A GTD Reset

On January 1st every year I like to do a “GTD Reset”. It’s a chance for me to make sure my GTD System is primed for another busy year, to assess how well the system is working for me, and drop some projects that didn’t get done last year.


Even the most keen GTD-er can get a bit behind in collecting everything. My personal issue is the stuff that needs scanning. Despite the fact I have an excellent scanner, and a system for what to do with the scanned items, I stuff them into my to do folder and leave them there. So the first phase is to do a really good collect of stuff lying around, stuff in email folders, stuff in my head. Just as you do when getting started with GTD or in your weekly review. However I spend a lot more time on this phase in my annual reset.

If you do this after setting some goals for the year it can be a helpful process. What projects are part of those goals? What do you need to do? Keep adding anything you think off to your inbox.

I often dump to dos in existing projects back into the inbox at this point. I have some projects that end up with odd collections of tasks in them. I use the Single Action Lists in OmniFocus quite a lot, and these can end up a bit disorganized. I put ideas for articles and blog posts into Single Action Lists. Often a post can be represented as a single to do item. However a lot of writing ideas are really a project in themselves – involving research, interviewing people, or writing example code. By sweeping them back into my inbox I get to think more deeply about whether I want that piece to become a project right now.

Reviewing the system

Before I start to Process my inbox I have a look at how the system worked over the last year. I first find any projects that really have lost importance for one reason or another. I decide whether to drop them or move them to Someday/Maybe.

I keep Projects in Folders in OmniFocus, and this year I reorganized those to better reflect the different aspects of my life and work. As already mentioned I can become over-reliant on Single Action lists, so this year I have streamlined those to try and move more items into proper projects.

I use recurring and scheduled tasks in OmniFocus. As part of the review I make sure that any recurring tasks set up for last year have been removed if they are now not required. Many of my goals for the year involve doing something repeatedly – for example posting to one of my sites once a week. I add these things as recurring tasks so the action will just pop up in my list when it is time to do it. I also use recurring tasks for things that have to happen regularly – server maintenance tasks, and accounting things like doing the VAT Return. I check that these all still make sense and add anything else I think of.

I have to be careful when doing this, that I don’t allow reviewing this system to lead me to want to change the way I organize email, team Trello boards, Evernote or Dropbox. If that comes up I add it as a project and move on. Otherwise I become sidetracked in trying to organize all of the things!


I can now process my inbox as normal. I take a little more care to make sure that tasks that are really projects become a real project with a Next Action. If anything is a regular task I make sure to set it up as such, and I give things due dates and defer things that I don’t need to worry about for a while. For example I already have quite a hectic speaking and writing schedule for next year, so I have scheduled in all of the presentations and workshops, articles and books I need to write, with sensible deferral dates.

During the processing time I refer back to my reviewed system and assess everything against my goals for the year. The aim is to have a good overview of everything I need to do, in an ordered manner. The system should truly reflect my next actions towards all of my projects, commitments and goals for the coming year.

Ready for a New Year

I really enjoy this process. It’s a chance to start over with a clear mind. A chance to let go of projects that I didn’t really need to do and were just niggling away at me. It’s a chance to think about what worked last year, and what didn’t and carry the best stuff through to the next year. By the time I do this I already have a good idea of my plans and goals – this process makes sure I have the system in place to do them.

Let me know in the comments if you do anything similar, or if you have any tips for resetting your GTD workflow.

One Comment

Tim Chiappone January 12, 2015 Reply

Great post. I use SmartTM app, which in my opinion is a great GTD task manager to keep me organised=) A yearly reset is a really good idea, but so far work tasks have been enough to manage. Cheers!

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