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Getting Things Done (GTD) has an entire book to teach the system. Is reading the whole book necessary for understanding the system, or is there a summary or simplified explanation of it available?

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up vote 14 down vote accepted

43 folders - Getting started with Getting Things Done outlines:

  • identify all the stuff in your life that isn’t in the right place (close all open loops)
  • get rid of the stuff that isn’t yours or you don’t need right now
  • create a right place that you trust and that supports your working style and values
  • put your stuff in the right place, consistently
  • do your stuff in a way that honors your time, your energy, and the context of any given moment
  • iterate and refactor mercilessly

So, basically, you make your stuff into real, actionable items or things you can just get rid of. Everything you keep has a clear reason for being in your life at any given moment—both now and well into the future. This gives you an amazing kind of confidence that a) nothing gets lost and b) you always understand what’s on or off your plate.

Also built-in to the system are an ongoing series of reviews, in which you periodically re-examine your now-organized stuff from various levels of granularity to make sure your vertical focus (individual projects and their tasks) is working in concert with your horizontal focus (side to side scanning of all incoming channels for new stuff). It’s actually sort of fun and oddly satisfying.

So, for example, you could:

  • Start a new account on NirvanaHQ which is GTD based.
  • Get rid of all the things that are on your mind by mind-mapping and by listing tasks in your Inbox.
  • Process your Inbox and turn the tasks into do-able tasks and house them under the other sections.
  • Do the tasks that are the most important to do in your current moment of time.
  • Repeat this, add tags/energy/time/planning/deadlines (over time) to improve your GTD system.

Check out the link I shared earlier as it contains a big section of links under the post...

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I up-voted this as a good starting point for the OP. At the same time I strongly encourage him to take the time to read the book (it is not very long) and then start using the system. Then go back and read the book AGAIN in about six months, for a completely different experience. I don't think that anyone can "get" GTD through a single reading or a couple weeks of mechanically going through the motions. You have to review the ideas, apply them and then come back and check yourself. YMMV. – Todd Williamson Jul 1 '11 at 15:42

You don't need to read the book to know what GTD is or even how to use it. You want to read the whole book because it explains why GTD is and provides examples and repetitions to link GTD issues and solutions to your real life - making it more sticky.

Just make sure to read the first - original - GTD book. That's what contains sweat, blood and tears. The other two felt a lot more like the management filler used to keep the author's name afloat and drive more people towards their monthly-fee community and shiny stationary products.

I keep waiting for GTD - the Lord of the Rings full edition.

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Yes, read the book. If you are trying to shortcut things, you'll likely not get full-benefit from it. While you won't find a gem on every page, you may pick up a greater context and better understanding overall. There's stuff in there I hardly ever see mentioned – eflat Feb 24 '12 at 17:52
for that LOTR edition, see if you can find a copy of "GTD Fast!". It's a recording of something like a 2 day seminar with DA. – eflat Feb 24 '12 at 18:58

Before reading the book, I watched David Allen's YouTube presentation which immediately gave me plenty of new ideas to improve my previous systems. After a couple weeks of changing and creating new systems, I was ready for more new ideas, so I read the book. Now I'm ready for more new ideas again, and here productivity.SE is blossoming with ideas. GTD-style productivity is an art, and you can always incorporate new techniques to continue to improve.

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You can re-read the book, too. :-) – eflat Feb 24 '12 at 17:53

I found these podcasts to be a good introduction to GTD:

Always productive to learn something from a podcast on the way to work, time that would be wasted otherwise.

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You can start by reading online material. If you are hooked, you may want to get the book as it is an effective and efficient way to learn about the system. You don't have to read the entire book at once, the main parts are repeated at greater detail.

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