Bullet Journal + GTD for Maximum Productivity

Bullet Journal + GTD

GTD (Getting Things Done) is a organization system and productivity tool that has been around for quite some time. For over 15 years, David Allen has been teaching individuals and businesses alike how to bring order to the chaos, increase their productivity, and alleviating that feeling of overwhelm that often comes from having too much on our minds.

Ever since I started using the Bullet Journal system last August, I’ve been on a mission to improve the way I use it. I’m constantly looking for ways to upgrade my productivity, and ultimately create the perfect system for organizing my life and business.

Throughout the last nine months, I have tried countless different spreads and layouts, constantly searching for newer and better ways to reign in my ever-growing projects and to-do lists.

I had heard about the GTD method before, but it wasn’t until Brian Goulet brought it up (during our Goulet Guests interview back in March), that I really decided to take a good hard look at it. I ordered the audio version on Audible that same afternoon, and within a few days I had devoured the entire book.

As I do each time I find an audiobook that I truly love, I went out and purchased the hard copy so that I could refer to it time and time again. I poured through it with as much excitement as I had its digital counterpart, and I knew immediately that I would be implementing its principles into my own planning system — my Bullet Journal.

While there are many ways to implement GTD (digitally, paper-based systems, productivity apps, filing systems), I decided to go with the one that felt the most natural to me — putting pen to paper.

While there are many ways to implement GTD (digitally, paper-based systems, productivity apps, filing systems), I decided to go with the one that felt the most natural to me --- putting pen to paper. Today I'm walking you through how I'm combining the GTD methodology with my Bullet Journal

* This post contains affiliate links. In plain English, this means that I may receive a small commission (at no cost to you) if you subscribe or purchase something through the links provided. You will never see me post a link to a product or service that I haven’t used myself and love! (Learn more here) Thank you for supporting Boho Berry!

THE GTD SYSTEM

To understand how GTD works, I highly recommend that you pick up a copy of the book.

Most might consider it a dry read, but I found it fascinating. Getting Things Done is chock full of methodologies, strategies, and quotes to help you dive in and get the most out of the system.

If you’re into planning and organizing (which I’m assuming you are because you’re here, after all), then I know you will love this book.

David has a way of explaining his productivity principles in a way that just makes it all click. I had SO many “aha!” moments while reading, and I know that you will too!

That being said, I know that some of you may not have ready the book yet, so here is a quick overview for you. This is the guide that I created for myself in my Bullet Journal earlier this year:

Bullet Journal - GTD Overview

For a full description of each step, definitely pick up a copy of the book… I promise you it’s life changing!

In addition to the 5 steps, there is a very specific workflow that David Allen teaches in order to clarify and organize all of the items and projects that you capture. I copied this directly from the book into my Bullet Journal for future reference:

Bullet Journal - GTD Organization Workflow

The items above are the essential lists and tools that you will need in order to keep yourself organized with GTD. I’ll explain more about these further on.

Once you have everything captured and organized, the next step is to engage with your system. By constantly reviewing your lists, calendar, and next actions, you ensure that nothing slips through the cracks. In essence, you are always working on your next action within each project, focused solely on the task at hand. Not worrying about what you’re not doing, because you have already laid out a plan for it.

The weekly review is a critical part of the process, so I took the time to create a checklist based on David’s weekly review steps:

Bullet Journal - GTD Weekly Review

To help you get clear and implement GTD into your own life, I created printables of the above three spreads. While I usually only release my printables to the Boho Berry Tribe, I decided to make these printables available to everyone here on the blog.

You can hover over each of the cards below and download the high quality PDF:

  • GTD Overview
    The 5 Steps to Master GTD
  • GTD Workflow
    A helpful chart to help you organize your workflow
  • GTD Weekly Review Checklist
    Follow these steps to get clear and present each week

GTD + Bullet Journal

BULLET JOURNAL + GTD

While trying to figure out how to implement GTD into the Bullet Journal system that I know and love, I quickly realized that I would have to use an additional notebook to keep all of my lists in.

It would definitely be possible to do it all in my Bullet Journal, but not necessarily practical. My projects lists and someday/maybe lists, for example, may take months (even years) to get through, and they are constantly growing.

I didn’t want to have to transfer those lists over each time I started a new Bullet Journal. So, I decided to create a separate notebook to house those lists. Enter the Filofax Notebook.

