GTD – Getting Things Done

Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them

David Allen

In the words of its author, productivity consultant David Allen, GTD or Getting Things Done, is a personal productivity methodology that redefines how we approach our life and work.

The whole methodology is based on one simple truth: the more information we have inside our heads, the harder it is to decide what needs our attention and what doesn’t. As a result, we spend more time thinking about our tasks than actually doing them.

If we could avoid worrying about what we were supposed to be doing, we could focus more fully on what we were actually doing.

David Allen

Who is GTD for?

  • For every person interested in productivity
  • For all those who have trouble focusing on the task at hand
  • For people who stress easily
  • For those who feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of things they need to keep track of
  • For people who start a lot of projects, but rarely finish them 
  • For all those who have never tried any productivity system before

What Tools Do I Need to Get Started with GTD?

GTD doesn’t require any specific tool, app, or product. The key is to keep it as simple as possible and to use it as often as possible. Therefore, the tool you choose (digital or analog) must be simple enough to use it on a daily basis, yet versatile enough so you can handle complex tasks and projects. Focus more on doing the task, than on which tool to use, and you will get things done.

GTD = Getting Things Done: 5 Steps to A More Productive Life

Step 1. Capture

capture everything coming into your mind as soon as it comes, nothing is too big or too small, too important or too stupid. Commitments, ideas, recurring tasks, upcoming birthdays, lunch ideas, reference materials, book/movie recommendations, anniversaries, everything.

Create inbox for everything (it can be physical like pen and paper or digital like apps). Use it to collect your thoughts in order to get them off your mind.

Step 2. Clarify

-everything that you’ve captured in Step 1, you now need to turn into specific actionable steps. You decide if an item is a next project, action, reference material, or simply trash clogging your mind. 

  • If the task will take less than 5 minutes, complete it immediately.
  • If it can be delegated, assign it to someone else.
  • If it needs to be done at a specific time/date, give the task a due date.
  • If the task requires more than one step, create a project of all the items associated with it and identify the next action you can take to move the project forward.
  • If the task is no longer needed or actionable, eliminate it

For example, you need to call a friend, study, and wash clothes.

 

 

  • Call friend
  • Study
  • Dry cleaning

 

 

  • Call Matko on Tuesday at 6:00 pm to discuss tax documents. (Attach his phone number and all relevant tax documents required for the talk)
  • Read chapter 5 for Physics to prepare for the test on Monday
  • Drop off coat and navy suit for dry cleaning on the way to the gym

Step 3. Organize

organize all actionable steps from Step 2 by category and priority. Sort through tasks, add dates to the calendar, delegate if needed, save for future reference, etc. Assign deadlines and set priority reminders. 

You can make a list with 6 different areas of focus and place each task in one of the categories below:

  • Current actions/projects 
  • Next actions/projects
  • 1-2 year goals
  • 3-5 year goals
  • Someday
  • General life goals

Step 2 and 3 Decision Tree

! Steps 2 and 3 come in tandem as you clean out the inbox from Step 1, but it’s easier to think of them as separate actions.

rich results on Google's SERP when searching for 'GTD'

You’re not doing anything from the list right now, you’re just making sure that each task is in the right bucket for later.

Step 4. Review

frequently look over, update, and revise. To maintain control and focus, do it weekly or monthly. This is where the clarifying step pays off because you should be able to immediately choose something you have time and energy for.

Second, you can see where you’re making progress, and where you need to adjust your priorities. 

According to Allen, weekly review is a critical factor for success because a frequent review of your system will ensure that you aren’t just doing things, but that you are doing the right things.

 

Things you should check every time you do review:

  • Each project should have the next action.
  • Each task on your Next action list should be something you want to do in the coming week. (If not move it to the Someday list or remove it completely)
  • Eventually, tasks on your Someday list should move to your Next action list

Step 5. Engage

get to work on important tasks. Choose your next action and simply do it. By this step, everything should be broken into manageable, bite-sized chunks that are easy to work on.

Use the system to know what to do and when to do it so you can work with confidence and clarity. 

 

GTD simplifies everything. You get everything you need to remember out of your head and into a system that can remember it for you. Everything is organized and broken down into small chunks that you can work with. 

The next time you look at your To-Do list, there should be no confusion about what you have to do, or what is most important.

 

Although GTD requires an upfront investment of time and energy to set up, it pays off with consistent use. There won’t be worry about forgetting something or missing a deadline anymore. Instead, you’ll be able to respond to all incoming information calmly and with confidence. 

 

Give it a try and let me know what you think in comments below.

The secret of getting things done is to act.

Dante Alighieri

P.S.: This post is a part of a bigger one called The Best Productivity Systems in The World.

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