laptop is unavailable. I’ve considered going completely back to paper over this one significant issue. The digital deficiency is too large to manage paper, however.


Someday maybe I rarely use anymore. Goal setting and being more realistic is helpful. The biggest category of thing I really keep track of is stuff in a file called “” in my _notes directory. I also just delete many things.

Deferred/Tickler File

I don’t use a real tickler file anymore. I only have two systems for managing future tasks & reminders:

The org-mode dates mean that the items appear in my calendar for the scheduled day/time, or \x days before my deadline is due.

Google calendar reminders I’ve been using less and less. My phone’s notifications are not a trusted system, it is too flaky.


How do I actually do things I put in these files? Largely I’ve been following a simple but effective process for action. It still succombs to my own boredom, but no amount of text files or process will resolve that.

The Saver’s Frog

The S.A.V.E.R.S. Morning Routine

This is the morning routine I have memorized that has helped me realize what I actually want my days to begin like. I don’t track this as a habit anymore, and I don’t follow it perfectly, but it really helps set my day up in the best way possible. The SAVERS portion is what I learned from the magical morning books people have been writing, though do not believe anything the write about it’s benefits. This list is not ordered.

Eat the Frog

Once the day has begun, I try to pick a single, ugly, terrible thing that is deeply on my mind that I’m avoiding. Then I do it. This has the effect of either kicking off something I’m procrastinating on, or getting something off my plate that I’m dreading.

Work Priorities

At work I plan by the quarter, half year, and do roadmaps at the ~2 year granularity. This means that


The review section of GTD is the most under utilized, and yet actually the most interesting part of the system.

Weekly Review

C-a r w for weekly review

Snippets Reporting

Quarterly Review

Yearly Review

Date: 2020-10-05 Mon 00:00

Author: Jeff Mickey

Created: 2020-10-05 Mon 15:53