Filofax Notebook for GTD
I got mine at Goulet Pens :)

I chose the Filofax because of its size (A5), and the fact that it has removable/replaceable pages and dividers. Having the ability to add or subtract pages from each section as needed seemed like the perfect solution. This one notebook will theoretically last me forever to house my ongoing projects lists.

Filofax Notebook for GTD

I used one of the included graph pages to draft out the organization workflow for easy reference. For right now, I only have two sections in use.

MASTER PROJECTS LISTS:

These “Master Projects” are the culmination of hours of brainstorming, thinking of every single project I could think of in each of these three categories. You’ll notice that I left a margin to the left to leave room for signifiers.

Once I had brain dumped every project I could think of into these Master Lists, I began the process of analyzing them and organizing them further.

Current Projects: 

These are signified by a star to the left of the project. I tried to keep my current projects to a maximum of five in each category.

The current projects that I have already brainstormed and broken down into collections within my bullet journal have a series of letters and numbers to the left. This is a form of notebook threading that I picked up from the ever so lovely Kim at Tiny Ray of Sunshine.

Those notebook threading signifiers let me know where I can find the layouts for each project.

Someday/Maybe Projects:

These are signified by a forward (right-facing) arrow. This is to signify that I have moved them over to the Someday/Maybe Lists. More on that in a bit.

Upcoming Projects:

These are projects that I want to tackle soon, but not until I finish my current projects. I signify these with a simple bullet point that can later be turned into a star when they “go live”.

Completed/Irrelevant Projects:

Projects that I have completed or have decided to trash for one reason or another get crossed out Bullet Journal style to signify that they are no longer relevant.

SOMEDAY/MAYBE LISTS:

You’ll notice that my Someday/Maybe lists are divided into the same categories. These lists are populated with the projects from the Master Lists that I’ve decided to postpone for now (all of the projects that had forward arrows next to them above).

When I decide to tackle a project from this list, I’ll signify it with a backwards (left-facing) arrow and migrate it back to the end of its corresponding Master Projects list.

Having a Someday/Maybe list is great for keeping those pesky mind-nagging projects out of mind, but still close enough to review on a regular basis to see if they’ve become more relevant or time-sensitive.

IN MY BULLET JOURNAL:

My Bullet Journal is where the real action happens. I’ve modified my weekly spread to be more GTD-friendly. I’ve also fully committed to making sure that each and every one of my daily tasks and to-do’s are one simple action step, vs. projects in disguise.

What do I mean by projects in disguise? I’m so glad you asked!

According to David Allen, a project is any outcome that requires more than one next action step to complete. So something like “write blog post for tomorrow” (a common to-do item in my book) is actually a project because it consists of many small steps in order for it to be considered complete.

With that in mind, I’m fully aware that my daily lists are going to get much longer. Only visually though. In reality, they have always been super long. The difference is that now I’ll be breaking those projects down into each individual step needed to get things done.

The Weekly Spread:

GTD + Bullet Journal - The Weekly Spread

The first page in my weekly spread is actually remaining the same. Having a divided week with time-specific tasks (appointments, events, etc.) and day-specific items (deadlines, things that must get done that day) side by side has been invaluable to me.

I was happy to read that David recommends this exact approach when dealing with calendar items in GTD. Yay! I was doing something right! :)

GTD + Bullet Journal - The Weekly Spread

The right-hand side of my weekly spread has changed quite a bit. Instead of weekly tasks, I’ve created a section to highlight my current projects. These are pulled directly from my Master Projects list each week.

I’ve created a “Waiting On” section as recommended in GTD to keep a note of things that I am waiting on from other people before I can move forward with a project. In this week’s example, I’m waiting on some tax forms from my CPA before I can move forward with my “get taxes in order” project.

Daily tasks and meal planning have remained the same, although they’ve been moved around a bit.

I created a new section called “Horizon”. This is where I list my upcoming projects (the ones with a bullet point signifier on my Master Projects list). This allows me to glance into the future, and mentally prepare myself for the upcoming projects that I plan to tackle when I finish any of my current ones.

Mondays:

My first daily task list of the week is where I will write out all of my next actions for each of my current projects. This will act as my master task list for the week. I don’t expect to complete each of those next actions on Monday. In fact, I expect many tasks will get migrated on throughout the week.

But the idea here is to have a “Next Actions” list based on my current projects front and center each week so that I am always on task towards my goals and plans.


