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What are likely alternatives to the Getting Things Done productivity system?

  • Full fledged alternatives that "compete" with GTD

  • Group of smaller systems used together to replace GTD

  • "Simpler" systems

  • Different philosophies that can't coexist with most of GTD's principles

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I can recommend Zen to done. – hellectronic Nov 19 '11 at 20:01
This question is currently being discussed in this meta thread. – jmort253 Dec 7 '13 at 5:40

11 Answers 11

up vote 12 down vote accepted
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I guess finally they found a productivity system for the One Minute Manager. – Vic Goldfeld Nov 19 '11 at 10:11

This is something I've thought about for a while. I've read GTD, and appreciate the results it brings, but seems too rigid or structured.

I've since found a few suggestions for simplifying GTD or using a different system system altogether:

There's some interesting ideas in the above, I've yet to decide which one to try (first)...

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Yes, I've designed a system that is far more than a simplification of GTD.

It actually updates the core workflow to reflect the new capabilities of software versus pen and paper.

You can read about it here:

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Pretty cool, I like your systemic approach! Covers far more ground than productivity systems for some reason usually venture into. – Vic Goldfeld Nov 26 '11 at 10:06
Thanks Vic, I'm open to suggestions for improvement – Joseph Buchignani Nov 28 '11 at 20:14
+1 for innovation. – jurassic Jan 31 '12 at 7:00
Excellent innovative ideas about personal workflow but what's a fast way of entering outlines for you may be slow for another. – nilo de roock May 31 '14 at 9:47

"First Things First" from S. Covey focuses on a weekly view with your goals aside so that you keep the perspective of what really matters. is a web tool that implements that methodology.

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Total, Relaxed Organization may be what you're looking for. It's a distinct time management system that:

  • Blends GTD principles with Covey and other systems by Linenberger, Forster, etc.
  • Is simpler to follow (for example, no 1-hour weekly reviews)
  • Gives specific instructions for thousands of combinations of productivity tools
  • Tracks its results (time gained, stress reduced, etc.)

(Disclosure: I'm one of the creators of the TRO time management system.)

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The life coach Mark Forster has developed several time management techniques that are in the same kind of space as GTD. His methods has evolved over the years, and the latest incarnation is called SuperFocus.

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There are no alternatives to GTD.

David Allen's description of GTD is all encompassing. It is meta. It is the structure upon which all human productivity has depended and will depend on for all eternity. It is the way the brain works. It is the way biology works. It is the way technology and information systems work.

David Allen did not invent GTD. He is a student of GTD and has done a better job at explaining it than most.

Anyone who tells you they have a simpler system for GTD will only present you with a subset of GTD.

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I've been impressed with this system:

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I have started using the tools available via

Though not an entire system, it helps me to organize and simplify my task lists, ideas etc. And it is an easily accessible software solution for a brain dump.

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I have found that a date oriented or week view system works best for me. One that let's me see exactly what I have to do today, tomorrow and so on. This way I don't have to "organize" my tasks in to categories or lists.

The apps below all incorporate this ideology in a simple and elegant matter.

I highly suggest this method for students.

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There's a little problem with the way the question is worded... it presupposes an answer that belongs to the same category of solutions as GTD.

GTD is a collection of practices that work well when used in concert with each other. Presumably, it's the system David Allen (the author) uses.

However, the reality is that many people don't use all his practices. Instead, they make up their own. Whether they are actually "doing GTD" or not is an interesting question, but most people don't care. It's probably not an exaggeration to say that billions of people are using elements of GTD without having any awareness of what it is.

Does it matter?

Of course not. There's something basic happening in the life of every human being that's much bigger than GTD.

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In my book I share research from a wide number of scientists showing that human beings develop their own time management system... a collection of habits, practices and rituals that vary widely from each other. Adult learning principles also tell us that the best way to help someone improve a system they have already in place is not to offer them a completely new system.set of practices... such as GTD. This approach - pedagogy - happens to work with kids but "andragogy" works with adults.

Here's the approach I recommend - ETaPS - which is informed by andragogy.

E- Evaluate your current system (and its component behaviors) against best practices (including those in GTD).

Ta - Set new Targets for specific behaviors

P - create a Plan for changing behaviors and learning new habits in small steps

S - set up Support systems to make sure the changes stick

This approach isn't inimical to the ideas in GTD, many of which are world-class. However, it's asking a very different core question that leads to a better outcome. Someone who reads GTD is left trying to adapt a slew of new habits, practices and behaviors. Many fail for a number of reasons. The problem doesn't lie in GTD... the fault is in their approach to self-learning (heutagogy). They ask themselves "How can I copy David Allen's system?"

There's greater success to be gained using ETaPS, because it matches the reality people face more closely. Instead, they ask themselves "What am I currently doing, and how should I improve it?"

Having said that, very few people expect GTD to be the final answer, although it has many fine answers. There will be enhancements and improvements that go beyond the fixed practices the book suggests. In fact, David Allen's thinking has evolved since 2001 when he wrote GTD. His new thinking hasn't made it into a book, but if you check out his forums you can see where he has switched from saying that a calendar should only be used for appointments i.e. someone's hard landscape.

(I'd say this a timely switch, because AI-based apps like Timeful and SkedPal remove the barriers he listed back in 2001 to putting every task in your calendar.)

This evolution is only natural. The best way to think about alternatives to GTD is not to look for replacement systems that offer more/better/different fixed behaviors. That's more of the same.

Instead, it's better to see how you have evolved your own time management system to this point, and how you are likely to keep that evolution going in the future. In this context, you can be open to suggestions from every source, because you are guiding your own behavior change one step at a time.

I hope this helps,


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