How to choose tools for GTD

Looking for a tool for GTD?

The mistake we see many new GTD’ers make is expecting to find a tool to “do” GTD.  A tool doesn’t do the thinking for you, it stores the thinking for you.  So, then does it even matter what tools you use when it comes to implementing GTD?  Sure. You need a functional list manager to start.


Questions to ask yourself when choosing a list manager for GTD:

  • Are there any tools already in place that you plan/need to still use? Like a corporate calendar?
  • Where is your email?  Not required, but certainly helps to have your email and lists near each other.
  • Who else needs to see your data?   Does it need to be on a shared server or would local be fine if you go digital?
  • What do you tend to be drawn to–paper or digital?
  • Is security a concern?
  • Will you want to share your digital lists with others?
  • How would you back it up, if needed?
  • What are you willing to carry around?
  • What tools are you already familiar with?
  • Would you trust putting almost anything into it?
  • Is it scale-able?
  • Can you easily learn how to use it?
  • What are you willing to pay for it?
  • What does it need to sync to?

Is there a perfect GTD system out there? Sure, it’s the one you trust and use so your mind is free.

If you’re looking for more support on choosing tools, we have created GTD Setup Guides for the most common tools people are using for GTD.

Join the Conversation


  1. I’ve set up a pretty nice GTD workflow where all you really need is an iPhone and a laptop. I like to be able to update something at my work computer or laptop, and have it sync seamlessly with my iPhone.

    Email: Gmail
    Calendar: Google Calendar
    Task Manager:
    Reference: Evernote, Dropbox, Google Docs

    And good old fashion paper is great for brainstorming.

  2. I’d add, don’t look for one single “thing” to house all your information. I’m drawn to both paper and digital. I found a digital solution before I found GTD. I tried to make the system do EVERYTHING. I tried twice and found I was doing things that didn’t seem intuitive because that’s the way they fit into the software. I gave up twice.

    I started back with just paper. I [i]did[/i] miss the digital, so I started adding back parts to the software as seemed appropriate. I found that somethings were better served in other software (Someday/Maybe lists for example).

    I think the fear is to keep everything in one spot so things don’t slip through the cracks. But once you get the idea and habit (still working on it) of reviewing regularly, you can just as easily pop open another window to do another phase of your review, or even pull out a binder or paper folder.

    My system is still a work in progress, but it’s getting closer to feeling like MY system, therefore, I trust it more.

  3. OmniFocus is my choice! Using it since more than a year now and feel very comfortable with it! Especialy with its iPhone sync!

  4. And a trusted GTD system is not really one thing but a collection of things working together.

    David Allen shares his list management system during seminars but his system is more than just Lotus Notes with eProductivity.

    His system is also the in trays, the Notetaker wallet, the travel folders, Mind Manager, Personal Brain, etc.

    I strive to keep my own list of system components as small as I can but I do use a lot of components. For example I’ll use Omni Focus and my iPhone but will also use Amazon and iTunes Wish Lists.


  5. This may have been said many times.

    The GTD System is IN THE BOOK!!

    Every thing else are just tools that you use to implement in a trusted manner you GTD system.

    Yeah! There are a lot of good and not so good tools and I am very thankful for all the comments you have left on how each one uses their tools. I have learned a lot from them. But I find discussions about the definition of contexts and areas of responsibility more useful as they help me to upgrade my own GTD system.

    The real challenge is to follow what is said in the book and being disciplined enough to keep your track.

    GTD has made a great change in my life and I still consider my self at 30% of what I can achieve.

    So, if you want to choose the perfect GTD system, read the book at least three times and read again. The right tool for you will reveal itself as you progress on your GTD knowledge.

  6. After rejecting an all-paper system and struggling for a year to make Remember the Milk work for me, I found Toodledo ( ) about two weeks ago. It has everything I need in a tool, all the things that RTM is missing.

  7. I use just Omnifocus and iCal (synced on MobileMe)

    Collection: Three Inboxes – Physical, Bookmark inbox and Omnifocus

    Sort: all omnifocus

    Implement: omnifocus

    Calendar: iCal

    * My calendar is available on local computer and Mobileme (any browser)
    * My Omnifocus is available on local computers and iPhone

    NOTE: One could use JUST Google Calendar and Google Docs – but, omnifocus syncs beautifully with the iPhone for me

  8. I think that Palm Pilot & its old OS was an excellent solution. Of course at that time you have to had the PDA + phone.

    I learned GTD with Palm and was great. Now that Pal is facing out that system I feel lost, and in 2010 I am pondering my solution.

    I feel that I cannot have evrything in a single place :0( … (sigh)

  9. Kelly Forrister:

    Thanks for pointing out how to pick a GTD system. It has been interesting to read all the comments. I recently came across “personal kanban” via Stephen P. Smith’s blog on productivity workflow. It resonates very well with my background as a purchaser working with supply chain management.

    I will use index cards for my tasks and then put them on the white / bulletin board in three categories (backlog, work in process, done) in order to get a good overview.

    I will continue to use the following tools:

    GTDinbox for email.

    GTDagenda for projects.

    GoalEnforcer for mindmaps and the visualization of my “keywords”.

    Livescribe journal with dotted paper and digital pen for “notes to self” and weekly review and brainstorming sessions.