I hope you’ve enjoyed getting a little peek into how I’m implementing the GTD methodology into my Bullet Journal. If you’d like to learn more, then definitely click play on the video below to hear me explain everything step by step :)

* This post contains affiliate links. In plain English, this means that I may receive a small commission (at no cost to you) if you subscribe or purchase something through the links provided. You will never see me post a link to a product or service that I haven’t used myself and love! (Learn more here) Thank you for supporting Boho Berry!

Kara Benz
Kara Benz is the artist and author behind Boho Berry, where she inspires her readers to lead a more centered, fulfilled, and inspired life. Kara also runs a successful sticker shop on Etsy – Boho Berry Paperie.
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  • I loved this. I am saving the video for after work… but I see we use some of the same methods..ish, and I seriously LOVE my filofax notebook too. I was already thinking of getting another one for GTD, and you just drove home that point, because it makes way more sensing than sectioning out a regular notebook. <3 . I also implemented a physical in-box and waiting on bin, along with revamping our filing systems. One is in a basket that is going to work until I redo my office and get a new filing cabinet, and I alphabetized my files in the current cabinet, which I didn't think would make a difference, but WOW. So much fun. The whole book appealed to my inner organizing/OCD nerdy side. LOL

    • Hi Beth! The Filofax notebook feels like it was MADE for GTD! I just love it. I don’t have to worry about how many pages to section off for each category… I can just move pages in and out as I need them. It’s just great :)

  • Christa Allan

    Do you have weekly AND a daily spread with this system?

    • Yes, my weekly and daily spreads have remained, the only difference is how I am using them :)

  • Oh Kara! THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!! I’ve heard of this book a million of times and always totally rejected it. I just thought it wasn’t something for me, I don’t even know why. I just had a negative opinion about (WHY????). But now I am reading your words and can’t believe it, this seems like exactly what I’ve been looking for. Cause my mind it always so busy with so many ideas and I’ve been trying to find a system not to forget about it, not to lose my focus during the week and get side tracked by all my ideas and knowing there is a place for everything. And it seems the GTD is just that….I am so ticklish right now to watch you video, but that will have to wait until after work. And I guess than I will directly order the book.
    Truly Kara, thank you for being such an incredible woman, for kicking self doubt misbelief etc in the but and sharing your story with us. If you ever wonder if you are making a true, deep down impact into someone’s life, let me tell you now: YES you did! To me and I love you for that <3
    Okay, I got a little bit emotional over here, but oh well, that just who I am :)
    xx Ronja
    http://www.sothisiswhat.com
    { CREATE THE LIFE YOU LOVE }
    P.s. I would be love to chat with you one day :)

    • Ronja, you are just the sweetest! Your comment made me tear up a bit (in a good way!). Thank you so much for always being a shining light of positivity here on the blog.

      As far as GTD goes, you should absolutely get the book. I think it will be right up your alley! :)

      • Ah thank you Kara! So many sweet weird. I truly appreciate it. And I completely understand the tears…felt the same way <3
        And I just ordered the book :) Now I just need to finish Big Magic first :) But GTD will be my monthly read for May. Can't wait to dive it.
        Have a beautiful weekend <3

  • Della

    Oh My Gosh, Thank You! Such a wonderful and informative post. I am about half way through GTD right now. Very excited about implementing this system for personal use and at work. I fully agree with Ronja. You are such an inspiration! You make me feel like I could move mountains, so off I go to try. Love and positive vibes to you Kara!

  • Claire Ameling Burk

    Hi Kara – Thank you so much for this post. I am in the process of reading the book. I figured out the inbox & weekly review. But I am struggling to figure out how to select actions for available time. Your post definitely helps with identifying a day’s top priority. thank you!

  • Ashley N. Shillinger

    I hate having multiple notebooks (that I need to carry around at once – let there be no confusion – I LOVE notebooks) I think I may need to put all my master projects into my bujo, resign myself to using two notebooks in per year and just use the threading system you showed in the video from Tiny Ray of Sunshine.

  • Ayoka

    GREAT post, Kara! Thank you very much! I am VERY much looking forward to seeing how you further combine these 2 great productivity tools! :-)
    I was very excited when I found the bullet journal, because I kept getting stuck (with a hugely piled up in-basket) on GTD. I love all the GTD-ideas and think that they REALLY work, but well – just haven’t succeeded in keeping up with it. With the bullet journal it gives my artistic side so much joy that I actually look forward to opening it and writing something in it – or mark tasks as done. ;-)
    So I think there is great potential in integrating both into daily life. Thank you for sharing your journey with that!

