GTD at Home

By Michael Sliwinski – Community Contributor

“Don’t try this at home” (MTV – Music Television)
As I mentioned in my last article, being at the GTD seminar and listening to David Allen inspired me to try out different approaches to GTD.

I decided to actually try GTD at home.

I had a pleasure of talking to other fellow GTD-practitioners about their positive experiences at their homes. This short article will include tips and tricks for implementing GTD at home gathered from my friends’ homes and from my very own.

Although in my case the experiment is an ongoing work-in-progress, I’m really happy with the results. Here’s a small fraction of GTD concept you can introduce in your family to get more done and motivate (and inspire) each other and have a happier home:

Inboxes for everyone!

First step is to prepare inboxes for each and every member of the family. Put the names on each of the inbox and instruct the family members “what is the inbox and why do they need one”. Some practical tips on setting inboxes for family members:

• Don’t put all of the inboxes in the same place – put each inbox in the place the family member will most likely see and pay attention to it. Why? If the inboxes are grouped together – the items will most likely “migrate” from one inbox to the other instead of being processed and done by the family member they belong to. Family members really understand the concepts of “delegating” too well.

• Locate the inbox in a place where the family member will pay attention to it. I initially placed my wife’s inbox in the hallway of our apartment. She would repeatedly ignore it. When I relocated her inbox to a spot near her cabinet with jewelry, the results improved tenfold.

• Motivate your family members to process their inboxes. Initially assist them in processing their inboxes and from time to time remind them about the piled-up inbox that needs to be cleaned to zero. I even heard a tip by one of the fathers who would actually put occasionally a 1-dollar bill or another kind of “pleasure-item” to encourage inbox-processing among his kids. I think this kind of bribery is worth trying out.

Work on the projects together

A family is a team and there are many projects, especially home-related ones, that need to be planned and executed together with several family members. Planning a project like “cleaning up the house”, “redecorating one of the rooms” or “family Sunday dinner” can be planned with a simple to-do list for each of them. In my home one of the places for these kind of to-do lists is on the fridge.

A simple to-do list won’t be enough, though. When planning a project like this, it’s important to pay attention to these two things:

• Clearly point out each other’s responsibilities in the project and delegate the tasks to each of the family members.

• Clearly define Next Actions for each other so that everyone knows what they should do right away.

Encourage the 50,000 feet level thinking

Make sure you talk to your loved ones about the meaning of their lives. About their overall area of responsibility, their goals – both long-term and short.

Try to schedule these kinds of talks to on at least monthly basis and make sure everyone (including yourself) really knows why they are doing what they are doing. Why they participate in their projects and review their priorities and analyze the motives of their actions.

I’ve started this kind of ritual with my wife and found out one of the best moments to do it is Sunday morning, right after our breakfast, when there is no pressure to go somewhere or do something.

Apply the great 2-minute rule at home!

One of my friends told me how he applied the 2-minute rule at home and gave me several examples of daily rituals that could be accomplished within this short period of time, or faster (and I never realized that!):

• Take out trash
• Clean the table after the dinner
• Put the dishes into dishwasher
• Start the dishwasher to actually clean the dishes
• Make the bed
• Turn off lights in the rooms unoccupied by other family members
• Put the shoes into the shoe-drawer
• Grab a beer from the fridge
• Etc.

I’m sure there are many more quick 2-minute tasks at home that you can add to this list. I’d encourage you to identify these quickies with your family members. Once discovered, nobody will have an excuse to procrastinate and leave these tasks off for later.

Tip: To motivate my family members and myself, I’ve actually created a list of these 2—minute “quickies” and posted it on my fridge for others to see.

Do it now – start introducing GTD in your Family.

I’m hoping I’ve encouraged you more than enough to try and start GTD in your family. Creating good habits is very important in a team such as a family that lives under one roof and wants to live in harmony, love and respect for one another.

To foster family-friendly GTD I’ve introduced a “family plan” in my Nozbe web application where you can set up an account for up to 6 family members to manage projects and next actions together and spread more GTD-goodness among your loved ones.

