GTD with Nozbe

Today I found a little gem in my inbox from a reader named Daniel who posed me some interesting questions via the comments on this blog. He says he’s ‘dating different GTD apps’ in search for the perfect one — which may not even exist. True that! Daniel loves the Evernote/Nozbe integration though, like I do.

I’m going to answer his questions about GTD and Nozbe first, followed by a recommendation for the folks at Nozbe to make me ‘marry’ Nozbe instead of simply ‘dating him’ — to keep with Daniel’s metaphor 🙂

1) how do I use Nozbe‘s inbox?

As some of you may know, Nozbe’s inbox consists of a project that always stays on top of your projects list at the left of the page. Here’s how I use it:
True to GTD, every time I do my weekly review (preferably once a week 🙂 ), I empty my physical inbox and dump all the tasks I define out of that amorphous blob in Nozbe’s inbox. I do the same with my e-mail inbox, where my action items are already red starred for easy recognition.
It’s also also possible to add a slew of tasks in one go:
go to: + new action > actions > options > add more actions at once > then enter every task with an asterisk in front of it so it’s recognizable as a bunch of tasks.


  • Then I start dragging and dropping tasks into the appropriate contexts on the right side of the page (like @Computer, @Home, @Errands etc).
  • After that, I star the next actionable items for the coming week with a cute little green Nozbe star.
  • Then, while still being in the inbox, I drag and drop my items to projects or create new ones. There are always a bunch of tasks that don’t have a project attached to them. Today Daniel’s comment got me thinking and I tried out something new: I created a new project called: batch tasks, where I dump all the orphan tasks (tasks without a mother: a project). I make an exception for the waiting for items who are going in a waiting for project and my someday items which find shelter in a someday do project. Note: so the waiting for items and the someday items are both in a project and a context of the same name! I know this sounds awfully intricate, but it totally works for me and it keeps my Nozbe inbox clean and crispy!!!
  • Last I go to projects and see if there’s any other tasks I need to add to projects which are not next action items (for the coming week, being green starred), but still need my attention.

2) how do I sort my actions in Nozbe?

Nozbe hasn’t got any default sorting options, so what I’ll do is I go to all my contexts and drag-and-drop starred items to the top (in no particular order) with the rest (unstarred) underneath, although this manual dragging and dropping is quite obnoxious…
I’ve got a great idea though to improve this. See the last paragraph about my recommendation to Nozbe.

Apart from sorting between next action/action, I don’t sort at all.

I just glance at my list (one context at a time or sometimes the whole next actions list at once if I’m feeling audacious) and pick whatever suits my time, energy and fancy.
GTD is not about prioritizing; just follow your intuition and just go for it. Do!

3) how do I handle Areas of Focus in Nozbe?

I have two Nozbe accounts (within my Family account): one for work and one for home. I’m liking this a lot! It helps me to set healthy boundaries.
Here are a few of my current areas of focus:

  • church
  • faith
  • friendships
  • household
  • writing
  • finances
  • marriage

When I first defined my projects list in Nozbe, I attached a tag to every project with the name of the corresponding area of focus. You can find them on the left side of the page @ Project Labels. This showed me that they were well balanced, so right now, to be honest, I don’t bother attaching project labels with my areas of focus anymore. But there’s always the option.

Recommendation for Nozbe:

My recommendation for Michael Sliwinsky and his team, who deserve immense kudos for their fabulous product, is the following:
Please, please create a filter for next actions (starred items) which we can apply within a context or within a project, so that there will be an option to see the whole bunch of items (starred and unstarred) and also an option to filter out the visual clutter of the unstarred items, so we can fully focus on our next actionable items by context or project! Thank you in advance for considering this!

Dear Daniel and all my other readers, I hope this post was insightful and of interest to you.

Please leave a comment or question in the comments section. I’d be ever so happy to reply to them.
You can also post your comment or question via Twitter.
Thank you!

Note: I don’t get paid by Nozbe or anything 🙂 I just love the way their app boasts my productivity and peace of mind.

“Virtual” friendship?

“Celebrate when you do blog or do your weekly review, instead of feeling guilty when you don’t.”
Augusto Pinaud

So here I am guys. Hello again!

