How Google Keep can be Adapted to the GTD System

When it comes to using Google Keep, most people wouldn’t necessarily consider Keep to work as a task management system. Sure, its great for setting up basic checklists and writing down quick notes, but to use as a basic to-do list manager? Not really. Well today I am here to show you that with a few small tweaks it can be very easily done.

Color Categories 

There are currently eight colors that you can use to organize your notes in Keep. While you can organize your notes anyway you please, I would suggest using the following color configuration for implementing the Getting Things Done (GTD) system into Google Keep:

White – this is the basic default color. I would suggest using this as your default Inbox for all of your new content.

Red- Priority/Hotlist items. These are items which have to be done immediately.

Orange – Next Actions items.

Yellow– Waiting on/Pending list. Items that are pending or waiting on someone else to get done.

Green – Appointments, deadlines, recurring tasks. Anything with a due date goes here. This is basically your tickler file.

Cyan – Projects. Anything project related goes here.

Blue – My lists. This is the free list, you can use it for whatever you like, for example, I often use this list for shows that I want to watch or books that I want to read, or  interesting things that I want to check out later.

Gray– Someday/Maybe List. This is for items that I plan to do someday, and little notes/snippets that I want to save.

Reference – Any reference items I  save to archive which can be accessed later.

This can also be done using the Category Tabs for Google Keep Extension:

The best part is when you click on each category it takes to all the items with that color, even the archived items. Pretty neat, if you ask me.


The great thing about Google Keep is that they have a search feature which enables you to easily find your notes based on color, reminder, shared lists, and labels. They also have added general categories based on things like Travel and Music. It is very quick and easy to find the note that you are looking for.


Labels can be used as contexts to refine each list to a specific subcategory. For example, you can use contexts to define where a task should be done, liked @home, @errands, etc.

Assigning tasks to others is  easy, all you have to do is add a person to a note and any changes that you or the person make to the note are updated in real time.

Another nifty little trick is that when you add a hashtag to an item in a checklist, it automatically assigns that label to your note.

Keep lets you set reminders based on time or location, all of which sync automatically to Google Calendar. Keep also has recurring reminders. The widget in the android app lets you display notes by tag or due date so it’s easy to see at a glance what needs to be done.

You can also use the pin to top feature to add notes to the top of your list for easier viewing.

Additional Productivity Tools

With the Google Keep Chrome Extension, you can save links and images from your computer to Keep to be reviewed later. On your Android phone you can write notes by hand or transcribe text from an image, and the voice recorder capabilities are great. Not only can Keep easily record your thoughts, it also is smart enough to recognize when you want to create a new list or add items to an existing checklist.

Keep easily integrates with other apps like Inbox, Google Calendar, and Google Drive for additional functionality like emails and document storage.  You can get 15 gigs of data for absolutely free, and it is easy to link shared documents from Google Drive to Google Keep, and thanks to the sharing features already built into Google Keep and Google Docs, it is easy to share notes with colleagues and collaborate with others to get things done. Plus thanks to the Save to Google Drive extension, it is now very easy to save articles you find on the web to Google Drive which can be linked back to a note in Keep for reference.

Limitations to this System. 

Obviously in terms of Google’s history of killing apps, this is a major concern for some people.  But for many, Google Keep fits the bill, and it’s free. If you looking for something more advanced, there are plenty of other options out there like Wunderlist, TickTick, Any.Do, or Todoist. But if you are looking for a simple, easy to use productivity and note taking system, I would have to say that Keep stands out as a strong contender, and shouldn’t be overlooked.



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