Spotlight on Productivity: Getting things done with David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) system

Before diving into the specifics of productivity challenges, we should start with the concept of ” Getting Things Done“.

For me getting things done is a mindset to approaching productivity. By relegating the decision-making associated with each piece of task to the GTD system, we can move through our work more efficiently.

David Allen is the celebrated productivity guru whose book on productivity–Getting Things Done– revolutionizes how we think and about productivity.

There are LOTS of primer and discussions on GTD… so I’ll only highlight a few of the key principles.

GTD boils down to this according to Gina Trapani on Lifehacker: Make three lists. Revise them daily and weekly. (She’s referring to a to-do list, project list, and a someday-maybe list).

GTD is premised on the idea that the brain is best for high-level cognitive activities, as far as productivity is concerned. Brain resources are not meant for and should not be wasted on low-level tasks. But what do we typically do?  We clutter our mind with having to remember what needs to be done. By freeing up cognitive resources through prioritizing, we can work faster, better, and with less effort.

GTD has several key concepts and key activities to it.

1)  For every task that enters your work-queue (GTD calls it an inbox), decide on what to do about it. Is it actionable? Is it Best tip: Act immediately on whatever task that can be completed in 2 minutes. Here’s a flow-chart cheat-sheet.

gtd-workflow

2) Scour your office/home and collect all that needs to be processed and acted upon. Loose pieces of paper. Receipts. Papers to be filed.  Make a big list of all the things you have to do. These tasks now form your work queue.

3) Also, empty and unclutter your mind of all the things you want to accomplish in the next while. That project idea you have lingering at the back of your mind. That paper you want to write “when you have time”.

4) Finally, tackle your work queue systematically. Realize that some items receive immediate attentions, while others don’t. Create a “Someday/Maybe” for projects and tasks that you don’t need to attend to immediately.

If this post on Getting Things Done piques your interests, the GTD Cheatsheet series at LifeDev.net gives as an excellent overview to the system.

These four steps form the basis of the GTD system. While some adhere strictly to the system, you could also see it more as a guiding framework. I find it more helpful to adapt it to the nature of knowledge work —- which is what I’ll be discussing in the upcoming posts.

Thanks for reading!

 

What does your personal GTD system look like? Do you have experience with using Allen’s GTD system?  Let me know.

 

 

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5 thoughts on “Spotlight on Productivity: Getting things done with David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) system

  1. great post!

    You can check out the the app called SmartTM (formerly known as a SmartGTD). It’s not just a another todo app – it’s really powerfull task manager based on GTD methodology. The app works easily with Evernote, iCal or Google Calendar and more. Now iPad version is available at the App Store here https://itunes.apple.com/app/smartgtd/id591404241?mt=8 , soon iPhone and web apps will be released to the market.

    For details about the app visit http://www.smartgtd.com or find smartGTD channel at youtube.com – there are videos showing it’s use 🙂

    Hope you’ll like it!

    Btw, SmartTM (SmartGTD) is one of the participants of this year’s Evernote Devcup. It’d be great if you’d vote for our app 🙂 you can do it here: https://www.hackerleague.org/hackathons/evernote-devcup-2013/hacks/smartgtd
    More information how to do it are described on our page:
    http://www.smartgtd.com/#post=128

  2. If you’d like a tool for managing your time and projects, you can use this web-application inspired by David Allen’s GTD:

    GTDAgenda

    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, and a calendar.
    Syncs with Evernote and Google Calendar, and also comes with mobile version, and Android and iPhone apps.

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