Getting Things Done

David Allen's book and has also become the action management method for many.
It is also widely implemented in applications made to get things done.

Getting Things Done was one of the two books that got me excited about giving Time Management more attention in my life.

GTD or getting things done rests on the principle that by recording tasks out of the mind a person frees his mind from the job of remembering everything that needs to be done.
Then he (or she) can concentrate on performing those tasks.

Unlike many time management experts, Allen does not start his emphasis on setting priorities.

Instead, he suggests creating lists of duties that are tied to a context, for example, having a list of people to call back from the office or doing errands downtown.
He also recommends that we should finish any task that can be done in two minutes immediately.

The mindset of GTD is based on making it easy to store, keep track of and access all the information related to the things you want to be done.

If you clear your head of clutter, you can focus and be much more productive.
For me, that is that is a crucial aspect of the importance of time management.
Every time I start to feel stressed, I stop and jot down the things I need to do, want to do, have promised to do, or think I should do.
Before discovering Time Management, I was quite lax on organization and therefore spent far too much time trying to track stuff down when I needed it and I tended to get easily distracted. Below the image I'll continue Getting Things Done With A To Do List

Getting Things Done GTD

Getting Things Done!

In Getting Things Done, Allen suggests that many of the mental obstacles we meet in regard to doing specific activities are caused by poor ‘front-end' planning (that is, for any project we need to establish what is to be reached and what specific actions are necessary to achieve it).

Allen believes that thinking in advance and in that process generating a series of actions that we can do any time in the future without any further planning or consideration.

Decide about actions needed on stuff when it first shows up — not when it blows up. 

Allen believes that our mental “reminder system” is not efficient and that it seldom reminds us of what we need to do when we arrive at the time and place that we can do it.

The core principles of GTD / Getting Things Done are summarized as:


Remove everything out of your head that you need to remember, to track or act on in a ‘bucket'.
This “bucket” can either be a physical inbox, e-mail inbox, notebook, tape recorder, PDA, or any combination of these.
In that “bucket” it becomes ready for processing.
At least once per week, all buckets should be processed to empty.

The key is getting organized and then a regular review of things to do.


Follow a strict workflow when you process your inbox:

Start at the top.
Handle one item at a time.
Never put anything back into ‘in.'
If an item requires any action:
do it (if it will take you less than two minutes),
delegate it, or
put it off to a later time.

If not,
file it for reference,
discard it, or
keep it to act on later.

The famous 2-minute Rule:
If it would take you less than 2 minutes to do it, do it right away.
Two minutes is a general rule, roughly the time it would take to formally put off the action for a later time.

GTD Organization

To keep track of items needing attention Allen works with a set of lists:

Next Actions
For almost every item needing your attention, decide what is the following action that you can take on it physically?
For example, if the item is ‘Write a project report', the next logical action might be ‘E-mail Sam for meeting minutes', or ‘Call Rick to ask about report requirements', or something along those lines?
Even though, many steps and actions needed to complete the item, there will on all occasions be something that you need to work on first.
These items should be written down in the next actions list?
Preferably organized by the settings/context in which they can be done, such as ‘on the phone,' in the office,' ‘ or ‘at the store.'

On all occasions there will be something that needs to be done first though there may be a large number of steps and actions needed to finish the item.
This step or action should be recorded in the next actions list.

Ideally, these are organized by the context in which they can be done, such as ‘in the office,' ‘by the phone,' or ‘at the store.'

A ‘project' requires more than one physical action to achieve.

These are periodically evaluated to make sure that all projects have a next action associated with it to move forward.

Waiting for
When you are waiting for some external event or you have delegated an action to someone else  you must track it in your system and periodically check to see if an action is overdue or a reminder needs to be sent.
Only then can you move a project forward.

Things that you do not want to do right now but at some point.
Examples might be ‘learn a foreign language,' or ‘take a diving holiday.'

calendar is also valuable for keeping track of your commitments and appointments; however, Allen specifically proposes that the calendar be reserved for things that absolutely have to be done by a particular date, or meetings and appointments which have a fixed time and place.
‘To-do' items should be reserved for the next action lists.

A final key organizing ingredient of Getting Things Done is the filing system.

A filing system, according to Getting Things Done, must be easy, fun and straightforward to use.
Even a single piece of paper, if you think you might need it in the future, should get its own file if it doesn't belong in a folder you already use.
Allen's believes a single, alphabetically organized filing system, works best to make it as quick and easy as possible to store and retrieve information.


If you don't review them at least daily or whenever you have time available the lists of actions and reminders will be of little use.

Decide what is the most important thing for you to be doing right now, and do it, given of course the time, energy and resources that you have at that particular moment,
If you are prone to procrastinate, you may always end doing the easy tasks and avoiding the difficult ones.
To solve this, you can decide to do the actions of the list one by one, following their order, just like you process your inbox.

The discipline of Getting Things Done requires that you review all your outstanding actions, projects and ‘waiting for' items, at least weekly, making sure that any new tasks or forthcoming events are entered into your system, and that everything is up to date.

Allen suggests creating a tickler file to help refresh your memory each week with your outstanding tasks and projects.


Any organizational system is no good if you spend all your time mulling over your tasks instead of doing them!
David Allen's claim is that if you can keep the actions you need to take simple, easy and fun, you will be less inclined to put off doing something or become overwhelmed with too many ‘open loops.'

Tools and techniques

The tickler file (also known as the ‘43 folders‘) for organizing your paperwork is one device Allen suggests you should use.

Twelve folders are used representing each month, and an additional 31 folders are used representing each day.
The folders help remind you of activities to be done that day.
Each day you open the numbered folder for today's date.
You take all the items out of the folder and put the empty folder into the next month.
This sort of management allows you to file paper reminders to yourself.
For instance, if you have a concert on the 14th of the month, you should store the tickets in the 14th folder, and when the 14th comes around, they will be there waiting for you.

Your To Do List

In addition to your regular work you often also have much more.
Does this sound familiar?

Sometimes you just do not get all the “extra” work done.
In addition to the regular work your job requires, you also have to deal with consulting, administration, all kinds of ad hoc work and questions that are asked , new developments in your field that you need to study and so on.
It is not your primary job, but you will be expected to do it.
Especially professionals who have little flexibility in planning their day, suffer from all that “extra” work.

Getting Things Done can help you to get a better insight and regain control of that extra work:

For example:

Describe all your need to do tasks as concrete as possible.
Create jobs as concrete as you can and start them with words like call, write, send an e-mail, put in agenda etcetera.
Add a context to your tasks.
This means that you add something to the task that defines the context such as ‘call,’ ‘Computer’ or ‘At Home’.
Allocate if it ‘s possible some ‘blocked’ time in your agenda in which you will not be disturbed.
Sometimes half an hour, in which you can freely read and write, is enough compared to an hour in a noisy place failing in your attempt to finish something.
If you need several actions to complete a task call it a project.
Note the project on a project list.
Make sure you take a moment at least once a week to follow the project’s progress
If your problem is that there is a lot of ad hoc work to be done, and you are often disturbed try to reduce the interference factors so that you can concentrate on your work tasks?
Use a telephone service, or voicemail to keep you from being interrupted.
Perform weekly maintenance.
Schedule an hour a week, preferably near the end of your work week to see what went well and where there is room for improvement.
Invest in your email and computer skills.
If you’re busy, you may have no desire to find out how you can make life easier, but it’s just that which is most needed.
For example, work with shortcuts instead of using your mouse if it helps you get the job done faster.
Look for shortcuts for the programs you use all the time.
This is a mini action, but it can provide some structural time-saving.

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