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