Personal Productivity Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for people wanting to improve their personal productivity. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I did a search through the site and found some similar questions with some answers that aren't quite what I'm after. What I'm looking for is if there is a recommended way to note that a task is dependent on another task or requires completion of another task before it is started.

A few things I have been thinking of is marking the "prerequisite" task as high priority, or as another thread mentioned, putting the prerequisite task as a next action, while any dependent tasks should not be on next actions. Also, I was thinking about putting all dependent tasks in a project, where the project is the task that is the prerequisite for the group of tasks.

The problem with the ideas I have been brainstorming is that they don't really address the actual issue I'm having. I have a bit of difficulty planning and thinking things through, so I need to be able to have some sort of note in tasks that shows which tasks need to be completed before starting it, because otherwise I'll start the task, then realize that I can't complete it, and my productivity mojo for the day will be shot.

I was thinking of just making a tag for the prerequisite so that tasks can have multiple dependencies, but that kind of goes against the whole idea of tags. It is the best thing I can come up with though. Ideally, it would be nice to have something that works with, but I don't really see that happening unless I use tags. I guess I've kind of answered my own question typing the question out, but I'm not entirely satisfied with my own answer. Does anybody have anything else they've used successfully?

To be honest though, this doesn't necessarily have to comply 100% with GTD, I'm more after any solutions that anybody else has used successfully to deal with dependency issues in their productivity workflow, as I don't follow GTD religiously in the first place. I hope this wasn't a super confusing question, and I greatly appreciate any answers.

share|improve this question
Have it as a sub-task may be? – user221287 Jan 1 '13 at 16:32
Yes I think subtasks solve this problem elegantly. – Aymeric Gaurat-Apelli Jan 3 '13 at 4:04
up vote 4 down vote accepted

The "Waiting For" list in GTD is typically used when you're waiting on someone else to finish something you've delegated.

You can also use it to indicate you're waiting on yourself to finish something.

Then before consulting your "Actions" list to find a new "Next Action", check your "Waiting" list. You may find some tasks can be moved from "Waiting" to your Actions list (or directly to "Next Actions").

I use Evernote to implement GTD and either a) insert links to the tasks I'm waiting on as a note in the dependent task, b) add a brief summary of what I'm waiting for, or c) put what I'm waiting for in the dependent task's title.

Eg. a renovate bedroom project might be:

Next actions list:
Buy paint, more dropcloths
Replace light fittings

Actions list:
Replace broken pane of glass
Fix shelf in wardrobe
Stop bed squeaking

Waiting list:
Paint ceiling (need supplies)

This is of course a very simple example.

A more complex example might be having to do A and B, however B is dependent upon C and D and D is dependent on E.

Then I might:

  • make A, C and E Actions.
  • put B in the Waiting List, waiting on C and D
  • put D in the Waiting List, waiting on E.

I also may put a note in a task indicating that other tasks are waiting upon its completion. This makes me more likely to do such a task next, knowing it will make other tasks ready for doing and give me more tasks to choose which one will be next from, as my concentration level or mood would appreciate.

In practice, I find I rarely have to put notes on tasks saying what they're waiting for or who's waiting on them, for most of the time it is obvious. I found when I tried other systems with built-in hierarchical task linking that I spent too long chaining up every task that could be chained, when it just wasn't needed. Just keeping "Paint Ceiling" out of my Actions list is sufficient, I don't really need to remind myself why I can't do it yet.

share|improve this answer

I use MyLifeOrganized for such things and it has built in dependency tracking along with hierarchy (if parent task has incomplete child it will not be shown in TODO list unless it is compleated), tags and much more. Actually it allows to fully implement GTD (at least in my case).

By the way "brainstorming" is only one (first) part of GTD process and it is called "Collect" there. The problem you address is related to "Organize" process.

share|improve this answer
I had been using MyLifeOrganized previously, I'm not sure why I switched off of it, I'll have to take a look at it again. Good answer. – Tortilaman Jan 2 '13 at 0:17

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.