GTD Alternatives: 7 Simpler Ways to Get Things Done

If you’re someone who has spent time researching different productivity and efficiency methods, then you may have heard of the GTD method. The GTD method, also known as the “Get Things Done” method, has gained popularity as workers have looked for a new way to prioritize their tasks and complete them in a timely manner.

However, as the world has started to change and shift towards an era of technology, many are left looking for a simpler alternative to the GTD method. Thankfully, there are plenty of simple GTD alternatives that can keep you productive — read on to learn more about them.

What is the GTD Method?

The GTD method is built to help someone manage their time, reach goals, organize their priorities and hopefully relieve stress. 

The method is made up of five steps, which are:

  • Collect tasks: Gather, write and record any and everything that has your attention. This could be ideas, day-to-day tasks or any uncompleted project.
  • Process ideas: Once you’ve written everything down, it’s time to process your ideas and define them. Are the tasks actionable or a priority? If not, you either set it aside or delete it. If they are, then you continue to put them through the process.
  • Organize tasks: Here, you organize and prioritize the tasks at hand. The method calls for you to create different folders to organize each task based on your calendar, if you’re able to take action on it, if it should be delegated and how important it is.
  • Keep track and adjust: The GTD method states that in order to reach optimal performance, you’ll need to check in regularly in order to re-evaluate, re-prioritize and put together a plan of action. 
  • Complete tasks: Now that everything is planned out, it’s time to take action. Using the new schedule that you’ve created for yourself, now all you have to do is take action on each day in order to reach the level of productivity you were hoping for.

Basically, the GTD method is based on the constant creation and re-working of multiple to-do lists at once. Here is what the structure of these lists looks like:

  • In: The “in” list has the lowest bar of entry — it’s where all your different ideas go. Anything from needing a car wash to updating your resume to your vague ideas for the next big app should be added to this list.
  • Next Actions: As the name would have it, the “next actions” list is the place where you list off all of the next actions that you can take to make progress on these items and ideas.
  • Waiting For: Anytime that there’s a task in which progress has been blocked due to something you can’t control (waiting for a reply, work that’s been delegated, etc.), it will go in the “waiting for” list.
  • Projects: Sometimes, you’ll have an objective that requires more than one action to complete. These objectives will be placed in the “projects” list. This list should feature the different projects you have in mind, a brief description and the intended outcome. You’ll want to make sure that each item on the “projects” list is represented by at least one action in the “next actions” list.
  • Someday/Maybe: If you have an idea that you just don’t have the time to get to right now, it belongs in the “someday/maybe” list. This list contains items that you might want to get to in the future. Your level of commitment to these items will change over time, but for now, you want to continue to review them so that when you do find yourself with more time, you’ll know where to turn.

On the surface, this method seems like it would do a lot of good for people who are hoping to get organized and become more productive. However, the deeper you dive into this method and the longer you practice it, some say it can prove to be more overwhelming than it is helpful.

For starters, the list of your next actions are ongoing and can seem to be endless. Humans are motivated by getting things done and making progress, but if that list only ever gets longer, it’s going to be discouraging for anyone who is spending a good amount of time working on it.

Plus, with the GTD method, you have a lot of different lists going at one time. Lists should be an attainable, measurable thing that has an end, and if you can’t see all of your tasks in one spot, it can be tough to keep your motivation to continue to push forward. 

Another aspect of the GTD method that can be troublesome for many is the suggestion that your tasks should be broken up into 20 minute intervals. While this may help the list feel more manageable, it also allows for less flexibility to complete projects that take longer. This promotes multitasking, which can lead to attention residue

Alternatives to GTD

There are some simple alternatives to GTD that many people have found helpful. Check out these seven alternative options that you can implement to streamline your day-to-day tasks!

1. The 1-3-5 System

Rather than building a multitude of different lists, the 1-3-5 System calls for you to just build one single to-do list per day. This list is broken up into three sections: one section that features the big, main goal of the day, a section that features three medium goals and a section that features five small goals. 

This system is great for people who struggle with task prioritization and organization. It’s a simple way to show you what you need to focus on while still being manageable and keeping you productive each and every day.

2. Scott Young’s “Weekly/Daily Goals” System

Scott Young’s system is another simple option that has you focusing more on the day-to-day tasks rather than your overall plans. The system is built with only three guidelines:

  • Every week, you’ll create a new weekly to-do list.
  • Every night, you’ll create a to-do list for the next day that is based on the things you want to accomplish during the weekly list.
  • When you’ve completed the daily to-do list, your work day is over.

