How To GTD a Moleskine Notebook: Step-By Step

This article explains how to GTD a Moleskine notebook.

Getting Things Done is a great productivity system for writers and for anyone who wants to become more creative and productive.

It’s effective, but it does take some time to get to grips with.

There are dozens of software packages and apps that support GTD.

Many of them work fine, but if you’re trying to learn GTD while working in a live environment, it’s hard to beat pen and paper.

Many professionals also prefer pen and paper as it doesn’t need to be recharged and comes with fewer distractions.

Lots of writers also say they prefer to take notes using pen and paper and then gravitate to digital tools later on.

This is why I turned a Moleskine notebook into a tool for getting things done. I’ll explain how to do it step-by-step, with some optional customization options.

Step 1. Buy Your Tools For this GTD Hack

How to GTD a moleskine notebook

I’ve tried created my GTD planner by testing various size notebooks.

I tried both the standard size and larger, soft-back Moleskine worked best as it has more space. It cost me approximately $20.

The build quality of this notebook isn’t as good as the regular hardcover one, and it contains 192 rather than 240 pages.

The page dimensions of the larger version are also ideal for mind maps and transcriptions.

Still, ether choice offers more than enough to create and try your first GTD Moleskine.

GTD Gear
Your tools for GTD

I also used:

  • A standard, hard-covered, large, ruled 240 page Moleskine notebook
  • A labeller (optional), I used a Brother P-Touch Labelmaker
  • Small sticky multi-coloured label
  • A rollerball pen like the Pilot Precise V5

Sticky notes are a nice optional extra if you want to amend or add to an entry. You can keep a small book of these in the sleeve of your notebook too.

Moleskine Classic Notebook, Soft Cover, XL (7.5" x 9.5") Ruled/Lined, Black, 192 Pages
  • CLASSIC MOLESKINE NOTEBOOK: Moleskine classic notebooks are perfect notebooks for writing journals, a daily diary, or note taking in college classes or meetings. Moleskine notebooks are beloved by travelers & bullet journalists for their slim design.
  • DURABLE COVER & ELASTIC CLOSURE: Hold writing projects & notes in your Moleskine notebook with an elastic closure band & inner storage folders. Leather-like classic Moleskine cover & thick, ivory paper pages are perfect for writing with fountain pens.
  • GIFT QUALITY NOTEBOOKS: Moleskine planners, journals and notebooks come in hardcover or softcover and colors like black, red, blue, green and brown. The binding and cover have a durable finish, designed for daily journaling, writing and sketching.
  • DELUXE QUALITY PAGES: Moleskine's thick, ivory paper pages in a hardcover Moleskine notebook, softcover Moleskine notebook, cahier or volant journal, or Moleskine planner are perfectly textured for writing with a ballpoint pen, fountain pen, or pencil.
  • MOLESKINE QUALITY: We're dedicated to culture, travel, memory, imagination, & personal identity—both physical & digital. We bring this commitment to our notebooks, bags, apps & smart pens & notebooks.

Step 2. Set Up the Moleskine Notebook for GTD

Now, number every page on the bottom right-hand side corner of your Moleskine notebook. There’s no need to number pages on the left. You should reach 244.

These numbers will allow you to cross-reference notes and divide your book into sections.

Next, take six of the multi-coloured labels. I labelled these and placed them on the following page numbers:

  • Notes (page 1)
  • Next Actions aka Action List (page 100)
  • Waiting For (page 150)
  • Calendar (page 170)
  • Someday/Maybe (page 200)
  • Active Projects (page 220)

This way, you can access each of these sections quickly and easily.

You can put the rest of the labels in the sleeve at the back of the Moleskine notebook for future use.

Step 3. Divide Your Moleskine Up With Labels

I found the Notes and Next Action sections filled up quickly. This is where the advantage of sticky labels came into play.

After one month, I moved my Notes label to page 30, after month two I moved it to page 60. This way, my notebook became dynamic and searchable .

I also moved the Next Action Label from one page to another as the notebook filled up. However, I kept the other labels on their original pages as these sections did not fill up as quickly.

I also used labels to identify the sections further down in this GTD hack guide.

Step 4. Date Every Page

When taking notes, date every page and draw a line down the page, one inch away from the margin on the right hand side.

This is a good place to record or identify actions in your Notes section, which you can act on or transfer to your Next

Actions section as soon as it’s convenient. It’s also a good idea to the record page numbers of other relevant entries that you may want to refer to.

This saves time when you are reviewing your notes and searching for Next Actions during your weekly review.

Step 4. Create a Project Support Section

This section should information frequently used information about your key projects and belongs near the back.

I wrote phone numbers, notes and other miscellaneous details about my projects in this section.

You don’t need to create it, but it’s handy to have.

Step 5. Create a Calendar Section

Create this section next to the project support section.

I still used Outlook to record appointments while using this Moleskine notebook.

That said, each Friday I wrote out the times of my appointments in the Calendar section of the Moleskine.

I found this exercise helpful as it forced me to mentally engage with the events of the coming week.

I tried keeping all my project details in the Active Project list, but this proved too difficult. Instead, I resorted to maintaining a simple list of my Active Projects that I could review at a glance.

I kept the details of these projects in their relevant files on my computer or desk.

Step 6. Keep Customizing Your Notebook

I also added a few new labels to this notebook. These were:

A Miscellaneous section: in the end, I never used this section, and I removed the label.

An Agenda section: my role at the time required me to attend a lot of meetings for which I regularly made out agendas. It made sense to have a dedicated section for Agendas.

A weekly review section. I took notes here about what to do every Friday.

Step 7. Embrace Restrictions

Sometimes, I found that the page dimensions of this Moleskine felt a little restrictive. This was particularly true when I was transcribing long passages during meetings or developing a mind map.

However, this small Moleskine notebook is durable and easy to carry around. I was able to fit it in my laptop case, and it lasted me about three months. When I was finished with it, I dated the cover and archived it.

If all else fails, try a different size Moleskine.

Why Didn’t I Use an App For My GTD System?

The simple answer is, I could have (and today I do). However, using pen and paper while getting grips with GTD means you don’t have to learn how to use a new software package at the same time.

This method is great if you’re a writer who loves and uses pen and paper every day.

GTD a Moleskine: The Final Word

I recommend this approach for anyone who likes pen and paper tools or even the ever-popular bullet journal. You can adapt it to tailor how you like to work.

Relying on a Moleskine notebook as your primary GTD tool also offers a nice screen break.

Any downsides?

It’s more work to maintain this type of system. Also, pen and paper lacks the convenience of search. No system is perfect though.

In short:

Pick a productivity system that helps you become more creative and productive and use it. Tweet this.

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
  • Allen, David (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 352 Pages - 03/17/2015 (Publication Date) - Penguin Books (Publisher)

  • Bryan Collins is the owner of Become a Writer Today. He's an author from Ireland who helps writers build authority and earn a living from their creative work. He's also a former Forbes columnist and his work has appeared in publications like Lifehacker and Fast Company.