GTD with Apple reminders

I’ve previously used Things by Cultured Code and Todoist, Wunderlist and others. But recently I’ve given Apple Reminders a run and I must say it’s surprisingly good. After 6 months, it’s become my favourite place to organise my tasks. It’s got great integration with Siri. ‘Hey Siri, add a reminder to plan for holidays.’ It has enough features that you can roll out all the GTD methodology, but nothing extra to clutter it up. Stable. Syncs across to iOS devices. And it’s free. Here’s how to streamline it for GTD.

#1 Set up some tags, then Areas of responsibility or Projects.

We are going to use tags to cover projects, areas of responsibility, and contexts. This is better than folders because it’s much easier to add a tag than move a reminder to a folder. It also allows reminders to be in multiple places. (e.g. A project and a context.)

Here are some of the tags I’m using. To make a new tag you just type the name of the tag in the tag field in any reminder. If it’s not already there it will make a new one. You can add this after you have some reminders. You don’t need to set it up beforehand.

Now you can make a project which is just a smart list that grabs the tagged reminders together. Here’s a list grabbing any reminder with the tag ‘digital.’

Now grab those smart ists together into a folder called ‘Areas’ for areas of responsibility, or ‘Projects’ for Projects.

To add something to the list I can just tag it. (right from within a new reminder) OR I can drag it to the list and the tag will automatically be added. This makes it super fast and intuitive to use.

I’ve also made a folder for ‘contexts’ (which is also from Dave Allen GTD). That way if I go to a meeting my tasks are ready. You can use multiple tags so reminders can be in both a context and a project and an area of responsibility.

#2 Set up your lists

I copied the GTD layout, you can see my basic lists here:

Notice some have a circle icon and soem have a square.

A circle means it’s an actual folder. I have 2 folders. All my reminders are in one of these 3 folders:

  1. Inbox‘ – everything that is not yet tagged or sorted. This is my GTD inbox.
  2. To Do‘ – all my todos once they are tagged. This is my master list of all items. So that GTD style I can glance over all my tasks.
  3. Someday‘ – for items that are not so much a todo but an idea. I don’t want these to show in my to do list.

The square is a smart list. THese take tasks from my todo list and group them.

  • Important‘ – contrary to Dave Allen, I like to be able to mark some as important so that if I’m getting overloaded I don’t lose these. I use it sparingly.
  • This Week‘ – a smart list of reminders with a due date of this coming week. Like the Dave Allen Tickler file, this draws items to my attention for the week ahead.
  • Overdue‘ – keep track of items past their due date!
  • Reminders‘ – this is where I put generic reminders with a future due date that are more of a reminder that a todo.

Overview

Put all that together and here’s what my custom reminders look like.

This is a ‘project’ view, showing the tasks for 1 project.

And here’s what my ‘to do’ view looks like which is a list of all my tasks:

Comments

10 responses to “GTD with Apple reminders”

  1. Wondering which OS version you are using? My Reminders app (Big Sur 11.6.7) doesn’t resemble yours.

    1. 12.3 Monterey.

  2. The only issue I have with this is that the ToDo list ends up being this huge list of tons of tasks… it’s not a very inbox-to-zero approach. I’d probably end up having thousands of tasks listed in Todo! Do you have an “Inbox”? I guess the ToDo ends up being both inbox and task list? Can you elaborate on if you ever look at the Todo list again or if you live inside contects or projects? I’m intrigued, but I tend to use an inbox then process tasks as time permits… dropping off the inbox items to the appropriate projects/context lists…

    1. Hmm… I should have read more closely it appears… you do have an inbox! :D Thanks for this run-down I’m going to give it a go! :)

      [btw- does anyone know what happens to old list items if you delete a list in reminders? Seems to me that you might remove all the old list items even if completed?? I have some old Stephen-Covey ish reminder lists from waaaay back in the day that are still in my phone carried through multiple os’s]

      1. Yes I still have an inbox, everything new goes in there.

  3. Stephen

    Is there a quick way to move things from inbox to the to do folder on iOS after sorting into an area? Seems like it takes a few clicks to hit the little I and then move it. I’m coming from things 3 so sometimes its really quick to move it to different areas with little time needed.

    1. I’ve got to admit the iOS app is not as easy to use as the desktop one!

      1. Stephen

        One Last question, how did you filter your overdue smart list. I have been using relative range past year but it includes reminders due that day too.

      2. Yes, I just used relative rage is in the last year.

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