This method is incredibly simple, yet very effective when implemented properly. It’s important that you hold yourself accountable to the items on the daily to-do list and that you don’t finish working until that list is complete.

3. The Strikethru Method

Like the GTD method, the Strikethru Method also requires the creation of multiple lists — however, you only create three. The three lists you’ll be creating are the live list, the dump and the vault.

  • The live list: This daily list consists of tasks that you need to accomplish for that day.
  • The dump: This list is filled with any free thought you have. If you have an idea and you’re afraid that you may forget it, put it here.
  • The vault: The vault is where you’ll keep your ongoing projects — when the time is right, you’ll add them to the live list.

4. The Autofocus System

There are three steps to the Autofocus System:

  • Create a master list of everything that you need to do that you can think of. Be relentless with this — any action item that requires your attention should be put on the list.
  • Read through the list slowly until one of the tasks stands out to you. Then, wait until you “feel like” doing it and only do it then. Once it’s done, cross it off the list. If you only got it partially done, move it to the bottom of the list.
  • Repeat the process.

5. SMART Objectives

The SMART Objectives method allows users to create their own criteria to be met, which will help them set and reach goals and create a list of tasks to get to their goal.

The criteria of these objectives should fit under the following:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Time-based

6. Agile Results Method

If you’re someone who is goal and outcome-oriented, then the Agile Results Method is for you. It’s a concept built on linking your daily, weekly and monthly actions to the goals and outcomes and allowing that to motivate you to complete the tasks at hand.

Some of the core practices of the Agile Results Method are:

  • The Rule of Three: Each day, determine what your three most important tasks are. Give these tasks the majority of your focus for that day.
  • Cycles and Interactions: How are things working out? If they are, that’s great, but if they aren’t, you have the ability to adapt.
  • Scannable Outcomes: Having a multitude of different goals and outcomes can be overwhelming, but the Agile Results Method calls for you to only focus on three outcomes at once.
  • Heavy Loading: Not every week needs to be a grind — weigh them differently in terms of workload and what you have to accomplish. The method recommends that you frontload your weeks and months by facing all of the hard, time-consuming tasks early so that you can have a lighter load later on.

7. The Ole Fashioned Way

When all else fails, there’s nothing wrong with a digital calendar and planner! Digital organization has changed the game for employees and entrepreneurs everywhere, and with tools like Charli available, having an organized digital life has never been easier! 

Charli can be used to help you organize your digital space and streamline your work experience. We’ve seen some great results from teams who have used Charli to level up their productivity, and we enjoy hearing how people’s work lives have been changed for the better. Learn more about how you can use Charli (along with other digital calendar practices) to organize your life in just a week!

Do all of these exciting GTD alternatives have you daydreaming about how you can take better control of your life and optimize it to the fullest extent? Keep the momentum going by checking out this blog post that features tips on efficient time management!

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About Charli

Charli AI is on a mission to help reduce stress and improve productivity for businesses, start-ups and knowledge workers everywhere. Charli is a first of its kind, AI powered, multi-skilled mobile app that coordinates and orchestrates some of your biggest productivity killers like scheduling, invoicing, and customer communications. Nearly one third of a busy knowledge workers time is spent on administrative tasks, Charli is here to help reduce time spent on admin so people can do the work that really matters, get home sooner, or finally take that post work bike ride. Powered by AI, Charli is intelligent automation for the digital workplace, completing tasks by using a contextual model of your world, your workflows, and apps just like a human. We call this AI that makes work flow.

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Charli AI is on a mission to help reduce stress and improve productivity for businesses of all sizes, start-ups and knowledge workers everywhere. A first of its kind, AI powered, multi-skilled mobile app that coordinates and orchestrates some of your biggest productivity killers like scheduling, invoicing, and customer communications. 

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Alex Clark

Chief Technology Officer

Alex Clark is a seasoned technology innovator and a leading expert in embedded software, massively parallel compute-architectures, service oriented technologies, enterprise class computing, and building high-performance, secure, scalable and distributed solutions. Alex studied aerospace engineering at San Jose State University and has authored numerous publications and patents. Alex was co-founder of Bit Stew Systems alongside Kevin and was responsible for developing the initial software for complex data integration and artificial intelligence.