GTD® Step 3: Organizing – Not Immediately Actionable Items

We are continuing our series on The Concepts of GTD®, using our one page graphic which can be found here.

As a quick refresher, GTD® is a five step system for processing, organizing, reviewing and doing your tasks and projects. The five steps are: Collection, Processing, Organizing, Doing and Reviewing.


We are continuing our discussion about how to Organize our lists and files to promote productive and efficient workflow. We have discussed how to organize our Next Action, Waiting For lists and Projects. Now we will turn our attention to organizing our Not Immediately Actionable Items. As a refresher, items that are Not Immediately Actionable that are not needed at all will be placed in the Trash, the others will be placed in either your Tickler, your Reference file or your Someday/Maybe file.

David Allen points out that properly organizing items that are not immediately actionable is one of the most overlooked areas of GTD®. This is logical, we know that the things that we need to do need to be organized but we are used to just piling up all the rest of the stuff. This is a big misconception.

There are two large categories of actions that are not immediately actionable: reference and reminders.When it comes to reference materials, David Allen suggests four different systems that assist in organizing reference materials:

–General-Reference Filing – an A to Z filing system that is east to access and helps you find items quickly
–Large Category Filing – topics that require several file folders should be given their own drawer or space
–Rolodexes and Contact Managers – These can be paper or digital and are used for contact information, etc.
–Libraries and Archives – there is a lot of personal preference regarding how to file these materials, think about what you might need and the context in which you might need it, then file it accordingly. For example, those things that you might need to have with you while on the go should be placed in a folder in your work bag. Those things you will only need at your computer can be scanned and placed in a file on your system.

The last area of Organization is dealing with those items that you may want to look at again to see if they have become actionable. These items will get placed in your Someday/Maybe list, on your Calendar or in your Tickler system.

Your Someday/Maybe list will contain a whole world of things that you can imagine or dream of someday doing or trying. You may want to categorize these into smaller buckets including things like: Food (recipes, restaurants), Children, Gifts to Buy, vacation Ideas, etc.

Calendars serve two purposes, the most obvious one is for placement of items that must be done on a specific date. But a calendar can also be useful as a reminder for Someday/Maybe items such as a reminder to revisit a potential new project or a two week heads up about an event you might want to attend.

The Tickler file is the place that you will place physical reminders regarding items that are not immediately actionable. A tickler file contains forty-three compartments or folders, one for each day of the month (31) and one for each month (12). The tickler file is the place where you will place physical reminders of things that are not presently actionable such as bills that will become due, concert tickets, the telephone message that needs to be returned on a specific day, etc. The tickler file serves as a means of emailing yourself the physical things that you need to address on that day or in that month.

Now that we have finished our discussion of the Organizing Step of GTD®, we can move on to the fourth step: Reviewing.

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