Quick Guide

Get started with Nirvana for GTD® in just a few minutes. This quick guide explains the basics through the simple steps of Getting Things Done®.

Get Started

Nirvana is built for Getting Things Done® – the time-tested method for getting organized, staying focused, and doing what matters.

This quick guide will walk you through the simple GTD® steps, as explained in the book Getting Things Done — The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, and it will show you how to accomplish your tasks with Nirvana.


The first thing you’ll want to do is to capture all of the stuff that’s floating around in your head — lingering to-dos, incomplete projects, any nagging issues that might keep you awake at night — and get these items into your Nirvana Inbox. Take a look at the video and tips below to see how.

Clarify and organize

Once your mind is clear, it’s time to clarify and organize. Doing this allows you to add related information to your items, knowing that you’ll be able to refer to these details when you need them.

Nirvana comes with all of the lists you need to get things done, along with ways to provide additional context. This makes it simple to clarify and organize the stuff you’ve already captured. Look at each item in your Inbox and answer a few questions to decide what to do with it.

Can it be done in under 2 minutes?
Do it now! Feel great and proceed onwards after you’ve completed all your 2 minute to-dos. With each of the items remaining, add as many details as you’d like. They’ll come in handy later.

What do you know about this item?

What type of activity or category is it related to? assign some tags
How long will it take to accomplish? assign the time needed
How much energy will you need to tackle this? assign the energy needed
Is there a date by which it must absolutely be done? assign a due date
Is there more information you’d like to add? add some notes

See how easy it is to add your details on desktop or mobile.

Where should this item live?

Is it something that needs to be done soon? move it to Next
Has it been delegated to someone else? move it to Waiting
Can it be deferred until a specific date in the future? move it to Scheduled
Do you think you’ll wait and get around to it one of these days? move it to Someday
Caveat 1: Does it require multiple steps to get to done? Sounds like it’s actually a project. move it into Projects
Caveat 2: Is it not really something to do, but something to remember? Sounds like this is reference material. move it into Reference
Caveat 3: Are you honestly never, ever going to get around to it? Maybe you don’t need it hanging around. move it into the Trash

You can also use the optional Later list as a middle ground between Next and Someday. You can show or hide it from your settings.

If you’re not sure how to move your items, take a look at this video.

Reflect and engage

Having everything organized in a trusted system will declutter your mind, but the name of the game is Getting Things Done®. The trick is to choose the right thing to do at the right time. Nirvana provides a couple of quick ways to help you:

Decide your next action with filters
At any time, you can go to your Next list, pick something, and get cracking. But with just a few extra taps, Nirvana can filter your Next list down to actions you can actually do with the time, energy, and context available to you. For example:

  • You might be at work and only have 30 minutes
  • You might be at home but your energy level is low
  • You might be about to hop on a call with Mary
  • You might be at school with access to special resources

Seeing the most relevant things you could be doing at any given moment helps you make the best use of your time. You can filter globally to show relevant items across all your lists, or you can filter within a specific list to see a more pertinent short-list of actions. Here’s an example:

Choose what matters now with Focus

Nirvana has a small but powerful addition to the GTD® system — the Focus list. It’s a great way to concentrate on what matters, without being distracted by other things that aren’t critical right now.

Your Focus list can be emailed to you daily and items on the list will show up with a star wherever they are.

You can automatically focus an action or project by giving it a scheduled start or due date. When the date arrives, it will appear in your Focus list — ensuring that anything that must get done won’t escape your attention.

Due date arrives- item gets focused

You can also manually focus any item by clicking the star icon next to it. If you’re using the web app, you can also drag items to your Focus list. This is an easy way to create a short, cherry-picked list of items to focus on.

Take it further

Do your weekly review

The world is always in flux. There may be new things to do, things that no longer need doing, and priorities that have shifted. It’s important to review your actions and projects at least once a week to make sure everything is still timely and relevant. Update your lists to check what’s clear, current, and complete. It frees your mind from worrying about loose-ends and helps you stay in control — allowing you to concentrate on the moment at hand.

