Bullet Journal + GTD for Maximum Productivity

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:

[ess_grid alias=”gtd”]


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!

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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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