  10. Hi,

    i’ve tested many different GTD apps and came to
    the conclusion that none of the existing apps
    fit my needs. So i decided to write my own App.
    It is not yet finished, but i use it now for several months, adding features whenever i need them. You can find it at:

    I would love to hear how you like it.



  11. Support folks at OmniFocus have been responsive, but thought you might want to note there’s a few iTunes app store customer reviews of problems with the new version (just released 2 wks ago).

    To sum up: Until this new update — OmniFocus for iTouch/iPhone was a really very good App.

    Background on the problem: The App on my iTouch went into database optimization and then crashed (I have iTouch generation I running latest 1.6 OmniFocus software update and latest iTunes software).

    This crash happened after using the new bookmarking feature on the latest version — and it locked up on database optimization (even waiting 15 mins for optimization).

    They’re a very responsive company — and I sense they will take to heart the criticism that if it crashes, we GTDers cannot count on this as a Trusted System.

    Lesson: even backup doesn’t save you. Maybe David Allen’s notecards are really the best system. I really want OmniFocus to succeed with this app — maybe in their next software update.

  12. I believe every GTD practitioner goes through a set of tools before settling on some thing that fits him be it wiki, pen and paper or something else.
    For me it has been a journey with freemind, mgtd,text files+grep being the waypoints before I decided to merge what I liked in each of the system and build a system more suited to me. Task tiger( ) turned out to be a my GTD system which was and is still being used in its own development.

  13. I just use text files, each file for a specific context, separated in folders indicating their type (Action, Maybe, Waiting, Projects, etc.)
    The whole system includes also an OpenOffice text file where I plan the outline of projects and other for check-lists (this later in the Reference folder)
    The whole system is actually using just under 80Kb and it travels with my in my cell phone (which by the way, does have a file browser and a text editing application, and usb mass storage connectivity).

  14. I agree with others that no one program does GTD best. I use several tools:

    Next Action Tasks: Remember the Milk
    Email: Gmail
    Calendar: Google
    On the Road: Blackberry with free sync app for Remember the Milk – BBRTM. Also BB voice recorder
    Reference: Evernote

    Of course, I also have a physical inbox & filing system.

  15. Digital capture tools are fine until the flight attendant tells you it’s time to switch them off!

    — Robert.

  16. Like Shaun, I use a number of applications. Here’s my list.

    Remember the Milk, for me rtm has the best sync, webapp (quick-keys, smart folders), and enthusiastic developers.

    iPhone with Rememeber the Milk Pro App, 25/year. A lot of grumbling over this rate at the App Store but it makes sense to me. If the developers are counting on continued support they have to produce and maintain great products. Which they do!

    Mail Plane-Exactly like Gmail with added benefits. Image re-sizing, dedicated email client (easy to focus on OR focus out), seamless gmail integration.

    Manila files and Brother Labeller-although I wish I had gone with Dymo. Seems like Dymo’s OSX drivers are better suited to the MAC

    Daily Checklist. You don’t here as much about checklists on GTD forums but they are an important part of my workflow. I get to see which of my routines I’m fostering. I created mine in Numbers on my Mac and printed it out. I keep mine on a clip board that I go over every evening. At the end of the month I file this away under ‘Routines’.

    I am dabbling with Momo and Evernote-but have not invested too much in either yet.

  17. There is no one system for GTD, it all depends on personal preference. The David Allen supported eProductuvuty for Lotus notes is no good for the way I implement GTD, nor are many other apps people rave about.

    I use GMail into which all my tasks arrive, so it is vital I have a tool that I can easily add tasks from Gmail, with links back to the GMail, so I use Todoist for this. Then I configure the tool to support GTD, with Next Actions etc.

    People who use other email clients may find other tools suitable. People who dont have tasks coming in via email wont need such a tool either, and could resort to even paper.

    I work on multiple computers, from the iphone everywhere, to laptop at home, to desktop in the office. So my GTD tool has to be accessible from all devices, and to be able to quickly add tasks to the tool from each device. So my tool is a web based tool accessible from anywhere.

    People who only work from one computer will have far mroe choice of a GTD tool, they wont need to access it from all applications.

    So it completely depends on the way you work and where you work, and other tools you use to work, in order to find the right GTD tool for you.

    I am almost with Bijan on this though…
    Email: Gmail
    Calendar: Google Calendar
    Task Manager: Todoist
    Reference: Evernote, Dropbox, Google Docs

  18. Gary said “I assumed there would be a perfect application to use, but I was wrong.” I agree, which is why i made one myself.

    seriously, though, i think most people making apps for GTD management design very closed systems that force you to do certain things. so, i tried to create something that was slightly open-ended, fit most of the GTD needs (except sync! aiming to simplify life, with a inexpensive little app, this just didn’t make sense), but left it up to the user to choose what they want to use and not force anything on them.

    i think that is what is key to a “perfect” app – because, everyone’s way is different. but, hey, the best thing is, having many choices for your own system! at least, that there is.

  19. I use Inbox and InboxTouch by Midnight Beep on my Mac. I know there are other Mac options, but I got both the desktop version and mobile for $50. It works pretty good, and once the new version Inobox2 comes out, it will sync. It’s not perfect, but it works well for me and fit my budget.

  20. People who only work from one computer will have far mroe choice of a GTD tool, they wont need to access it from all applications.

    So it completely depends on the way you work and where you work, and other tools you use to work, in order to find the right GTD tool for you.

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