This Monday I had a fabulous meeting with my friend Tara Rodden Robinson and her husband Douglas from Oregon U.S.
She’s also known as the Productivity Maven and contributes to 2 podcasts @Context and GTD-Virtual Study Group. She is also a writer.

Critics claim that virtual community isn’t worth a can. That is all hot air…
I tell you what happened:

I met my so-called ‘virtual’ friend Tara and her husband on the famous Leidseplein in Amsterdam, when they were here for a lay-over. Instantly we felt like we just had coffee together the other week.
No virtual, just friendship.

We enjoyed our scrumptious lunch on the Keizersgracht, sitting on the terrace next to the canals, having a beer and a coffee, enjoying the sun and a little breeze. I felt as if we could talk on for hours, about our lives, productivity, passion and projects (her new books and my dancing and writing).
— But I ask you guys: who on earth invented jet lag? 🙂 —
After a few hours I brought them to their hotel to sleep – them being severely jet lagged –  and I went home, missing them already.

Did we meet before? Yes and no. We met through commenting on each other’s blogs, via Skype, telephone (she and Augusto Pinaud interviewed me for @Context, a great interview series about people using GTD) and e-mail.

So I’m missing them already, but hey: the world is so much smaller today: Twitter, Skype, I-chat, msn, Facebook, cheap long distance phone calls…
I look forward to the next time I will talk to them, although it might take a while to see them again and hug their necks.

So here’s a shout out to all you people who think Facebook-friends are a facade, the blogging community is fake, forum communities are not real enough:

Think again, times are changing, we are living in an era where we might know a nice Productivity Maven from Oregon better than our neighbor…

The world is real, Internet communities and friends are real if you only let them be.
Enjoy the digital relational revolution.

Please leave a comment below or on Twitter. Thanks!
Here are some virtual communities I like:


The Sound

Daily Audio Bible community

Community Portal of Productivity Maven

Do it anyway!

It’s holiday time for me, which means I’m browsing through old photos and videos on my hard drive. Trip to memory lane…That’s where I found the video above. For me it symbolizes amongst other things the fact that I was scared stiff to sing in front of a packed church with all my friends and some family, but that I did it anyway. And I loved it!
It was an exhilarating experience for me!

I want to share this with you to encourage you people to do the same. Chase your dreams! Do it inspite of your fears!

Maybe you want to start a business, but fear failure. Do it anyway!
Maybe you’d like to do a presentation at work, but fear blackout. Do it anyway!
Maybe you want to write a book, but fear that it won’t be good enough. Do it anyway!
Maybe you want to dance at a party, but fear looking foolish. Do it anyway!
Maybe you want to do a flamenco, salsa or ballet presentation in a big theater, but fear failure. Do it anyway!

Maybe you want to get your butt out of bed, but are afraid of the day… afraid of failure… shame… looking foolish… not being good enough…

Get yourself together, take a deep breath, surround yourself with happy and positive things. Even pray if you can… Build your life on love and trust. Do it anyway!

God loves you just the way you are, you don’t have to be different, you are okay, you are amazing actually!

And now move your behind and get going!!!

For further clues on overcoming fears check out this wonderful blog post by Leo Babauta:
A guide to beating the fears that are holding you back.

Please leave a comment or leave me a tweet. Thank you!

p.s. the video was shot on the 7th of May 2006, at the service of the public confession of my faith in the Oosterparkkerk Amsterdam. It was a year after I became a Christian.

The song is by Day of Fire – Cornerstone.

See lyrics here.

Be a Task Killer Ninja

How do we get from Victim to Captain and Commander in our productivity?

In his book Making it All Work David Allen describes the matrix of self-management.
In the mire of little perspective and little control, in the lower left quadrant is the Victim. A feared state of hopelessness and inertia.
In the upper right quadrant is the widely admired state of Captain and Commander. That’s the perfect state in which we are if we have both perfect perspective and control over what we do. Of course these states can alternate per week, day or even hour…

Sometimes I can get into a slump and I must admit: the label Victim best suits me in that situation. Sigh…

So what do I do to drag myself out of it and start doing?