Please post your comments about GTD in your family and share your successes and challenges below – I’d be more than happy to discuss my experiences with you!

[Editor’s note: This is a community contribution from Michael Sliwinski.  David Allen Company is not affiliated or endorsing Nozbe.]

Join the Conversation


  1. All good tips Michael. I have not made a big deal about GTD at home but have slowly introduced concepts to my family by stealth! The kids know if there’s something they want me to see and action they need to put in my inbox. School notes, party invitations, birthday wishlists, mail etc. My wife has an Inbox which has become a storage place rather than a collection and processing point. Have also tried to use next action thinking with the kids as far as homework goes. I just wrote yesterday about our central calendar of commitments and events as well as the daily and weekly reviewing we do at


  2. Great post, Michael. You inspired me to get back to ideas about this in my own blog. One of the things I’m interested in is how to leverage different developmental themes in children’s lives to promote next-action thinking in different ways at different times. I’ve included a map about that in the post I wrote after reading yours:

    Thanks again for a stimulating post!

  3. Thank you! I can’t wait to share this with my husband. We went from a family of 2 to 4 over the past few years and as our kids get older we are going to need a better system for our family!

  4. I never realised that this takes less than two minutes:
    • Grab a beer from the fridge (*)

    I will be heqvily applying the two minute rule this weekend!

    (*) and when it takes more than two minutes, it is time to stop drinking…

  5. Thanks for the comments guys! Getting the family to work with you on this is very challenging and as I wrote – it’s a constant work-in-progress thing…

    My wife loves our list of 2-minute rules and we keep reminding each other about it – when we know something takes two minutes – there’s no excuse anymore!

    As to the inboxes – it’s a challenge to convert it into a “processing” place rather than a “storage” place… but don’t give up!

  6. you have inpsired me to start GTD and get almost 15yr moving in 2min segments.He always says in a min … now my reply is you can have 2 mins and I will time you how long it takes.
    I need the inspiration too.
    I am starting early on my twin toddlers …they might not understand time yet but they will soon.
    Brilliant site.

  7. Wow Michael – great tips. I like your idea of the Family being a ‘team’. I’ll check out your web application. Im currently using Deskaway and i am now already using it as a project management tool to communicate with my family for simple tasks (the great thing about PM tools is that it allows you to control different relationships with different people!) – with better analytics people can actually track the consistency of family communication and the roadmap of the family. Coupled with tools – care, nurture, and communication are of supreme importance. Tools should just remain tools to help us do the good things in life better!

  8. To answer Scott Stephen’s question, we got our kids to think at 50K by inviting them to participate in the creation of family guiding principles. Ours look like this:

    Pepper Family Guiding Principles

    We treat each other with loving, caring and respect.

    We play as a team, supporting each other’s growth and expansion.

    We take care of ourselves, so that we can take care of each other.

    We have fun together.

    We are devoted to God, and to the Loving.

    We communicate honestly with one another.

    We easily and gracefully create great abundance, and creatively give back of our overflow.

    Even when we are not in close physical proximity to one another, our loving keeps us together.

  9. I will start using it at home. I am the only person I have to convince to use GTD. So its up to me to make it happen.

  10. My kids love to do things that only take 2 minutes. To make jobs like picking up toys, folding laundry, and emptying the dishwasher fun, I find a upbeat song that’s close to 2 minutes long and they do their task while the song blars! It helps them move faster and enjoy the task! Thanks for the encouragement to try the 2 minute drill to more tasks. Great stuff!

  11. As a parent coach and family therapist, these are ideas that I both need to share with clients and road test myself at home. My work life is pretty well GTD’d, and my own projects at home as well, but we could use the additional structure around the house in a host of other ways. Thanks for the ideas.

  12. Great overview! The inboxes are pivotal to success. A tool to use as you set up inboxes is 5S. 5S will help bring stability and organization to breed more success with GTD. Check out more at

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