  • Maria Schreiner

    Oh Kara! I maybe you think your blog fans have been waiting with patience for this post….but I have not! I’ve been squinting at the screen for months trying to read your todos seeing if I could spot GTD on there! I love GTD, its such a gentle non-punishing way to organize your tasks and get done what is really important to you.

    I’ve been using GTD for about 4 years on Evernote using DEG Consulting method.It worked great, but as far as brainstorming and drafting ideas and projects, I just could not reach to my authentic self…till I went back to paper.

    I remember the excitement I felt when I first saw Bullet Journaling. I love the idea of bujo, but I keep having stalled starts because the movement of the idea spreads, into actionable items, into my daily todo list at the right time just was not happening.

    You have a brilliant clarity to your thinking, thank you for putting your brain to this. And, thank you for sharing so generously of your ideas and helping to build a wondeful community!

    . This is a solid start, I’m looking forward to doing my extensive and complete brain dump and beginning!

    Thanks!! Maria

  • Puck de Jong

    Hey there Kara! Thanks for this lovely post. I still keep getting amazed by the tons of projects and to do’s you have. So I was wondering: Do you really ask yourself to finish all those (Starsigned) projects in only one week? Or does it happen that you migrate them over to a next week. I think I could never name so many projects, but still I think I have a very busy life and not much freetime left (I’m a full time student, writing my thesis at the moment). But compared to you…. Well, I hop you understand my question and I hope you’d like to respond :)

    Love, Puck

  • Thank you so much for breaking it down, Kara. I read David’s book last year and it was a life changing experience to me.
    I use your Trello checklists for my blog, but last week, I started to use TeamWeek associated with Trello. So I turned all the items of the checklist into cards and exported them to TeamWeek. Because it’s synchronized with my Sunrise Calendar, now I see exactly how much time I spend on which projects.
    I was overbooking myself and I was causing me a lot of frustration (and delays).
    I need to organize my projects list again though.
    Now let me grab your freebies. ;)

  • Wrenaissance Art

    Thanks for these print-outs! And also thanks for describing so clearly how you are keeping track of all the active project goals vs. Someday/Maybe ideas. Writing a list of all possible projects and then (the hard part!) prioritizing them, should help clarify things.

  • Pam RidersFan

    Do you live inside my brain?? LOL Because every time you create a new spread or a new system, it just fits my life perfectly! Well, to clarify, it doesn’t fit perfectly, but the bones of the spread is exactly what I need but it is so “tweakable” that I can easily make it work for what’s going on in my world! And I have a huge lightbulb moment. I knew I wanted to incorporate GTD into my Bujo so I’ve been waiting for your post on this. And once again, you created exactly what I need! You rock! Can’t wait to get all set up! :) Thank you! Keep on being YOU!

  • Melissa Hatcher

    You are such an inspiration! I can’t begin to explain how much I have learned from you due to reading your blog. Once I get through testing season at school, I am going to get serious with my blog. Thank you!

  • Kara, I’m a great fan of yours. It’s amazing to see you using GTD.

    I work as a GTD trainer and I hope I can help if you agree.

    I would recommend you to reinforce the concept of CLARIFY, because it’s really important to define the desired outcome and the next actions before the organizing step.

    I can see you’re great with the calendar, but the idea for next actions is that you’re already been done with the thinking and in your daily basis you just do what you need to do. You don’t need to waste your time trying to define next actions every day, but I understand your issue about the daily planning in your bujo.
    Maybe an alternative is to list all your projects and projects plans and define your next actions and, day by day, you can choose what you want to do at that day.

    About projects, it’s important to clarify all the desired outcomes. Your project’s list seems more like a capture’s list, with current and someday projects at the same place. The project title must be strong, with a verb, to describe the desired outcome you want to achieve.

    About the waiting for list, it’s nice to see you making tests with the weekly format. David recommends to have this list, so you can see a total inventory of what you’re waiting for, but maybe a weekly list can work too.

    I’m very glad to see your path on the GTD mastery. Your work is very inspiring. Greets from Brazil.

    • Thank you so much for the advice! I’m definitely still perfecting my system.

      As for the next actions list, here is what I did for my first week: I created a page immediately following my weekly spread with my next actions for each project. Each day when I create my daily spread, I refer to that list and pick which next actions I will tackle for the day. Once an action is complete, I will add the next action step to my next actions list at the beginning of the week.