Last Wednesday I wanted to knock a whole lot of tasks off my to-do-list.
I started with the Most Important Task, which was adjusting six similar reports. Instead of spreading the energy and focus thin, I gave myself an extremely tight time limit for each report: 10 minutes. So I started chopping away at my reports like a ninja chops his wooden boards. I even had to suppress some of the little ninja-yells. Immediately I saw myself from a helicopter vision and thought: I am a Task Killer Ninja, that’s what I am!!! I was exhilarated and in great flow.

Here’s what defines the Task Killer Ninja GTD-style:

  • clear vision of the outcome: next action thinking
  • extreme focus
  • compressed energy
  • speed
  • bold task killer attitude
  • black suit is optional

Later that day I applied my Task Killer Ninja-attitude to my Weekly Review. I grabbed my intray and started chopping away at all the little Collected notes. Within 30 seconds I divided them between actionable and non-actionable items. You should’ve seen me! I looked like a ninja movie played fast forward. This was my record in Clarifying!

The Task Killer Ninja-attitude I can also recommend for cleaning your house or chopping wood.

Let me know if you’ve ever felt like a productivity-ninja or if you identify with something else. I’m so curious!

Post a comment or find me on Twitter

p.s. I googled task killer ninja and I saw that Leo Babauta also has an excellent blog post on Task Ninja’s (without killer)

The Spiritual Power of Next Action Thinking

This is a guest post by my friend Tara Rodden Robinson from the GTD Virtual Study Group and @Context podcast.

Start your walk along the Holy Way and you’ll learn what every pilgrim before you has known. There will be obstacles. Not just random pebbles in the path. Big boulders. Subtle uneven places. And bunny trails–not the sweet nice kind–trails meant to lead you away, confuse your travels, and woo you away from your destination.

Among the subtleties is a very old, and not commonly discussed, temptation to despair of success. The ancients referred to this spirit of desolation as the “noon-day devil” or acedia. Acedia is a form of apathy, a draining away of inspiration, a deadening of the soul.

What the noonday devil does, Margaret Guenther writes, is to woo us away. Woo us away from our callings, our divinely inspired vocations. Here’s what she says, “…the noonday devil …insinuates [itself] into our thoughts, suggesting that God is not very interested in us and that consequently what we do is not important. [It] can persuade us that…we might as well let go of dreams and hopes.” The noonday devil encourages us to envy, to compare ourselves to others and find ourselves lacking. But most insidiously, the noonday devil invites us to quench our own spark.

As Mephistopheles boasts in Faust, “I am the spirit of eternal negation,” the noonday devil points to your dreams and softly whispers ‘no.’ Or in my case, often whispers ‘Look, over here! Email!” It is so tempting to do the easy (check for mail) that yields a mirage of results (emails received) rather than the seemingly difficult but actually quite easy (sitting down and reviewing what I did last, and relaxing into my work) that yields results.

The mantra of GTD, “what is the next action?” is a powerful weapon against the noonday devil. Taking action, no matter how small, propels you forward, keeps you engaged, and anchors you in the present moment. And moment by moment, step by step, you move out of the shadows where this teensy demon torments into the sunshine where your dreams are waiting.

About the Author

Known as The Productivity Maven, Tara Rodden Robinson is an author, educator, and coach. You can learn more about her by visiting

Mixing GTD with ZTD

Yesterday I got a great tweet-question about GTD and ZTD from@raymondu999

@E5ter ah. Alrighty then!! Thanks for your info 🙂 Which one do you use by the way? Is #ztd flexible enough to let you use #gtd programs? which I answered with:

#ztd #gtd Sure! I am using GTD and I tweak it with ZTD. Going to make a blogpost this week to explain.

In my last post I told you all about my GTD-system; today I want to address my way of blending a zesty hint of ZTD into my good ol’ GTD-system to get that extra tasty productivity melting pot.
In his excellent post Leo Babauta explored the topic GTD versus ZTD but here I want to make clear that it’s not a matter of choosing between Getting Things Done and Zen to Done but that you can have your cake and eat it too :-).

I will explain to you how I do it:

1. Weekly review

First I do my regular GTD-style weekly review and then I add an extra five minutes to it to choose my Big Rocks for the week. Those are the things I really really want to accomplish for the week. This is the way to focus myself, so that my attention doesn’t get spread too thin over all the tasks that are on my plate. n addition you want to make sure that your big rocks are right under your nose the whole week: I use a nifty little pink notebook with a cute ribbon but you could use sticky notes too or put a reminder on your mindmap.

