Summary Of “Getting Things Done” by David Allen

Getting Things Done” is a helpful book that helps make it possible to “be effectively doing while you are delightfully being” (xi). The GTD (Getting Things Done) system allows you to increase productivity and decrease stressitivity!

You can summarize the system in two steps,

  1. Capture all the things that need to be done into a logical, trusted system outside of your head and off of your mind.
  2. Decide on “next actions” based on what you collect (3).

David Allen notes, “most people give either more or less attention to things than they deserve” (11). Most people carry undefined lists that floating around in the back of their minds. They know they need to do something, but because they have not systemized these tasks they are constantly stressed about what they are not doing. This perpetual foggy uneasy feeling that you need to be doing something is perhaps the greatest killer of productivity. Because we are stressed we cannot appropriately focus on the task at hand.

David Allen quotes Kerry Gleeson who said, “This constant unproductive preoccupation with all the things we have to do is the single largest consumer of time and energy” (16). In order to gain control of our subconscious Allen recommends we put 100% of our tasks into a simple system that we know we will use.

5 Stages of the GTD System

  1. Collect things that demand our attention
  2. Process what they mean and what to do
  3. Organize the results
  4. Review your options
  5. Do the “Next Action”

Collect 100% of the “incompletes” in your life.

“give yourself permission to capture and express any idea, then later figure out how it fits in and what to do with it” (70).

Collection Tools:

  1. Physical In-Basket – Tray where you can put all papers to be processed
  2. Electronic GTD To Do List To-Do app for phone or portable device. I like the app “Things” for my iphone/ipad.
  3. Paper Based Listsportable notebook you can carry with you (if you prefer real paper).

Process what you collected using the GTD system of questions.

Processing Questions To Ask:

  1. What is it?
  2. Is it actionable?
  3. If it’s not then trash it, put it somewhere to be looked at later, or save it for future reference
  4. What project or outcome needs to be done?
  5. What is the “next action” required?

Next actionthe next physical, visible activity that needs to be engaged in, in order to move the current reality toward completion.

Do it, Delegate it, or Defer it

  • Do it if it can be done in less than 2 mins
  • Delegate it if someone else can do it
  • Defer it if you need to do it later

Organize projects, time specific lists, place specific list, and category lists.

Review weekly to gather and process all your stuff, review your system, update your lists, and get clean, clear, current and complete.

Do actions based on context (where you are), time available, energy available, and priority.

If you read this simple outline and implement the process you would become more productive instantly, but in order to maximize effectiveness David Allen suggests blocking out a couple days to implement this process. I call it the GTD retreat.

The GTD Retreat

  1.  Set aside a whole day (or two) to focus on getting set up with GTD.
  2. Set up a workspace with the right tools: Paper holder, pens & papers, file cabinet and file folders, computer, PDA/phone, and a wastebasket. (Keys to success; simplicity, speed, and fun.)
  3. Corral all your “Stuff” Get all the things that require your attention gathered in one place. Clean out all your files, drawers, countertops, and everywhere else.
  4. Begin to Process all your junk. David Allen reminds us that “In the “battle zone” of real life, if it’s not easy, fast, and fun to file, you’ll stack instead of organizing.”

3 Keys To Processing Your Junk

  1. Process the top item first.
  2. Process one item at a time.
  3. Never put anything back into “in”.

Organize using the 8 Basic Categories

  1. Projects
  2. Project support material
  3. Calendared actions and information
  4. Next actions Lists (categorical, at office, home, read/review, errands)
  5. Waiting for List
  6. Reference Material
  7. Someday List
  8. Email processing with 3 basic folders, Action, Waiting, and All Mail. Keep your inbox empty.

Immediately decide “Next Actions” based on what you have processed.

Likely after the GDT retreat you will feel empowered and ready to live a productive life, but the journey has only begun. You will have to work the system by reviewing weekly, looking at your calendar and processing new material.

Systems don’t work unless you work the systems! Once we gain the positive momentum of getting stuff done you will begin to trust yourself to accomplish your goals and will feel more fulfilled!

There is great power to keeping agreements with yourself. David Allen Quotes a church in Sussex England, “A vision without a task is but a dream, a task without a vision is drudgery, a vision and a task is the hope of the world” (256). My hope is that GTD will help make your vision a reality one small action at a time.

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