Building an A4 GTD System


Although My GTD system continues to be based on an A5 Filofax, for those wanting a larger system, there follows the construction of an A4 version.

Choosing an A4 Binder

Any A4 binder would do – though it would have need to be a 4-ring binder for stability – but I have a few TMI A4 binders from the days when my system was based on the Time Manager philosophy. Of these binders, two are “system folders” in the sense that they were designed to augment an existing TMI system with additional A4 materials. These binders, as well as the very good Time Manager ring system, have a folder over flap, four pen holders and an array of pockets for cards and other small items. They also have a set of 12 dividers complete with a customisable index.

The closed binder looks like this (click image to enlarge):

Inside it looks like this (with the right flap folded over (click image to enlarge):


One of the pockets down the left of left flap actually allows you to remove the ring mechanism (along with its backplate) of an A5 or Traditional-size Time Manager binder and insert it here within the A4 binder. This isn’t possible with a Filofax as they don’t have this facility – it would have been very useful when it came to moving from the A5 system I had.

With the right flap open showing how the index (see below) is used (click image to enlarge):

These binders are still on sale from TMI and have the advantage of using the standard 4-ring binder spacing so that a normal hole-punch can be used.

Setting up the binder

In setting up this paper-based GTD system, I have used the GTD Setup Guide for Paper Organizers which was revised last year.

Around the same time that this latest edition was published, they also produced an editable PDF organiser which contains most of the forms needed for a paper organiser including calendar pages for a year which means you can also have a paper calendar as part of the system.

This editable PDF is in American Letter Size (8.5 by 11 inches). Although an A4 version has been suggested this has not yet been produced. Nevertheless, A4 size forms can be producing either by “scaling-up” the forms to A4 for printing or just printing them as they are (as the size difference isn’t significant). If you are sticking to the A5 size that I used in a Filofax previously, then there’s an American Junior Size (8 by 5 inches) that can be “scaled-up” to A5.

For this A4 system, you could use the forms from the editable PDF but I have now produced A4 forms (based on the original A5 versions). These are available for download as PDFs on the Downloadable Forms page.

I am working on producing my own calendar pages for my A5 system and if there is sufficient interest I will produce A4 versions.

GTD System

Although the Setup Guide only requires 10 sections, this binder has 12 sections, so I have set them up like this:

  1. Notes/In – inbox for capturing notes and idea
  2. Calendar – day-specific actions, time-specific actions, and day-specific information
  3. Next Action Lists – next physical actions, listed by context, for project and non-project items
  4. Agendas – reminders of items to discuss with people and at meetings
  5. Projects – list of all current projects
  6. Project Support – support materials for projects
  7. Someday Maybe – items to be done at some point but which have no current commitment
  8. Focus & Direction – higher horizons of focus – Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, Level 4, and Level 5
  9. Reference – simple reference list and checklists
  10. Contacts – key contacts, names, addresses and numbers
  11. GTD Guides – key GTD guides (including the Setup Guide)
  12. GTD Forms – blank forms

Next Actions

The following actions have been completed but are included here to help you if you decide to take this approach.

  • Obtain Setup Guide for GTD and Paper Organisers – @Errands
  • Read Setup Guide – @Anywhere
  • Obtain appropriate A4 binder – @Errands
  • Obtain 10-part divider set – @Errands
  • Obtain divider index – @Errands
  • Decide whether to use own forms or GTD PDF Organizer – @Anywhere
  • Obtain GTD PDF Organizer (if required) @Errands
  • Produce own forms (if required) – @Office
  • Set up dividers and index – @Office
  • Transfer existing lists etc. to new binder – @Office
  • Use and review operation as part of Weekly Review – @Weekly Review

In the meantime, Filofax has just released a new type of binder – the Clipbook – and I will be reviewing this to see if it provides a less-cumbersome replacement for my full-size A5 Filofax.

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