GTD Processing Phase

The Processing phase is where you evaluate everything in your "In" boxes and make decisions about what should happen next with each item. This page aims to offer tips and ideas for effective use of the Processing Phase.


  • Emergency scanning is sometimes necessary (it's OK), but it's not true processing
  • Work from top to bottom
  • Deal with one item at a time
  • Never put anything back into "In"
  • Deferred actions that have actions decided go into a "Pending" stack!
    • When do I need to act on this?
      • Soon
        • This goes in Action Support
      • Someday
        • Add to Someday/Maybe and file?
      • On a specific date
        • Add to tickler file or file it and add a reminder to your calendar
  • TODO: How to organize Pending stack?
  • Key question: What's the Next Action?
    • Always make a firm next-action decision about each item.
      • Once you have made the next action decision, then ask "Will it take longer than 2 minutes to complete?"
        • No, then do it now
        • Yes
          • Defer it
          • Delegate it
    • What if there's no next action?
      • Trash it or delete it
      • Incubate it
        • Someday/Maybe
        • Tickler file
      • File it as Reference Material