      My projects lists are indeed a capture. To clarify projects, they get broken out into their own spread within my Bullet Journal. I really appreciate your insight, and I’m looking forward to fine tuning my approach even more :)

  • KN

    Thank you so much for the downloads! I also recommend another book called : To Do, Doing, Done by G. Lynne Snead and Joyce Wycoff. Excellent read. I too have a separate 1/2 size binder that I capture notes on projects, etc, and use my bullet journal to focus on the projects and ideas that are currently in play. It’s 3-ring and allows me to move sheets around by priority, etc. I’ve been working on my GTD master list and finishing my master to do list in Excel. That works for me as I can organize, sort, and re-sort by priorty and or context. This helps me choose, with purpose, what to work on next. I’ve only been using my bullet journal for about 5 weeks, but finally, something that works for my busy (sometimes ADD) brain. Mine’s not pretty, just pure function. I pretty much stick to Ryder’s method on his video and don’t get fancy. Thanks for all the inspiration!!!!!

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  • jo

    Hey Kara, Thanks…I love GTD and your simplified approach (it overwhelmed me the first time i read it). Question: I tried downloading your PDFs but my MacBook can’t open them. Is there an app needed?

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  • JUliana Das Oliveiras

    To follow GTD it was what was missing to you be perfect. Thank you from Brazil! I am very happy Kara!!! You are making my life easy and funny

  • Bohemian Moon

    Really great article! and so useful.. I need to put down all my tiny little projects and ideas, and this method could really help! thank you!

  • Mae-Mae Han

    You should do a post about how you take you pretty bujo pictures!

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  • Amanda Lopez-Acosta

    I would really love if you were to do a full fresh video on your new BUJU with every layout you do, with the additional of GTD. I am trying to get a BUJU going because you’ve inspired me and I loved GTD. I am trying to figure out how to make it all work but feel overwhelmed. I adore your advice and would benefit tons from your newest video. I know soon you’re moving into your new BUJU & you’re trying to catch up after the paperie launching to please don’t feel pressured by me LOL. I am just so excited to see more in depth, how to make it all work together ;) xoxox

  • Sue Taylor

    Hi Kara, thank you so much for these printable! I have ordered Dave’s book, but while I am waiting, I will check out your You Tube video (again!) and study these. I am really inspired by your bullet journal, which prompted me to start my own and I am LOVING it so far, and actually creating a few goals and projects :)

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  • Epic post, Kara! I especially appreciated the task flow chart. Delegation is something I’m absolutely horrible at, so it would help to see that in a flow chart to remind me it’s an option. Fantastic!

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  • Babz Ward

    I love this! I’ve copied the parts of this that work with my life and added the book to my “to-read” list, once I finish the one I’m currently working on. :) (It’s been too long since I read a writer-specific self-help book, so I really need to not bail on it.)

  • Douglas Brown

    I love your writing! The video’s great too, thanks! :) Also, I’d be interested to know what pens you use?

  • Kryzia

    I would absolutely love an update about how GTD is working for you in your bullet journal, and if you have made any further changes/adaptations. <3

  • Misty Henderson

    I’m getting my first bullet journal next week and this post and companion video have given me many ideas to help get stuff done! I’m going to start with your basic implementation and let it evolve to how I end up using my bullet journal. You have inspired me to start this journey!! I’d love to hear how your GTD implementation is working for you and how it’s evolved. Thank you so much for sharing all your knowledge!!

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  • Casey Roberts Croes

    Kara, do you have a way to use the context-based lists from GTD–color code or symbols?

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  • Claire Volger

    You are literally the BEST for uploading this!! I’ve just had my first day of my final year at the art academy. This will help me out so much!!! Thank you Kara!!! Xxx much love from the Netherlands

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  • Great! GTD and bullett journal of my great passions together. Thanks for the tips.

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  • Emilia

    It’s exactly what I have been looking for. Thanks!

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  • Dorie Silverman

    I am planning my bullet journal and with all of the research I’ve done your design and layout is the best I’ve seen. I’m wondering, have you posted your daily task list? Would love to see it and are you using that as a way to collect your thoughts for the day per: GTD?

  • Chelsea

    Thank you, this has seriously been so useful! Life changing, even.

    I’m still a digital lover so instead of using another notebook, I set up your system using Trello. I made lists for the big categories, cards for projects, labels for current/upcoming/someday/maybe, then archive completed projects. I use checklists for planning actions, then I transfer actions to my bullet journal on the day of for focus and motivation.