GTD in Action: Excel-based implementation

In a bid to publish a series of white papers on implementing Getting Things Done (GTD), I’m now releasing a first draft with my thoughts on a GTD implementation based on Excel.

Click here to download the pdf.

I hope this is of value to you!

And… all comments are welcome :)

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10 thoughts on “GTD in Action: Excel-based implementation

  1. Nice simple start to using Excel for GTD. I know you were trying to keep it simple but I think calling those areas (family & friends, etc..) as projects is misleading if not inaccurate. The concept of projects in GTD is different than what most people are used to so to have them continue to mis-apply it when first using GTD may make it more difficult for them to really understand GTD later. Perhaps it would be better to call those sheets Areas of Focus then list in those sheets the actual Projects. I guess you can have those sheets / tabs for each project but it can be overwhelming with hundreds of Projects (not an impossible number if you stick to the definition of a GTD project).
    Regardless, it’s a nice start for beginners.

  2. Hi Christina,

    Thanks very much for your thoughts on this point. Here’s why I consider Family & Friends also at the project level. I hope it helps clarify. If not, please let me know. My position has come from my own experiences with GTD but I’m happy to be persuaded otherwise.

    Projects are reflected on very regularly at the 10,000 level i.e. via the Weekly Review (see: 1. David Allen; Getting Things Done – How to Achieve Stress Free Productivity, page 46; 2. A talk by David Allen @ 3’54”

    Areas of Focus relate to Areas of Responsibility – i.e. the 20,000 foot view – which is “a framework for evaluating your inventory of projects” (page 52 of the above-mentioned book).

    My interpretation is that the 20,000 foot view is mainly used to cross-check whether there are any projects missing from the projects list given somebody’s Areas of Responsibility (and vice versa).

    Consequently, there’s no need to review the 20,000 foot level on a weekly basis, and therefore it is not a suitable mechanism for managing Next Actions.

    So yes, Family & Friends is an Area of Responsibility, but it makes imo sense to also have a Family & Friends project. Some examples to illustrate:

    1) Picking up my cousin from the airport is a date-specific action which goes into the calendar directly.
    2) Refurbishing the garden shed with my son is a substantial piece of work. It therefore goes onto the projects list as a completely separate entry (not associated in any way with the Family & Friends project).
    3) Buying a present for my daughter is a rather small task. It’s marked as a Next Action on the Family & Friends project list.
    4) Writing an email to promote a local charity event to my friends is another one for the Family & Friends project list.

    Sure the Family & Friends project is not something that can ever be ‘ticked off’ as completed. However…

    1) I find it a very convenient container for capturing rather stand-alone, non date-specific actions that take longer than a couple of minutes to do.
    2) By reviewing it once a week I prevent anything from falling through the cracks.
    3) It also makes it very clear at what level to manage the everyday work streams (runway + 10,000 foot only) and separating it from what the higher altitudes are for.

    Not being able to formally tick off the Family & Friends project at any point in time (it’s essentially a ‘perpetual project’) to me personally is acceptable.

    As for Excel, I wouldn’t be too worried about having to manage hundreds of projects (i.e. worksheets, as per the document that I drafted) within the spreadsheet. If a beginning GTD practitioner’s reality is that complex, Excel probably isn’t the best starting point to begin with.

    You’ll see there are some different shades of meaning when comparing my stance with for instance this podcast from the David Allen Company on the topic To me it seems that your point of view is more aligned with that.

  3. Luc,

    I like your GTD approach in Excel.
    I’ve never seen a spreadsheet with the list of worksheets showing on the left. I use Office 2010. How would I create that oh-so-useful view?

  4. Hi Vida,
    Thanks for the note. I used Apple’s Excel equivalent called Numbers as the basis for the visual. I’m not sure if this view is possible in Office 2010. But if the ‘tabbed’ structure in Excel isn’t convenient for you, you might want to try to put all projects & actions in a single worksheet, and put a filter on the projects column.
    - Luc

    1. Luc,

      One last comment: If you don’t want to or can’t use macros, you can still set this up manually:
      In the first column of a blank worksheet enter a list of all the tabs. On each name right click >hyperlink to the tab names.
      Then follow the View >New Window instructions as above.
      I have a SS with more than 30 tabs and this is a big time saver.

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