Use Nirvana offline

If you’ve logged into the latest version of the web or mobile app, you can use Nirvana offline. Just don’t log out! When you’re done working, you can simply close the app or turn off the device. When you make a network connection later, re-open or refresh the app to sync.

Good to know: To make sure this works with your browser and settings, we recommend you test it before you need it.

Keep in mind that nothing syncs while you’re offline. If you change something on one device then use Nirvana on another while either is offline, you’re working with old information. However, each item field is timestamped. This means that once everything is connected again, your data will contain the last changes associated with each part of each item.

Explore your settings

Nirvana comes with options to let you customize how you work. Take a look at a few of the settings that help you get the most out of Nirvana.

Use keyboard shortcuts

Nirvana has keyboard shortcuts to help you become a lightning fast do-er. Here’s how to use them:

Using the web app, exit any tasks you’re editing and remove focus from Rapid Entry (if you’re using it) by clicking any list or hitting Esc. You’re now all set to use shortcuts.

GeneralEFocus on Rapid Entry panel when it is present.

Type Shortcut What it does
Navigation Up / Down Allows you to traverse up and down the lists displayed in the side navigation menu.
Navigation 18 Selects the lists in the side navigation menu in order, from the Inbox through the References list, or Projects list if the Later list is shown.
Navigation 9 Chooses the Logbook from the side navigation menu.
Navigation 0 Selects the Trash from the side navigation menu.
Navigation Esc Removes focus from Rapid Entry if it is in use.
Filtering by Area Shift + 0 Sets the global filter to All areas.
Filtering by Area Shift + Left / Right Changes the global filter to the previous or next area according to alphabetic order.
Filtering by Area Shift +
Selects one of the first 8 areas according to alphabetic order for Global filtering.
Filtering by Area Shift + 9 Shows all items unassigned to an area.
Help K Shows the Keyboard Shortcuts modal.
Help H Shows the Help modal.
General / Focus on the Search field
General C Moves completed tasks to the Logbook.
General G Opens the Manage Tags modal.
General , Opens the Preferences modal
General Esc Close open modals. Discards new unsaved items or unsaved changes to a pre-existing item.
General D Toggle sort by due date.
General Shift + E Toggles Rapid Entry panel.
General E Focus on Rapid Entry panel when it is present.

Want more speed? Learn about keyboard shortcuts for adding items, Rapid Entry, and batch editing.

Learn about commonly used features

Now that you’re up and running with the basics, you might be curious to explore some of Nirvana’s most popular and helpful features.

  • When your tasks are completed and cleaned up, they go to The Logbook. If you like, you can even export your complete history.
  • If you’re trying to find a specific item among many, try Nirvana’s search.
  • You can add subtasks to your tasks by using checklists.
  • You can schedule repeating tasks by using the recurring tasks feature in Nirvana Pro. (You can upgrade to Pro in a snap.)
  • For actions that arrive to you via email, there’s no easier way to get them done than with email-to-inbox.
  • Get reminded of your focus items outside of the app with the Focus email.

Get Nirvana

Stay up-to-date

Nirvana is always getting better, so make sure you’re using the latest version of the app. This improves your experience and helps us give you better support if you’ve got a question.

  • The current web version is focus.nirvanahq.com. It’s available for laptop and desktop computers.
  • The latest Android update is available in the Google Play store.
  • The latest iOS build of Nirvana is available in the App store.

P.S. If you like the app, show us some love with a great rating!

Know the minimum system requirements

Nirvana for GTD® is available on devices running at least iOS 12 or Android 8. This ensures that the device is able to support optimal performance of the app.

Older versions of the app which may have supported earlier operating systems are unavailable for a similar reason: each update makes Nirvana better than before. All Nirvana users benefit from the latest bug fixes and feature updates, so only the latest version is available.

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Learn more about Nirvana and GTD®

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