Personal Productivity Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for people wanting to improve their personal productivity. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Rookie question that a lot of people who are using this site may want to know the answer for (including me). I have read a couple of things referring to GTD but nothing definitive. It'd be good to see a well-presented summary here with links to further reliable sources.

What is the most definitive resource on adopting it?

share|improve this question

closed as not a real question by Robert Cartaino Jun 23 '11 at 17:35

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, visit the help center.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

We try not to fill the site up with really basic questions and "What is a ..." definitions, especially so early in a site's beta. General-reference questions are not generally suitably interesting enough to attract the "experts" you'll need to help build this site. A Wikipedia link answers your question directly and THE "Getting Things Done" book is obviously the definitive resource. This site does not yet have the "Closed as General Reference" reason, so I have to close this as the less aptly named "Not a Real Question." – Robert Cartaino Jun 23 '11 at 17:34
@RobertCartaino: True, I felt like copying articles anyway. And 43 folders - Getting started with GTD summarizes it well enough. Now that's why this felt so easy to answer... – Tom Wijsman Jun 23 '11 at 18:13
Fair call @Robert – Dmitry Selitskiy Jun 23 '11 at 21:52
up vote 18 down vote accepted

What is GTD?

Getting Things Done (GTD), an organizational work-life managament system created by productivity consultant David Allen, provides concrete solutions for transforming overwhelm and uncertainty into an integrated system of stress free productivity.

It rests on the principle that a person needs to move tasks out of the mind by recording them externally. That way, the mind is freed from the job of remembering everything that needs to be done, and can concentrate on actually performing those tasks.

It helps manage commitments, information, and communication. It is the result of many years of consulting services, private coaching, training, and organizational programs with millions of people internationally.

GTD enables greater performance, capacity and innovation. It alleviates the feeling of overwhelm, instilling focus, clarity and confidence. Step by step it will learn how to:

  • Capture anything and everything that has your attention and concern
  • Define actionable things into concrete next steps and successful outcomes
  • Organize information in the most streamlined way, in appropriate categories, based on how and when you need to access them
  • Keep current and “ahead of the game” with appropriately frequent reviews
  • How to keep track of the bigger picture while managing the small details

What is the methodology behind GTD?

Allen's approach uses two key elements — control and perspective. He proposes a workflow process to gain control over all the tasks and commitments that one needs or wants to get done, and "6 different levels of focus" to provide them with useful perspective.

The author advocates a weekly review focused on different levels, and suggests that the perspective gained from these reviews should drive one's priorities, which can in turn determine the priority of the individual tasks and commitments gathered during the workflow process. During a weekly review, the user determines the context for the tasks and puts them on the appropriate lists. An example of grouping together similar tasks would be making a list of outstanding telephone calls, or errands to perform while downtown. Context lists can be defined by the set of tools available or by the presence of individuals or groups for whom one has items to discuss or present.

GTD is based on making it easy to store, track and retrieve all information related to the things that need to get done. Allen suggests that many of the mental blocks we encounter are caused by insufficient 'front-end' planning. It is most practical, according to Allen, to do this thinking in advance, generating a series of actions which we can later undertake without any further planning.

The human brain's "reminder system" is inefficient and seldom reminds us of what we need to do at the time and place when we can do it. Consequently, the "next actions" stored by context in the "trusted system" act as an external support which ensures that we are presented with the right reminders at the right time. Since GTD relies on external memories, it can be seen as an application of the scientific theories of distributed cognition or the extended mind.

So, how does GTD work?

Powerpoint style, you iterate through the following list:

  • 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.

What are the sources used for this answer?

43 folders - Getting started with GTD (Check out the article collection under the post!)

David Allen Company - About GTD

Wikipedia - Getting Things Done

share|improve this answer
came here to recommend… – J.T. Hurley Jun 23 '11 at 17:03

The GTD book is the definitive resource, but the David Allen Company home page lists a lot of additional resources, including a newsletter, free articles, and a podcast. You can also follow David Allen (the author of GTD) on Twitter.

share|improve this answer
+1 for the podcast – Shiraz Bhaiji Jun 27 '11 at 17:43

"Making it all work" (by David Allen) is also a great companion to GTD.

He talks about "Getting things done" as a manual and "Making it all work" as GTD for the masses (or something like that).

share|improve this answer

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.