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Help! GTD and my master's thesis


Posted: May 25, 2010
Score: 0

Hi everyone,

I'm starting to prepare for my master's thesis and I want to use GTD and toodledo to organize it, but I have come up with several questions.

My first impulse is to draft a list of all the required actions necessar to complete the project. I suppose this could be called the "organizing" phase. I went back to the GTD book to review and remembered that:

The Basics of Organizing
The key steps here are:
• Identify the significant pieces.
• Sort by (one or more):
• components
• sequences
• priorities
• Detail to the required degree.

Then, identify Next Actions.

This is where I am getting confused. Should my project planning be done in Toodledo? Or should I organize the process elsewhere (such as MS project) and only include identified next actions in Toodledo? Should I include actions in Toodledo and determine how much time to spend in each action?

I understand there are many ways to do things, but I wanted to share this and hear your thoughts.



Posted: May 26, 2010
Score: 0

Hi FS,

Everyone plans projects differently, here's a nice summary of GTD planning:


I typically dont feel the need to plan very detailed multi level outlines so I can use toodledo for my plans, I use Proximo's method of GTD on TD. This method uses the parent tasks as projects, you can then use the notes in the parent task to define the project:

*Successful Outcome*




I use the first two headers above to scope out projects before I add subtasks in TD. The second two I use to record project notes.

There are of course many many ways to plan projects, its all very personal and subjective, have a good look on the various GTD forums and "cherry pick" what suits you.

By the way I use MS project for project planning £90m construction projects at work, its fine for reporting progress, changing order of work, but very unwieldy. In my view its best to keep things as simple as possible.

Hope this helps,


Posted: May 27, 2010
Score: 0

Posted by fsendel:

This is where I am getting confused. Should my project planning be done in Toodledo? Or should I organize the process elsewhere (such as MS project) and only include identified next actions in Toodledo? Should I include actions in Toodledo and determine how much time to spend in each action?


If you really need the level of detail that PM software provides, then by all means use it. But, as the previous poster mentioned, its a beast to use MS Project unless your very well versed in it. My question to you is it worth the trouble?

Perhaps one way is to treat your thesis as an area of focus and make a separate folder. Then list all of the items that need to be accomplished to get your thesis done. In GTD parlance we'll call these projects and in TD you can make them parent tasks. Then for each project (requires more than two steps) list the action items needed to move it one step closer to completion as sub tasks. Each of your action items may have various contexts: library, home, book store, errands, etc.

All of this is in keeping with GTD.

I don't use GTD for just one area of my life (like completing my MBA) and another system for work, and yet a third for home. I use David Allen's method to Get EVERY-Thing Done. What system have you used in the past successfully? If that worked for you before, will it not work for you now? I'm very partial to GTD, and I believe that real success with it means using it for all your areas of focus. However, I recognize that its not for everybody.

Posted: May 27, 2010
Score: 0

Thanks a lot to both. I guess one thing I take from this is that probably I need to sign up to the pro version! I think I really need the subtasks. As to whether or not I need the detail that MS Project provides, I am not quite sure. I'm almost finished laying out all of the tasks I think are required and approximate time frames for each group of tasks. I plan to experiment and then, on each weekly review, transfer the identified Next Actions into TD.


Posted: May 28, 2010
Score: 0


The beauty of GTD is getting everything off your mind so that your are not always thinking about what to do next or "have I forgot anything?".

Project management is about managing a project. Steps, time, resources, dependencies, and reporting. I doubt I would use MS project to work thru a masters degree. I could see my self using Toodledo though.

For example, I could enter the time for my classes in either Toodledo or MS Outlook (or other such calendar). I would enter each class syllabus into toodle as homework with a due date.

Projects in this scenario would be things that require multiple steps to complete. For example writing a paper would entail research, note taking, outlining, writing multiple drafts, handing in the paper. In toodledo, I create a folder called projects and use the project name as a tag.

You really need to dump your entire life into your tool box, to get all the benefits of GTD, not just one aspect of it.

Good luck

Posted: May 28, 2010
Score: 0

Great Advice. Thank you.

Posted: Jun 06, 2010
Score: 2

As a university professor who uses gtd and supervises Ph.D. students, I have some advice for you:

1) no thesis looks like what was originally planned.

2) work on your thesis on a regular basis. You might want to read "How to write a lot" by Silva. It's fine to jump around. Up to a point, work each day on what feels right to do next.

3) Put the organization of your thesis work in some external format like a mindmap or outline. Be prepared to revise it regularlyor throw it away and start a new version. Do not put this material in your list manager.

4) Put the next actions for your thesis work in your list manager. A project management program is overkill and will not work. Keep hard due dates visible but don't set up artificial deadlines. Good organization of notes of all kinds is essential. I use Evernote.

Good Luck!

Posted: Jun 08, 2010
Score: 0

I have started using the following prompts in my project notes:







It works very well with TD.

Hope this helps,

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