3 rules to double your productivity

GTD - Getting Things Done

Creating a todo list that doesn’t work is easy, creating one that works is easy too! In this article I show 3 rules to create a todo list that works and creates time for what is important.

In another life (8+ years ago) I started to have todo lists that worked and since then I manage multiple projects, customers and activities without missing a promise, a deliverable or an hour with my family. 

Note: I’ve put some references to Nozbe as some readers have asked for some support on how to use it. If you want to learn more about Nozbe, click here.  

3 rules

  1. 2 minutes rule – If an action takes less than 2 minutes, don’t write it down, do it
  2. Multiple todo lists – use separate todo lists based on where you are (e.g. home, office) or what tools you have available (e.g phone, computer)  
  3. Physical actions only – Only add physical actions to your todo lists

2 minutes rule

If an action takes less than 2 minutes, then don’t add it to your todo list and do it now. There are a lot of actions that can be done in less than 2 minutes, for example:

  • Set up a meeting in the calendar
  • Call a restaurant to know if they are open
  • Archive documents
  • Ask a friend to go out tonight
  • Answer a yes/no/maybe email

Use separate todo lists per place or tool

If you use paper, take 7 sheets of paper and put a title on top of each as per the below list (later you can add other categories as you feel the need). Every time you add an action, place it on the right list and the next time you will have 10 minutes before a meeting, you’ll read your “call” list and make one or more calls. 

I recommend the following lists, but add or remove as you wish:

  1. Home
  2. Computer
  3. Work
  4. Errands
  5. Notebook (when I need to think)
  6. Waiting-for
  7. Call (phone)


In nozbe this is called categories. So login and create the 7 categories indicated here.

Physical actions only

In your todo list only write the next physical action you need to do. Start with a verb, it’s easier.

  • “Think about the agenda” is NOT a valid action as it’s not physical. Instead use “List the items to discuss on the meeting” and add it to your notebook list
  • “Call Simon to get the number of the Indian restaurant” is an action in the call list
  • “Get the draft of the document” is NOT a valid action. Instead use “Email Jim to ask for the draft of the document” is a great action in the computer list


For this initial step, I would recommend to create actions only in the inbox, and always select a category for each action. Then when you want to do things, go to the Category menu on the left sidebar, select the category corresponding to your current situation and Nozbe will only show the action tagged within that category.

Tell me what you want to know

I wrote this article because a reader asked me about the first steps to be more efficient. Those are the initial 3 steps. In my next article about GTD I am going to show how to manage projects and next actions.  If you have any particular questions on efficiency, I would LOVE to know! I enjoy feedback and helping others to become more efficient! 

[reminder]Do you have a question? [/reminder]

Some more information

What I discuss here is part of the Getting things done methodology (aka GTD, search online). The full method is available in a book called “Getting Things Done” (buy in UK or US) by David Allen.


Nozbe is a initially free tool that follows the GTD methodology and allows to manage todo lists from web, tablet, phone.

The author of Nozbe provides a list of 10 training videos that I recommend you watch. 

5 Comments on “3 rules to double your productivity”

  1. Dear Frank
    Many thanks for yet another great article.
    I started using Nozbe for my personal projects (flat, travel, studies) but am reluctant to use it for work as well. My concern is that if I do, personal tasks will mix up with work tasks in my inbox and priority list and it will confuse matters.
    At the same time I find Nozbe to be a very useful tool which my work productivity could benefit from it. I tried to set up two separate Nozbe accounts, but decided it is uneconomical to pay for two subscriptions.
    Any thoughts on how to build a Chinese Wall between the two? Maybe this functionality is already “baked-into” current Nozbe software and I am unaware of it?
    Many thanks for your advice.

    1. Hi Elena, thank you for the comment, it’s such a great feeling to have interaction with my readers.

      The short answer to your question is that YES, there is a way to manage work and life projects in Nozbe. The features is called “labels”.

      Add a label to a project:
      When you click on a project on the right sidebar you can click on “Change Labels” and add a work label to your work projects.

      Filter projects by label:
      On top of the project list, near the search field, there is an icon that looks like a tag. Click it and select the “work” label to show only work related projects.

      Nozbe manual on labels: https://nozbe.com/blog/labels

      NB: my labels are “Family, Goals, Personal, Work”

  2. Good one, Frank! I think I’ll have to thoroughly review the way I make up my lists (I know I should also clear up a bit my writing, but that has proved to be impossible through the years – lol!)

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