2. Daily review

I think many of you who are already using GTD may have some sort of a daily review as well. The daily review ZTD-style consists of choosing 2 to 3 (or more if you’re a busy bee) MIT’s (i.e Most Important Tasks) for the next day. The evening is a nice time to do that in order to be able to jumpstart your day in the morning. At least one of my MIT’s is part of a Big Rock for the week.

Big Rocks for the week:
1) scan 20 pages of my rabbit photobook into Evernote
2) write 2 blogposts for Pursuing a Holy Life
3) write 2 blogposts for Inspiration and Productivity
4) prepare Rabbit Circus Training workshop
5) prepare little Lewis my dwarf rabbit for the Rabbit Exhibition

MIT’s for Monday:
1) scan 5 pages of my rabbit photo book into Evernote (for Big Rock 1)
2) go grocery shopping
3) clean the kitchen
4) comb Lewis’ hair and put ribbons in it (for Big Rock 5)

The idea is also to do at least one of your MIT’s first thing in the morning to really get you going before you start checking blog stats, e-mail or cuddling your rabbits.

3. Creating habits

What rhymes with rabbits? Habits! An important addition to GTD is that the ZTD focuses a great deal on habit change, on the doing. You can find Leo’s website on creating habits here.
What I do is take one habit every month, keep track of it in my pink little notebook (I check off the days). For example last month I was trying to ingrain the habit of checking e-mail only twice a day and not before an MIT or task. It takes about a month to successfully ingrain a new behavior; I was very successful and boosted my productivity a lot by this habit during the month of February and further.
You could also form habits for all the stages of GTD, like for example capturing everything on a notepad and tossing it into your in-tray everyday. See my previous blog post for the other stages. Leo wrote a great post on creating habits especially for ZTD too. (See the latter part of his post.)

4. Flowing with the moment

In the GTD Virtual Study Group podcast of January 14 2010, Leo Babauta was interviewed and he shared with us that he’s increasingly letting go of the whole idea of goal setting and live more and more in the present moment. This appeals to me greatly because I have always been struggling to set my goals for 1 year and 3 to 5 year (resp. horizons 30k and 40k from GTD). More about the horizons of focus of GTD another time.

In this age of information tsunami staying in the present moment is extremely precious and wholesome. I think this topic deserves its own blogpost too so keep an eye on my blog.


GTD and ZTD have a great synergy. You don’t have to choose between GTD and ZTD; ZTD has a bit of a different angle and is more focused on the doing, the habit change and focusing on the present moment than GTD is, that’s why they work great for me in combination. And to answer raymondu999‘s question: I use all my good ol’ GTD programs like Nozbe, Evernote and Gmail in conjunction with my pink ZTD-notebook 😉

If you have any questions about GTD/ZTD please take the time to comment below or leave me a tweet. I’d be happy to answer your questions or to discuss the topic.

Clear your head with GTD

In September of 2006 I had my first encounter with GTD: Getting Things Done, through Father Roderick who was raving about it on his podcast the Daily Breakfast — now The Break.
As you may know Getting Things Done is a great productivity system invented by David Allen.
So, I decided to buy the audio book: Getting Things Done, the Art of Stress-free Productivity on iTunes and I devoured it!
I always used to feel so swamped with tasks mundane as well as extraordinary that I always felt out of control and lagging behind on everything.

In his latest book Making It All Work David Allen says: ‘the mind is a great servant but a terrible master’; if we hold on to everything inside our own mind we’re going to end up being in a state of information overload-mode. That’s where GTD comes in.

Here’s a short outline on what GTD is, how I use it and how it changed my life *blink* 🙂 :

1. Capture

Capturing anything and everything that has your attention.
I do this by carrying around little notepads with me all the time: one for quotes, one for to-do items, one for nice English phrases I come across for my blog. Every day I put all of it into my in-tray. Of course I also have my email inbox brimming over with lovely amorphous stuff screaming at me: ‘Decide what I mean to you!!!’

2 Clarify

Defining actionable things discretely into outcomes and concrete next steps.
The contents of my in-tray go into my system:
I have a few choices:

  • Is it actionable?


  • Will it take me 2 minutes or less?


  • Do it!


  • I put it in Nozbe, which is my task/project manager

My non-actionable items like quotes or other pieces of information go into my Evernote account

3. Organize

Organizing reminders and information in the most streamlined way, in appropriate categories, based on how and when you need to access them
My actionable items I further organize within contexts:
@ Computer
@ Home
@ Phone
@ Read
@ Martin (my hubbie)
@ Toast (actions I can still do when I feel exhausted)
@ Waiting for

@ Someday Maybe
That way I don’t have to dig through a big pile of actions and look for e.g. all my calls if I have a phone handy. It saves me a lot of time.

The next, very important step is to pick your Next Actions from your lists of Actions: a Next Action is  the one concrete next actionable item for a project. This is critical!
For example, a lot of people have actions on their list like:
craft party hats for my rabbits (too big, it consists of multiple action steps)
or even worse:
rabbit party hats (very vague)
It’s key to break that down into concrete steps like:

  • look up on the internet: party hat for rabbits ideas (@ Computer)
  • draft designs for rabbit party hats in sketchbook (@ Home)
  • make a list of materials you need (@ Computer)
  • look them up in your cabinet (@ Home)
  • go buy new materials (@ Errands)
  • craft the actual rabbit party hats (@ Home)

So ‘look up on the internet: party hat for rabbits ideas‘ is the next action for project ‘craft party hats for my rabbits’.
In Nozbe, I can star that item so it stands out from the rest.

I can also link my actions to Projects in Nozbe. A project in GTD-jargon is something which takes more than one action-step to complete.
A project can be:
Craft party hats for my rabbits
Organize rabbits’ birthday party
Draft Rabbit book proposal
Research designer clothes rabbits

My non-actionable items go mostly in Evernote:
I scan a lot of things and put them in Evernote.
These are a few of my favorite tags (I have 75 in total!):
funny pics
important docs
declutter tips
scans of my photobooks

I also have a physical alphabetical archive system. At work I have this awesome filing cabinet with plain hanging folders labeled with my super-duper Dymo label maker — another great asset for GTD-affichonados. Still working on getting one for my home too. At present I have a stack of alphabetically arranged envelope-folders.

It is a dream of mine though to go (almost) entirely paperless.

4 Reflect

Keeping current and ‘on your game’ with appropriately frequent reviews of the six horizons of your commitments (purpose, vision, goals, areas of focus, projects, and actions — If you are just starting out with GTD, it is fine to just figure out Projects and Actions, the rest will come later.)

The idea is to do a Weekly Review of your system consisting of:

  • Getting clear

Go to inbox and in-tray zero, do a brain dump.
This usually takes up so much of my time that I now decided to get clear the day before I do the Weekly Review.

  • Getting current

Review (Next) Action lists (by context), calendar, Waiting For list (one of my most helpful lists), Project list, any relevant checklists.
Use these as triggers for new actions.
Also mark your Next Actions (in my case with a star)

  • Getting creative

Review your Someday Maybe-list. (This is a list with all the things you might want to do some day but not now, like taking singing lessons, learning Greek, writing a book about rabbits etc…) and lastly:

‘Be creative and courageous: any new, wonderful, harebrained, creative, thought-provoking, risk-taking ideas to add to your system?’ (David Allen – Making It All Work)

However, this Weekly Review is the toughy for me, the bottleneck in my system, because the Weekly Review you should do — well — weekly, and that’s where I fall through the cracks…
I’m still working towards making it a real Weekly Review, because I’m convinced that I won’t dread it as much as I do now and I will be — as David calls it — Captain and Commander a lot more (i.e. being ‘on’, ‘ in flow’ or ‘in the zone’).

5. Engage /Do!

If you have defined good concrete next actionable items for your projects and arranged them into contexts, it would be a piece of cake performing them.
Unless, that is, you go numb to your own lists, like I do a lot of the time, and you resist looking at the lists altogether 🙂

But if you are really flowing with all the steps you will start to experience ‘a mind like water‘, ready to respond perfectly and appropriately to every stimulus, not overreacting and not underreacting. You will be free of distraction, stress, strain; no undue energy will be spent; you will gain power, focus, flexibility, clarity and openness.

I must say am definitely feeling more in control, more focussed and more clear since I have been using GTD.

If you read all the steps it may seem like a lot of hassle to go through, but once you have set up the system, it actually frees up more time for creativity and productivity and don’t we all want that?

If you have any questions or comments regarding GTD, please leave a comment below. You can also follow me on Twitter.

Also take time to listen to the GTD virtual study group podcast by awesome host and productivity coach Tara Rodden Robinson or @ Context, an interview series with people using GTD, also by Tara Rodden Robinson. You can follow her on Twitter too.

Are we enslaved to productivity?

We live in a high tech information Society, trying to drink from a firehose of information — as David Allen so vividly put it — consuming blogs, twitter updates, facebook statuses, RSS feeds, podcasts, books…
We’re also expected to crank out tasks at an equally dense rate. We write, we blog, we work, we construct, we devise, we plan, we toil, we sweat. It seems never enough.

Leo Babauta writes in the Power of Less:

‘ There has never been an age in whick we could get so much done so quickly. (…) There has also never been an age in which we were so stressed by the incredible demands of our lives’.

This rises the question:

Are we really enslaved to productivity?

Let me share a story with you:
Today I listened to the Daily Audio Bible podcast and had a major BFO (a Blinding Flash of the Obvious!) When I heard the story of the people of Israel’s Exodus out of Egypt.
The people of Israel had been enslaved to Pharaoh of Egypt, being forced into labouring daily, building bricks. One day they asked time off to sacrifice to their God. To numb that inclination, Pharaoh let them work even harder. He decreed that they had to produce even more in less time.
And here was the kicker:’ You shall by no means reduce your number of bricks’, he said.

And isn’t that story not the story of our lives too?
Let’s pretend we are the people of Israel and Pharaoh is our inner slavedriver egging us on to produce more, more, more, every day, by no means reducing our number of bricks, i.e. tasks.

We make resolutions that won’t stick as well as we hoped for; stuck in the rut of productivity. This could be a hope-less life.

But, to quote Jamie Haith of Holy Trinity Brompton church:

‘Rules, regulations, resolutions, they don’t bring hope. We are in need of a Savior, one who is right here and able to save us (…) we need the kindness and love of Jesus’.

So instead of exhausting ourselves on the productivity treadmill we need hope.

‘Hope is not about what isn’t. Hope is always about what isn’t yet.’(

Speedily we work on our endless to-do lists or even worse: our heads are crammed with to-do items, what-ifs, someday-maybe’s or fretful busyness. We immerse ourselves in the treadmill of frantic activity, not to — I guess — feel the emptiness of our existence.

My wish for you is to enjoy being productive, in the flow, in the present moment and get to know the One who is the embodiment of hope itself.
Have a hopeful day!

Create your own happiness project

People, I have such an exciting book I want to tell you about!

It’s called: the Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin.

The author decided she’d turn becoming a happier person into a practical project: a Happiness Project.
For one year she tried out all kinds of resolutions to become happier, like: keeping a one-sentence journal, reading Aristotle, having more fun, reading kidlit, starting a blog, keeping a gratitude journal, behaving more kindly, cleaning out her closets, fighting right and singing in the morning.

She focused on one area per month e.g. fun, energy, marriage, parenthood, money.
At the end of the year she wrote the account of her journey and shared what she’d learned.

It is an immensely inspiring book and I encourage you all to go pick up a copy of it at

or if you’re English or Dutch you can order via

If you’re in a motivational slump, stuck in a rut, need some encouragement and ideas to generally have more fun and need some information for the pursuit of more happiness in your life, it’ll bring you great joy reading it, or listening to it as an audiobook as I’m doing (you can purchase it through the Itunes store).
Along with the book she created a blog and a free happiness toolbox.

Now what can I use the happiness toolbox for?

  • To create y our own resolutions chart to check off every day. You can check mine at You can post your chart either privately or publicly. If you go public like I did, you’ll also be able to inspire others.
  • To create an inspiration board by assembling inspirational quotes and pics
  • To create a one sentence journal about e.g. gratitude, your baby’s first year or your progress on your resolutions.

I wish you a very happy day and let me know if you’re going to start your own Happiness Project.

Here’s the link to Gretchen’s blog: